Don’t become a statistic: A safety guide for rooftop Christmas decorations

Are you planning to go all-in on rooftop Christmas decorations this year? Before you break out the boxes of lights and inflatables, let’s take a few minutes to consider safety. Every year, homes are subject to decorating-related property damage such as broken windows, roof leaks, and even house fires. Decorators also tend to hurt themselves by failing to take a few precautions. Not to worry. You can preserve your home by following these rooftop Christmas decorating safety tips.

Christmas decorating safety tips

There are times when you should stay off the roof. Even when it is safe to work up there, proceed with caution. Take your time and the necessary measures to avoid potential dangers like falling and electric shock. Before climbing the roof, read these tips.

  • Do not work in wet or excessively cold weather as the elements create slippery conditions and heavy clothing restricts movement.
  • Inspect the roof before decorating. It should be free of any debris or ice dams. Repair loose shingles, torn material, or other damage before decorating.
  • Choose the right ladder to access your roof. Extension ladders should reach four rungs higher than the access point where you step onto the roof. Step ladders should be tall enough so that you need not step or stand higher than the second rung from the top.
  • Work with a reliable helper for ground guidance and safety support.
  • Wear non-slip footwear and clothing that will not interfere with your movement.
  • Gather all of the necessary tools and supplies, then test all light strands and other equipment before climbing to the roof.
  • Only use good quality electrical decorations that are UL-rated for outdoor use. Cheaply made products can lead to unsatisfactory results or fire hazards.
  • Warm up and stretch before working with heavy, bulky items.
  • Do not carry heavy items up the ladder. Instead, ascend the ladder safely and then use a rope to haul up large or heavy items. 
  • Never drive nails or staples into the roof. Use plastic gutter clips, string, and weights to hold decorations in place.
  • Do not overload electrical circuits. A circuit includes all outlets and fixtures wired on the same breaker. To avoid tripped breakers, blown fuses, and fire hazards, calculate the total load on each circuit. A 15 amp circuit can safely supply 1,440 watts. A 20 amp circuit can safely supply 1,920 watts.

How to avoid damaging your roof with Christmas decorations

When you’re all geared up and ready to get on the roof, take care not to damage it. Avoid roof damage and keep your decor in good shape by following these steps.

Step 1: Protect the roof surface

Heavy items wear down the surface and fibers of shingles. They are simply not made to handle the consistent load of heavy holiday figurines, cutouts, and statues. Avoid placing any of these items on the roof.

Step 2: Use light clips

Staples and nails puncture the roof and siding, leading to worsening damage over time. They don’t even work that well in the first place, and they will need to be installed again each year. Not so with light clips. These lightweight plastic clips fasten to rain gutters or other parts of the house and are easy to remove at the end of the holiday season. Bear in mind these clips are designed for hanging strands of lights, not the heavy decor. For the big stuff, more durable solutions are better.

Step 3: Tie down inflatable decorations

Lightweight rooftop decorations are best, both for the good of the roof and the safety of those doing the installation. Most experienced decorators either build lightweight frameworks of lights or use inflatables. For best results, do not place decor on slopes steeper than 45 degrees. Secure them with twine and clips to adjacent rooftop anchor points, such as a sewer stack or inactive chimney. Avoid heavy sandbags as those can damage the roof materials. If items cannot be secured adequately, do not attempt to display them on the roof.

Step 4: Maintain safe spacing

Unsecured or poorly placed decorations or supporting wires can cause a variety of inconveniences and even dangers. Be sure to leave plenty of space between holiday decor and dangerous objects such as overhead power lines, tree branches, vents, or an active chimney. Check on the condition of rooftop decorations after any storm, and promptly repair any fall-downs, breakages, or other problems.

Step 5: Be patient while un-decorating

At the end of the season, exercise caution and patience while removing decorations to avoid damaging the roof. Hold the decorations and remove clips and ties individually, rather than ripping them down. Roll up lights or bundle inflatables as you go to avoid tripping over cords or slipping on fabric. 

If you follow this guide, you’ll have one of the best-decorated houses on the block — without any damage to your roof, your house, or yourself.

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