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Top 4 Tips for Safe Holiday Decorations

The holidays are here - we’ve even had some pretty big instances of snow here in Canada already. I’m a sucker for this time of year, but when we’re turning our homes into our winter wonderlands, it’s important to be smart and safe. Here’s what I want you to keep in mind when decorating for the holidays this year.


1. Check The Lights

It doesn’t matter how nicely you put them away each year, every time I pull out the outdoor lights, they’ve managed to turn into one giant knot. Once you’ve untangled them, inspect each string carefully. Look for any frayed spots in the cord - I’ve seen homeowners “repair” these strings by wrapping them up in duct tape. Never do this. Any strings that show sign of damage need to be replaced.

When everything looks to be in good shape, make sure you test them before you climb up the ladder. The last thing you need is one bad bulb ruining an entire string. Always use lots of common sense when climbing a ladder and avoid overreaching to string lights. Ladder Lockdown can help prevent ladder accidents by providing a stable base for you to place your ladder. Too many trips to the ER could have been avoided by taking the proper care when using a ladder.

If you need to replace your lights this year, make the switch to LEDs. They’re brighter, more energy efficient, last longer, and reduce the risk of blown fuses.


2. Use the Right Tools

The right tool for the right environment. What do I mean by that? I mean using products that won’t damage your home, and are meant for the use you intend.

Do you hang lights from your rooftops every year? I hope you’re using the right fasteners and holders. I’ve seen too many homeowners hammering nails into their gutters so they can hang lights along the roofline. If you do this, you’ll permanently damage the gutter, and the fix isn’t cheap. You’ll have to replace them altogether.

Use rubber or heavy-duty plastic fasteners which can grip to your roofline without causing damage while a lower hook holds the lights in place. Just make sure the fastener is strong enough to handle the weight of the light string!

Never use interior extension cords outside - they’re for indoor use only! They weren’t made to handle the winter elements. If you need an extension cord outside to power your decorations, make sure the outside jacket is rated for exterior use. The wire gauge also needs to be rated for what you’re plugging into the extension cord. I recommend at least a 14-gauge outdoor rated extension cord.


3. Keep Your Tree Safe

I love having a real Christmas tree in my home - but whether it’s real or fake, keep your tree at least three feet from any heat sources like radiators, candles, fireplaces, and space heaters.

If you like a real tree, like me, give it plenty of water to keep it alive. I’ve seen how much more quickly a dry tree can catch fire over a well-watered one, and believe me, in case an accident does happen, it could mean the difference between life and death.


4. Don't Overload Your Electrical System

We’ve all seen the Chevy Chase movie, but it’s really important not to overload your circuits with too many lights. If you’re not sure about your electrical system, especially when it comes to your circuits, a licensed electrical contractor can check out your system and make sure it’s safe.

Never run extension cords through windows, doorways, or garage doors. If the cords get pinched, they become fire hazards. I’d avoid using extension cords altogether if I could - but if you can’t, remember that they’re meant to be a temporary solution. When the season’s over, pack them away for another year.


A good holiday season is one that’s safe. I know you’ll be able to make it right this December.

About the Author

Mike Holmes, professional contractor and TV host, is working with Associa to refine the standards and protocols that today’s Homeowner’s Associations use to Make It Right™ for their homeowners. He brings more than 35 years of experience in renovations, construction, and inspection services, and is best known as the contractor and host of “Holmes on Homes” and “Holmes Makes It Right” where he rescues homeowners from repair and renovation disasters.