Complete Guide to Hanging Christmas Lights on Your Gutters

Hanging Christmas Lights on gutter

Is there a better way to celebrate Christmas than brightening up your home and getting the whole neighborhood into a festive spirit? Although gutters make the perfect place to mount your decorative lighting, festooning your home isn’t always easy. There are lots of do’s and don’ts involved. Here’s a comprehensive guide to hanging your Christmas lights on gutters this holiday season. 

In this article:

Tools and Materials You’ll Need

Before you set off to add all the Christmas-y bling to your outdoors, here’s a list of everything you need will need:

  • A sturdy ladder
  • Gloves
  • Tape measure
  • 14- or 16-gauge outdoor extension cords
  • Lights 
  • Hanging clips or gutter hooks
  • Batteries and battery charger if you’re using battery-powered lights

Types of Christmas Lights You Can Hang on Gutters

There is a wide variety of Christmas lights packing merriment in all different sizes, shapes, and colors. From conventional-yet-cute mini-lights and icicle lights to those trendy mesh-style LED light strings, there are lots of choices.

C7 and C9 Christmas Lights

The classic Christmas lights for roof lines are the C7 and C9 light bulbs. The large size and vivid illumination make them viewable from afar, and they look great outlining your house. 

All the ‘C’ incandescent light bulbs appear like tiny strawberries but are larger than LEDs and clear string lights. C9 is the largest C incandescent bulb but tends to use more energy and get hotter than the smaller options.

Icicle Lights

Icicle lights feature clear LED or clear string incandescent bulbs that hang vertically from railings or gutters to mimic glistening icicles. These lights add an elegant touch to your roof outlines but also look exquisite for overhangs, roof awnings, peaks, and windows. 

You can find different color combinations such as green with red or blue with white, or you can create a custom theme. The most popular color for icicles is white. 

Cascade Light Tubes

This is a less common light style that creates eye-catching Christmas visuals from your roof. They give a nice dripping effect and might even have unique flickering lights to enhance the ambiance. Cascading tubes and falling icicles both can fit into the standard C7 and C9 sockets. 

LED Lights

The LED Christmas lights come with LED bulbs that are engineered to use 80% less energy than conventional incandescent bulbs while giving the same lighting results. Such light bulbs also last longer and burn cooler. 

They are generally smaller compared to their incandescent counterparts, and you can easily plug them into a single electrical circuit without overloading them. 

Clear String Lights

Falling somewhere between the C9, C7, and LED bulbs in size, the clear Christmas string lights are perfect for all types of gutters. These mini-string Christmas lights effortlessly blend in with their surroundings when they aren’t lit and look magical when lighted. 

Safety Instructions

You will either hang your Christmas lights by climbing up on the roof or getting on a ladder. In both cases, you need to be safe. Follow these tips to avoid getting injured right before Christmas and missing all the fun. 

  • Use a strong metal ladder that is tall enough to elevate you to a comfortable working spot beside the gutters. 
  • Always inspect the ladder before use. Make sure it isn’t damaged and doesn’t have any loose parts.
  • Place the ladder on a stable, flat, dry surface. 
  • Schedule your Christmas decoration DIY project for a dry, mild day. Never climb on a ladder when the weather is nasty. Wind, snow, or rain can increase the risk of slips and falls and generally will make hanging lights more challenging. 
  • If you’re climbing the roof, wear sturdy, rubber-sole shoes that grip the surface as you walk. 
  • Enlist a friend or family member to spot you.
  • Don’t attempt to reach farther than you can comfortably. You could tip over and injure yourself. Instead, it’s better to move the ladder every five to ten-foot section of the gutter.
  • Carefully read and follow safety precautions on your Christmas lights. The number of strands that connect together varies based on wattage, light type, and brand. 
  • Wear the right clothing. Choose close-toed, slip-resistant shoes and safety gloves, and avoid long, loose clothing that may get stuck somewhere.
  • Do not rest your ladder on the gutter as it may cause damage. 

How to Hang Christmas Lights – A Step-by-Step Guide

Gather all the equipment and materials you will need for the job and follow these easy steps:

Take Time to Plan

Stand outside your house and take a few minutes to study the exterior and picture where you want the lights to go. Note if the gutters run on all sides of your house or only some roof edges. 

  • On a roofline that has gutters, you can hang continuous strands of lights with plastic clips, and where there are no gutters, use shingle clips. 
  • Determine the length, and the number of strands you will need. 
  • Locate all the power sources to plug in your Christmas lights.
  • If you’re mixing different colors or types of Christmas lights, decide where they should go.
  • Create a list of all the supplies you will need and gather them before you start.
  • It might be helpful to sketch a basic picture of your house on a piece of paper and plan where the lights will go to better visualize your results. Mark all the possible hanging surfaces and outlet locations.
  • The sketch might also help you decide which kind of lights and clips would work and look best.

