How to Hang Your Christmas Lights Beautifully and Safely

Audrey Bruno
Written by Audrey Bruno
Updated February 1, 2022
A beautifully decorated with Christmas lights house
Photo: PhotoSpirit / Adobe Stock

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Nothing highlights the arrival of the Christmas season quite like seeing your neighborhood light up. But installing outdoor Christmas lights is a holiday project that’s definitely more challenging (and risky) than your typical gingerbread-building, cookie-decorating fare. 

The tips in this guide are meant to simplify the process so that you never find yourself detangling string lights high up on a ladder again. Your home will be the talk of the town before you know it—and without any help from a pro!

Difficulty: 3/5

Time: 2 to 3 hours

Tools and materials needed:

  • Tape measure

  • Gloves

  • Staple gun or shingle clips

  • 8-foot ladder for single-story homes

  • 24-foot ladder for two-story homes

  • Pouch for easy access to tools

  • String light bulbs

  • Electrical tape

  • Extension pole

  • UL-approved extension cords

  • Replacement bulbs

  • Timer and lighting controls

  • Goat steep assist (optional)

1. Measure the Exterior of Your Home

Make sure you have the right amount of outdoor lights for the front of your home before getting started. Check the dimensions listed on your contract or blueprint if either is available to you. Otherwise, you can do it the old-fashioned way—by hopping up on a ladder and using a tape measure. 

Once you’re equipped with that information, the amount and type of outdoor lights you decide to use is entirely up to your preference. Options like magnetic Christmas light strips can lessen your workload and LED bulbs can reduce your energy costs!

2. Gather Your Supplies and Double Check That Your Lights Work

A woman checking the Christmas lights work
Photo: Dmitriy / Adobe Stock

Having all your equipment in the same place will make it easier to get started and keep going. Not needing to run back in the house or garage every time you can’t find something will help you stay organized and keep the project moving smoothly. Place everything you need on an easy-to-access tarp or foldable table to ensure your equipment is always within reach.

While you’re at it, double-check that all your lights are working while you’re getting ready. That way, you can replace any broken bulbs before climbing your ladder.

3. Make a Plan Ahead of Time

Going into Christmas light installation with a plan will make the process run more smoothly and the final product all that more beautiful. Plan your light-hanging scheme by laying the strands out on the ground below the areas of your house where you want to hang them. 

This lets you see approximately how much room each strand will cover, ensuring that you don’t get caught short once up on the ladder. And don’t forget to factor in your access to outlets. Make sure that one is within reach or that you have enough extension cords to cover the distance. 

4. Keep Replacement Light Bulbs on Hand

Light strings are delicate and can break on a moment’s notice—even when you’re in the middle of hanging them. That’s why it’s a good idea to have several replacement bulbs on hand throughout the installation process. Store them in a small pouch or fanny pack, or wear an apron or set of overalls with deep pockets to keep them close by. 

5. Firmly Secure Your Ladder

A man on a ladder hanging Christmas lights above the garage door
Photo: Wayne / Adobe Stock

You don’t want to end up like Clark Griswold. Always take time to ensure that your ladder is fixed to a flat surface so that there’s no risk of it moving while you’re hanging lights. Avoid propping it up on tables or chairs for extra height, and instead buy or rent a taller ladder to safely reach high spots. 

When in doubt, work with a buddy who can spot you from the ground while you’re off scaling new heights. And be mindful of your surroundings when going up and down to avoid any surprise Christmas trips to the ER.

6. Use a Staple Gun or Light Clips Secure Light Strings

If your outdoor Christmas lights weren’t sold with light clips, you can buy them separately or use a staple gun to hang them to your home. Avoid excessive force on any siding, gutters, or roof lining that’s fragile or susceptible to damage. And beware of securing your lights to already damaged areas. While each individual light string isn’t heavy on its own, the weight of several strands together can absolutely bring down an already loose or broken gutter.

7. Light Up Your Trees with Some Help from an Extension Pole

If you’re looking to add a little twinkle to your treelines, you can do so using an extension pole specifically designed for stringing lights. You can find these extension poles at most home improvement stores or online.

Cost to DIY Light Installation vs. Hiring a Pro

If your home is taller than average, or you’re simply afraid of heights, you may be better off outsourcing this project to a pro. The average cost for professional Christmas light installation ranges from $218 to $651 and depends on a range of factors like type of lights, square footage of coverage, and the labor involved. On the other hand, doing it yourself can cost as little as $100 for all the required equipment (and less depending on what you already have), so this project is definitely doable for the average homeowner. 

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