Bright and colorful lights are a must-have during the Christmas holiday season. While some people like to install traditional festive string lights, those looking for a perfect fit choose to install custom-fit Christmas lights. Both options can liven up your home, but the cut-to-fit option provides a cleaner and more refined look that can last for years.
Benefits of Cut-to-Fit Christmas Lights
Ready-made holiday lights are affordable, convenient, and easy to set up, but don’t offer longevity, as well as the brighter and more colorful look of cut-to-fit Christmas lights. Custom-fit lights are commonly used by professional installers and are catching on among homeowners looking for a cleaner and more impressive look.
Here are some of the benefits of using cut-to-fit Christmas lights for your home:
- Customizable: Incandescent Christmas string lights are built together, with the bulbs and the line. Since they are attached, you can’t replace the bulbs or alter the line’s length. Building custom-fit Christmas lights using empty socket string lights and separate LED bulbs allow you to customize the line length and colors as needed.
- Higher quality: Cut-to-fit Christmas lights require separate LED bulbs, which can be removed and replaced. Ready-made Christmas lights have fewer diodes than LED bulbs, making cut-to-fit lights brighter and more colorful.
- Length: Cut-to-fit Christmas lights can be ordered by the foot, so you can hang up lights that fit perfectly.
- Bulb sizes: Cut-to-fit Christmas lights are available in C7 and C9 sizes, which are available in various colors and styles.
- Easy-to-use plugs: Male and female plugs are easy to use for quickly connecting your lines or plugging them in.
- Clips and attachments: No matter where you plan to set up cut-to-fit Christmas lights, you will find a broad range of clips and attachments to secure your string lights to many surfaces, including gutters, trees, walkways, roof tiles, brick, and more.
Although cut-to-fit lighting is slightly more expensive to buy supplies than pre-built Christmas string lights, the difference in durability and appearance is worth it.
What You Need to Set Up Custom Christmas Lights
Hanging up custom-fit Christmas lights can seem intimidating. If it’s what professional installers use it must be hard, right? Setting up your own custom lights instead of pre-made ones is easier than you think and requires no electrical experience.
You can hang up your own custom Christmas lights with a few simple tools and some basic know-how.
Here is what you will need to complete this project:
- Commercial-grade cut-to-fit holiday lighting (C7 options or C9 options available)
- Light bulbs
- Outdoor extension cords
- Light clips
- Light timer
- Light plug kit
- Tape measure
- Hanging pole (optional)
- Work gloves (optional)
- Pliers (optional)
- Electrical tape (optional)
- Replacement bulb socket (optional)
Measure Your Home
A tape measure or laser measuring tool can help you accurately measure the length of lighting you will need to cover your home’s outdoor features and order the right length of empty socket bulb light lines. Measure the roofline, windows, doors, shrubs, trees, and wherever you will be hanging lights. In addition, measure the distance to the power source to ensure your perfect-fit lights are able to connect.
Cut to Fit Lights
With your home measurements in hand, head to your nearest Wilco Farm Store or local home improvement store for commercial-grade cut-to-fit holiday lighting with your desired socket size and bulb spacing.
At Wilco, we will cut Christmas light strands to your desired length with wire cutters. You can order by the foot from our C7 and C9 light lines. We can also cut between the wires by about ¼ inch to make installation of the zip plug easier.
While shopping for lighting that is the exact length of your home’s features, grab some LED light bulbs, hanging clips, extension cords, and a light plug kit (male and female plug ends).
Here is where you can customize your Christmas light strings with different bulb colors, sizes, and styles, only possible with cut-to-fit Christmas lights.
Empty socket light line
Skip the pre-made stringer light sets and go with cut-to-fit perimeter lighting. Pre-made lighting usually comes in 25 or 50-foot sections with bulbs built in and a plug. This can leave too much leftover cord or not enough to cover the perimeter.
Instead of buying pre-made stringer sets, go with cut-to-fit lighting with either C7 or C9 bulb sockets and green or white lines. Since these lines come in 500 or 1,000-foot spools, you can order the light line by the foot and screw in bulbs later.
You can also choose the cord’s insulation thickness. SPT-1 provides thinner insulation than SPT-2 cords. We recommend going with SPT-1 cord insulation for holiday lighting or SPT-2 if you’ll be hanging lights up for a few months.
Incandescent vs. LED lights
Incandescent bulbs are cheaper than light-emitting diode lights (LEDs) and emit a warm glow. However, incandescent bulbs are made of glass and are more troublesome to clean if they break. LEDs are preferred because they are made of durable, hard plastic.
Although LED bulbs are slightly pricier than incandescent lights, they use less energy and last longer, saving you money in the long run. LEDs offer a brighter light intensity than incandescent bulbs and can glow warm or cool depending on the type.
