The tools required
A RUNDOWN OF ALL THE TOOLS USED IN AN INSTALLATION
Our mission here at San Diego Christmas Lights is to spread the holiday spirit, and if you want to hang your own lights, that’s fine with us! We’ve picked up a few lessons over the past few years (and hundreds of houses!), so read on and learn from our trial and error for the Christmas Light hanging gear you need.
There are tow main types of ladders: A-Frame ladders, and extension ladders. We would highly recommend an A-frame ladder for around-the-house work. They are steadier, safer, easier to move, and you don’t have to worry about banging up your walls. Get one at least 8 feet tall. That being said, it’s hard to get an A-frame ladder taller than 12-feet so if you have a two-story house or even a tall peak on your one story house, you might as well go with an extension ladder because crawling around on the roof without some sort of fall protection is a good way to end up in the ER, which is definitely not the way to start the holidays off right! If you do go with an extension ladder be sure to get stabilizers which attach to the top end of the ladder and, well, make you more stable while climbing around and working on the ladder. They are well worth the cost. I’d recommend a fiberglass ladder. They are a bit more expensive but rugged, much lighter than aluminum, and safe for electrical work. Your back will thank you after a few hours of hanging lights for the extra couple bucks. All told, a decent fiberglass A-frame ladder at Home Depot or Lowes should cost you between $150 and $350, depending on the height and quality you go with. An extension ladder will cost you anywhere from $150-$500+ depending on the material, height, and quality you go with. The stabilizer (also known as a standoff) will add another $50-$100 or so. A good ladder is not cheap but will last you many years. We recommend not going with the cheapest ladder you can find at the store because they break after just a few uses and you notice a certain amount of rather unsettling swaying while climbing up them. Again, do the mental math between an extra $50-$100 and an ER visit.
There are a million choices here and it depends on the look you are going for, but I recommend C9 lights for a roofline. They are large, have a warm glow, will last a few years, and are relatively easy to install. It’s what we primarily use at San Diego Christmas Lights. You can go with C6 or some other light format, but unless there is a specific look you are going for which C9 lights can’t give you, go with C9. For tree wrapping just use the mini-incandescent lights. We have a separate blog post on tree wrapping here for more details.
If you take my recommendation and go with C9 lights, also take my recommendation and go with plastic clips. They attach to a gutter and the other end snaps onto the C9 light base. Each light gets a clip. Pick up a few extra because if you haven’t done a few hundred thousand like we have they can be a little tricky at first and you’ll bend a few. The good news is that the clips are very cheap and if you have extra just save them for next year.
Your Other Tools:
Handy for tough-to-attach places. Also handy for neatly keeping your lights together at the end of the year.
Tape up connections where you plug light strands into each other and the end of the last string of lights. You don’t want water getting in there.
There are times when a stapler is by far the easiest solution. We use staples as a last resort tool at San Diego Christmas Lights but on things like fences and trees it’s the only thing which works.
Pliers, Tin snips, & Wire Strippers:
Get decent ones and not the 3-in-1 combo tool. Those stink.
Big Plastic Bind:
To organize your lights for next year (of course, we provide these when we take down your lights for you as part of every job at San Diego Christmas Lights).
If you can find the dark green colored ones, they look better against most houses than the bright yellow or orange kind. Make sure they are rated for outdoor use!
If your extension cord is going to run through the yard at all stake them down for safety. It also looks much cleaner.
It’s worth $20 or so to not have to remember to plug and unplug the lights every night. We include timers with every job at San Diego Christmas Lights.
Big trash bags: There is a surprising amount of trash generated by Christmas lights. We clean up the job site when we are done and even recycle everything we can of course.
A vest, Or apron With Big Pockets:
Probably not the first thing you would have thought of! But trust me (I’ve hang lights on a lot of houses) big pockets are a lifesaver. Every trip you don’t have to make up and down the ladder is time and effort saved. Lights, clips, staples, pliers, zip ties and more can go in those pockets. Thank me later!
These are the basic tools and cover what you’ll need. Pros carry more, but this should be a good enough for 90% of the scenarios you’ll find yourself in. Of course, if you want a little help around the holidays, please give us a call at (619) 292-8792. We pride ourselves on our customer service and would love to help your house look great!