Hanging Christmas lights on a metal roof requires a different approach and materials when compared to hanging them on more common shingle roofs.
(I’ve covered those other scenarios extensively in How to hang Christmas lights on a roof without gutters How to Hang Christmas Lights Without a Ladder, and How to Hang Christmas Lights on Gutters with Gutter Guards)
If you have to get up on the roof it’s a bit more dangerous and the types of clips and connectors are going to be different as well.
In this article you’ll learn:
- The types of connectors to buy to hang up lights on a metal roof
- The best approaches to hanging lights on a metal roof
- When to get professional help hanging your lights
(Some of the below links are affiliate links which means I get paid a bit if you click through and buy something — it doesn’t add anything to your cost! Just helps keep the lights on.)
What are the options for hanging Christmas lights on metal roofs?
Make sure you’re buying the right attachment for your particular type of light and, pro tip, buy 10% more of the lights and clips than you’ll need to account for any breakage or miscalculations.
First, you thread the clips onto the string of lights while you’re on the ground. Then position them anywhere along the roof edge or peak. Magnetic clips can be placed freely around the roof and the placement of each light is easy to adjust. Be sure to not place the lights too close to the edge though – if a few lights are blown down and fall off the roof it could take the whole string down.
(Test your metal roof with any common magnet you have around to make sure it will hold well.)
These are excellent options:
- Without the use of other tools, simply place magnet clips on metal roofs, doors, flashes, handrails and many other metal surfaces, easy to install and remove, and leaves no marks
- High quality materials are not easy to be deformed and broken, can be firmly fixed in heavy rain, snow, sleet, hot and other bad weather, and can be reused
Watch this really helpful video covering how to hang lights on a metal roof using magnetic clips:
Command strips (Adhesive clips)
While the previous option relies on magnetism, these rely on strong adhesive. Prep the surface by removing any dirt and debris using a dry cloth. After installing the clips, it’s recommended that you leave them in place for an hour before clipping your lights on. They work in temps down to -20 degrees so unless you’re living in the harshest of climates, these will work for you.
A benefit of using these is that they blend in well and you can barely see them after you hang your lights. As an added bonus these stick to more than just metal including vinyl siding, soffits, fences, tiles, etc. so you can run your lights all over the place! (Just not rough surfaces like brick.)
When you’re ready to uninstall: hold the top of the strip and pull down to remove each hook.
While the hooks are replaceable, you’ll need to buy replacement strips.
- Use one light clip for every 2 feet of lights
- Damage gree hanging: Water- and UV-resistant, these outdoor clips hold strongly through rain, snow, sleet and heat to let you hang outdoor lights on a variety of smooth indoor or outdoor surfaces without tools
Now this is a cool option because you don’t have to buy anything separately. If you are buying lights for your magnetic roof specifically, you can guy them with the magnetic backing already built in directly to the lights. Follow the same guidance as the above magnetic clips option for installation. Litenetics offers great options in this space.
First, you attach the suction cup where you want the light strand to cross over and then you hook the strand into the holder. You do have to make sure the roof is as clean as possible wherever you are placing the suction cups or else they will fall off. These particular suction cups are best for mini lights:
- Powerful light suction cup small in Size, provides a powerful hold on surfaces while also being gentle so as to not leave damage behind.
Why Hanging Lights on Metal Roofs Can Be Challenging
Metal roofs can be more slippery than other roofing materials, especially when wet or icy. Safety is a major concern, and you need to be extra careful if you’re planning on walking on a metal roof.
The right footwear with a good grip is essential to avoid slips and falls. You should also avoid walking at all on steeply pitched metal roofs unless you are wearing a harness to protect yourself from a fall.
Finally, you’ve also got to watch out for any sharp edges that the Christmas light wire may come in contact with. Excessive rubbing against a sharp edge could cause fraying.
Preparing to Install Christmas Lights on a Metal Roof
Gather the necessary tools and materials
Tools and Materials needed:
- Ladder: The ladder should extend 3 feet above the edge of the roof you are trying to reach
- Measuring tape to figure out how long your light strings need to be
- Light hanging pole (depending on how you’re hanging the lights) – this is usually for when you are hooking the lights up to the gutter edge
- Christmas lights: Use lower-wattage string lights whenever possible to minimize heat and fire risks associated with metal roofing
- Light clips or other options for affixing the lights to metal (covered below)
- Extension cords
Check the weather
I’d recommend only hanging up lights on a day that has great weather conditions. Avoid working in rain, snow, or heavy winds.
When to Consider Professional Help
If your roof slants more than 30 degrees do not attempt to hang the Christmas lights by yourself. Or if you must, use a properly secured safety harness. (That’s outside the scope of this article!)
Further, if you are at all unsure about the load-bearing capabilities of the roof, do not stand on it. It may be that you’ll need someone with a boom lift to come and do the install for you.
Step-by-Step Guide to Hanging Lights
Planning the pattern of your light strands
- IMPORTANT: Don’t make the dumb mistake of laying out the lights with the female end of the strand closest to the ground! The male plug end should be closest to the outlet you are going to use.
- Carefully plan out the desired lighting pattern ahead of time. Will it be along the front edge? Side edges? Peak of the roof? Will the lights go over entryways, columns, or windows?
- One thing that looks great is to outline your front entry. And if you have a porch with columns you can wrap them with strands of lights.
- Once you’ve decided how the lights will be laid out, measure how long of a strand you’ll need and calculate it out based on how long each individual strands are. Again: it’s helpful to have an extra 10% of all of your light strands and clips to account for any breakage or miscalculations.
- String light bulbs have lower wattage and heat levels than icicle light bulbs, so they are slightly less risky in terms of melting ice.
- Test each string of lights to make sure they’re working before you start hanging them
- Inspect your lights, outlets, and extension cords to make sure they’re in good condition. If you spot broken bulbs, frayed wires, rusting, or other damage, you may need to get replacements.
- Use LEDs lights and plug the lights into a timer to save energy.
Getting up there to hang your lights
- While you should test the light strands before installing, it’s a best practice to install them without the strands plugged in.
- If you start at the highest point, work methodically downwards towards the edges and secure the clips at least every 12 inches. The trick with this is to make absolutely sure you have the right length of strands to make it down to the outlet or extension cord where you plan to plug it in. If you start near the ground, you need to similarly make sure it’s long enough to make it all the way to the end of your planned layout.
- As an added moisture barrier, wrap electrical or duct tape around the plug where the strands connect and the open female end of the strand.
- Attach the lights to the roof surface using any of the methods described above. Test magnets first to ensure a secure hold.
Handling corners and sharp edges
- Be careful when working around corners, edges, or other sharp areas of the metal roof. Metal roofing can have razor-sharp edges that pose a laceration risk. It helps to wear thick gloves when you are routing wires over or around peaks, dormers, chimneys, and other angled surfaces. The thin coating on wire strands can easily snag and fray if dragged over a rough metal edge. Move slowly and deliberately near roof edges and overhangs to avoid accidents.
Managing potential roof damage
- Avoid hanging lights near roof vents – if you must, be sure to use low-wattage bulbs since roof vents can get very hot and are not meant to support the weight of holiday lights.
- Avoid overloading sections or hanging too many lights at the same spot as it can overload your roof line and damage it.