Most LED lights can connect up to 25 strands, while incandescent lights may only be able to connect 4-6 light strands. Be sure to follow installation instructions for the best results.
C7 vs. C9 bulbs
C7 and C9 string lights are the most common when shopping for Christmas light bulbs. These sizes are the classic choice for your Christmas decorations. Most people go with the C9 bulbs.
C7 bulbs are ⅞” (.875 inches) in diameter. The “C” in bulbs stands for the diameter, so the higher the number, the larger the bulb. C9 bulbs are 1 ¼” in diameter.
Bulb color and style
String lights are available in various colors, sizes, and styles. You can purchase boxes of white or colorful bulbs or a single bulb replacement when a single bulb fails and customize your lighting colors to your liking.
Net lights are popular for wrapping trees and bushes with net lighting. Icicle string lights can add brilliance to gutters and deck railings. Mini lights have smaller bulbs than C7s and C9s and can be used to wrap around bushes, columns, and other outdoor features.
Getting the right clips for the job can make all the difference. We recommend getting one clip per bulb socket for ultimate security. The clip you choose will depend on the structure you are attaching it to.
When setting up cut-to-fit Christmas lights, you don’t need extensive electrical experience. You just need to choose the right male and female plugs based on the specifications of the light line. SPT-1 cords require SPT-1 male and female plugs. SPT-2 cords require SPT-2 male and female plugs. These plugs are used to connect the lines or plug them into an extension cord.
Test Your Lights
Whether you are using an old or new string of lights, it is always best to test them out before you set them up to avoid spending more time taking them down and replacing the bulbs. After screwing in the bulbs, if everything checks out, you can go ahead and assemble your lights.
Zip plugs make it possible to create a custom Christmas light setup with minimal use of extension cords or empty light bulb sockets.
Male or female zip plugs can be added to the cut end of the cut-to-fit string light wires to extend or plug them in.
One of the best parts about custom Christmas light strings is the ability to customize your bulb sizes and colors. This also allows you to replace the bulb and not the strand.
How to install male and female zip plugs:
- Be sure to unplug any lights you will be working with during the installation process.
- Slide the back cover off of the zip plug.
- Inside the plug, you will notice “vampire teeth” that bite into the wire when the socket is put together to connect to an electrical current.
- On your light string electrical cord, you will see a ribbed wire side and smooth side. The ribbed side connects to the wide blade of the plug, which is usually on the right side and may be labeled in some plugs. The smooth side is connected to the narrow blade.
- Place the ribbed wire with the vampire tooth connected to the wide blade of the zip plug and press the cut end of the cord as far down in the vertical section as it can go.
- Bend the wire down into the channel with the two sharp vampire teeth.
- Slide the back cover onto the zip plug. You may need to use pliers to slide the cover in place. Sliding the cover back onto the plug allows the two metal pins to connect with the copper in the wire.
How to replace bulb sockets:
- If you need to remove a bulb socket and change its position, unplug the lights for safe socket replacement.
- Squeeze the plug close to the wire with pliers until you see some separation at the socket’s back part, which will eventually pop off. You can use electrical tape to seal the puncture holes.
- Position the replacement socket on the strand at your desired location.
- Slide the backer onto the wire and firmly press the socket’s backer onto the replacement socket with pliers.
Start from the ground up when hanging Christmas lights outside. Net lights can be placed over bushes like a blanket to give them a festive shine. You can use a hanging pole for hard-to-reach areas or if you are not using a ladder when hanging lights on a tree.
Move on to rails, doors, and windows for your holiday lighting. Deck light clips can easily fit onto railings and securely hold your string lights. If necessary, hot glue can do the trick to secure Christmas lights to concrete, brick, or stone surfaces, but not stucco surfaces.
Before you move on to securing lights to the rest of your home, step back to assess how the lights on the bushes, trees, railings, windows, and doors look. Do they fit properly? Here is where you can make a quick fix to move on to the higher portion of the home.
You can use all-purpose or gutter clips to connect the string or the bulb to the gutters. Icicle lights are a popular addition to the eaves of roofs.
Once the lights are up, plug the strands into an outdoor timer, so they can automatically turn on and off when you want. Outdoor timers are also a great way to save on energy costs. Some timers have light sensors that automatically turn on at dusk.
You have cut your light strands to your desired lengths, tested that they work, and hung them up around your home. Now, it is time to power your lights and see your handiwork. Your Christmas lights should look clean and without a jumble of wires or electrical cords in the way.
Shop for Christmas and Light Accessories at Wilco Farm Stores
Custom Christmas lighting is easy to set up and adds more curb appeal than traditional Christmas light strings. Shop Wilco Farm Stores for all of your Christmas and lighting accessories to keep your holidays bright and joyful.