8 Pro Tips for Hanging Holiday Lights

If you're planning to string your yard with holiday cheer, bear in mind these few simple guidelines and precautions.

Steer Clear of Disaster

1/9
hanging holiday lights

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.

istockphoto.com

Create a Master Plan

2/9
outdoor lighting 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.

istockphoto.com

Find trusted local pros for any home project
+

There's More Than Roofline

3/9
decorate 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.”

istockphoto.com

Don't Forget the Backyard

4/9
backyard christmas ideas

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.

istockphoto.com

Get Enough Lights

5/9
how many christmas 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.

istockphoto.com

Assess Your Equipment

6/9
check christmas lights

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.

istockphoto.com

Power Up

7/9
outdoor power

Outdoor lights should be plugged into circuits protected by ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs). To avoid running cords everywhere, try power stakes—portable devices that bring power where you need it (you can buy them on Amazon).

amazon.com

Opt for Plastic

8/9
plastic light clips

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.   

istockphoto.com

Stay Safe

9/9
hanging christmas lights safely

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.

istockphoto.com

Find trusted local pros for any home project
+

Don't Miss!

1pixel

Each week from now through New Year's Eve, receive around-the-house tips, DIY project inspiration, and clever gift ideas to help make this your best-ever holiday season—subscribe now!