The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that more than 15,000 injuries related to holiday decorating occur every November and December. With the holiday season upon us, you might be feeling the itch to break out those strings of twinkling lights, but don’t get so carried away with the holiday spirit that safety precautions fall by the wayside. Here are a few tips to keep you—and your roof—safe this holiday season.
BEFORE YOU BEGIN
- Untangle strands of lights to save you time and effort while on the roof.
- Check your lights for bad bulbs, frayed wires or lights that flicker before hanging them. These could be signs of electrical damage, which poses a potential fire hazard.
- Use extension cords rated for outdoor use.
- Ensure that your ladders are in good condition and that you set them on flat, solid ground.
- When hanging lights directly from a ladder, try not to extend beyond the natural reach of your arm.
UP ON THE HOUSETOP
A good question to consider while implementing your holiday decoration plan is, “Would Clark Griswold do this?” Generally, if the answer is yes, do not proceed—especially when it comes to stapling lights to your roof.
The best way to hang holiday lights is by stringing them through plastic clips attached to your shingles, gutters and eaves. Plastic clips designed for use with holiday lights are easy to install and remove, affordable and readily available at most home improvement or large retail stores. Using plastic clips instead of traditional nails or staples will prevent you from puncturing your shingles or gutters; even the tiniest hole in a shingle can allow moisture to seep in and potentially damage the roof. Using nails or staples can also puncture the wires of your lights, or wear down their insulating coating, potentially causing electrical problems.
If you plan to utilize other rooftop fixtures in your decorating, be sure to install them securely using zip ties and sand bags, or by tying them to a chimney or other structure for additional support. If the fixtures aren’t supported sufficiently and tip over, they could possibly damage your roof.
To increase the lifespan of your roof, you should try to limit how much you walk on your rooftop, but 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. Be sure to walk gently and wear safety shoes or sneakers, or any soft shoe with a good grip. You’ll want to do any work on your roof earlier in the day, before the shingles have soaked up too much sunlight; direct sun exposure can heat the surface to well over 100 degrees, even on cooler days.
AFTER THE HOLIDAYS
Everyone’s least favorite part of holiday decorating is, arguably, having to take down the decorations you worked so hard to put up. Though you don’t want to be the house on the block with holiday lights that extend into the summer months, you shouldn’t be too hasty with your disassembly, either.
Avoid pulling on the lights to remove them from their clips. This can damage the shingles, or any eaves or gutters you’ve attached the lights to, as well as the lights themselves. Expending the extra effort now could save you time and money later.
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