‘Tis the season to deck the house

By Tom Phelan - ReminderNews
- posted Wed., Nov. 16, 2011
- Contributed Photo

Now that you have gone up on the ladder to clean out your gutters after a memorable fall season, you’ll want to leave that ladder where you can get at it. It’s time to decorate the outside of the house for the holidays.

The middle of November really is the best time to get the major holiday decorating work behind you. The weather outside almost certainly will be better now than if you put this off until after you are tired of hearing carols in the store.

This is the ultimate in DIY projects. There is really nothing complicated to stringing lights and hanging wreaths. You only need a few basic tools and your favorite decorations.

If you can find the lights you used last year, and if those lights were worth putting away – and, of course, if you can remember where you put them – then you are almost ready to start. But if you are going for a new look or something more current, there are lots of alternatives in the stores.

Most common decorations use size C-9 or C-7 bulbs. A higher number indicates they are larger and consume more watts. The miniature bulbs use less electricity and are cooler to handle. Strings with LED bulbs are more energy efficient, especially if you choose to out-do Clark Griswold with your decorations. If you want to go even greener, find lights with the solar panel device that absorbs enough sunlight to power the string for a while. Just know that weather and available sunlight will not provide the same power you get from the household socket.

If you decide to use last year’s light strings, remember the very first thing to do is plug them in, so you can see how many bulbs will need replacement. Do this even before you put the ladder against the side of the house. Remember that some strings have built-in fuses. If the whole string doesn’t light, that may be the culprit. The light strings available are easier to use and install than ever, so if you are not sure whether to refurbish or replace, don’t make a big deal of it.

If you are buying replacement bulbs, be aware of the different size, shape and types available. When replacing a string or two, make sure what you get this year is completely compatible with your existing decorations. When you start with all new lighting, be certain that the plug type and power requirements are compatible with your house circuits. Also, using short strings will probably make your project easier.

Look for the UL approval on the packaging or product. Make sure what you buy is suitable for outdoor use. Only use outdoor extension cords, and plug them into 120-volt circuits equipped with ground fault circuit interruption (GFCI). For your own sanity as well as to save on electricity, consider using a timer approved for outdoor use to turn the lights on and off.

To fasten the light strings to your house you will need staples, clips, and hooks, etc. In the store, you will find several specialized hangers. Though it might seem self-evident, do not nail or staple right into your roof surface. There are plastic clips that allow you to hang the strings on every surface and along gutters and fascia boards to keep them in place without damaging them. Stapling or nailing decorations to the house, if you must, should be restricted to the fascia boards, soffits and trim.

To decorate the trees around your house, you can just hang the lights on the branches and fasten them with clips or ties.  Tying the light strings to ropes before installing them in the trees will make them easier to put up and take down. They are also less likely to move around when the wind blows.

Now sit in front of the TV, and let Chevy Chase make you feel good about your DIY decorating skills.

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