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Install Christmas Lights on a Variety of Surfaces

If you're a fan of the National Lampoon Vacation series of movies, you probably remember Clark Griswold's Christmas light installation antics in Holiday Vacation. Old Clark made a number of buffoonish mistakes in that movie, all to great comedic effect. But in real-life terms, Clark's Christmas light installation techniques included lots of no-nos.

One of those many mistakes had to do with the method he was using to attach the gazillions of Christmas lights to his house. Remember? He attached every single light line with staples:

  • Lights on the roof shingles? Thwack - stapled.
  • Lights on the siding? Thwack - stapled.
  • Lights around window frames and door-jambs? Thwack - stapled.
  • Lights in trees and foliage? Thwack - stapled.

Apart from stapling right through his gloves a time or two, there were lots of problems with Clark's staple-everything-everywhere approach. Because in fact, for each common surface to which you might want to attach Christmas lights, there's a best-method way of doing it.

Purpose-Made Clips and Attachment Accessories

Did you know that there are dozens of clips and attachment aids designed specifically for the installation of Christmas lights? It's true - and in fact there are far too many to cover in a single article.

But for most Christmas light installation projects, there are just a few primary types of surfaces and situations involved. Here are the clips and attachment aids that are used most frequently in the majority of installation projects:

  • Brick: Clark Griswold's staples certainly won't work well for attaching light lines to brick surfaces, but brick clips will do the trick. Brick clips utilize sharp teeth to grab onto the brick surface without harming the mortar. Multiple sizes are available to accommodate standard and non-standard sized brick.

Brick clip for hanging holiday lights

  • Wood and Asphalt Shingles: There are a number of clips used for attaching lights to shingles, but the most commonly used is the plain shingle tab. Just slip the legs of the tab under the shingle, and mount the light bulb in the upraised portion. Biaxial shingle tabs are also available (the tab that's slipped under a shingle and the bulb mounting face are aligned rather than opposed 90 degrees). Shingle tabs are designed to accommodate the two most popular sizes of Christmas light bulbs (C7 and C9). Shingle clips can also sometimes be used for attaching light strings to guttering.

Shingle tab for installing Christmas lights

  • Clay Shingle Tiles: Lights can be attached to slate, flat or barrel style roof tiles using a tile roof clip. Simple and quick install: the light clips to one end, and the other end clips to a roof tile. Ridges built into the clip help to hold it in place without applying enough pressure to damage the roofing tile.

Tile roof clip for hanging Christmas lights

  • Roof Ridge Rows: Running strings of lights along roof ridge rows - either at the roof peak, or at breaks in the plane of the roof - can create a very dramatic effect. You can attach lights to ridge rows using special-made clips. Ridge row clips are designed to work with all types of roof ridge rows, and will accommodate both C7 and C9 sized bulbs.

Ridge row clip for installing Christmas lights

  • Gutters: Gutter hooks are available for securing light lines to most types of guttering.

Gutter hooks for hanging holiday lights

  • Trees and Shrubbery: Tree clips can be used for installing lights on tree branches, tree trunks, bushes and shrubbery. Eliminates the need to wind light lines around branches or trunks.

Tree and shrubbery clips for installing Christmas lights

  • Flat, Smooth Surfaces (such as siding): There are several options for attaching lights to surfaces where there really isn't anything to 'grab onto', including:
  • C clips can be installed with adhesive or hardware (such as screws) and left in place for several seasons.

C-clip for installing holiday lights

  • Mini light adhesive clips (for mini-lights only).

Minilight adhesive clips for hanging holiday lights

  • Magnetic clips can be used for smooth magnetic surfaces containing a ferrous component. Clips allow both vertical and horizontal orientation of the bulbs.

Magnetic clip for hanging holiday lights

Don't Forget Glue…

A very quick and easy way to install Christmas lights on a number of different surfaces is by using a hot glue gun. Glue works great for rough surfaces such as concrete, brick and stucco. (Careful with stucco, though; some types of stucco may be damaged by the hot glue. Test a small area first.)

Hot glue is less likely to be effective on smooth metal surfaces. And the glue might damage plastic and painted surfaces, so it's probably best to stay with using an appropriate clip for those situations.

Let's Face It: Clark Really Didn't Know What He Was Doing…

But the movie really wouldn't have been nearly as funny if Clark had been an expert at installing Christmas lights!

Your goal, of course, isn't to be funny when you install your Christmas lights. Your goal is to be safe, effective and fast. And using the proper clips and attachment accessories will help you to effortlessly achieve that goal.

About the author: Jason Woodward is Director of eCommerce for ChristmasDesigners.com, a leading supplier of Christmas lights and decoration products. Christmas Designers caters to all Christmas enthusiasts, including private homeowners and professional installation contractors. You can also find Jason on Google+