How to Hang Outdoor Christmas Lights - Backyard Boss
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How to Hang Outdoor Christmas Lights

Are you thinking about decorating the outside of your home with Christmas lights for the first time this holiday season? In this article, we’ll share with you everything you need to know about how to hang outdoor Christmas lights properly.

Hanging Outdoor Christmas Lights

Not many traditions have such a long and colorful history in the US as Hanging Christmas lights outdoors. Believe it or not, people have been hanging outdoor Christmas lights since the late 1880s. Setting out lanterns, chandeliers, and glass balls, all containing candles, as well as hanging electric Christmas lights, have been a national tradition for nearly 150 years now.

Today, with the market overflowing with affordable lights and decorations, pretty much anybody who wants to can get into hanging outdoor Christmas lights. Not to mention that lights and decorations keep getting more innovative and easier to use each year.

Hanging outdoor Christmas lights for the first time isn’t nearly as complicated or expensive as you may think.

What You’ll Need

Before hanging your lights, you’re going to need to gather a few additional items. Let’s have a look at what you’ll need, below.


christmas lights multicolor string incandescent mini bulbs

First and foremost, you’ll, of course, need Christmas lights. Maybe you already have lights, or perhaps you plan to purchase a few strands. Whatever the case is, gather your lights and test them before even thinking about going outside with them.

If shopping for lights, make sure to double-check that the lights are made for outdoor use. Many Christmas lights are not intended for use outside and will short out in the rain.

There are several types of Christmas lights for outdoors, including:

  • Incandescent
  • Classic white
  • LED
  • Multi-color
  • Fairy twinkle
  • Meteor shower/waterfall
  • Globes


Most outdoor Christmas light displays require a weatherproof timer. By connecting your light strands and routing the power through a single timer all of your lights will cut on and off in unison.

Timers come with various features including automatic power on and off and manual time settings. Many timers also serve as a surge protector as well.

    DEWENWILS Outdoor Digital Power Strip Timer

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    The sturdy weatherproof cover protects the digital yard stake timer from water, dust and damage; can be used during rainy or snowy days, no need to go out in bad weather; perfect for outdoor devices, ponds, pumps, sprinklers, irrigation, holiday decorations, etc.

Extension Cords

Depending on how many strands of lights that you use outside, and how long their cords are, chances are that you’re going to need a few weatherproof extension cords.

Folks that hang lights in bushes, trees, along with the windows, roofline, and other places, may require extra-long extension cords. It is also important to route the extension cords through a surge protector rather than directly through a regular home outlet.

    AmazonBasics 16/3 Vinyl Outdoor Extension Cord

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    16-gauge, 3-wire outdoor extension cord; all-copper wire High visibility orange for easy visibility; 3-prong grounded plug for added safety. Available in 15, 25, 50, 75 or 100-foot lengths.


Whether hanging outdoor Christmas lights on the roof, along the gutter, or in those tall trees beside the driveway, a ladder is more than likely going to be necessary. Unless you live in a one-story home and happen to be 8 or 9 feet tall, you will need at the very least a step ladder to reach over doorways, windows, and the roof’s edge.

    Little Giant Ladders, Flip-N-Lite

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    Comfortable standing platform makes the Flip-N-Lite ideal for long-term usage. Extra-wide rungs prevent foot fatigue. Lightweight aluminum stepladder is easy to transport, set up and take down.

Tape Measure

The tape measure is one of the most important tools when it comes to putting together good-looking Christmas decorations outside. Measurements will be necessary for the sides of the roof, along the gutters, down columns, across porch railings, windows, and more.

    CRAFTSMAN Tape Measure, Steel Blade, 100-Foot

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    Steel blade for durability and longer life. Easy wind drum for convenient retraction. Polymer-coated blade for longer blade life. Easy to read markings for efficient measuring and marking.

Light Clips

As far as Christmas decorating goes, light clips are the best thing since sliced bread. These nifty contraptions grip lights and cling to roofs, gutters, siding, and more. Most of them are easy to use, require no nails or screws, and are just as easy to take down and remove as they are to install.

    Command Outdoor Light Clips, Clear

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    Say goodbye to holes, marks, or sticky residue on the exterior of your home; Command Outdoor Light Clips are easy to use and help keep your surfaces looking beautiful


Last but no less important, gloves are another item you’ll need for hanging Christmas lights outside. It will likely be cold when you’re hanging your Christmas lights, but that is just one reason to wear gloves. They’ll also protect your hands against scrapes, scratches, and cuts from tools, roof shingles, and tree branches.

    DEX FIT Nitrile Work Gloves

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Before purchasing Christmas lights for your home, it is best practice to first measure the straight lines that you want to decorate. These areas include along the roof’s edge, banisters, windows, doorways, shutters, chimneys, and more.

