It just doesn’t feel like Christmas until you’ve hung some bright, cheery Christmas lights on the outside of your home with wind chimes. If you’ve never hung Christmas lights before, you might be excited to do your part towards making the neighborhood look more festive.

But before you hit the stores and start buying strings of lights, you need a plan. You need to decide where you’re going to hang the lights and measure your house so you know how many feet of string lights you need. You’ll need supplies to hang your Christmas lights. Finally, you need to be careful hanging them up – use your ladder and equipment safely.

Plan Where You Want to Hang the Lights

The best way to plan where you want to hang Christmas lights on the outside of your house is to see your house from the perspective of the people who will be enjoying your light display – the passersby. Take a picture of your house from across the street. Maybe you want to hang lights from the gutters and eaves or around the porch. Perhaps you want to decorate your shrubs and trees with lights. Decide what level of holiday illumination would be most satisfying for you, and whether you just want to keep it simple or go all out.

Calculate How Many Feet of Lights You Need

Before you start shopping for Christmas lights online or hit the hardware store in person, measure where you’re going to hang the lights so you know how many feet of lights to buy. Measuring things like roofs, eaves, windows, and railings is pretty straightforward, but if you want to wind lights around a column or pole you’ll need to use the following formula:

  • Measure the height and circumference of the column.
  • Decide how far apart you would like to space the wrap – for example, maybe you want to wrap the string around the pole every three inches.
  • Divide the height of the pole (in inches) by that number (three). So if the pole or column is 10 feet or 120 inches tall, and 120 divided by 3 equals 40.
  • Multiply that number by the circumference of the column. So, if the column were 1.5 feet around, the final result would be 40×1.5=60.

Using this formula, you can see that you need to buy a string of lights 60 inches long to wrap around the entire height of your column every three inches.

Decide What Kind of Lights You Want

Do you want incandescent or LED bulbs? If you’re only hanging up a few strings of lights, you can easily get by with incandescent strings. You can safely connect six strings of incandescent light together to light up your enclosed patio.

But if you’re hanging a lot of lights, you might want to go with LED lights. They’re more expensive, but last for thousands of hours, and they don’t get hot, so they’re less of a fire hazard. You can connect 25 strings of LED lights together, so they’re a lot more convenient for decorating a large area. They’re also much cheaper to operate than incandescent bulbs.

You also have different styles of lights to choose from. You can choose curtain-like icicle lights, net lights to drape over shrubs and bushes, or string lights in various color schemes and plain white. There are a range of bulb choices available, too: traditional mini, wide-angle mini (for wrapping around trees), C9 bulbs for hanging along gutters and eaves, dome bulbs for a flashlight beam effect, and faceted G12 bulbs for glittering points of light.

Get the Right Equipment

Make sure you have the right tools to hang Christmas lights. You don’t want to pull a Clark Griswold. Don’t use nails, staples, or anything sharp to hang your Christmas lights. You could damage the wires, your house, and maybe yourself. Use Christmas light clips to attach your lights to gutters, shingles, and bricks. You can also use zip ties to attach Christmas lights to railings and banisters.

Be Safe

If you’re climbing up on a ladder to hang Christmas lights, follow appropriate ladder safety guidelines. Don’t lean to the side when using a ladder – keep your body centered on the ladder. Maintain three points of contact with the ladder, especially when climbing or descending. Don’t use a rickety ladder.

Hanging up Christmas lights outside your home can be a little work, but it’s worth it for a beautiful display. Your neighbors and everyone who passes by will enjoy your festive holiday cheer, too.

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