Tricks and Tips for Hanging Outdoor Holiday Lights

It's time to hang those holiday lights!
Once again it's time for that honored seasonal tradition of climbing up into the spider-web covered recesses of your attic or garage to retrieve dusty boxes of Christmas decorations. After several non-stop hours spent unsnarling an octopus of wires you're finally ready to take your life into your hands and ascend the rickety ladder to the rooftop to finish the job before Santa gets there. If this sounds like a familiar scenario --and one you'd like to avoid -- read on to learn the tricks and tips of hanging outdoor holiday lights that will save time (and possibly injury) and have your home looking festive.

Start Early

You don't have to illuminate them until December, but starting early means you can take your time and do things right. Make that dreaded trip to the attic shortly after Halloween, and get prepared:

  • Untangle strands
  • Test the lights and replace fuses or non-functioning bulbs
  • Make a rough diagram of your lighting plan and take measurements. 
  • Install grounded, outdoor outlets to make powering your lights easier and safer
Starting early means you can take your time and do things right.

Buy Smart

One of life's great mysteries is how a perfectly fine strand of lights can go into a storage box at the beginning of the year and come out a knotted-up string of broken bulbs and exposed wires at year's end. Before you buy new lights these tips in mind:

  • Use heavy-duty C-9 or C-7 lights in hard-to-reach places. If one bulb malfunctions the rest of the strand keeps working unlike with mini-lights that go dark in portions when a single bulb burns out or breaks.
  • Many stores offer discounts on energy-efficient LED lights of you bring in an old string of regular lights to "trade"
  • Working with shorter strands is actually easier if you need to replace a defective string once hung
  • Look for "string to string" styles that include a male plug on one end and a female receptacle on the other
  • Purchase only lights that are approved for use outdoors
  • Buy fuses, replacement bulbs and plastic clips for hanging lights from the eaves while you're at the store

Staying Safe

Follow all good-sense precautions when using a ladder to hang lights: Move the ladder instead of over-reaching, stay off the top step, and enlist the help of a spotter to steady the ladder as needed. And keep your gun holstered! Your staple gun, that is. Use plastic clips that snap into eaves and gutters or nail into wood trim. Never staple or nail lights in place. 

Follow all good-sense precautions when using a ladder to hang lights.

Proper Storage

Taking lights and other holiday decor items down isn't nearly as much fun as putting them up. But a few extra minutes now will make next year's decorating so much easier.

  • Take time to remove all burnt or broken bulbs from strands before storing
  • Instead of shoving lights back into their boxes, wind them around the outside of the box and wrap with leftover tissue or gift paper to prevent damage
  • Discard non-operable strings you said you were going to fix but didn't. New lights are fairly inexpensive and vastly safer that any repair you can MacGyver
  • Store all your outdoor lights and supplies together and mark the boxes clearly

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