Measure Your Gutters and Lights

Measure the length of your railings and gutters as well as your light strands. Compare the two and make sure you have enough before you climb the ladder. To do so, use a long measuring tape, ideally about 25 feet or longer. Also, measure the length of your house to figure out the number and length of strings you’ll need. 

In case your house has horizontal eaves, measure around the base to estimate the size of the roofline. And if your house has peaked eaves, you will need a tape measure and ladder to get the accurate lengths. Add at least 10% more to make sure you have room for error. It’s always better to choose the longest light strands available for outdoor electrical safety. Also, locate the closest electrical outlets and make sure you have extension cords. 

Calculate Light Wattage

After you determine the distance that the lights will cover, you may also want to calculate the wattage of your Christmas lights. If you want to cover a large distance with limited outlets available then LED lights might be the best choice for you because you can connect more sets together. 

Here’s a little chart to give you an idea of the wattage needs of different types of Christmas lights. 

Light StringsBulbs Per StringsTotal Watts
Incandescent icicle lights (22-gauge)15063.75
Incandescent LED lights (22-gauge)70 6.72
C7 incandescent light strings (20-gauge)25125
C9 incandescent light strings (20-gauge)25175
C7 LED light strings (22-gauge)252.4
C9 LED light strings (22-gauge)252.4

Install Gutter Clips

Gutter clips are small plastic accessories that hook your lights onto most types of gutters. They’re super affordable so it’s best to stock up on them before the holiday season. 

Some clips make your Christmas lights face both horizontal and vertical directions while some only allow one hanging position.  

For this, you will have to hop onto the ladder and attach the clips to the front edge of the gutter. Generally, you need to place the clips 6-12-inches apart along the length of the gutter, but you can select another interval too. Light clips that come with circular hoops to hold the wire between each light are easier to hang than clips that hold individual bulbs. 

You can also look for “ladderless” gutter clips. These feature a special attachment that goes on top of a regular broom handle, allowing you to install the clip easily from the ground. 

Test the Lights

Imagine you spend hours setting up the gutter clips and fixing your Christmas decorations only to find out some or all of them don’t work. Save yourself from the frustration and check your lights before you start hanging them. 

Weed out and throw away any broken strands you see. If they have LED bulbs, you can replace bulbs that have gone out or are broken. Also, get rid of frayed or damaged cords as soon as you see them. They’re no good for anything and are potential fire hazards. At best, they’ll fry your Christmas lights, and at worst, snow or rain could cause them to short and start a fire. 

Make sure you’re wearing gloves when handling and checking the lights. 

Set a Ladder and Hang the Lights

The goal is to hang outdoor Christmas lights without marring your house’s walls, gutters, or trim. Place your ladder safely on flat ground. Take the first light string, climb up, and hang it with the gutter clips. If you’re hanging icicle lights, be careful not to tangle them as you work. 

Make sure that you start hanging the strand from the roof corner that has an outlet below it. Extend the Christmas lights along the gutter tautly so that they’re not sagging. 

When you’ve outlined the whole house, plug the end of the strand into an extension cord. You can run the string of lights along a downspout to hide the extension cord. Also make sure that the extension cord is all-weather-proof, one that is designed for outdoor use, so it doesn’t fail in wet or cold conditions. 

Frequently Asked Questions

How many gutter clips should I use?

You should generally put one gutter clip every 6 inches. The total number would vary depending on the size of the roof and length of the gutters. 

Do gutter clips work with gutter guards?

Most gutter clips are not designed to work with gutter guards and might also cause damage to the gutter system. If you have gutter guards and find it difficult to mount gutter clips for your lights, you can go for the following alternatives:
• Get adhesive Christmas light clips and stick them to the front surface of your gutter.
• Use shingle clips.
• Buy Christmas light hangers that are designed for the specific type of gutter guard. For example, thin hooks are compatible with mesh or perforated gutter guards. 

Final Word

Christmas is a time for making memories, feasting, and lots of giving and receiving. But with our fast-paced lives, it can easily get too much to adorn your house without help. So, if you need a hand setting up your Christmas light display, call in a gutter pro to guide you on what kind of lights, clippings, and installation would be best for your home.

Main Photo by: Wonderlane / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

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Farah Nauman

Farah Nauman is a freelance writer and an accountant based in Pakistan. She spends most of her time combating the South Asian heat and being a mom to her three fluffy cats and a dozen little Aloe Veras in her house.