How to Put up Christmas Lights Outside

How to Put up Christmas Lights Outside

from wikiHow - The How to Manual That You Can Edit

The exterior of the house is what your neighbors see. You are obviously proud of your home and you want to show it off. Here's how to do it properly and with grace and style this holiday season.


  1. Determine the style of your home. Is it ranch? Tudor? Victorian? Basic tract box? Multi-story? Use lights and/or other ornamentation that will complement your own home. Just like accessorizing yourself for a party, you want to select the right jewelry for the outfit, the occasion, and your body size and style.
    • For a Victorian style house, there may well be no such thing as “over the top". But elegance is a key factor. Strings, strings and more strings of lights around every architectural feature of the house will enhance it's stature.
    • A ranch-style or single story home calls for lights around the roof line, the fence and along your entrance walkway. (Refrain from putting lights on shrubbery. You’re trying to show off the house, not the bushes.)
    • Multi-story homes call for the same basic theory as a Victorian, with less “fluff". String lights along the roof line, around columns, along the porch railing.
  2. Browse through a few magazines for ideas that may be suitable for your own use.
  3. Walk around your neighborhood and borrow some ideas that catch your fancy. Try not to make it too obvious and don't copy another house exactly-that won't look good for either house.
  4. Visit home furnishings stores. You’ll find excellent ideas for dressing up your windows inside. This treatment becomes part of the view from the outside.
  5. Use a reliable, sturdy ladder. Use the right tools for the job.
  6. Get a helper but if you work alone, use a basket or bucket with a handle to tote your materials. Put a nail or an S hook on the ladder. This will allow you to hang your tote vessel. Limit the number of times you go up and down the ladder, but do not lean to reach anything. When you can’t reach the next position, move the ladder. Do one step of the project to its completion before you begin the next phase.
  7. Examine the lights. Make certain that they all work and that there are no frayed areas in the cords before you take them up the ladder. Avoid “repairing" frayed cords. Dispose of the entire string if you find damaged cords. It’s not worth the risk of fire. Do the roof line first. Locate the power sources. You’re going to need at least one good extension cord. Select an exterior cord which is compatible with your lights, and with the weather it will endure. Your house probably does not have a power source near the roof.
    • You can run an extension cord through a window. (You will not be able to close the window all the way.)
    • If you have an exterior outlet somewhere on the house, install your extension cord from the outlet to the roof line keeping the cord as close to the building as possible. Be sure the outlet is protected from rain, snow and sprinklers.
  8. Install fasteners or holders over which to drape the extension cord(s) and the light strings. Space your fasteners uniformly with the distance of area between your between the bulbs on your light strings. (Finish this step completely before you start hanging the lights.) While nails, screws and other metallic fasteners seem to be the answer, they are conductors of electricity, they rust, and they put holes into your structure. There are many products on the market made of rubber or heavy duty plastic designed for hanging electrical cords. Consult the sales staff at a reputable hardware store. Tell them what you will be doing with them. They’re fairly inexpensive and easy to install. Look for fasteners with a moisture resistant, peel-and-stick backing that will hold up to ten pounds.
  9. Hang the lights. Start at the power source and follow the fasteners to the end of the project. Hang one string, then plug in the next string, end-to-end. Don’t cut corners by plugging all the strings together. You’ll end up with a bundle of tangled light strings. Be certain that the light string cords are secure in/on the fastener. You don’t want wind, birds, small animals or Santa to knock them off.
  10. Get down to the ground, turn on the lights and stand back away from the house. Check for uniformity. Get a second pair of eyes from a family member or a neighbor. Good job!
  11. Decorate other elements of your home next.
    • Columns: Combining the light strings with holiday garland (natural or artificial) will enable you to wrap a column (barber pole style) with ease. The additional bulk of a garland will help avoid slippage of the light strings and add a little pizazz, too! If you need a little adhesion, space and hide small pieces of removable tacky clay behind the string garland. Removable tacky clay is available at reputable craft or hardware stores.)
    • Porch Railing: Open baluster style: Using the same barber pole technique with garland, loop the light strings over and under the railing. Secure it as needed with removable tacky clay.
    • Porch Railing: Along the top of the porch enclosure (one that is like a ½ wall) use the rubber or plastic, peel and stick fasteners that were used along the roof line. Note: these fasteners may be ineffective on concrete or stucco.
    • Fences: Use the same techniques as on the porch railings.
  12. Sit back and enjoy the Holidays!


  • Less is more. Don't turn your house into the sun. This not only wastes electricity, but can be disruptive to your neighbors. Your house will look better if it is lit, but not blinding. There is such a thing as too many blow up figures, deer and other lawn ornaments.
  • Get great decorating ideas from the pros by checking out Christmas light websites like the Tacky Light Tour


  • Lawn ornaments (snowmen, Santa, deer) are clever and eye-catching. Be very careful, especially if you have a small yard; it fills up quickly. Keep the safety of your own children and your visitors and guests in mind. A maze of electrical cords hidden in the yard can be hazardous.
  • On the exterior, avoid blinking or flashing lights. They can be very distracting to people driving by and they look horrible. Seriously, this isn't a movie theater.
  • BEWARE OF LEAD EXPOSURE. There is lead in the wiring or insulation material. Wash your hands after handling the lights--maybe you can wear rubber gloves, too.

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