Articles and Buying Guides

How to Hang Outdoor Christmas Lights Safely

Christmas Lights on a house

Thinking about hanging Christmas lights but don’t know where to start? There are a few things to consider before climbing up that ladder and having a go at it. We've put together these seven tips to help make your holiday light hanging as safe and hassle-free as it can be!

Measuring Windows

1. Measure Twice, Hang Once

Always have a plan! Before busting out the ladder, figure out where you want your string lights. Then measure out the length that you'll need. Important: Don't forget to account for extra length if you're planning to have the lights dipping down between the hangers. Total up all the lengths to ensure you have all the lights you need before you start.

electrical outlet

2. More Power to You

You'll need electricity to make those glass bulbs shine, so locate the nearest outdoor convenience outlets. If a switched outlet is available, you'll have manual control over the lights with an indoor switch. For "set it and forget it" automation, pick up an outdoor timer. These are available in both digital and mechanical models.

extension cord

3. Cut the Cord (If It's the Wrong Gauge)

Between the outlet and the first string of lights, you'll need an extension cord. That's cord, not cords! You should never plug two extension cords together - get one that is the right length. Make sure you're using one that's rated for outdoor use. The size of the wire inside an extension cord determines its gauge, and that's a very important number. If it's 25 feet or shorter, use a 16-gauge cord. Longer than that, go with the heavier-duty 14-gauge.

christmas lights

4. Testing, Testing

Before getting started, you'll probably have to untangle the mess you left behind last year. While doing this, it's a good time to check the entire length of the cord for worn or cut wiring. Then test the lights and replace any burnt-out or broken bulbs. Note: Never mix LED bulbs with incandescent ones. Having a repair kit handy will help a bunch!

sunny sky

5. Under the Weather

Plan to hang your Christmas lights before the weather turns bad. Hanging lights when it's wet or cold outside isn't just uncomfortable - it's also dangerous. Try to plan for a dry day when the weather is warmer. Also, soliciting help from a friend or family member can make this task a lot safer and easier!

man on ladder

6. Rung Through the Jungle

Bring holiday magic to your home - not the hospital! Properly inspect your ladder for defects before climbing on it. Ensure that you're not exceeding the ladder's specified weight limit. Check that each foot of the ladder has a slip-resistant pad and is securely on the ground. Avoid leaning out or stretching to reach something and never stack ladders on top of each other. To avoid ladder injuries this holiday season, check out our ladder safety guide.

hanging light clips

7. Clip-on Tie

Now that you’ve got a plan of action, the right equipment, and working lights, it’s time to start hanging 'em up. Never use nails or staples to hang up lights, since they can pierce or damage their protective insulation and create an electrical hazard. Use lighting clips. These are specially made for gutters, shingles, and flat surfaces. Since there are usually several options, choose the right size and type of for your bulbs and surface. When hanging them, space the clips about 8-10 inches apart.

Knowing how to safely hang Christmas lights can bring magic to your home while preventing a fire or trip to the hospital. To bring some of the visual festivity to your neighborhood with new holiday lights and hanging accessories, visit your local, independent Do it Best retailer or for holiday lights and accessories.