How to Hang Outdoor Christmas Lights: The Festive Lighting Guide

how to hang christmas lights

Are you ready to hang your Christmas lights? Love it or hate it, this annual festive adorning of our homes is much easier if you’re prepared, particularly when it comes to your outdoor lights. Fairy lights and tree lights are a doddle when you’re inside, but the moment we take things outside it becomes a little more complicated, for obvious reasons.

In this guide we’ll talk you through how to hang outdoor Christmas lights, with all the basic ‘need to knows’ covered. This way, you’ll know what to expect once decorations day arrives.

Which Type of Outdoor Christmas Lights Should I Use?

This is partially down to preference and partially down to the outdoor space and electrical outlets you have on your property. The main two types of outdoor-suitable Christmas lights include:

Mains Powered Outdoor Christmas Lights – These can be used if your property already has an outdoor power supply or if you have access to a weatherproof extension lead that you can feed through from the house to the garden.

how to hang outdoor christmas lights

Battery Powered Outdoor Christmas Lights – These are perfect for properties without outdoor power outlets or if you want to avoid trailing cables, which can look messy and present a trip hazard in some cases. Battery powered Christmas lights also give you more freedom to decorate objects like trees and fences, particularly if they are set a fair distance away from your house.


NOTE: Remember to check the box when you buy new lights and make sure they are suitable for outdoor use. You should never use indoor lights for outdoor decoration as they are not made to withstand moisture or extreme temperature fluctuations. Some light sets are suitable for both indoor and outdoor use, giving you the best of both worlds.

Equipment You Might Need

Before you can start putting up your outdoor Christmas lights you’ll need to make sure you’ve got all the necessary tools and equipment to do it safely and properly. The equipment you will need will, of course, depend on the type of lights you are hanging – string lights, rope lights, net lights etc. – and where you’re planning to hang them from – trees, fences, home fascias, gutters, window frames etc, – but here is a basic list of things you might need to get you started:

Gutter hooks / Decorating clips – Decorating clips can be easily stuck on to wooden or uPVC surfaces such as fence panels or window frames to allow string lights to hang between them. Alternatively gutter hooks can be hooked onto the edge of guttering for convenient, movable anchor points for your lights.

Ladder – For safely accessing high anchor points for hanging your outdoor lights. Always make sure you position it on level, stable ground surfaces and enlist the help of another adult to help hold the ladder still for extra safety.

Weatherproof outdoor extension lead – if you’re using mains powered lighting and don’t have an outdoor electrical outlet, you will need one of these to power your lights. We recommend using a cable reel as these usually provide the longest extension and are usually weatherproof. However you must have a RCD to protect the power, which can be bought as a separate unit from your local electrical wholesaler or DIY store. Remember, safety first!

Tape measure – Useful if you need to measure the distance between power sources and the place where you want to hang your lights.

Batteries – If you’re using battery-powered lights you will need a supply of batteries. We recommend using rechargeable batteries to reduce waste.


hang outdoor christmas

Before You Hang Your Christmas Lights … 

There are a couple of checks you should make before you start hanging your lights, just to make sure everything is safe and in good working order.

  1. Plug in or switch on your lights at ground level to make sure all the bulbs work and there are no knots in the cable (particularly if they’ve been in storage all year). Replacing bulbs and correcting issues will be much harder if your lights are already hung up high off the ground, so this is the time to check and make any bulb replacements before you get going.
  2. Measure up your property, particularly the distances between your power supplies and the place you want to hang your lights. It is unsafe to have taut cables that aren’t quite long enough to reach your desired areas, so now is the time to make sure everything measures up OK so you can get a longer extension cable or rethink the positioning of your lights. 
  3. Think about what type of effect you want to create with your outdoor Christmas lights. Do you want to highlight certain features such as a tree, porch or window frame? Or do you want to create a wintry icicle effect by dangling string lights from your guttering or roofline? Decide what you’d like to achieve and measure everything up to make sure you have the right amount of lighting and you can easily connect them to a power source.

How to Hang Outdoor Christmas Lights

Now you’re all set with your equipment and measurements it’s time to start hanging your lights. Here’s a basic guide for how to put up outdoor Christmas lights using the equipment listed earlier.

Step 1. If you’re hanging string lights, start placing your decorating clips or gutter hooks at regular intervals to ensure the weight of your lights is evenly distributed and well supported. We recommend distances of around 30-50cm between clips for lighter strings of basic fairy lights. For anything heavier, such as lighting strands decorated with icicles or other decorative shades, decrease the spacing between clips or hooks to provide extra support for the weight.

Tip: Not sure how many hooks or clips you’ll need? Use this simple calculation to work it out:

Lightweight string lights: Divide the length of the cable (from first bulb to last bulb) by 50cm. The resulting figure will be the number of clips you need i.e. a 15 metre cable would be 1,500 divided by 50 which therefore requires 30 clips or hooks.

Heavy string lights: Repeat the same calculation as above except you need to divide by 30cm instead of 50. So you would do 1,500 divided by 30 which leaves you needing 50 clips.

Step 2. If using mains-powered lights, plug them in but do not switch them on yet. Then use your ladders and start clipping your lighting in place, working slowly backwards away from the socket. Take care not to tug on the plug socket while you’re hanging your lights, and always make sure your power cables are tucked neatly out of the way to avoid tripping hazards. This will also help your display to look extra neat and tidy.

Step 3. Once you’ve worked your way around the area and secured the end of the string in place on the last hook or clip, take a step back and check your handiwork. Does everything look equally spaced? Are any sections of cable drooping where they shouldn’t be? If anything doesn’t look quite right, go back round and correct any issues.

Step 4. Time for the moment of truth. Switch on your lights (you might want to wait until it goes dark outside to get the full effect) and admire your beautiful lighting display.

Now you know how to hang outdoor Christmas lights safely and efficiently, it’s time to start planning your displays. If you’re on the lookout for a new set, take a look at our latest collection of stunning outdoor Christmas lights here at Moonlight Design, where you’ll find everything from gold and multi coloured string lights to rope lights and bulb strings.

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