How to Hang Christmas Lights Outside Your House

An elaborate display of Christmas lights outside a home.

Knowing how to hang Christmas lights is a must for any holiday enthusiast. Christmas decorations liven up your home's exterior, and if it snows during the holidays, the lights illuminate the blanket of white to create a picturesque setting. The actual pattern you decide to decorate is solely up to you. There are, however, a number of things to keep in mind before and during light hanging that will make the whole process run more smoothly.

Light and Strand Types

Modern strands of Christmas lights comprise smaller bulbs than their predecessors and, therefore, you can hang them more easily and fit more of them into a given area. The downside is that they are wired in a continuous circuit, so if one goes out, the whole strand goes out.

Old-fashioned Christmas lights, on the other hand, are larger and come with fewer per strand, but if one goes out, the whole strand does not suffer as a result. Which type you use will depend on what you have available, what kind of look you want for your decorations, and how much you are willing to deal with dead bulbs.

Another choice to consider is strand length. Mini Christmas lights come in 50, 100, 200, and 300-foot lengths. Although you get more lights per strand with the longer types, if a bulb goes out, it leaves you with a larger unlit portion. If you choose the 50-foot strands, you need more of them, but they are easier to replace if necessary.


First, measure the length of every plane to which you will attach lights. This includes gutters, rooftops, and around windows and doors. Take a tape measure, find the approximate length of each surface, and then add the lengths together to figure out roughly how many strands you'll need. You might also consider making a diagram of where you want your lights, or notes about what lengths of strands you'll need where.

Starting Out

Have an extension cord ready, along with a properly grounded outlet. Run the extension cord from the outlet to where the first strand begins. Don’t plug in the extension cord, though. Wait until the lights are hung before you do that. If there are poles, columns, or bushes along your decoration route, wrap your lights around them and save your nails for when you actually need them.

Hanging the Strands

Do not use staples to attach the strands to the house. It would be too easy to stick the light cable itself and short out the entire string of lights. The best way to hang lights, whether it’s from the second story of your home or the first, is to use small finishing nails with plastic clips attached. Gently tap the nails into the edge of the window or door frames with a small hammer. Try making these holes where they wouldn't let in water during a storm.

For hanging Christmas lights on the second story, use a stable ladder with a spotter on the ground. Work from the point nearest to the outlet and extension cord, moving out from there. This overall process will get easier each time you complete it. For instance, if you leave the nails in place, you simply have to reattach the strands to them next year instead of hanging new ones.