The best time for hanging Christmas light decorations is before your weather turns wet and cold. Not only is it easier and more comfortable to work outdoors in mild weather, but it is also safer. Safely climbing ladders and working along the eaves of a roof can be a dangerous challenge in bad weather.
Even if you don’t actually hang your light strings well ahead of the season, you can get much of the preparation done, such as running outdoor extension cords, installing hooks and hangers, and so forth. It’s also smart to test your Christmas lights before it’s time to hang them. Pull them out of storage and check them to make sure they’re functional. This way you will have plenty of time to make repairs and a shopping list for replacements and other supplies.
Most home centers and other retailers begin stocking Christmas lights and supplies well before Halloween, so taking care of your shopping early is easy. Buying the gear online is even easier for most people.
Map out where your lights will go and make sure you have enough working lights for that area. Use a long tape measure to figure the number of strands you will need. Be sure to take into account the eaves, windows, doors, shrubs, trees, and the like. Before hanging any lights, plug them in to make sure they work.
When buying lights, opt for shorter rather than longer light strings. That way, if a string stops working, you can replace it more easily and affordably. Light strings that have a male plug at one end and a female plug at the other end are best for connecting together from end to end.
Tips for Hanging Outdoor Holiday Lights
Outlining your eaves and windows and festooning your trees and shrubbery with decorative lights is a sure way to enliven your home for the holidays. But hanging outdoor holiday lights can be a less than cheerful experience, particularly when you’re faced with a teetering ladder and tangles of light strings that don’t work.
Here’s how to make the job go as smooth as a warm eggnog:
Many different types of decorative lights are available, from conventional mini-lights and icicle lights to mesh-style light strings made for wrapping tree trunks.
You can choose clear, white, or colored lights that stay solidly lit, blink, or chase. The right style for your home will depend upon the look you want to create and your budget (not to mention the energy requirements for the lights), so be sure to take your time when shopping.
The Difference Between Christmas Lights
There are dozens of varieties for Christmas string lights, so know the difference before you begin shopping. Icicle lights come in realistic shapes and hanging curtains. Other hanging lights come in specific shapes, like snowflakes. Traditional light strands create a uniform outline.
What kind of bulb matters, too. LED lights are more expensive than incandescent lights, but LED Christmas lights are designed to last longer—like tens of thousands of hours. The LED lights are more of an investment upfront, but they also help save energy on your holiday utility bill because of their efficiency.
LED Christmas lights also tend to have more lights per string, which compensates for any reduction in brightness. They're made of acrylic, which is harder to break. And LED lights are safer: they don't get hot to the touch, and you can connect 10 times more strings together, which means fewer extension cords.
Measuring Your Home for Christmas Lights
Take one-time measurements of your home so you know how many Christmas lights you'll need. (There's nothing worse than hanging a string and realizing it only covers two-thirds of the intended space.) Then evaluate your power situation. Know where the outlets are and determine if you'll need to run exterior-grade extension cords from the outlet to the final destination where the Christmas lights will hang.
Outbax Tip: Plug in the string of lights before you start hanging Christmas lights outside so you can preview your work as you go—and you'll never end up with your light strand too far from an outlet!
How to Hang Christmas Light Decorations Step-by-Step
Step 1: Pick a mild winter day and start hanging Christmas lights in the mid-morning while there is plenty of daylight left to burn.
Step 2: Lay out all of your Christmas lights in the garage or another dry place and untangle any strings; test for burned out bulbs. You can also do this step in the weeks before hanging the lights so there is plenty of time to replace dull Christmas lights.
Step 3: Inspect your ladder to make sure it's in good condition and opt for a wood or fiberglass ladder.
Step 4: When you’re ready to add Christmas decor lights to your house, start with the highest point and work your way from side-to-side and then down.
Step 5: Be sure to secure your Christmas lights tightly but without damaging the wires. Avoid securing your Christmas lights with nails and staples because they increase the likelihood of ruining the wires.
Step 6: Work with a partner when hanging Christmas lights. You'll be surprised how much easier the process is with an extra set of hands, and it’s ideal to have a spotter while you’re on the ladder.
Step 7: When you're done hanging Christmas lights, admire your handiwork!