Nothing quite signals the holiday spirit like Christmas lights twinkling from doorways, windows, and roofs. Understandably, you want your home to be part of the festivities and are likely up to your elbows planning a mesmerizing yuletide display. 

However, if that plan includes installing lights on your roof, you should take extra special care to avoid injury to yourself or damage to the roof. Although it’s not something people talk about, injuries from putting up Christmas lights are frequent around this season. For instance, the US Consumer Product Safety Commission reports that holiday decorations account for over 15,000 injuries yearly in November and December. 

How do you spread good old Christmas cheer in your neighborhood without risking injuries or damage to your roof? Read on for tips on safely installing Christmas lights on your roof. 

6 Things to avoid 

Before you begin, it’s essential to understand some safety ground rules. Doing anything on your roof involving ladders or getting up on the roof itself is potentially dangerous. So, you should take the necessary safety precautions, starting with the following: 

1. Wet weather 

Never go up on the roof during wet weather. That’s because shingles can become very slippery in wet conditions, no matter your shoes’ grip, which puts you at risk of a dangerous fall. Instead, wait until the roof is dry – ideally after a full day of sunshine. 

2. Icy or snowy conditions 

Everyone loves a white Christmas, but that’s one period when you want to stay off the roof. Ice is incredibly slippery and makes for potentially deadly conditions if you’re trying to set up Christmas lights during this period.  

3. Medical conditions 

If you have any medical condition that makes working at heights dangerous for you, it’s best to stay off the roof entirely. Either have someone else in your household take care of the installation or invite a professional to set up the lights for you. 

4. Going up alone 

Even in perfect weather, it is crucial always to have at least one person assisting you if you have to go up on the roof. Never mind that you’ve put up the lights alone every year since you bought your house. An assistant helps make the process much safer, plus it cuts down on unnecessary things like moving ladders by yourself or going down to pick up equipment. 

5. Drilling holes 

Christmas movies often present the trope of a homeowner installing lights on their roof using a nail or staple gun. It is critical to note that this only works in movies. Drilling holes in your shingles, flashing, siding or gutters can lead to problems later. Even small holes can widen with time, allowing water to enter through your roof and potentially cause damage. 

6. Lifting shingles 

Sometimes, it’s tempting to fix lights under shingles to help hold them in place or provide a firmer hold. However, this is another thing you should avoid. Shingles are made to lie flush against each other to give you the best protection against wind and moisture. Lifting shingles weakens the bond used to hold them in place and might compromise the effectiveness of your roof. 

Thankfully, there are many other ways to install Christmas lights without punching holes in your roof or tearing up shingles. We’ll discuss them in the next section. 

How to safely install Christmas lights on your roof

You’re all set to begin your installation after taking all necessary safety precautions (don’t underestimate how quickly things can go wrong). Here are a few tips to help you with a successful Christmas light setup. 

1. Test the lights first 

Too often, homeowners climb up on the roof or may even be halfway through installation before noticing that some lights don’t work. Correcting the situation will be as simple as changing out a single bulb if you’re lucky. But in worse circumstances, you might have to undo most of what you’ve installed. 

Forestall this situation by testing out the lights properly before starting at all. Your installation will likely require several chains of lights. Test each chain for proper function, especially if they’re older lights you’ve used previously. 

2. Use special plastic hooks/tile grips 

do not staple lights to roof

If you’ve been asking, “how do I install Christmas lights on the roof without a staple gun?” there’s a simple solution to this – plastic hooks. Also called tile grips, these handy tools are perfect for installing Christmas lights. They have a section that lets you clip or attach them to the roof and another part that securely holds the Christmas lights. 

There are three main types. First, there’s the simple hook, which is made to clamp unto the edge of gutters. The second type is the line hook. It achieves a firmer grip and is best for string or icicle lights without bulbs that you must orient. The third type is the roof spike, which professionals most often use. These hooks are installed at the roof’s highest point to achieve a lovely Christmas light silhouette.

3. Only step on peaks 

As a rule, we advise that you should avoid going up on the roof by yourself. Instead, it’s often best to have a professional do the dangerous work. But if you have to step on the roof, it’s essential to know where to step. 

Shingles have three main parts: the valley, peak, and edge. The peak is the highest point of each shingle, while valleys are troughs between peaks. The edge of a shingle is its outer part, where it lays against another shingle. 

For people who ask about how to stand on a tile roof when putting up Christmas lights, the answer is to place your foot on two peaks for every step you take. Don’t step into valleys or the edges of shingles – that’s the surest way to break them. Also, never go on to the roof without wearing safety shoes with a firm grip. The surer your grip, the easier you’ll step on the roof. 

4. Use adhesive strips or clamps 

Next, if you reach any point where there’s no way to clip lights to the roof (maybe where there’s no gutter), you can use adhesive strips or clamps instead. Just like plastic hooks, they don’t cause any damage to your roof, and once you’re done with the lights, they’re straightforward to uninstall. 

You will likely need adhesive tape to hold cables against the wall or ground after installing the lights. Don’t leave cables loose or in a position where they can trip someone or get caught in anything. 

5. Move the ladder with you 

As you work on the roof, it’s good to have your assistant move the ladder with you. This way, if you need to take a break, you don’t have to face the risk process of retracing your steps along the roof. 

Of course, this requires ensuring that your assistant remains with you 100% of the time. Remember: minor risks may not seem like much. But if even one thing goes wrong, it can cause you injury or severely damage your roof. 

6. Rent a bucket elevator 

Finally, if you are suspicious of ladders or have to reach the highest parts of the roof, hiring a bucket elevator might be the way to go. Overall, it makes for a safer process and can rapidly get you to all parts of the roof you wish to work on without the added risk. 

And that’s it – all you should know for a safe Christmas lights installation this December. Of course, if you experience damage to your roof while installing Christmas lights or if you’d just like a roofing specialist to assist, our consultants at GBC Remodeling, a local roofing company in San Diego are available to help. 

We at GBC wish all of San Diego County a very merry and safe Christmas!