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12 Important Dos and Don'ts for Hanging Outdoor Christmas Lights

Oct 23rd 2023

Residential Christmas light displays just seem to get bigger and bolder every year, with more homes exhibiting more lights and lighted outdoor decorations.

You can buy yards of Christmas lights and loads of lanterns – but your Christmas light display can still fall flat if you don’t heed a few important decorating tips.

Whether you’re a Christmas decoration newbie who has decided this is the season to deck the halls, or a pro with many years of Christmas light installation under your tool belt, consider the following do’s and don’ts for hanging Christmas lights.

Helpful Advice for Hanging Christmas Lights

DO have a plan – maybe even a theme! – for your Christmas lights display. The best holiday light displays are carefully plotted and executed, not set up haphazardly. Assess what you’d like to do, what you have time to do and what you have the budget to accomplish.

DO take a picture of your home, both at night and during the day, before you decorate. Use the nighttime photo to identify areas to add lights, especially dark spots that are begging for attention. Print out the daylight photo (or make a rough sketch) and draw in where you want the lights and decorations to go. Draw as many plans as necessary until you find a design you like!

DO evaluate what outdoor Christmas decorations you already own and consider any additional lights, decorations and supplies you will need. You’ll also want to measure where your outdoor Christmas lights will hang, to make sure you have enough light strings. The most successful decorators know how many lights they need, where they’ll hang and if they need connectors and extension cords.

DO gather your supplies together, including tools, ladders, extension cords, gutter clips, zip ties and tie-down stakes. Find a protected place, like a garage or porch, to untangle lights and lay them out neatly so they’re easily accessible when you need them.

DO conduct a maintenance check on lights, cords and other electrical equipment. Plug in all light strings to make sure they work. Troubleshoot and fix malfunctioning light strings. Replace any broken or burned out bulbs, worn cords and old light strands that aren’t in good condition. Also make sure your extension cords, surge protectors, power stakes, timers, etc. are in good working order.

DO consider energy saving options like LED Christmas lights. Initially, they may be more expensive than incandescent Christmas lights, but they last longer and you can connect many more LED lines together! 

outdoor Christmas mini lights

How Not to Hang Christmas Lights

DON’T wait until December to hang your lights. Install Christmas lights when the weather is nice! And take your time. A large Christmas lights installation may require more than one afternoon to set up.

DON’T take chances with ladders and electrical equipment. Work with a buddy. Also, if it’s cold outside, dress properly.


DON’T use nails or staples to hang Christmas lights. Not only do you run the risk of ruining them, piercing the insulated wire creates an electrical fire hazard. Nails and staples also put permanent holes in siding and roofing that can let in water and damage the structure of your home. Use gutter clips and universal hooks instead.

DON’T overload electrical outlets, extension cords or power strips. Know your lights’ wattage needs. Calculate how many Christmas lights you can combine into a single light chain and don’t exceed that number.

DON’T use indoor lights outdoors; make sure your lights are rated for outdoor use. Also, don’t mix LED and incandescent lights on the same chain.

DON’T overlook creative lighting options like net lights, trunk lights, icicle lights, projectors and other outdoor lighted decorations. Brighten your entryway with a pre-lit Christmas wreath, lanterns and topiaries. For the best visual balance, place lights and lighted decorations at multiple levels - along the roofline, around window frames and doors, as well as on and around landscaping, walkways and paths

A beautifully lit home can bring pleasure to the homeowner and joy to those who view it. Knowing some Christmas light hanging dos and don’ts can help reduce frustration and streamline the process for a successful Christmas light show.

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12 Important Dos and Don'ts for Hanging Outdoor Christmas Lights

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