How to Hang Christmas Lights

Follow these tips to hang Christmas lights like a pro.  Getting the outside of your home into the holiday spirit doesn't have to be hard, AHS tells you how to hang your Christmas lights.

Hanging Christmas Lights

It’s that time of year again: Christmas trees, presents, cookies and, of course, lights. Nothing can help you get into the holiday spirit like creating a festive light display on your home. Whether you want to make a tasteful, simple display or a spectacle that would put the Clark Griswold to shame, following some basic tips and tricks will make decorating your home safe and stress free.

Read on to learn the ins and outs of hanging Christmas lights on your home.

Plan Your Design

While it may be tempting to start hanging lights immediately, you’ll save yourself a lot of aggravation if you take the time to plan your design. Consider the look you’re going for and make some basic decisions before you start. First, take a look at your house and decide where you want to place your lights. Some of the most common areas to decorate include:

  • Eaves and gutters
  • Bushes and trees
  • Columns and railings
  • Doorways and windows
  • Pathways and planters

Once you’ve decided where you want to decorate, the next step is taking some measurements. Get a large measuring tape and check the width and height of the areas you want to decorate. A good rule of thumb is to measure in straight lines whenever possible. Taking the time to measure beforehand will help you determine how many sets of lights you need to decorate the desired area. If needed, also check the distance to your outlet or electrical source to ensure that cords will reach.

For trees and shrubs, general guidelines suggest planning for about 100 lights per 1 ½ feet of space.

Choosing Lights

After you have an idea of how many lights you need, it’s time to decide which type you’re going to use. The options are almost endless, so it can seem a little intimidating. With some basic guidance, though, it’s easy to find the best Christmas lights for decorating your house. First, decide if you want to go with white lights or color. If you’re aiming for a more traditional look, white lights may be your best bet. Or, if you’re trying for something more modern and less conventional, you may even try a mix of the two.

Next, determine if you want your lights to blink or to glow steadily. These days, you can go all-out and even purchase kits that help you choreograph light shows to music. If you want special features like animation, keep in mind that you’ll have to check for these on the boxes when you shop.

Finally, you can decide on the type of bulb you want to use. Some of the most commonly available Christmas lights include:

  • Incandescent – These are the “classic” Christmas bulb. They’re available in white or color, and they’re known for the warm light they produce.
  • LED – These bulbs may cost a little more upfront, but they last longer and are more energy efficient. However, for white lights in particular, their color may have a cooler, bluish tint. Test these before buying to ensure you get the look you want.
  • C7 and C9 – These are another quintessential holiday choice. C7 and C9 lights are large and often opaque. They use 1.5- or 2.5-volt bulbs and, as a result, can consume more energy.
  • Icicle lights – As their name implies, these lights resemble icicles. They’re white, and they’re ideal for hanging from eaves, rooflines or gutters.
  • Net lights – These lights were designed to make decorating shrubs easy. They are small incandescent or LED lights arranged in a net that can be draped over large shrubs or bushes.

Whatever lights you choose, there are a few basic guidelines to remember. First, make sure the lights you purchase are suitable for outdoor use. This will be clearly marked on the box. Next, remember to use the same type of bulb (all incandescent or all LED) on the same circuit. You should also be sure to check for frayed wires, which are a hazard. Finally, if you are reusing lights, check to make sure all bulbs are working and replace any that have burned out.

Get Your Tools

With your choices made, it’s time to gather a few additional tools needed to hang your lights. Before you start, make sure you have the following:

  • Ladder – Depending on where you place your lights, you may need a stepstool or a large ladder to help access high locations.
  • Extension cords – Extension cords are a must. Make sure they’re labeled for outdoor use and that you have enough length to reach the outlets outside your house.
  • Timers – Light timers make managing your Christmas lights easy. They’re affordable and incredibly convenient. Buy a timer for each outlet and set your display to turn on and off at a certain time. Some even have dawn/dusk settings. Using timers will save you money on your electric bill, and it will keep you from having to plug your lights in every evening.
  • Light clips – These simple plastic tools may be your new best friend. If you’re hanging lights along your roof, gutters or railings, consider purchasing some of these instead of using staples. One end of the clip holds your string of lights, while the other end clamps onto the surface of your home.
  • Hanging poles – These handy gadgets are great for hanging lights in trees, and they can be used to decorate other hard-to-reach spots if you don’t want to use a ladder.

Safety First

As you decorate your home, remember that safety needs to come first. Of course, follow all instructions and precautions that come with the lights you’ve purchased. And, as mentioned, make sure everything you buy is labeled for outdoor use. Before you begin decorating, check the weather. Never hang lights on your home when it’s raining or wet and windy. It’s too easy for you to slip and fall. Secondly, never climb a ladder or attempt to decorate high places by yourself. If you’re decorating along the roof or another hard-to-reach place, have a spotter with you.

Keep these tips and tricks in mind to safely hang Christmas lights on your house, and you’ll have a display you can enjoy all season long.


AHS assumes no responsibility, and specifically disclaims all liability, for your use of any and all information contained herein.

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New Jersey Residents: The product being offered is a service contract and is separate and distinct from any product or service warranty which may be provided by the home builder or manufacturer.