10 Tips for Outdoor Holiday Lighting

Traditional Christmas wreath
Give your exterior some extra sparkle this holiday season with a festive light display. Learn how to hang Christmas lights safely and effectively with these simple tips.

Buy the Right Type

String lights continue to evolve, so know what to look for before you hit the store. LED lights are more expensive than incadescents but are designed to last longer. They also tend to have more lights per string, which compensates for any loss in brightness.

Find Your Size

While you're shopping for holiday lights, be sure to factor in where you'll be stringing the lights. Large C7 or C9 bulbs tend to be a better match for a big, bushy evergreen tree than strands of mini lights, which can appear too small and get lost among the branches.

Choose the Light Color

Decide what mood you want to create with your outdoor light display. Clear lights are classic and stand out in most landscapes, while colored lights add a touch of whimsy.

Conceal Cords

Be mindful of cord color when selecting holiday lighting. Use green for evergreen bushes, garlands, and wreaths; brown for grapevine accents; and white for house gutters. The same rule applies to extension cords.


Safety Tip: String lights and extension cords should be rated for outdoor use.

Inspect Light Strands

Before stringing lights on trees and bushes, it's important to look for broken bulbs and frayed cords. Spread strands on the floor and plug them in to check for burned-out lights.


Safety Tip: Outside lights are exposed to water, so use electrical tape to wrap connections when two or more light strands are being used.

Enlist a Quality Ladder

Invest in a strong, well-made ladder to help you hang lights. If you are working on a tree, you'll need a large stepladder for stability. For lights attached to a house, consider an extension ladder -- and enlist a helper to spot you.

Use Light Clips

Whether stringing lights on trees, along gutters, or on the roof, use plastic clips to hold strands in place. Clips provide quick anchorage and can be found at most hardware and holiday specialty stores. There are clips made for attachment to gutters, shingles, roof tiles, trees, and even brick. If you prefer a permanent solution, metal cup hooks can be screwed into wooden eaves. Look for stainless-steel hooks, which won't corrode and disintegrate.

Light the Tree

To string lights on an evergreen, begin at the top of the tree and wind strands through its center, widening with the tree's shape. For deciduous trees, work your way up. Wrap lights around the base of its trunk, moving upward in a spiral formation.

Run Power to the Display

Say good-bye to dragging out long, inefficient electric cords every year to power your lighting. Instead, plug lights into a ground fault circuit interrupter made for outdoor use. A certified electrician can install the necessary wiring and outlet.

Vary Focal Points

Look for ways to add sparkle beyond the rooftop or front lawn. Small wreaths and shrubs at different heights on a porch or front stoop can make your home the night star of the neighborhood.

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