Get outdoors and get creative with lights this Christmas
Hanging your Christmas lights – you either love it or hate it. If you’re unprepared it can be a time-consuming and tricky task, and won’t show off your decorations at their best.
Fortunately, we can help to make decorating your home and garden much less stressful and much more rewarding. Whether you’re aiming for simple and subtle or big and bold, we can point you in the right direction to make the most of your Christmas lights.
We’ll guide you through the best way to hang string lights outside your home, to help make decorating your home a festive and hassle-free experience this Christmas.
Tools & materials required
You might need
You might need
Our list includes all the tools and materials you may need for an outdoor Christmas light display. What you use will depend on where you're hanging your lights and the type you use.
- Outdoor Christmas lights - choose between mains-powered (if you have an outdoor power supply or weatherproof extension lead) or battery-powered (if you don’t have access to a power point or would rather avoid trailing cables). Check out our Christmas lights buying guide for help when choosing your Christmas lights, which outlines the different options.
- Gutter hooks or decorating clips. To hang string and rope lights, you’ll want to use outdoor decorating clips that are suitable for string lights to hang them between a series of fixed points. Decorating clips can be stuck onto wooden and uPVC surfaces, such as door frames, gutters and fascias. Alternatively, gutter hooks can be hooked onto the edge of your gutter for a quick, moveable solution. Just make sure that the material you’re attaching them to will be strong enough to hold the weight of your lights. See Step 3 of ‘How to decorate the outside of your home with Christmas lights’ for guidance on how many clips or hooks you’ll need.
- A ladder
- A weatherproof outdoor extension lead - if using mains-powered lights. Ensure that the extension lead is weatherproof and safe to leave outdoors. We recommend a cable reel, as these often have the longest leads and are usually weatherproof.
- A tape measure - to measure the distance between the power socket and where you want to hang your lights
- Batteries - if using battery-powered lights. We recommend rechargeable batteries as they reduce waste.
- Battery charger - if using rechargeable batteries
- Potted real Christmas trees – if you don’t have any suitable foliage to decorate in your garden, a potted tree is a great choice. They can easily be moved around, and will weather the festive season better than a cut tree.
- Use a ladder to hang your lights at height
- Make sure the ladder is on a solid, level piece of ground and that you can reach the highest point you’re hanging lights from without standing on the top step
- Ask another adult to hold the latter whilst you’re on it
How to prepare to hang outdoor Christmas lights
There are a couple of things to do before you start hanging your lights to ensure that they are working and safe to use.
Make sure that your lights are suitable for outdoor use. All of our outdoor lights are weatherproof, meaning that they’re safe to use and that your festive display will last for the whole Christmas period. If the lights are covered in shades, ensure that the material is suitable for outside and won’t be damaged by the elements.
Before you start work, plug in your lights at ground level to make sure that everything is working correctly. It will be much harder to replace bulbs or fix problems once the lights are hung, so tackle this first. If you’re bringing lights out of storage check the cables – if these look worn or damaged then replace your decorations, as this could be a sign they are unsafe.
For mains-powered lights, check that there is an accessible power socket.
If you have an outdoor power supply, measure the distance from the socket to where you want to hang your lights, and check that the cable on the lights is long enough.
If you're powering your lights from a socket inside the house via a weatherproof extension lead, check that the lead is long enough to reach the point where you want to hang your lights.
How to decorate the outside of your home with Christmas lights
Where to start
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to decorating your home and garden. Create a stunning display on your house by highlighting features such as porches, windows and the eaves of the building. Bring life to your garden by illuminating summerhouses, arches and arbours. Mix and match different styles of lighting in the same colour for a coordinated display or go for similar styles in bold to inject some fun into your outdoor space.
Think about the effect you’d like to create with your lights before you get started. You might want to create a hanging icicle effect along the edge of your roofline, highlight your door or porch, or illuminate features such as door and window frames.
Attach your decorating clips or gutter hooks to the surface you are decorating at regular intervals. Use a clip or hook every 30 to 50centimetres (cm). If your lights are heavier, like those with hanging icicle details, space the clips or hooks closer together to support the weight.
Use the following calculation to work out how many clips or hooks you’ll need;
For lights with lightweight bulbs, such as string fairy lights, divide the length of the cable (from the first bulb to the last bulb) by 50cm. For example, for a 12metre (m) cable you'd need 24 clips (1200 divided by 50).
For lights with heavier weight bulbs, such as icicle lights or lights with shades, divide the length of the cable by 30cm. For example, for a 12m cable you'd need 40 clips (1200 divided by 30).
Plug the lights in, but do not switch these on yet. Work backwards from the socket, clipping the cable into the decorating clips or gutter hooks.
Take care not to pull on the cable, and try to avoid leaving cables hanging very loosely. Aim for the cable to be snuggly secured but not tugging on the plug socket. Not only is this safer, but it’ll also create a neater effect. You’ll also want to only attach one piece of cable to each hook or clip – use multiple if you’d like to hang many lights in a similar place.
Work slowly around the area you’re decorating until you reach the end of your string of lights.
Make sure that you’ve got a decorating clip or hook in place to hold the end of the string.
Take a step back and have a good look at your lights. Are the bulbs evenly spaced? Do you have any droopy cables where you didn’t expect them? If there are any problem areas, now’s the time to go back and adjust where needed.
When you’re happy with the spacing of your lights, you’re ready to switch on! Take a step back and admire your work.
How to decorate trees and plants with Christmas lights
String and rope lights can add a delightful twinkle to Christmas trees and other garden plants and trees. Trees can be decorated in much the same way as an indoor Christmas tree, and no extra supplies are needed.
Take your length of lights, and find the end. This will be the first light you place on the tree.
Start from the top and work your way down the tree – you can either work around the tree, or zig-zag across the front if this is the only part that will be seen. Ideally, you’ll want to space the lights out evenly from top to bottom.
Once you reach the end of the bulbs, wrap the cable loosely around a lower branch to secure and run the rest of the cable to the socket.