UPDATE: We have installed PERMANENT Christmas lights on our house as of 2020- here is a link to that article- check it out! https://lrn2diy.com/permanent-christmas-lights/
Please note – you’ll find the links to the products from this article at the end of the text.
Putting up Christmas lights kinda sucks. It’s a pain that we have to deal with every year but I love Christmas and think it’s worth doing. After my wife and I spent about 8 hours putting up Christmas lights last year using hundreds of clips and moving the ladder around dozens of times and then not even being all that pleased with how it turned out, I decided there’s gotta be a better way.
I’m going to show you the method I use that, once you get it set up, allows you to put up Christmas Lights in about an hour each year – and the best part? Once it’s set up, areas that are less than 25’ high don’t even require a ladder.
Here’s what’s involved:
- The first year you spend some time to set up your sections of lights for your house using 1/2″ PVC, zip ties and, of course, your Christmas lights
- You install small hooks and white clips around the house
- Every year after that, you use a ladder or for areas less than 25’ high, a pole to hang your section joints from the hooks at the peaks and corners of your house
- Once you have a section up, use a pole or ladder to snap the sections into their clips
- Position the lights if necessary by pushing or pulling a bit
- Plug it in and you’re done!
- Then, at the end of the season, just use a ladder or a pole with a hook on it to take them down and store them in the garage until next year.
Now let’s take a look at how you get everything set up and some of the pointers that will save you a lot of time and frustration.
I started out by researching what others had done and I discovered the Crevier System on YouTube and wanted to try it out but I couldn’t help but think that I could be just a bit lazier and not use a ladder at all. I live in a one-story rambler and, using my new method, was able to put all of my lights up without using a ladder at all, once the initial setup was complete.
The first step is to go around and measure all of the sections where you want to put lights up. Keep in mind that you need to measure the areas of open line, where you don’t want lights but where the line needs to extend from one section to the next, like from a horizontal roof line to an eve.
With our dimensions listed out, it’s time to cut 1/2” PVC pipe to match each section. You can cut it with any type of saw, or you can use a $12 pair of PVC pipe cutters. You can buy 1/2” PVC pipe in 10’ sections for about $2, and don’t forget to pick up a few 1/2” couplings in case you have sections that are longer than 10’. As you cut each piece, I recommend labeling them with their length and their order to make it easy to line them up later.
Once the pipes are cut into sections, it’s time to strap the Christmas lights to them. For this project, I highly recommend getting separate lines and bulbs. By doing so you can replace the bulbs any time and you can even reconfigure the colors. It’s also to customize the lines – like if you need to split off to go up to an eve while the main line continues on, for example. You can also easily remove a light socket or two as needed. I shopped around and found a pretty decent deal on Amazon for 100ft sections of 12” spaced C9 stringers as well as Red and White C9 LED bulbs. That said, standard lights will work just fine with this method as well – including icicle lights or any other kind that lays out in a line.
To attach the lights, start at the end with the plug and work your way down the line, making sure to keep your pipe sections in order, and remembering to leave spaces of line where you need to. I tried using 4” zip ties at first but found that 6” ties work way better. I also really appreciated being able to use a zip tie gun as it saved my fingers from having to tighten and clip the hundreds of zip ties involved in this kind of project. It was well worth $15. At the end of the line, just cut the cord and apply a waterproof wire nut to seal it off.
If you do end up with section where you just want the power line and don’t want the sockets, you actually remove the sockets pretty easily with these types of stringers. Just squeeze the back of the socket off and they should pop off, leaving the power line in tact.
With our sections of pipe cut and all lit up, it’s time make clips. As it turns out, 3/4” PVC makes an excellent clip for 1/2” PVC to snap into. To make the clips, we first need to remove a section of the pipe. I played around with cutting out different amounts and found that removing about 1/3 was perfect. I used my sliding mitre saw to cut two parallel lines in the pipe but you can also do this with a hand saw, hack saw, table saw, skil saw, dremel or a router – whatever you have handy. If you know someone who has a sliding mitre saw, however, it does make this job pretty easy. Once you’ve removed the section from the 3/4” pipe, you’re ready to cut it into 1” sections to turn it into clips using either a mitre saw or the PVC pipe cutters.
The last thing we need to do before our clips are done is to predrill them a countersink screw, so that the screws don’t jut out into the clip. I recommend drilling the holes close to the open side, rather than in the middle. That way, when you attach them to the house, the opening can point downward, which makes it easier to clip the pipe sections in from the ground.
Now it’s time to prep our eves. Get the ladder out and predrill and insert some 3-4” hooks at the peaks of the eves and on corners to hold the various sections in place. Think about how the sections will hang and place them on corners and areas that make the most sense. While you’re up there, attach the clips every 3 feet or so. Remember to point the opening downward and try to keep them nice and straight. Also, be sure to give yourself enough room around obstacles, like gutter drains and light fixtures.
The last step in our preparation is getting a pole ready with three types of endings. I used a 3/4” PVC section duct taped together for grabbing and pushing the pipes into their clips. I used another 3/4” PVC section shaped with a small opening to grab the zip ties between lines and hook them into the mounted hooks. Lastly, I fashioned a small hook out of some angle brackets to use to take the PVC sections down. For the pole, I just used a 10’ metal electrical conduit and used a second one with a coupling for the really tall areas.
With the sections wired up and the clips and hooks in place, it’s time for the fun part – putting the lights up. I find it’s easiest to have someone helping out by holding the bulk of the sections of pipe while you hook one joint at a time onto the corresponding hook on the house. You can even reach some pretty tall areas with the two poles together. I mostly focus on getting them all in place first, them I go back and use the first attachment to push the pipes into the clips. From there, I push the lights that need it into position, and we’re done!
I recommend storing these in the garage or attic on some hangers. Keeping your sections no longer than about 15ft is ideal for storage.
That’s it! These lights take a little while to set up the first time but after that, putting up the Christmas lights each year will be way easier than it used to be.
If you have a way to make this process even better or easier, leave a comment! I don’t claim to have all the answers and would love to hear what you think.
8 thoughts on “The Best Way to Put Up Christmas Lights”
1) Did you zip tie each section together for strain relief or just use the electrical cord to connect them?
2) What are you hanging on the hooks? It looks like zip tie “loops”?
Great questions. Here are the answers:
1) I did zip tie each section together, just to reduce the tension on the electrical wire, like you mentioned. Just be sure to leave a fair amount of space between the pipes.
2) Exactly. Those same ties that keep the tension off the wires are the ones used to hang on the hooks.
Thanks for posting this awesome article. I’m a long time
reader but I’ve never been compelled to leave a comment.
I subscribed to your blog and shared this on my Facebook.
Thanks again for a great post!
nicely done. I’m going to make a set as I’m taking the lights down so that they will be ready for next year.
How do you store them in the off season?
I found that the best way is to store them up against the garage wall, high and out of the way. I happen to have some shelves that use triangle braces so I just slide my bundle of PVC pipes with lights through the triangles and it works out great.
Christmas lights are somehow becoming an essential part of the Christmas Season which is a great thing. What you just wrote is a great way for putting up the Christmas lights. Thanks for sharing this and keep on blogging.