Decorate Your Christmas Tree Like a Pro this Year

November 17, 2009

I used to think that there were certain tasks, that were so simple they really could not be screwed up, and stringing lights on a Christmas tree seemed like one of those tasks. I mean, how hard can it be? Well, I suppose it really isn’t that difficult to throw some lights on the tree and plug them in. However, after my first attempt at stringing lights on my families’ first Christmas tree, I quickly learned that there is a big difference between what I had accomplished, and properly strung lights on a Christmas tree. My installation looked horrible. Some areas of the tree had lots of lights. Some areas had none. There were 3 inches of space between some rows of lights, and 6 between others. Honestly, this did not bother me as much as it did my wife. After all, the lights were on the tree and they all worked! What drove me nuts was that the lights kept sliding off the tree branches. It bothered me enough, that I decided I was going to figure out a good system for hanging lights on my tree. That weekend, and over the last few years that I have been involved with I have learned a few things about this “simple” holiday task. Here are a few tips, that should alleviate some headaches this year, and improve the appearance of your tree:

Step 1: Measure your tree and determine how many lights you need.

Even a professional Christmas light installer couldn’t properly decorate a Christmas tree without enough lights. In order to know how many Christmas lights or LED Christmas lights you will need for your tree, you will need to measure the height and width of your tree. Unless you have a huge tree, it is pretty easy to do this with a standard tape measure.

A good rule of thumb is that you will need about one set of lights (23′ – 25′ long), for every foot of tree height. However, if you have a tree with a diameter is more than 1/2 of its height, I would add an additional 5′ of lighting for every foot of tree height. This isn’t a perfect science, and some of this is determined by personal taste, but for most people this will put you in the ball park.

Gather your equipment

It always makes for a more enjoyable project, if you have all of the tools you will likely need handy, before you start the project. Here is a list of the items you should have on hand, before you start to hang your lights:

  1. Christmas lights
  2. Green extension cord
  3. Green twisty ties
  4. Small pruning scissors
  5. Step ladder

Position the tree for decorating

Your tree should be positioned so that you can easily access all sides of the tree. If your tree is in a corner, or against a wall, pull it out and away from the wall or corner while you install the lights. If your tree is taller than you can comfortably reach, than it is a good idea to get out a step ladder or two, so you can properly install the lights at the top of the tree.

Hanging the Lights

I’ve tried starting at the top of the tree and the bottom of the tree. I have also read articles that recommend starting at the bottom of the tree. However, I think it is best to start at the top of the tree. Select the first light string, and grab the end of the string with the female plug end. Secure the end of the light string, to the top of the tree using a twisty tie. Once the first string is secure, wrap the lights around the top point of the tree, leaving about a 3-4″ space between each wrap making sure to keep the vertical spacing even. After you have wrapped the top of the tree, and have reach the part of the tree where the branches begin protruding horizontally, move about 4″ from the trunk and begin wrapping the lights in a circle around the interior of the tree. Secure the strings to the interior branches with twisty ties, where needed. Move out about 4″ and being another wrap. Repeat this until you have reached the outside branches of the tree. At this point, move down the tree vertically about 4″ and repeat the process, moving toward the interior of the tree this time. This process should be repeated all the way to the bottom of the tree.

Once you reach the bottom of the tree, secure the last string to the base of the tree with a twisty tie. (If you do not have enough string length left to reach the trunk of the tree, use a green extension cord, instead of an extra string of lights. It will look better, and extension cords are cheaper than lights.) Run a green extension cord from the wall outlet, under the Christmas tree skirt, and plug in the lights. (If you are not using LED Christmas lights be careful you do not overload the circuits!)

This method takes a little more time than just throwing the light sets on the tree and plugging them in, but it will look better, and the lights will stay in place.