It’s holiday time and in the spirit of the season, hanging Christmas lights is an annual tradition. However, before you climb up on your roof to string those twinkling lights, there are a number of simple guidelines to follow to help ensure your holiday celebration does not include a trip to the ER, or worse!

There’s a scene in the famous holiday movie, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, where the dad in the show, Clark Griswold, is hanging Christmas lights up on hangs up on his roof. While it’s a funny and memorable scene, it is a fantastic example of everything you should avoid doing while hanging Christmas lights on your roof.

In fact, Clark, who is not the brightest person around, commits the biggest cardinal sins of winter exterior home decorating, all for our amusement:

  1. Working at nighttime. Not only is visibility on your roof worse, but you may not be able to position your ladder as well either. Put up your lights during the day, and if you don’t finish, continue the next day.
  2. Forgetting your surroundings. It almost seems like Clark gets so “into” his work that he forgets he is on a ladder. He overreaches, and doesn’t take care with what he is doing, causing the comic stapling of his sleeve to the house and the violent pull away which lands him and his ladder against a tree.
  3. Walking on the roof when the roof is icy and snowy. There is a very good reason to put up Christmas decorations early…to safely avoid the snow and ice. Roofs are slippery under the best conditions; snow and ice can make them deadly!
  4. Working alone. Clark also proves why a spotter or partner is necessary when hanging Christmas lights safely. In real life, his slip and fall may have left him badly injured, or worse! If somebody else was there, his accident may have been prevented, and if it couldn’t have been, he would have had someone there to help after his fall.
  5. Working with messy strands. Did you notice how Clark was working with numerous strands of tangled and disorganized lights? A strand even became tangled around his ankle and caused him to lose his balance. This could happen to anyone if you are working with disorganized strands and are not aware of them as you move around the roof.
  6. Damaging the house. While personal safety is important, you should also avoid doing damage to your home in the process of hanging Christmas lights for the holidays. Clark staples the lights to the shingles, which is another example of what NOT to do. Staples, or anything that penetrates the shingles, can introduce weak points in your roof or potentially crack the shingles. If the hole runs deep enough, it can even create an avenue for moisture or other nasty elements to enter your house, introducing a slew of other issues. It is safer for the house to put staples into the wooden eaves along the perimeter of your house. The safest, and least destructive method, though, is using plastic clips to attach your lights to the shingles or gutters.
  7. Walking on the roof…carelessly. If you must walk on your roof for hanging Christmas lights, at least make the activity more productive by taking the time to also visually inspect your roof and gutters while you’re up there.  Also remember that while it is probably safe to lightly tread across your roof one or twice a year, walking on shingles reduces their integrity each time, and every step risks cracking a shingle, which is a nasty issue you probably don’t want to deal with this season!
  8. Overloading your circuits (a.k.a., annoying the neighbors with too much illumination!) Later in the film, Clark announces to the family that he strung together 250 strands of lights! Regardless of the recommendations from your lighting manufacturer, this is an outlandish number of strings to daisy chain together. Do not overload your wiring or your home’s circuitry and check your lighting’s packaging to see the maximum number of strands that can be connected together. While in real life such a number of lights probably wouldn’t cause a power outage, it can blow a fuse or start a fire—two things that are not at all funny.

Hanging Christmas lights creates a sight to behold and decorating can also be a fun annual tradition. Many safety aspects involve only a good sense of intuition, but some require more prior thought and planning. Don’t be Clark Griswold this season. Be smart in hanging your outdoor Christmas lights. And, if in the process you notice any issues with your roof, don’t hesitate to contact us.

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