8 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.

  1. Steer Clear of Disaster

    basic tips

    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 basic tips, and you'll hang your holiday lights like a pro.


  2. Create a Master Plan

    outdoor lighting plan

    Look at your house critically from the street (or take a photograph) and decide which elements would benefit most from lighting. First, consider highlighting architectural features by stringing lights along eaves, pillars, posts, windows, and doors. Next, look at bushes, trees, window boxes, and planters. Finally, think about appropriate lighting for paths and stand-alone figures.


  3. There's More Than Roofline

    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.”


  4. Don't Forget the Backyard

    Decorate 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.


  5. Get Enough Lights

    enough lights

    Try to get an accurate measurement of the number of lights you’ll need. For trees, one way to determine this is to multiply the height times the width, then double that figure. Be aware, however, that the type and size of light strings chosen for the tree will make a difference. To determine how many lights might be sufficient, check out this helpful Lights Calculator


  6. Assess Your Equipment

    assess 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.


  7. Power Up

    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.


  8. Opt for Plastic

    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 to line walkways, driveways, and garden edges with bulbs. These plastic accessories can be removed after the holidays and reused next season.   


  9. Stay Safe

    stay safe

    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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