By properly measuring these areas, you’ll be able to add up the numbers and gather the correct amount of lights and decorations. Most stands of lights are sold by length, so the accuracy of these numbers is crucial. No one wants to end up two or three strands short, turning a job well done into a job looking half done.

Also, don’t forget to measure the distance from where your lights will hang and where they will be plugged into a power source.

how to hang outdoor christmas lights staple to roof

Using Light Clips

Light clips are one of the most timesaving and useful items that anyone whose learning to hang outdoor Christmas lights should know about. These little guys are installed along with the areas you’d otherwise need to add nails, screws, or hooks (along the roof’s edges, over windows, and more).

Once the light clips are mounted on the surface you’re decorating, they will hold lights in place.

Using light clips is as easy as 1-2-3:

  1. Attach as many light clips to your desired surface as needed, placing them approximately 8 to 12 inches apart. This may require a hammer, nails, or screws, and a drill.
  2. Insert the socket-end of your Christmas lights into the clips one by one. You won’t need to clip each and every light. Depending on your lights, and clips, you may clip one out of every five or ten lights. Other models of light clips simply require you to “string” the lights through openings in the clips.
  3. Secure each strand of lights with a sufficient number of light clips, plug them in, and make sure that they are working correctly.

Old fashioned Christmas lights hang from the roof of the house on a snow day

Hanging Along the Roof Line

The most efficient way to address hanging Christmas lights along the roofline is to use light clips. The clips mount by sliding under the roof’s shingles. Or, you can connect them with or the edges of the gutter that runs along the roof line.

Light clips work best with 8 to 12 inches between each one. That said, there is no hard-and-fast rule about clip distance, so you will have to be the judge as to how much room is needed between clips along your roof line.

Once your clips are installed, simply snap or clip the lights into place. Make sure to leave yourself enough cord to plug up to the power source. For this purpose, you will probably need an extension cord (or two or three).

en window frame on white building strung with christmas lights

Hanging Around Windows

When it comes to hanging Christmas lights around windows, the process isn’t much different than the one described above.

Start by measuring the length of space to be covered with lights and make sure you have enough lights. Move onto hanging the lights by mounting half a dozen clips or more around each window you want to decorate with lights.

Once your clips are in place, clip your lights into place, connect all strands (by plugging them into one another), and plug them into the power source.

Keep in mind that you do not want to run the power cord through the window. Instead, run your cord down the side of the house, along the ground, and to the nearest power source. Plugging the lights into a control box or timer is highly suggested.

Hanging on Front Porches

Front porches can be a bit more challenging (and rewarding) as far as hanging Christmas lights on them go. Again, the number one tool recommended for this job is light clips.

For railings, posts, windows, doors, stairways, and gutters found on most front porches, light clips will do the job. You may, however, need more than one type of light clips depending on the types of surfaces you’re hanging lights on.

Zip Ties are another useful tool that may come in handy for fastening lights into place on your front porch. Simply slide the lights through, and pull the zip ties tight around the railing or banister.

After you’ve placed your lights outside, run an extension cord to the front porch, and plug in your lights into a timer.

front porch with christmas lights and garland in snow

Quick Tips and Tricks

First time hanging outdoor Christmas lights? Here are a few of our favorite quick tips and tricks we thought you should know about.

  • Check your lights before hanging them. This simple act can save you a ton of time and even money. One, you won’t need to take down non-working lights after working hard to hang them. Also, you won’t have to buy new lights if those old lights packed away in the attic still work.
  • Preview the light’s colors before hanging them. Never trust the color listed on the package, plug in lights, and check the colors for yourself. Aside from being the wrong color altogether (which can happen), the hue of the lights may be different than you’d envisioned.
  • Buy your Christmas lights online. Shopping online for Christmas lights saves you between 10 and 90 percent of the money you’d otherwise spend in a department store.
  • Consider using a hanging pole. A hanging pole is a great alternative to using a ladder. They come in particularly handy when hanging lights in trees.
  • Keep safety in mind at all times. From climbing the ladder while hanging lights, to properly connecting, protecting, and plugging in all of your lights, practice safety at all times while hanging lights outside.
  • LED lights glow blue. For a cool bluish tint, go for LED lights. They tend to give off a blue tint naturally.
  • White lights are far under-rated. For a classic vibe, hang plenty of regular white lights along windows, doors, and rooflines.
  • Warm colors create a cozy atmosphere. For a warm glow, add plenty of Incandescent lights to the mix of lights that you hang outside.

icicle lights along the eaves of a house

A Final Word About Hanging Outdoor Christmas Lights

Hanging Christmas lights for the first time is both fun and challenging. Hopefully, our article has helped answer any questions you have about learning how to hang outdoor Christmas lights.

Do you have a tip or trick for hanging Christmas lights that you’d like to share with our audience? If so, we’d love for you to do so in the comments section below!