Once again, it’s Christmas time: Christmas trees, presents, cookies, and, of course, lights. The perfect way to get into the holiday spirit is by creating a festive light display for your home.
Whether you’re decorating for a tasteful, simple display or a spectacle that would make Clark Griswold jealous, these basic tips will help you avoid stress and make your home look beautiful.
Keep reading and learn some great tips for hanging your outdoor Christmas lights this year.
1. Layout your design
Even though you may be tempted to hang lights right away, taking the time to plan your design will save you a lot of frustration.
Make a few basic decisions before starting, based on the look you want. First, look at your house and think about where you want to see lights.
Here are some common areas that people will decorate:
- ⬥ Columns and railings
- ⬥ Eaves and gutters
- ⬥ Bushes and trees
- ⬥ Doorways and windows
- ⬥ Pathways and planters
Once you’ve chosen where to hang your lights, you’ll need to measure the width and height of the areas you want to decorate.
When possible, measure in straight lines. Measuring beforehand will help you determine how many sets of lights you will need to decorate a particular area. Also, check the distance from your outlet or electrical source to ensure that the cords can reach.
General guidelines for trees and shrubs suggest it will take about 100 lights per 1 ½ feet of space you’re trying to cover.
2. Choosing lights
Once you know about how many lights you’re going to need, choose the type you’re going to use.
With so many options, it can seem overwhelming.
The following guidelines can help make choosing the right outdoor Christmas lights a little easier.
First, decide if you want white or colored lights. In order to achieve a more traditional look, white lights may be your best option. If you want to go for something more modern and less conventional, you may even want to mix the two.
Next, decide whether you want the lights to blink or if you want them to glow continuously. Nowadays, you can even purchase kits that allow you to choreograph light shows to music. Be sure to check the boxes before you buy if you’re looking for special features such as animation.
Finally, select the type of bulb you want to use. Some of the most popular choices are:
- ⬥ Incandescent
Christmas bulbs of this type are considered “classic”. You’ll find them in either white or color, and they produce a warm light.
- ⬥ LED
Although these bulbs may cost more upfront, they last longer and use less energy. Particularly for white lights, however, they can appear blue-tinted. Test them first to ensure you get the look you’re looking for.
- ⬥ C7 and C9
Another classic holiday choice. This type of light is large and opaque. These bulbs use 1.5- or 2.5-volts, which can consume more energy.
- ⬥ Icicle lights
These lights are shaped like icicles, hence the name. They’re white, and they work well for hanging from eaves, rooflines, and gutters.
- ⬥ Net lights
Using these lights makes decorating shrubs easy. Incandescent lights or LEDs are arranged in a net that can be draped over shrubs or trees.
Make sure the lights you purchase can be used outdoors. The box will state this clearly. Use the same type of bulb on the same circuit (all incandescent bulbs or all LEDs).
And always check for frayed lines which are a hazard, and if you’re reusing lights you already have, make sure they’re all working before you hang them to make it easier to replace any that are out.
Also, use a safe outdoor electrical outlet that has a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter) outlet. This circuit will cut the power in the event of an electrical surge.
3. Ladder safety
You don’t need a fancy ladder, but it must be strong. The best choice is an extension ladder that leans securely against your house. It’s fine to use a standard step ladder, as long as it’s tall enough, strong enough, and the ground is level enough so that the ladder can stand safely.
4. Use light clips that are suitable for outside use
Instead of nails, screws, stapes or other sharp objects, use light clips that are specifically made for outdoor use. Using clips will prevent accidental damage to your wiring, which can be a fire hazard.
Look closely at the surfaces you’ll be attaching the clips too to make sure you get the right ones. (hint: multi-surface clips are available, so look for those if you have multiple types of surfaces)
Use one clip per bulb. This will ensure a neat, uniform look to your display.
5. Focal points
What is the most striking feature of your home’s exterior? Is it the roofline? Does your front door catch the eye? If you look at your house, wherever your eye seems to go first is an excellent place to start. Consider what you want the spot to look like and make sure all of your other lights work together to complement it.
If all of this planning and preparation feels overwhelming, you don’t have to complicate things. Just hang a few light strings neatly, outlining the profile of your home and call it good.
So if the idea of a lot of planning and design stresses you out, then don’t do it – celebrate the holidays your way!