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The Simple Way to Hang up Christmas Holiday Lights Outside

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If you have a roof that doesn't work with regular light clips, try this simple trick.

If you have a roof that doesn't work with regular light clips, try this simple trick.

Christmas Light Clips

Hanging up Christmas lights can be a real pain. Like many people, we wanted to put some lights on the outside of the house along the roof line.

We bought and tried various roof clips from discount stores and home improvement places, and none of them seemed to do what we wanted.

Some didn't fit the edge of our roof. Others didn't work to make the lights hang evenly and neatly. The plastic attachment clips that came on the lights broke off. And if you have a metal roof, you realize that none of the plastic clips really work since they are meant to slide under shingles.

Finally, we found a very simple solution to hanging the lights: binder clips. By using a regular office binder clip, we could hang the lights up simply, evenly, and cheaply.

You can use one or two clips, depending on how you are positioning the light.  You can use the clips for several years.  If one gets rusty, just replace it when you are putting up the lights.

You can use one or two clips, depending on how you are positioning the light. You can use the clips for several years. If one gets rusty, just replace it when you are putting up the lights.

Binder Clips Make It Simple and Easy

To hang up Christmas lights using binder clips, you will need to buy several big boxes of them. You will need one to two binder clips per light.

Once you have the clip, simply begin at the edge of the roof or wherever you want to hang your lights and clip. The clips have the ability to hold the lights in nearly any position that you want.

As you can see from the picture, we use the single bulb, LED colored lights. But this method could also be used to clip icicle lights since each strand hangs down from a single attachment point at the roof.

What's the Best Size of Binder Clip to Hang Lights?

We use the medium, 1 and 1/4-inch binder clips for our roof, but there is no reason that you can't choose the larger size as well.

If the edge of your roof is thick or you will be clipping lights along a gutter line, the larger, 2-inch clips may work better and secure your lights to the wider surface.

How Long Does It Take?

Adding the binder clips to the lights doesn't take much more time than trying to use the traditional roof clips for your lights. The clips can also be left on the strand when you take them down. This way, they will be there when you are ready to put the lights up next season.

Tips for Using the Clips

  • Keeping the clips nearby: If you need to climb a ladder or be up high when you are using the binder clips, you can transfer the package to a bucket to keep with you. I also found that my pockets would usually hold enough clips to finish a section of lights before I would need to take down the ladder and move it to the next section.
  • Working with traditional shingles: You can even use the clips to connect the lights to traditional roof shingles by simply sliding it under the end flap and then clipping the light. This is especially useful if you are placing lights up on the roof and not just along the edge.
  • Dealing with lights that go bad: We had one strand of lights go bad (even replacing the fuse didn't work). We replaced the lights in about 20 minutes, including the time to position the ladder. It was very easy to clip the old strand off and the new one on.
The lights look great at night.

The lights look great at night.

Hanging Christmas Lights Is a Tradition

According to a December 2012 article outlining the history of Christmas lights, the first lights were candles placed on the Christmas tree. Although lore suggests that Martin Luther (of the 95 Theses fame) was the first to put candles on a tree, there seems to be no substantial evidence to back up that claim. He very likely did put candles on the tree, but it may have been a tradition well before him.

The History of Christmas Lights in the U.S.

In America, President Cleveland may have helped to usher in the modern use of Christmas lights when he placed electric lights on the White House Christmas tree. He had to use a generator to keep them lit.

In the 1920s, people began to expand their use of Christmas lights and moved them to outdoor displays. Up until then, many still feared this newfangled idea and were afraid of starting fires.

As the decades progressed, lights got better, more efficient and cheaper. In the past few years, LED lights have removed many of the challenges of traditional lighting by lasting longer and being cheaper to power.

Best Places to Buy Christmas Lights

It seems that stores begin to stock Christmas supplies starting as early as August and September. But how do you know which lights will work for your house?

One of the best ways is to actually view the lights lit. Home improvement stores such as Lowes often have displays using the lights that they have for sale. Target also has sample bulbs that will light up when a button is pressed.

If you already know what kind of lights you are going to be buying, you can also find some great deals on Amazon.

Tips for Buying Lights

When buying lights for the outside of your home, make sure they are:

  • Labeled for outdoor use
  • Able to be connected to another strand
  • Durable
  • Have replacement fuses and bulbs

LED lights are especially nice for outdoor lighting. You can connect multiple strands without popping a breaker; they are cheap and durable.

A Competition and a Tradition

Hanging Christmas lights can be competitive as neighborhoods try to outdo each other, and each neighbor adds more and more lights to their display each year. (See the video above, where Clark Griswold feels a bit competitive about his Christmas lights.)

Even theme parks such as Walt Disney World have gotten in on the hype through the Osborne lights display, which was an annual tradition at Disney's Hollywood Studios. (Note: The Osborne Lights were retired in 2015.)

As much as each person likes to outdo the next, the sparkling lights that begin to appear everywhere, from city buildings to homes, signal to everyone that Christmas is near.

If none of the other roof clips have worked for your holiday lights, try this.

If none of the other roof clips have worked for your holiday lights, try this.

Don't Let Hanging Christmas Lights Be a Headache

If you've tried the usual ways of hanging outdoor lights and are frustrated with what should be a simple task becoming complicated, give the binder clip trick a try.

This method can work for a variety of surfaces and roof edges. Using binder clips can save you money and time. This leaves you in a better mood and gives you and your family more time to enjoy the Christmas lights and the season.


JAN JAN on December 27, 2017:

Thank you...great idea! Going to give it a try next Christmas.

L C David (author) from Florida on November 28, 2017:

So glad it worked!

Slick Susan on November 27, 2017:

Thanks for the great idea. I had trouble getting my garland and lights to hang correctly around door. I didn't want to put nails into the wood and vinyl siding. The small and medium binder clips work GREAT!

L C David (author) from Florida on November 30, 2013:

Thanks Don. I think that the only way this would be a problem is if the lights you are using have exposed wires. You make a good point though about being very careful with wires. If your string of lights has any exposed wires, be sure to discard them and replace them with new lights.

Don Fairchild from Belgrade, ME on November 30, 2013:

Great idea, love it. I think to be on the electrical safe side, I might use plastic chip clips from the dollar tree store.

Great Hub, thank you.

L C David (author) from Florida on November 22, 2013:

I love LED too! So much less hassle. I think using binder clips solves a lot of the Christmas light headaches and it is great for weird roofs as well.

idigwebsites from United States on November 22, 2013:

These are great suggestions. I love LED lights as compared to ordinary Christmas lights. I sometimes use thumb tacks as "hooks" to place the wires on, but I never thought paper clips can also be used. Thanks for the additional suggestion. :)

L C David (author) from Florida on November 19, 2013:

Thanks moonlake. After years of struggling with a variety of roof clips that never quite worked, we happened to think about trying a few boxes of binder clips from the office supply store. The relief I felt and the relative simplicity of putting up lights now has changed it from a dreaded task to one I enjoy each year.

moonlake from America on November 19, 2013:

Good idea never thought of using the clips to put up lights. Voted up.