Steer Clear of Disaster
Sure, it's wildly funny to watch the death-defying antics of Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) as he blankets his home in lights in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, but his technique is not something that you want to imitate. Don't be like Clark. Take some time up front to determine an outdoor lighting plan, and make sure to check the bulbs, light strings, and electrical outlets. Follow these eight tips, and you'll hang your holiday lights like a pro.
Create a Master Plan
Look at your house critically from the street (or take a photograph) and decide which elements would benefit most from lighting. Consider highlighting architectural features by stringing lights along eaves, pillars, posts, windows, and doors. Also look at bushes, trees, window boxes, and planters. Finally, think about appropriate lighting for paths and stand-alone figures.
There's More Than Roofline
“Everyone gravitates toward the roofline, and they forget to balance it with something below,” says Mike Marlow of Holiday Bright Lights, a national chain that provides professional holiday lighting for homes and businesses. “It’s like interior design. You might have something on your room’s walls, but you need something on the shelves and the end tables too.”
Don't Forget the Backyard
Why should the front yard have all the fun? “We’re seeing people decorate behind the house,” Marlow says. “It makes sense, because they see the backyard more than the front.” Consider stringing lights along deck railings, decorating a tree—any tree—with lights, or covering out-of-season yard structures.
Get Enough Lights
Before you head to the store, have an accurate idea of how many boxes of lights you’ll need. Measure the lengths of anything you plan on decorating, such as windows, doorframes, fences, railings, etc., and make note of the location of the power source or extension cord. Remember, you will need more or longer strands if you plan on winding them around the spots you’re decorating. Use net lights for bushes and shrubs, which takes the guessing work out of how many strands are needed to cover the branches. Also pay attention to the bulb count on the box. The brighter you want your house to be, the more bulbs per strand you’ll want.
Assess Your Equipment
Check that lights and cords are in good repair and are rated for outdoor use. Read manufacturer recommendations to determine the number of lights you can safely string together. Never connect different types of lights on the same circuit or outlet.
Opt for Plastic
Trade hammer and nails for plastic clips that safely secure lighting to everything from shingles and gutters to posts, window frames, and railings. Consider using light stakes (like these from Target) to line walkways, driveways, and garden edges with bulbs. These plastic accessories can be removed after the holidays and reused next season.
Work with a partner or use an S hook to hang a bucket to the ladder to hold supplies. When possible, keep your feet firmly on the ground by using an extension pole instead of a ladder. Finally, don’t decorate trees that touch power lines. In short, avoid any technique employed by Clark Griswold.
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