Christmas Light Installation - Lessons Learned

I said I’d never attempt Christmas lights and this year I gave it a shot. I’m glad I did because 2 weeks of short days and 1 week in January to take them all down will put another $4800 cushion after expenses in my account before being off for 3-4 months and it was kinda fun. You wanna see a bunch of eyes light up and big smiles, install Christmas lights.

Only one house left and here’s what I’ve learned:

  1. It’s not as time consuming as I imagined, but it is tedious. Two weeks of installing lights. Short days due to dusk and working above 32 degrees meant working from 10:00 to 4:00 most days. Two small/medium houses per day with travel time or one large house. One REALLY large house took me two days.

  2. If you’re not comfortable walking or sitting on roof edges, plan for one small house per day or half of one large house if you’re doing them solo and need to move a ladder 100 times.

  3. I tried to hire two off duty firefighters who bailed last minute. Next year, I will look for 4-5 roofers instead for the sake of efficiency and understanding I may only get 1 or 2. I wouldn’t do it solo again.

  4. The demand for this stuff is HUGE! I’m still getting calls, get stopped all the time at gas stations due to my door magnets, and even had someone pay a deposit to the Holiday Heroes KC website I had to refund. I have no doubt I could’ve tripled my workload with more employees. Next year I’ll start marketing HEAVILY in October.

  5. Going rate in Kansas City is $4.60ish per linear foot and $6.00 per linear foot for ridge caps. That’s what I’ve been quoting and only one person has felt like it was unreasonable. I was installing lights on a house in a golf course subdivision and another company was installing lights across the street. He and I spoke and with a helper her charges $6.50 per linear foot no matter where they want lights, but he has a lock for the most part on this particular subdivision.

  6. You shouldn’t pay $1000-$3000 for a course when you can spend $200 on wiring, clips, and connections and figure out exactly what to do in about 2 hours. It’s easier to learn than pressure washing or window cleaning. I’ll do a video on it in a couple weeks. The customers will actually tell you where they want lights installed so you don’t have to be creative.

  7. Simple is best. Installing Christmas lights is SUPER easy, but you can complicate it fast if you overthink it. I only offered warm white and blue and made no exceptions. I don’t install their lights nor do I do trees or bushes. Gutter and shingle clips only and rail wraps. Zero exceptions. I didn’t sell timers, net lights, blow up santas, etc.

  8. You can do a modest amount of research and find the least expensive suppliers for everything you need.

  • Gutter and shingle clips - Home Depot (by almost 60%)

  • Reels of light cable, zip cord, some gilbert plugs - Wintergreen Corp.

  • Specialty plugs like inline gilbert plugs for extension cord drops, etc. - Amazon

  • C9 Commercial LEDs - hit or miss, sometimes eBay, sometimes Christmas Lights Etc or Wintergreen Corp. When you find a good deal, buy 1000 lights. If you do 6-8 houses you’ll use that many at least.

  • Green electrical tape, green wire, beaded zip ties, etc. - Amazon

You probably have everything else you’ll need to install everything if you’ve ever wired anything. Super low start up costs. I bought a heater buddy ($120) and it was my biggest (basically only) expense minus materials.

Long story short, if you don’t over complicate it… I can see how some companies earn 40% of their annual revenue from Christmas lights (That’s a directly from a window cleaning company who had lunch with about 10 of us at the Huge Convention.)

If I could only scale one company, Squids Pressure Washing LLC or Holiday Heroes KC, I’d pick Holiday Heroes.

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Id pay you just to take christmas decorations out of my attic.

Glad experiment went well for ya.

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Amen to that. Myself. LOL

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Awesome recap. Thank you Sir. I tried it on an extremely limited scale. I don’t like steep roofs! :flushed:

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Awsome recap!! I have a few questions. If/when something breaks is that upkeep included in the price? What’s your liability if there is an electrical fire?

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https://www.esfi.org/resource/outdoor-decoration-safety-tips-352

You can google Christmas light safety and come up with 20 things to put in your contract. I only use UL listed connections, wiring, and lights. There’s some pretty easy safeguards and it’s pretty easy to keep the connections out of potential standing water.

In the contract I have something along the lines of the following: By agreeing to these terms I also agree to unplug the lights before wet weather, never leave the lights on unattended or while sleeping, and exterior outlet is GFCI protected. It flows better than that, but you get the picture. Anything and everything that can go wrong, put it in the contract.

