Hanging Christmas lights with the pros
August 18, 2008
I had a good friend growing up whose father always decorated his entryway and some of the trees and greenery around the entryway. He did this every year while we were growing up. It always looked ok, but he seemed to struggle with the installation each year. This went on for several years until we were high school age which was the last year he hung Christmas lights. His final installation consisted of him opening the front door, plugging in the lights, and tossing the lights over the closest bush. He shut the door, returned to the couch to watch football and never hung Christmas lights again. Perhaps if he had had some professional advise about hanging his lights the exercise would have been more of a pleasure rather than a hassle. Brian of Holiday Light Express, a professional Christmas light installation company, was kind enough to agree to an interview and answer some common questions about hanging Christmas lights.
For the average home owner, what are the most common types of Christmas light installations?
I think most people like to put lights in their trees and bushes and on their porches. Others will put lights along their roof edge.
I see a lot of spectacular displays where homeowners have wrapped there trees (trunks and branches) in Christmas lights. I really love the way this looks so I tried to do this last year without much success. My wraps were uneven and began to sag in many places and it just didn't look professional. What is the best approach to doing a tree wrap installation?
There are many different theories on how do to do this, so I will give you mine. I would start at the bottom of the tree and work towards the center or crotch. Wrap around the tree trunk tightly and try to space the lights evenly as you work your way up. Once you get to the center (crotch) you will have many branches you will have to wrap. What I do is wrap the branch half as dense as I want it as I work my way up, then when I wrap back towards the center to get the full light density that I want. Then I move on to the next branch, and repeat the process. You should end in the center when done. Don't be afraid to use a zip tie to hold lights in place on those tricky spots. By wrapping a tree this way you will be able to hook all the lights together using only one extension cord. Of course you have to follow UL guidelines for the number of sets you can hook together.
What are the best style of Christmas lights to use for tree wraps?
I think that both the M5 mini lights and the G12 work very well. I would also guess that the 5mm sets would look fine as well, but I have ever tried these. I also like using the shorter sets of lights. (25 or 35 lights per strand) It makes installation and removal easier.
I've also seen many fantastic displays where the homeowners have hung Christmas lights all along their roofline or eaves. (I haven't dared try this on my house because of the pitch of the roof...) Although I have never tried this myself I've seen some displays that look great and others that look sloppy. The ones that look great have perfectly spaced lights which extend across the roofline on an even plane. The ones that look bad don't have even spacing and the lights are out of line. What is the best way to do a roofline installation?
The best way is to have a Christmas light clip for each light. If each light is clipped to your roof, you will have a nice clean straight line with no sagging. (It will be as straight as your roof.) You'll want to pull the light strand almost tight to have a nice even spacing. There are several clips on the market that will work for both gutters and shingles.
What are the best types of Xmas lights to use for a roofline installation?
Personally I like using C9 bulbs, but the C7 and C6 lights will work as well. With the C9 and C7 you have the option of buying the wire and bulbs separately and cutting the strands to fit your roof. This is how we get the lights perfect when we do installations.
Many people have bushes, shrubs or hedges around their entryway or in other locations they would like to add some holiday color. The displays I have seen have been all over the board--some people will try to wrap the bush horizontally; others will install the lights in vertical lines on the face of the shrub; and others (like my friend's dad) seem to have just thrown them on. I've never figured out the best approach to this. Do you have any suggestions?
The trick here is taking your time. Personally I like to put lights in horizontally, although going from top to bottom will work as well. I would start at the bottom edge and work to the other side. Then you loop back towards where you started. You keep going back and forth until the bush is fully covered. The trick is to have your spacing correct. If you are using lights that have 4 inch spacing, you also need to make sure your loops are about 4 inches apart as well. This will give you a nice full looking bush where the lights look evenly spaced. Make sure you stand back 10-20 feet to see how it looks and then make adjustments if needed.
Are there any bulbs styles that are better for bush and shrub installations?
It really depends on the look you are going for. All the different bulb styles will look fine. Most folks use a M5 or G12 Christmas lights.
Do you have any tips for those of us who don't go crazy with the outdoor lighting and just want a nice looking Christmas tree?
The rule of thumb is that you want to use 100 M5 lights per foot of tree. Most trees are 7.5 feet, so you would want 750 lights. Again, make sure you space everything vertically to match your strands bulb spacing. Feel free to mix and match colors or use something unique like the color wave sets.