It’s the most wonderful time of the year, and if you’re anything like us you want to decorate your home for the season. Hanging holiday lights and decorations can not only be a time consuming task, but a dangerous one. Learning how to hang Christmas lights properly and safely will be the key to preserving your health and the health of your roof. 

We’ve put together a short guide on how to hang Christmas lights on your residential shingle roof damage free. 

Disclaimer: Do not attempt to hang Christmas lights during wet weather conditions, or when snow and ice are visible on your roof top. Always have someone with you during the installation process. It is advised that only professionals should walk on a roof, and only rarely as to prevent damage to the shingles. 

Christmas lights

Make sure your Christmas lights, decorations, and equipment are in working order and comply with all safety regulations. 

The Electrical Safety Foundation International created an Outdoor Decoration Safety Checklist to follow, including tips like: 

  • Make sure all extension cords and electrical decorations used for outdoor decorating are marked for outdoor use.
  • Match power needs (amperage) of electrical products with amperage rating of extension cords.
  • Outdoor electric lights and decorations should be plugged into circuits protected by ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).  If circuits are not GFCI-protected, portable outdoor GFCIs can be purchased where electrical supplies are sold and require no special knowledge or equipment to install.
  • Inspect all lights, decorations, and extension cords for damage before using.
  • Keep all extension cords and light strings clear of snow and standing water.
  • Make sure spotlights used to illuminate decorations are well-ventilated, protected from weather, and a safe distance from flammable items.
  • Use wooden or fiberglass ladders when decorating outdoors.  Metal ladders conduct electricity.
  • Use the right ladder height, ensuring ladders extend at least three feet past the edge of the roof.
  • Avoid overloading electrical outlets with too many decorations or electrical devices. They can overheat and cause a fire.
  • Make sure that cords are not pinched in doors, windows, or under heavy furniture, which could damage the cord’s insulation.
  • Do not mount or support light strings in a way that might damage the cord’s insulation.
  • Always unplug electrical decorations before replacing bulbs or fuses.

The ESFI also recommends using LED lights that emit less heat, last longer, and are more durable.

Measure the length of your home. 

Measuring your home before will ensure you have enough lights to go around. Make sure you take into account windows and doorways, as well as the path your lights will take. 

Using a measuring tape is the more accurate way to get measurements. A flexible tape will allow you to count the added length from wrapping lights around a pole or railing. 

Use roof clips instead of nails or screws. 

Nails and screws can not only puncture the wires of your lights exposing them to the elements, but over time they can damage your shingles and lead to breaks or cracks. Small holes in the gutters may also let water leak into places it shouldn’t, and cause rot or mold. 

Using clips will allow you to fasten lights to your roof without leaving a damaging mark. We recommend using these to hang lights on your gutters, but if you run into a part of the roof where gutters aren’t available, you can carefully attach them to the shingle. Take caution to avoid lifting the shingles, as breaking the sealant with the shingle below it can damage your roof. 

We recommend avoiding the clips that tuck under shingles, as they can hurt the integrity of your roof and cause damage later on. 

If you need to hang Christmas lights higher onto the roof, use a light-hanging pole.

Never stand or walk on your roof if you can avoid it. We advise that only professionals should walk on a roof, and only sparingly, as to avoid damage to yourself and to the shingles.

Make sure any loose light strands are secure. 

Using electrical tape to secure extra lights or cords is a good way to keep them out of the way indoors and avoid tripping or falling. 

For outdoor use, extra cords can be secured into the grass or other soft surfaces with ground staples. 

A GFCI Outlet for Christmas lights.

Use a GFCI outlet for your outdoor lights. 

A ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) is a specific outlet for outdoor Christmas lights. It acts as a circuit breaker to prevent electrical shocks that could occur in wet conditions. 

As a safety precaution, the outlets will all go out if one GFCI outlet gets wet. If this happens make sure the wet outlet is unplugged and then find the reset button to reset the others. 

Keep in mind you might need to hire a licensed electrician to install this outlet.

Use an Outdoor Timer.

An outdoor timer will not only save on electricity costs, but it’s a maintenance free way to make sure your lights will not overheat. Even LED lights can overheat and cause a fire, so make sure they aren’t left on for long periods of time or overnight.

Christmas lights are one of the most loved parts of the Holiday season, and making sure they’re hung correctly is important to your safety and the integrity of your roof.

We hope you and your family enjoy your home this holiday season, and if you notice any cracked or missing shingles while installing your Christmas lights don’t hesitate to give us a call! The cheapest and least stressful time to repair your roof is before disaster strikes.

Read More: 5 Signs It’s Time for a Roof Replacement.


From our Foothills Family to yours, Happy Holidays!