How to hang Christmas lights from suspended ceilings

Written by jennifer spirko
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How to hang Christmas lights from suspended ceilings
Lightweight and inexpensive, Christmas lights can be hung from suspended ceilings with a few simple tools. (Getty Premium images)

Despite the advantages of suspended ceilings -- such as cost of materials and ease of access to utilities -- they also pose some special challenges. Because the lightweight tiles of a dropped ceiling are installed within a grid of similarly lightweight metal framework, such a ceiling will not support hanging plants, pendant lights or other heavy fixtures. If you want to hang Christmas lights from a suspended ceiling, you'll need specialised hooks made to slide onto the support grid.

Skill level:
Easy

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Things you need

  • Tape measure
  • Suspended ceiling hooks
  • Christmas lights
  • Extension cord (optional)
  • Twist ties or decorative ribbon, one piece per hook
  • Cord-concealing moulding (optional)
  • Christmas garland (optional)
  • Wire ties, one per hook (optional)

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Instructions

  1. 1

    Measure the area where you want to hang your Christmas lights, so you can plan how many strands you will need. Take note of the location of your electrical sockets.

  2. 2

    Calculate how many suspended-ceiling hooks you will need. If you prefer the lights to lie nearly level against your ceiling, the hooks will need to be more than 30 cm (1 foot) apart; if you like a swag of lights between hooks, they can be spaced further apart.

  3. 3

    Install the hooks: gently lift a ceiling tile, and slide the grooved base of the hook onto the T-shaped metal grid. Lower the tile back into place. You should have one hook very near the wall above the electrical socket(s) you will plug your lights into.

  4. 4

    Wrap the plug end of your first strand gently around the hook closest to your outlet; leave as much of the plug end dangling as you like, because you can reach the outlet with an extension cord if you prefer (see Tips).

  5. 5

    Unspool the string of lights until you can slip the wire over the next ceiling hook. Continue in this way until you have lights hanging from all your hooks, in the amount and pattern you have chosen.

  6. 6

    Secure the strand of lights to the hooks with twist ties, especially at the wall and when you turn a corner. If you find the look of the hooks and ties too obtrusive, use decorative ribbon to tie a bow onto each hook.

  7. 7

    Plug in your lights, or plug in your extension cord and the lights.

Tips and warnings

  • An extension cord can be unappealing hanging on the wall, as can the end of the light strand. If possible, plug your lights into an outlet behind a tall piece of furniture. If this type of camouflage is not feasible, consider using one of the speciality cord mouldings to disguise the cord. These often attach to the wall with adhesive; follow package directions on its installation.
  • Suspended-ceiling hooks are widely available at hardware and home supply shops. They are typically white, the most common colour for suspended ceilings. Christmas lights also can be found with white cords, in addition to the green ones intended for use on a Christmas tree. If you have a white ceiling and use white hooks with white cords, your lights will seem to "float." If you have another colour, or prefer to use green cords, you can add garland to your lights. The thicker garland will not hang as easily from the hooks, but you can use coordinating wire ties to tie the garland and lights combination onto the hooks more securely.
  • Some types of Christmas light bulbs can get very hot, especially older models. Traditional Christmas lights are C7 and C9, like many nightlights, and they use between 5 and 10 watts; mini lights, increasingly popular, are smaller but still filament bulbs. Less conventional options are rope lights, essentially mini lights contained within a plastic tube structure, and LED lights, usually miniatures but with light-emitting diode bulbs. LEDs are cooler and cheaper to operate than filament bulbs, and may be the safest choice for lights that will be left on for long periods and in contact with your ceiling.

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