How to Hang Christmas Lights on Every Part of Your Home's Exterior, According to the Experts

Map out the focal points of your house—think your roof, windows, and railings—then measure each area to ensure you have enough strands.

Middle aged couple decorating for the holidays

Christmas is right around the corner and one way to signal to neighbors and passersby that you're ready for the cheery season is by decking out the exterior of your home with holiday lights. Unlike wrapping strands around your tree or draping them across your mantel, hanging Christmas lights outside can be a dangerous and daunting task. Before climbing that ladder, make sure you have the right materials handy and a design (and safety!) plan in place.

Styles of Christmas Lights

How and where you hang your lights ultimately comes down to personal preference, but it's also largely dictated by the style of lights you have. "The style of light offers differing sentiment and functionality," says Gary McCoy, a store manager at Lowe's. "Rope lights are ideal for outlining doorways, windows, and walkways or creating intricate shapes and designs, while icicles are whimsy and large bulbs create a retro, visual impact."

LED Lights vs. Incandescent Lights

Once you've landed on a style, you must also decide on what type of Christmas lights you want to hang on your property—LED or incandescent lights.

LED Lights

In recent years, many homeowners have opted for LED over incandescent lights because they use about 80% less energy. "LED lights are some of the best Christmas lights for outdoors because they save money on energy costs and last longer than incandescent lights," says McCoy. "Plus, you don't have to worry about them overheating."

Incandescent Lights

On the other hand, incandescent lights are a desirable choice for many, since they usually cost less than LED lights and have a warmer glow.

Materials Needed

There are a few basic materials you'll need in order to keep your lights in place when hanging.

  • Outdoor light strands
  • Extension cord(s)
  • Tape measure
  • Ladder
  • Light clips

Prepare to Hang Christmas Lights

A little prep goes a long way when hanging Christmas lights, so be sure not to skip the following steps.

Test Your Lights Before Hanging

The last thing you want is to hang all of your lights and realize a few strands don't work. Avoid this by untangling your lights and plugging them into an outlet to ensure all bulbs are functioning properly. "If you find a bulb that needs to be replaced, you can purchase replacement bulb packs, which is a cost effective way to keep your strands year over year," says Sydney Joublanc, associate merchant of decorative holiday at Home Depot.

Check the Lights Are for Outdoor Use

Ensure your lights can withstand natural elements like snow, rain, and cold temperatures by confirming they're for outdoor use. Most Christmas lights are suitable for both indoors and outdoors, but the variety you have will be indicated on the front of the box.

Measure Where the Lights Will Hang

There are several areas of your home you should measure before hanging lights to determine how many strands you'll need. First, map out your focal points—this includes the perimeter of your roof, windows, doors, porches, and walkways.

"Then measure those areas, so you can easily calculate how many light strands you'll need," says Joublanc. "Measure the distance to your power sources, too, in case extension cords are necessary."

If you've measured and found multiple strands are necessary, check the manufacturer's instructions to see how many strands can safely be connected (too many can become a fire hazard).

How to Hang Christmas Lights

Now it's time for the fun part: hanging your Christmas lights. To do so, it's recommended you use plastic light clips over screws or staples, which are harder to remove when Christmas is over. "Light clips simplify hanging Christmas lights outdoors," says McCoy. "We recommend purchasing clips specific to the surface you are working with like gutters or shingles, and most packaging makes finding the clips that fit your application easy."

How to Hang Lights From the Roof

If you're hanging light strands from your gutter or roof, ask a helper to supervise as a safety precaution.

  1. Snap the plastic clips onto the lights strands, spacing each clip a few inches apart as you go.
  2. Place your ladder securely against the side of your home, having your helper hold it as you ascend the roof.
  3. Slide the clips (with the lights already attached) onto the gutter or between the roof and shingles.
  4. Ask your helper to step back and tell you if anything needs to be adjusted.

How to Hang Lights on Railings and Windows

For exterior areas that don't have ledges or lips for clips, opt for iterations with adhesive backings, instead. These will work for railings, columns, and windows.

  1. Snap the plastic clips onto the lights strands, spacing each clip a few inches apart as you go.
  2. Peel the backing off the adhesive and press the clip into place.
  3. Take a step back to ensure everything looks how you envisioned and adjust as necessary.
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