How to Hang Christmas Decorations on Roofs and Gutters
Long before the holiday season starts, festive homeowners are starting to think about the best way to hang Christmas decorations on roofs and gutters. Whether you’re decorating your home for the first time or a veteran looking to improve your Christmas lighting game, there are some tips and tricks to make holiday lighting easier, safer, and less damaging for your roof.
Planning your holiday lighting
The best time to hang Christmas lights outdoors is before the snow flies, on a beautiful weekend when you have some time. You’ll enjoy the work more when your fingers aren’t freezing, and fair weather makes ladder safety more achievable as well.
Before you even hang one light, you’ll need to do some planning and gather your supplies to make this project as painless as possible, and accomplish it without damaging your roof, your gutters, or yourself!
Your plan should include the type of lights you’ll use, where you want to hang them, light colors, and how you want to secure them. Whether you are starting small with a few light strings, or planning a full-on gingerbread house, the steps are basically the same.
Your Christmas lighting supply checklist
Start by gathering your holiday light-hanging supplies, which should include some combination of the following:
- Tape measure
- 14- or 16-gauge outdoor extension cords
- Gutter clips, brick clips, or adhesive clips
- Timer or lighting controls (optional, but if using, make sure to use an outdoor timer)
- Christmas lights!
Types of lights
Whether you prefer the pure color of white LED light or the warm glow of incandescent lights, be sure the ones you choose are rated for outdoor use. Shorter 25′ strings of Christmas lights are best because you can hang them one at a time, and if one string goes bad, it’s easier to replace.
- LED holiday lights are great for saving energy, and some are available as wide-angle mini lights. Because LEDs are generally less bright than other bulbs from the side, the wide-angle versions are shaped to appear brighter.
- Clear string lights are small, incandescent lights similar to LED lights but less energy efficient.
- C7 and C9 Christmas lights are incandescents that look like small strawberries and are larger than clear string lights and LEDs. The larger the light, the hotter they burn, and the more energy they use.
- Icicle lights can be either incandescent or LED, and they hang down in vertical strands from gutters or railings to simulate the effect of icicles. They are available in a variety of drop lengths and colors.
- Rope lights are thick plastic tubes that have lights embedded inside and can be easily wrapped around things without having to secure each bulb. However, they are not very bright and are best used as accent lights.
- Mesh lights are designed for wrapping bushes and tree trunks.
- Spotlights and projectors project colored scenes or moving scenes onto the side of the house.
Types of light clips for the roof
To protect your shingles, gutters, and other roof components, the most important tip is to hang your Christmas decorations without using nails that perforate any part of the house. A number of gutter clips, brick clips, and adhesive hooks are available. You can also opt to light your home and surroundings with a projector or wrap your trees and bushes.
Several types of light hanging clips are designed for hanging lights along your eaves and roof lines:
- Simple hooks clip over the edge of your gutter system to hold the Christmas light strings.
- Line clips hook over the gutter and achieve a tighter hold on the light string, which works perfectly for icicle or rope lights that don’t need to have all bulbs facing the same direction.
- Bulb clips are designed for precise control, attaching to the gutter or drip edge and neatly forcing all of the bulbs to point the same way. The clips are sized for the bulbs, so you’ll need to choose the correct size. You’ll also need to decide whether you want your lights pointing up, down, or out before you buy.
Note that some types of clips are designed to tuck under shingles, which can lift and damage shingles. These clips are not recommended, and may even void your shingle warranty. Also, on areas that don’t have gutters, avoid nailing through fascia boards. You can use adhesive strips to attach the clips to the vertical face of your home.
Step-by-Step Guide to Hanging Christmas Lights
Hanging Christmas lights on rooftops can be a breeze if you have a plan before you start.
Before you start to hang Christmas lights
Before you climb a ladder, you can do a lot of the prep work, which involves measuring, installing any hooks/hangers, and setting up outdoor extension cords. Light clips will be installed along with the strings of festive lights.
- Find your outdoor electric outlet. If you need an extension cord, use 14- or 16-gauge. And make sure the outlet is protected by a GFCI protector.
- Measure your roof line. Figure out the number of strings of lights you need, and the total amps, so you don’t overload a given circuit.
- Test the strings while they are still on the ground and replace any missing or burned-out bulbs, or burned-out fuses.
- Enlist a partner for safety. You’ll definitely need someone on the ground to spot for you and hand you clips and other items as needed.
- Set up your extension ladder firmly on the ground, and lean it against your eaves. Avoid propping it against a gutter, and if you must, use a protector.
Hanging your Christmas lights
With all the prep work out of the way, you’re ready to begin.
- Install your plastic lighting clips along the gutter. Depending on the design of the clips, it may be easier to install the clips on the light string before climbing the ladder.
- While you’re up there, it might be a good time to clean out your gutters. That will help prevent the odd chance of lights starting a fire in dried leaves and will set you up for fewer ice dams and damage over the winter.
- Hang the lights, working from the end nearest the outlet, and moving the ladder as needed to maintain a safe reach. Always keep two feet and a hand in contact with the ladder for safety.
- Once all the lights are installed, flip the switch and admire your Christmas light display.
As a final step, set up your timer (if you’re using one) to save energy. Often homeowners will turn the lights on at dusk and turn them off around midnight when fewer people are around to admire the view.
Tips for Hanging Christmas Decorations on Your Roof
Is there a good way to put Christmas inflatables on roof tops?
When installing lights along the roof peak or Christmas inflatables on roof surfaces, take care in walking on the roof. For your own safety, stay harnessed. Also, avoid scraping off the asphalt roof granules as you walk to extend the life of your roof.
Will hanging Christmas lights on my roof damage the shingles?
If you do it carefully, you can avoid damaging your roof when you hang lights. Don’t use nails or staples, because it’s too easy to puncture a shingle. Any small perforation can allow water to seep through and freeze, which will damage your roof more than you might expect as time goes on.
Do I need to take precautions for hanging Christmas decorations with gutter guards?
Yes, since most clips are designed to attach to the edge of a gutter, the design of your gutter guard will affect your options. To find out whether traditional clip designs will work, take a picture of your gutter system, and then bring it to the hardware store to see if there are any options that work with your type of gutter guard. Apart from traditional clips, there are a couple of other options:
- Under-gutter clips are all-in-one clips that wrap around the gutter so you can hang the lights underneath the metal half-pipe.
- Sticky clips have an adhesive backing to attach directly to the front face of the gutter. The adhesive can handle most winter weather but may fall off if the weather becomes severe.
What types of Christmas lights work well with gutters?
Icicle lights work well with gutters, installed with plastic gutter lighting clips.
Is Christmas roof lighting a DIY project?
It can be, depending on your comfort with a ladder. If it’s your first year putting up Christmas lights on your home, keep it simple initially, with a few carefully measured and well-placed strands. Once you’re a pro, you can start planning your show-stopping holiday display for next year.