Christmas is almost here, and for many Canadians that means decking their homes with festive lights to help spread holiday cheer throughout the neighbourhood. However, installing Christmas lights on your roof can be risky business and could potentially cause damage to your roof, eavestroughs, and most importantly yourself (if you slip and fall).
What’s the Best Approach to Decorating Your Roof without Damage?
- Hang lights along pillars and windows
- Limit your walking time
- Don’t attach any decorations to your roof
- Ask a buddy to help
- Make sure you use to the right ladder
Here are some tips for installing Christmas lights on your roof to help minimize these dangers.
Inspect All Lights and Cords
Before you start, double check that all your power cords are long enough; you want to make sure that the power cord isn’t what’s holding Rudolf on the roof. Additionally, untangling all your strands of lights now will save you time and effort when you are on the roof later.
Plug in the decorations on the ground to make sure they work properly before you get on the roof. Check for any frayed electrical lines, bad bulbs, or lights that appear to flicker. These could be signs of electrical damage, which poses a fire hazard that could damage your roofing.
Use lights and extension cords rated for outdoor use and a proper grounded power source. The last thing you want is an electrical problem – or worse, a fire – because you used cheap cords. Additionally, make sure that you use cords that have enough capacity for all the products you will attach to them as well as the circuit you are using from your home. In addition to being a fire risk, this could short out the circuit or cause the plug to burn out.
As you go, watch out for loose cords or those lying in a manner that may occasion tripping incidents or cause them to get pulled out of their outlets. Make sure decorations, including inflatable items, are away from power lines and plugged into a portable outdoor circuit.
Take your time and don’t rush through things. Set aside a whole day or even more if you are going to be decorating your roof and the outside of your home. Try to plan for a day when it is not raining or snowing out to decrease the chances of an accident happening.
Have a plan for what you will wear. You’ll need footwear that is nonslip and comfortable. Work boots or safety shoes are ideal, but if you have a good pair of tennis shoes with proper tread, those will do the job as well. Don’t forget things to bundle up if it’s cold outside.
Decide where you will put the decorations and in advance. This may involve measuring the roof line to determine how many lights you will require. Once you’ve decided on the layout of your Christmas lights, it’s time to get the ladder.
Using the Ladder
Make sure you have the right ladder for the job. An extension ladder is the ideal choice for accessing the roof. While a step ladder can be used to hang lights and decorations from the eaves, it is not meant to be used to get onto the roof. A multiuse ladder gives you the best of both worlds: it can be used as both an extension ladder and a platform ladder.
Ensure that your ladders are in good condition and that you set them on flat, solid ground. Your extension ladder should be able to reach higher than your roof so you can easily step onto it. Also, remember not to extend beyond the natural reach of your arm when hanging lights directly from the ladder.
Get a Buddy
Use the buddy system. When it comes to decorating your roof for Christmas, you are going to need someone on the ground. That way they can help secure the ladder, carry items, or to assist in case of an injury or emergency.
If you are putting up large decorations, you may need one person on the roof with you as well as one on the ground. Use a rope to get the decorations and tools up to you on the roof; trying to carry tools or decorations to the roof on a ladder is one of the most common ways to get hurt decorating outside.
Hanging the Lights
Hang lights first along pillars, eaves, windows, and posts to provide a structural base for the rest of your lights. Don’t ever nail or staple lights to your roof; instead, string them through plastic clips attached to your shingles, gutters, and eaves. These plastic clips are affordable, easy to install and remove, and readily available at most home improvement or large retail stores. If you use nails or staples to fasten your lights to you roof, you will puncture your shingles or gutters; even the tiniest hole in a shingle can allow moisture to leak in and potentially damage the roof. You can also puncture the wires of your lights or wear down their insulating coating, potentially causing electrical problems.
Big decorations can be challenging, so make sure you move with caution as you install them on your rooftop. Do not try to carry decorations, lights, or tools up the ladder with you. Instead, have someone pass these items up to you or hoist them up with a rope.
As with lights, never nail or screw big decorations to your roof. Instead, install them securely using zip-ties and sandbags, or by tying them to a chimney or other structure for additional support. Especially tall decorations may require additional securing with guy wire. If the fixtures aren’t supported sufficiently and fall over, they could chip a tile or tear into shingles.
If you plan to put up the same decorations every year, a qualified roofer may be able to help you install permanent mounts that will be leak-proof and enable you to simply bolt your items onto the existing brackets each season.
Walking on Your Roof
To increase the lifespan of your roof, try to limit how much you walk on your rooftop. However, spending a short amount of time on your roof a few times of year won’t do too much damage, as long as you’re careful. Walk gently and wear a soft shoe with a good grip. Get any work on your roof over with earlier in the day, before the shingles have soaked up too much sunlight; direct sun exposure can heat the surface to well over 35 degrees, even on cooler days.
While you’re up there, you might as well inspect your roof for any kind of damage. Look for loose or broken tiles, loose shingles, or tears in the roofing material. Take up a broom to clean out any debris that might have accumulated in the gutters or valleys of the roof. Check for signs of ice-damming, which can form if there’s snow on the roof. These dams prevent melt-water from leaving the roof, which can result in water damage. If find anything suspicious, you’ll want to have it inspected by a roofer.
Taking Down the Lights
You might be in a hurry to get your Christmas decorations down when the holidays end, but avoid pulling on the lights to remove them from their clips. Doing so can damage the shingles, any eaves or gutters you’ve attached the lights to, or even the lights themselves. Taking the time to remove each clip individually is much cheaper than replacing gutters or shingles later.