‘Tis the season to be jolly, and few things make us more jolly than colorful holiday lights. One of the most popular places to hang lights outdoors is gutters because they run the length of the house and provide solid, predictable edges to secure lights and light clips.
But before you jump up on a ladder and start, you should know that hanging lights is a time-consuming and tricky chore than can end in frustration if you don’t know what you’re doing. It requires a little planning, the right tools and a good process. Here, then, is a complete guide to hanging Christmas lights from your gutters.
What You’ll Need
As with any DIY project, make sure you have the right tools and supplies. Otherwise, you’ll have to make extra trips to the store.
You’ll need the following tools to hang Christmas lights from your gutter safely:
- A sturdy ladder
- Weather-safe extension cords, 14- or 16-gauge
- Plastic gutter clips
- Tape measure
- Needle-nose pliers
- Outdoor timer (optional)
Types of Christmas Lights
Not all Christmas lights are equal. Some glow in many colors, some are more bulbous than others, and others look like falling snow. But with such diversity comes lots of choices:
C7 and C9 Christmas Lights
C7 and C9 (the ‘C’ stands for “cone” or “candle”) bulbs are the most widely used Christmas light bulbs. They’re shaped like strawberries and can be seen from afar when lit. C7 bulbs are smaller than C9 bulbs, but C9 bulbs are more powerful and can be seen farther away.
LED Christmas lights provide a colorful and eco-friendly display. They use 80% less energy than incandescent lights while achieving similar results. They are also more durable and longer-lasting.
As the name suggests, icicle lights feature many strands of small lights that suspend from the roofline a foot to several feet apart to create the effect of bright icicles hanging front he house. Because they drape naturally, they provide a high-quality display on any roofline, angled or straight.
If you need a large number of lights, consider buying LED icicle lights, as they use far less electricity and last longer than incandescent ones.
Since you’ll be hanging your lights from gutters, you’ll need a ladder, and safety is the key to this job. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 5,800 people ended up in emergency rooms due to fall-related injuries between 2000 and 2003. This doesn’t have to be you if you:
- Ensure your ladder is stable, undamaged, and has no loose parts.
- Place your ladder on a stable, flat, and dry surface – never on uneven ground.
- Never climb on your ladder when it’s windy, rainy, or snowy outside. It’s much harder to secure your Christmas lights under wet conditions.
- Move your ladder often so you’re not working on more than a 5-foot section at any given time. Never overreach because you can lose your balance.
- Wear slip-resistant, closed-toed shoes, long pants, and long-sleeved shirts.
- Have a partner to hand you lights and tools and to spot you for safety reasons.
- Only connect up to three strings of Christmas lights, as it will strain your outlet. Use a second outlet if you need more than three strings.
How to Hang Lights Step by Step
1. Make a Plan
Take a look at your home from the sidewalk or street. Picture what you want it to look like after you hang up your lights. The following tips will help you in the planning stage:
- Locate the power sources where you’ll plug in your lights.
- Use a tape measure to figure out how many strands you need. Your measurements don’t need to be perfect.
- Sketching the outside of your house can help you visualize where you should hang your lights.
Once you figure out where your lights will go, measure how long your gutters, railings, and lights are. After all, you want enough lights to fit on your gutters.
Now, locate your closest electrical outlet, which will be your starting point. If you need extension cords, measure them and compare their lengths to where your lights will start.
Next, measure your roofline. Your home’s eaves determine how you’ll measure it. If your house has horizontal eaves, measure around the base of the house to determine how long your roofline is. If your house has peaked eaves and gutters, use a ladder and tape measure to achieve the same result.
3. Test Your Lights
Don’t make the mistake of discovering your lights don’t work AFTER you’ve gone to the trouble of putting them up. Test the lights before hanging them.
Replace any blown or missing LED bulbs and inspect each light strand for worn and defective wiring. Discard the entire strand to prevent fire and electrical hazards if you see any faulty wires.
When removing bulbs, wear gloves and use needle-nose pliers to pull the mini-lights straight out. Unscrew any C7 or C9 bulbs counterclockwise.
Once you finish the repairs, plug the lights back in. If the string doesn’t light up, check for a blown fuse. If you have a blown fuse, replace it; if the replacement also fails, throw out the entire string.
4. Attach the Clips
Plastic clips are designed to grip gutters and also have a hook to support the light string or extension cord. Hang them horizontally or vertically off your gutters, but some can be hung both ways. You can find them on Amazon or most home improvement centers.
Place your ladder on flat ground and lean it at a safe climbing angle. Extend it well above the eaves.
Attach the clips to the front edge of the gutter, 6 to 16 inches apart, or as recommended. The more clips you use, the tighter and neater your display will look.
5. Hang the Lights
Your aim is to hang your lights safely and hassle-free without ruining your home’s trim or walls.
Place your ladder at the roof corner closest to an outlet. Climb the ladder and hang the lights from the gutter clips. Extend the strand to ensure it remains taut and straight.
Once you hang up all the lights, plug the end of the strand into an extension cord. If you have an outdoor timer, program it so your lights will automatically light up at dusk.
Frequently Asked Questions
No. They can pierce your gutters’ protective insulation.
There are specific clips that attach to your gutter guards to hang lights. These clips usually have a stake that goes into the screen hole or a hook that attaches to the gutter guards.
If you don’t have these clips, you have alternatives:
● Use temporary shingle clips (unless you live in a snowy area, which can cover up your lights).
● Install your lights under the gutter using plastic clips or self-adhesive clips.
You need one clip per light bulb, but always have some extra on hand if you need more.
When to Hire a Pro
Christmas is about spending time with friends and family, not hanging lights from gutters. Instead, call one of MyGutterGnome’s gutter experts, who will give you tips on lights, clips, and installation – one more thing to be thankful for.