Tuesday 24 May 2022
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Hanging holiday lights

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Let there be light! lights, that is. And given the timing of when some homeowners started hanging them this year — as early as mid-October to get a jump on the season — we’re anxious for some holiday cheer.

Most will opt for understated displays. Others will try to channel their inner Clark Griswold and try to outdo neighbors by creating wonderland scenes so dazzlingly bright that Han Solo can see them from a galaxy far, far away.

“When I pass a suburban house festooned with twinkly-colored fairy lights, I always scream ‘Bravo’ out of the window of my car,” Simon Doonan, creative ambassador of Barney’s New York, admits.

Whatever your proclivity, here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • Never hang lights from your roof’s shingles. “Making even the tiniest of holes in them or any roof component — even with a stapler — will let moisture or leaks in, and potentially rot the roof,” says Jason Joplin, program manager of the Center for the Advancement of Roofing Excellence. Instead, use clips that hang from the gutter or eaves.
  • Metallic trees require special care. What could possibly go wrong by hanging electric lights on them? “The tree can become charged with electricity from faulty lights,” warns the U.S. Product Safety Commission, “and any person touching a branch could be electrocuted.” Colored spotlights above or beside them are a better option.
  • Embrace the buddy system. Maybe spiked egg nog is to blame, but one oft-quoted study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 6,000 people wind up in emergency rooms annually just from holiday decorating-related falls. As most of the injured are men and most fall from ladders, repeat this mantra: “Asking someone to hold the ladder for you, whether you’re stringing lights on a roof or a tall tree, doesn’t make you less of a man.”

Worse than being that one house on the block that never gets around to taking down decorations until spring is this: haphazardly pulling lights off your roof from the cord. “You risk damaging the gutter that way,” says Joplin, “and potentially the shingle if you didn’t clip them correctly to begin with.”

So, if you are planning elaborate displays, you might want to consider hiring a pro. GAF, North America’s largest roofing manufacturer, makes it easy to find the most reputable (and insured) ones in your area by searching its website’s GAF Master Elite Contractor database.

A word of advice: if you really want the “Wow” factor beyond your immediate street, it’s best to stagger two sets of lights side by side to increase the density.


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