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Tips for Hanging Outdoor Holiday Lights

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If you’ve never decorated the outside of a house before, the prospect of climbing a ladder up onto your roof can seem like a daunting proposition. But with a little strategy and planning, your home could be the shining jewel of the block.

You don’t have to light up your entire property to make a statement. Instead, choose a focal point, and make it shine. Perhaps it’s your front door. Or maybe it’s the cherry tree in the front yard. Whatever spot you choose, focus your energy (and light bulbs) there.

“You’ll get a much bigger impact than you will trying to spread it all over the yard,” said Benjamin Bradley, the star of the Netflix series “Holiday Home Makeover with Mr. Christmas.”

Don’t underestimate the power of a landscaping spotlight, which can draw attention to a single element. Mr. Bradley’s grandparents had a holly in their yard and every year they would put a big red bow on it and aim a spotlight on it. “You knew Christmas was here,” he said. “It was beautiful and simple.”

If you’re planning to go big, sketch out your vision ahead of time so you can buy all the lighting and garlands you need before you climb the ladder. Figure out what power sources you’ll be using — and how the decorations will reach those outlets. Do you need extension cords? More surge protectors? Get them ahead of time and avoid a frantic last-minute trip to the hardware store.

“If we’re going to put a snowman at the end of the driveway and a Santa Claus in the middle of the driveway, each of those need an independent power source,” said John DeCosmo, the president of Ulta-Lit Tree Company, which makes a tool to locate broken bulbs. So before you buy that huge inflatable reindeer, make sure you have an outlet for it.

There are two main types of bulbs — LEDs and incandescents. LEDs tend to give off a cooler light, incandescents a warmer one. Choose one option and stick with it because otherwise, the contrast between warm and cool lights can feel jarring. (LEDs tend to be more expensive upfront, but use less electricity over time.)

You can, however, mix the styles, sizes and colors of bulbs. “I still love the big C7 multicolored lights, you can see them from miles away,” said Mr. Bradley, who prefers to reserve the miniature bulbs for indoor lighting.

Yes, lights are all about the night. But people can still see your house in the daytime and it shouldn’t look like an eyesore. Cut tags off the cords before you hang the lights and decorations. Wrap lights in garland to hide the wires. Tuck extension cords along the ground beneath mulch or evergreen branches. Be neat in your work, keeping the wires taut so they don’t hang down from the rooflines.

Gravity is not your friend, so be careful up on that roof or on that ladder, always working with a partner who can spot you. Nobody wants to be “the cowboy who goes up on the ladder and he’s going to get the whole job done in an hour,” Mr. DeCosmo said. “And then they’re in E.R.”

Use surge protectors so you do not overload your outlets. Remember that all this stuff will be outside in the winter elements. Properly secure your decorations so a wind gust does not land your 12-foot-tall snowman in your neighbor’s yard.

Take your time, be patient and the final result will be cheerful and bright.

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