Any ticket over $600 they get free service calls, any ticket under $600 it’s a $79 service call if all the bulbs light up and all the wires are taut when I left it. Those should realistically be the only problems.

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Check out Goat Steep Assist and see if it’s something that would help you out.

https://www.animaltrapsandsupplies.com/products/the-compact-goat-steep-assist-ladder-free-shipping-.html?gclid=Cj0KCQiArenfBRCoARIsAFc1FqdlRTQfrTJvc1Bj4puQhdB8ezGAXTTVfLtpJD14nSt8mEqFihueDqgaAp5CEALw_wcB

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That would be the problem with scaling Christmas lights…is when you have employees doing, it you have to factor in the Workmens comp for being on a roof, and installing roof anchors and everyone harnessing up. Even harnessed up your not suppose to be working within 6 feet of the roofs edge. So employees would have to do it all from a ladder. That would add a ton of cost. I’ve thought about it…but not sure.

Great thread though and excited to learn more about it.

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I’ve considered this too. The hardest part of scaling for sure would be the workman’s comp and roof safety. I’ve been looking at old utilities bucket trucks on craigslist as I think that would be even faster.

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Do most people only get the front done? Or the entire house?

Bucket truck is a great idea

Just found this. It would be perfect and I could pay it back in 2 weeks hanging Christmas lights with a helper.

Something like it anyway. Too many mechanical issues for me on this particular one.

I haven’t had a single person ask for anything but the front and a part of sides that’s visible from people coming down the street.

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Greetings from Columbia, MO @squidskc. I just tried Xmas light hanging for the first time this year to help get through the winter and our first job has gone pretty poorly so far, so I really appreciate you posting this.

  1. The pitch of that roof from the last two pictures looks like 10/12 or 12/12. Did you walk that roof? If so, did you use a harness and/or the Goat?
  2. Does $4.60 include you selling them the lights or is that for a lease agreement where you still own the lights.
    I love your videos, thanks for all the helpful info you share!
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Brodie is on the right track here, roofing companies all carry their own liability insurance and MANY roofers get slow in this season so they are willing to sub out their guys just so they can keep them busy and not lose them. You dont need all the guys forever but its good help who is comfortable walking on a roof and heights who need work during the slow season.

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Thanks man. I’m glad you dig the content.

As far as the pitch on that roof I used a roof ladder hook. Easier to sit in than hanging on with the goat, but the goat is awesome for getting to the ridge cap or a super fast job without fussing with the roof ladder.

I never harness for anything, but that’s definitely not wise. Pretty stupid actually, but my body moves faster than my brain more often than not.

Cougar paws, roof ladder, and the Goat are my main tools for steep pitches. 8/12 is about the most comfortable I am for just climbing in cougar paws like spider man.

Second question, over $600 ticket I store and maintain the lights on lease. Under $600 it’s usually less than $100-120 in lights so they just own them at that point.

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Yep, scaling that business would be challenging if you wanted to do everything above the line. I know a couple companies that make lots of money doing it, but they do it all under the table. They pay cheap labor under the table, don’t pay taxes, lie about being insured and so forth. They pocket a huge amount of money and bum around the rest of the year.

We work window cleaning pressure washing year round, so it would be a lot to throw that service in there for 2 months. It does slow down some, but not enough to shift gears and have the added complexity of the change in workers comp and liability.

SUPER IMPORTANT LESSON LEARNED ALERT!

This particular home owner told me their last installer seemed like they dreaded coming back and after 3 years they finally said no thanks. I couldn’t figure it out because she’s super sweet. Super accommodating.

Well… day number 2 of a half day house and I think I know why. Gutter guards make it impossible to do this quickly and tile shingles don’t take these clips very well. I don’t have a ton of confidence in the clips.

Any experienced installers know the trick here? Thanks in advance!

Smooches,
A guy in Kansas City who won’t do another tile roof install.

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Doing my house today to get a feel for it. Enjoying it so far, but what do you do with the extra lights? Run them down the side of the house or something?

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If you’re using prewired strings you’re kinda hosed. Your best bet is to buy them all on the reel and create connections with gilbert plugs. Or you can get bulb caps that block out the light.

I think I even saw plugs for unused sockets.

Zip wire, socketed wire on 1000’ reels, Gilbert plugs, and C9 bulbs separate. Super inexpensive for what you’re getting, you custom cut them to the house and make connections in about 30 seconds.

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With the polycarbonate bulbs you can just drop the line once you cut it. They’re super tough.

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