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How to Safely Hang Outdoor Lights: The Dos and Don’ts

December 6, 2019
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Dressing up outdoor trees in twinkling Christmas lights is such a festive way to ring in the jolly season. What’s not so cheery? Damaging trees in the process of hanging holiday décor.

Because outdoor trees are much taller than the ones we set up inside, and they’re exposed to very different elements, it takes a few extra safety steps to make sure they’re decorated the right way.

Keep reading for a look at the dos and don’ts of wrapping outdoor trees with Christmas lights.

How to Put Christmas Lights on Your Outdoor Tree (Step-by-Step)

These are the need-to-knows for how to hang Christmas lights on trees and how to avoid potential hazards.

The Dos for Wrapping Outdoor Trees with Christmas Lights

Let’s start from the bottom. Here’s how to wrap a tree trunk in Christmas lights:

  1. Start by crunching the numbers. Measure the circumference and height of the trunk, and think about how far apart you’d like to space your lights. FYI, the go-to is usually 2- or 3-inches apart. Next, divide the height by the distance you’ll put between lights, and multiply that by circumference to find out how many feet of lights you need. (p.s., you can check your math by looking up a tree light calculator online—there are tons of options!)
  2. When your lights are in hand, wrap them in a ball; it’ll make the unwinding process much smoother. Start wrapping from the un-pronged end so the side that plugs into the extension cord is on the outside.
  3. Run an extension cord from your outlet to the base of the tree.
  4. Plug in the first string of lights, and start wrapping them around the trunk with your desired spacing.
  5. Attach as many strings as you need to make it to the top of the trunk, securing the lights with twine or electrical tape each time you plug in a new string.

Next up, here’s how to wrap tree branches with Christmas lights:

  1. Get a rough count of the number of branches you plan to wrap. Keep in mind that every branch doesn’t need to be strung with lights. You'll just need to pick
  2. out enough to make the tree look full.
    Calculate how many feet of lights you need with the same process you used for the trunk. There’s no need to be precise here, but just in the ballpark.
  3. Plug the first string of branch lights into the last string of trunk lights.
  4. Wrap the lights snugly around branches until you’ve covered all the ones you want. Secure the ends with tape or twine.

The Don'ts for Wrapping Outdoor Trees with Christmas Lights

Before you add outdoor tree lighting, here are a few don’ts to keep in mind:

  1. Don’t put lights on a young, newly planted tree or a tree that’s weak or damaged in any way. Instead, opt for a healthy tree.
  2. Don’t use just any Christmas lights. Be sure to pick ones that are made for outdoor use to avoid any burns or damage to your tree. The same goes for your extension cord—doublecheck to make sure it's approved for the outdoors.
  3. Avoid using light strings with any burned-out bulbs, and replace faulty bulbs ASAP if you spot them on your decorated tree.
  4. Don’t forget to remove tree guards or burlap tree covers before hanging your lights.
  5. Overloading the extension cord with too many plugs can be a fire hazard. Check the load limit on the extension cord you are using.

Want to keep your outdoor tree lights on year-round? Here are a couple of tips to keep in mind.

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