Clark Harris, Houzz
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Does the thought of hanging Christmas lights conjure feelings of dread? Have you stared longingly at a beautiful storefront tree and felt ashamed by your own tree’s appearance? Follow these simple steps and your days of disgrace will be a thing of the past.
Eric Bain, a partner at Innovative Construction, spent three months a year in his youth hanging Christmas lights for the town of Vail, Colorado. Following his professional tree-lighting tips will make the wires and cords from your lights disappear from view. This simple installation process also will help you stay stress free, with safeguards to make sure your lights work before and after installation.
So exhale — these tips may help you actually enjoy lighting your Christmas tree this year.
Voilà! The final result — yes, it can be accomplished without pulling your hair out.
- A Christmas Tree
- 4 strands of Christmas lights
- A power strip
- An electrical cord with a power splitter (brown or green)
- Cable ties (optional)
- Step stool (optional)
For an exterior tree, you’ll also need:
- A GFCI receptacle
- Electrical tape
- A painter’s pole (optional)
1. Plug in each strand of lights before you hang them
If you can’t get a strand to work within five minutes of tinkering, please throw it away. A few dollars is a small price to pay to avoid an emotional meltdown before you even get started.
2. Remove all tags from the lights.
Safety note: If you are installing the lights outside, make sure you plug them into a GFCI circuit. These receptacles are designed to prevent shocking and electrocution.
3. Install a power strip into the closest receptacle
This not only makes it easy to turn your lights on and off but has the benefit of adding a built-in circuit breaker.
4. Plug an extension cord into the power strip
Make sure the extension cord can accept more than one plug. Try to use green and brown cords to blend in with the tree.
If your extension cord does not accept more than one plug, you can add a splitter like the one in this picture.
5. Install the cord about halfway up the trunk of the tree
Add a second cord near the top for taller trees. You can wind the cord around the trunk of the tree to keep it in place or use small cable ties.
Note: If you need to use a second extension cord, plug it into the main power strip.
6. Plug in your first lights. Make sure you’re plugging into the extension cord you placed halfway up the tree to help hide the wires. This will also maximize your light strand by not having to extend it back to a wall outlet.
Pull the string of lights along the trunk of the tree to the top.
7. Install the lights from the top of the tree to the bottom
Eric Bain prefers to start at the top so he always works downward, toward the plugs placed along the trunk of the tree. This will also help avoid your trying to hang a half a strand of light at the uppermost part of the tree. Spreading lights out at the bottom tends to be easier.
8. String the lights from the trunk of the tree out toward the tip of the branch
Doing this will put the focus on the lights instead of the wires. Draping the lights across the front of the tree puts the wires in plain view. Instead, wrap the lights around the branch as you work your way out toward the tip.
Make sure you wrap the lights somewhat loosely on each branch, and aim to get about 12 lights on each branch.
Tip: Install the lights where they will be seen. You can reduce the amount of lights you install on the rear of the tree if it will be placed against a wall.
Tip: Do not connect more than three strands of lights together. Connecting more than three will cause the lights to burn out.
9. Tie the plugs together
If your tree is outdoors, wrap electrical tape around the parts of the plugs that connect together. This will keep the lights attached and will help protect them from water.
Plug your fourth string of lights into the extension cord that was placed in the middle of the tree.
10. Work your way to the bottom of the tree
You may need to install another extension cord near the bottom of the tree. Plug this into the main power strip so turning the lights on and off is easy.
Tip for tall trees: Remove the roller from a painter’s pole. String your lights on the metal bracket and use it to place the lights on the tree. You will be able to string the lights on a 10- to 15-foot-tall tree (depending on your height, of course) without a ladder.
Now stand back and admire your masterpiece. Invite friends, neighbors and in-laws over to watch them squirm with jealousy.
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