This story is sponsored by ABC Home and Commercial
Installing Christmas lights isn't always easy. This is especially true if you want to put lights on your roof and attach them to your shingles. If you don't hang your lights strands properly, you might damage your home or put your family at risk of an electrical fire. So, how should you attach Christmas lights to your shingles safely?
The first thing to know is that there are two main ways that Christmas decorations cause shingle damage. First of all, using nails, staples or screws to install lights can create problems. Also, shingles can take abuse when a well-intentioned homeowner walks across their roof. While both seem like inevitable parts of the Christmas decoration process, there are alternatives.
While using nails, staples or screws for your Christmas lights sounds like a great idea to keep your display in place, even making a small hole in your roof can lead to disaster when the first heavy rainfall of the season happens. Instead of using nails and screws to attach Christmas lights to shingles, head to your local department or home improvement store and look for clips that attach lights to shingles. If you have lights already, take a photo of the box and record the size of the lights. These clips accommodate all types of lights, but you'll need the right match to prevent your lights from falling, or worse—having to make a return visit to the store during the holiday rush. Look for clips that won't puncture your shingles but instead will "hug" the edge of your shingles.
Rather than installing Christmas lights from the roof, use a ladder. Place the ladder directly in front of the area where you want to start working, and make sure it's steady. As you start to attach the clips to the shingles, make sure that they are secure, because loose clips are likely to cause damage during windy weather. It's also best to hang your Christmas lights before the first storm of the season, as you'll want to avoid this chore in potentially slippery conditions.
Creating a beautiful holiday display for your home can be a challenge, especially if the bar is set high in your neighborhood. Not only do you want to be creative, but you also want to keep safety in mind. Whether you're looking to put Christmas lights on gutters, on brick or around the outline of your windows, we'll review everything you need to know, including some tips from the pros.
How to hang Christmas lights on gutters
One of the biggest reasons homeowners use gutters to hang their Christmas lights is because it creates a clean line up and down the exterior of a home. Unfortunately, hanging lights from gutters can lead to most of the same problems as hanging them from shingles.
Fortunately, the same solution works for both: use clips specifically designed for this purpose. Often, clips made to hang Christmas lights are built to be used on both shingles and gutters. When you go to the store to purchase clips, you'll have different light clip options. You have the option between horizontal clips, vertical clips or both, and this will determine which direction your lights point in. One clip isn't better than the other, it just depends on your personal preference for your lights.
Remember, once you have the right clips, attach them to your lights first before you start to climb up to your roof. Connect multiple strands of lights so you don't run out while you're 20 feet in the air. Then wrap them in a neat coil and carry them over your shoulder.
And, of course, always use proper ladder safety, no matter where you put your lights.
How to outline windows with Christmas lights
If you're like most people, you don't just want Christmas lights on the top of the house. You also want them all over your home. Many homeowners choose to highlight their home's greatest assets by stringing lights around doors, windows and other parts of your home's exterior.
You have a couple of options when it comes to outlining your windows. Some homeowners string lights on the gutter directly above their window to outline the top of it. There are also cup hooks that you can buy and which are relatively easy to install. These hooks are easily screwed into your wall by hand. Once in place, you can drape your Christmas lights on them. Cup hooks are great because they have minimal impact on your wall and only give you a small indent.
You will likely only need about 6 to 8 hooks for a window frame, but don't be afraid to add more for larger windows. Space out the hooks evenly and attach them before adding your lights. We recommend starting in a bottom corner and making your way up.
If you would prefer not to make a hole in your home's exterior, you can also use specially-formulated hooks that attach with a strong adhesive. These can stick to many types of surfaces, including tile, wood, paint and siding. Some are clear, which can allow you to leave them up inconspicuously until decorating season next year.
If you want a more temporary solution, you can utilize wire suckers. Just stick these wire suckers around your window's outline, then hang your lights. These wire suckers work by suction cupping to your window, are best for hanging fairy lights or lighter strands.
