Decked Out: How to Hang Holiday Lights


Stringing lights can be tricky, but the process can go smoothly if do-it-yourselfers employ a few tricks of the trade.

The best time to hang outdoor lights is before the weather gets especially cold and wet. Even if you do not plan to hang the lights early in the season, start your preparation early.

Remove the lights from storage and inspect them to check for bulb outages or frayed wires. Sketch out your lighting plan, including which architectural features of the home you plan to highlight. Set the ground work by running and attaching extension cords and setting up any timers you plan to use.

If this is the first time you are lighting up your home’s exterior or if you are trying a new lighting scheme, use a tape measure to determine the width and height of the area you will cover. Then measure the length of each strip of lights you will use. Multiply accordingly to best estimate how many strings of lights will be needed. It’s much less stressful to have an extra box of lights on hand than to realize when you’re up on the roof that you have run out of lights and need to purchase more.

Invest in a few packages of light clips or nail-on fasteners that attach to gutters or siding making it  easier to string up lights. If they are inconspicuous, some clip styles can be left up for several years, saving you more time in the years to come.
Space the clips about 12 inches apart, or as needed to keep the lights taut. Do not use staples or nails to hang lights. They can wear away at the wire covering and insulation, creating an electrical fire hazard.

It helps to have a buddy who can work with you to feed you strings of lights and also hold or adjust the ladder as needed.

Once your equipment is in place, start at the closest electrical outlet. Work around the perimeter of the home, clipping the lights and adding new strands as necessary. Remember to pay attention to the electrical load limit for the outlet and don’t connect too many strings of lights together.
Additional lighting tips
• Tailor lighting displays to the style of your home. Let them complement the architecture as well as the neighborhood.
• Borrow ideas from neighbors but do not copy them to a tee.
• If you are new to the neighborhood, ask neighbors what is typical for lighting displays on your street.
• Dress windows from the inside if you do not want to scale the exterior of your home.
• Net lights and other products are designed to make covering bushes and trees easier.- MCC