How to attach Christmas lights to brick
If your house is made out of brick, installing Christmas lights may mean whipping out the drill. Many homeowners think this means they have to drill directly into the brick. Don't make this mistake. If you do that, you risk damaging the brick. Instead, drill into the mortar.
But don't do that first. In order to actually hang the lights, you're going to need plastic anchors and screw hooks to go into the hole you make in the mortar. You want plastic rather than metal so that they won't rust. Get these first so that you'll know the correct size for your drill bit. Once you've added the anchor and the hook, you can start to string your lights.
If you don't want to cause damage to your home, there is another way to hang your lights. You can try what we mentioned in the previous section: hooks mounted with a powerful adhesive. While this may not work as well with stone surfaces, flat bricks can generally support an adequate seal to keep hooks adhered.
No matter what type of Christmas light display you want to have this year, there are a few safety tips you should keep in mind.
Holiday lights safety
Installing lights on any type of home comes with risks. Keep these tips in mind to stay safe during the holidays.
Make a plan
Always plan out your design beforehand. Measure the length of the gutter or the perimeter where you will be stringing lights. This will prevent you from running out of lights while you're still on the ladder and ensure you buy enough clips to attach your lights to shingles and gutters.
Don't forget to measure the distance between where your lights begin and the nearest outlet, so you know how long your extension cord will need to be. If the distance is especially long, see if you can use a battery-operated set of lights. The more your extension cord runs through grass or around the house, the more risks you face, which might include accidentally cutting a cord while lawn mowing.
If you plan on purchasing a new set of lights, you can investigate how to recycle Christmas lights in your area. Sometimes, you can even donate your lights to your local Goodwill or Salvation Army.
Inspect your lighting
When you take your lights out of storage, ask yourself:
- Are any bulbs burnt out?
- Did a year in your attic cause damage to any of the wires?
- Does each strand still work?
Don't install Christmas lights with exposed wires or bulbs. Replace, fix or throw out any Christmas lights that may pose a risk to you and your family. If you haven't checked before, make sure that your lights were designed for outdoor use. Some lights are specifically designed for indoor use and may not be able to withstand extreme temperatures.
If you are installing lighting to gutters or shingles, check to make sure that these are all in good shape, too. Adding extra weight onto a loose shingle or broken gutters may be the straw that breaks the camel's back.
Practice electrical safety
Don't expose sockets that you are not using. The combination of harsh weather and exposed electricity can be deadly. Cover these outlets with a light cap or electrical tape for extra protection.
Observe ladder best practices
Just as you examine the lights that you bring out of storage, inspect your ladder. Look for missing rungs, bent rungs or slippery spots. If you see dirt or leaves on the ladder, clean it before you get started.
Plan out where you are going to be working. Ideally, your ladder should reach above that area. Never work on a height that is above the highest point of the ladder to ensure you maintain your balance. If you can't reach where you want to hang your lights, you might want to get a new ladder, change your design or hire a professional holiday lighting company who can handle the hard work for you.
Your ladder should also be at a specific angle from your home. For every four feet, you should bring the ladder one foot away from the house. For example, if you are working 10 feet above the ground, the base of your ladder should be two and a half feet away from your home.
A good way to test your ladder's angle is to stand at the base of the ladder with your feet touching the bottom. Extend your arms out in front of you. If you can touch the ladder without bending your elbows or overreaching, your ladder should be safe.
Once you know how far out your ladder is, you should find a smooth, firm area to place the bottom of the ladder. The ladder is more likely to move or slip out from underneath you if the ground below you is soft or slippery. Boards can be used to make the area less slippery, but never use a box or blocks to give your ladder more height.
Be careful when putting up your lights, and don't let anyone come onto the ladder with you! Once your ladder is in a safe position, put on your holiday playlist and start getting to work!
However, if you would rather spend your Saturday with your family, enjoying your local holiday festivities, you do have another option for getting your Christmas lights up.
ABC can make your home festive
The expert team at ABC Home & Commercial Services can help to take the danger (and tedium) of hanging holiday lights off your hands. Our team of professionals can take on all the tasks required to make your home shine before a big event or holiday. With ABC's help, you can spread holiday cheer throughout the neighborhood.