Holiday decorations

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by D Felix, Nov 10, 2004.

  1. D Felix

    D Felix LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,898

    I've been meaning to start a thread on this for a while, and just haven't gotten to it until now. Hope it's not too late to help someone!

    We decorate several (around 15) sites starting about a week before Thanksgiving. It usually takes about 6-7 straight days to get everything done. Most of the clients want the lights to be on the day after Turkey day, which requires advance installation.:)

    We decorate several banks, most of them have similar features. Most houses have similiar features to the banks we decorate, so it's just a matter of adapting the process to fit the site.

    Generally we run natural white pine garland/roping along the eaves (I guess it's not the eaves, but I don't know what it is called; it's where the brick changes to wood under the eaves....). This roping is zip-tied to eye screws that have been installed in previous years. We run roping around any columns at the front entrance. Usually there is four colums; the two on the left are run opposite direction from the two on the right.

    Lights are then run with any of the roping. At a minimum, the lights are doubled anywhere there is roping. Some areas recieve triple lights, just because that is how it works out at the end of the strand. We've found out that you can run 6 strands of 150 lights before you start blowing the mini-fuses in the lights. Do that at your own risk, we are not following manufacturer recommendations on that one!

    At the top of the columns, a homemade bow is attached to another eye screw. We usually hang a lit wreath somewhere too. Power is run through timers and extension cords; we try our best to hide both!

    One thing we've found is that most lights will not last more than one season. You can save them from year-to-year, but will end up tossing 75-80% of them the next year. It's just not worth the time to go through each and every strand looking for the one missing/broken/burned out bulb. Sometimes there is more than one bad bulb too.:)

    If you need a shorter run of lights, we've found that the 150 light strands are broken into sets of 50 on the strand. Yank a bulb near where you need the strand to end and that section will go out. Then either remove a bulb from the section(s) you don't need, or simply cut the excess off. If you cut it (again, probably not manufacturer recommended), make sure you tape all the wires individually before you secure them.

    Always plug lights into a GFCI outlet or GFCI protected circut! Most lights have built-in fuses anymore, but should those not work, you will want the extra protection from the GFCI.

    Anyway, this is getting long so I hope this helps someone. This is how we do it, but it's not the only way, I'm sure!

    Oh, one more thing.... We found out last year a way to solve the problem of constantly moving a ladder to hang the roping and lights: DRYWALL STILTS!! It takes a couple of minutes initially to get the hang of them, but they are much faster (and less tiresome) than climbing up and down a ladder and moving it 3-4 feet and repeating the process.... We rent them (stilts) for ~$25/day.

    We do check the lights, usually around once per week. It is very important to have some extra bulbs and fuses when you do the checks.

    How do others decorate? Don't ask me about pricing; that's NOT my end!:D Sorry, but I don't have any pics here at home.........

  2. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    You mentioned that your lights don't last from year to year? What kind of lights are you using? Are you using commercial grade lights ( like Village Lighting) or are you just using the cheap lights you get at Home Cheapo or Target? That makes a big difference.

    I bought the contractor kit from Village Lighting this year. I paid $80 for it. It comes with a lot of great stuff. The best part is the instructional DVD that comes with it. It covers every possible aspect of installing outdoor lighting in detail. It's about an hour long. I was impressed at how thorough they were. The kit also comes with 25 really nice post cards. You just add your company name and address and address them and put a stamp on. Also had 25 envelope circulars, 25 door hangers, and 15 color product sheets showing all of the different lights, colors, accessories, etc. It also comes with a pad of about 100 Project bid sheets. These are killer. Very professional and well done. The DVD also has a 30 minute spanish section. And there is also a CD Rom that has their catalog and also all of their promo material (post-cards, door hangers, etc.) in case you want to print out some more on your own or take it to a printer.

    We did a few last year but nothing very nice. I am looking forward to getting more into it this year or next.
  3. environment

    environment LawnSite Member
    Messages: 146

    i think i will do the same, that looks like a great deal
  4. D Felix

    D Felix LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,898

    Yes, they are the cheap lights. Different packaging at each store (Walmart/HD/Lowe's/Menards, etc), but we're pretty well convinced that the same guy in China made them.:)

    We've looked into more expensive "commercial" type lights, but really don't see any difference at this point. Oh, these are the mini-lights, not C7's or C9's....

    We will be doing one house this year that we haven't done in the past. It's giving us a new wrinkle- it's stucco! I think we will be using mostly products from Seasonal Source (I'm sure they have a URL, but I don't know what it is) on that house. I think the lights will be C7/9's.

    I didn't mention it before, but the lights we run with the roping is zip-tied to the roping. Pruners or wire cutters are a necessity for trimming excess plastic off of the ties.

  5. activelandscaping

    activelandscaping LawnSite Member
    Messages: 241

    With my luck there would be a ice storm the day before we started.

    I pulled a ham string about two week's ago and I'm still suffering. My foreman keeps telling me to get back in my truck and get the hell outta here, everyone's waiting for me to slip again and it holds up work.:p

    I like the idea of doing lighting. The problem is that it's usually crunch time for end of season work when people seem to want it done. Sound's like you do a great job though, the mental picture looks good.

  6. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

    There's a big difference - at least with the Village Lighting lights. I was checking them out today close-up at my distributor. They are pretty kick butt! The light that comes from them is a deep, rich glow that you don't get from the cheapo lights. And they shimmer as you move yourself from side to side. It's hard to describe. But if you hold up a regular strand of cheapo lights next to these ones and move back and forth, the Village lights have this killer shimmer to them. The cheapo lights look exactly the same from every angle. Also, they use less amperage per bulb and can be custom cut and fit to every eve, door, etc. They don't come in pre-cut lengths. It's just a huge roll. You stop them where you want, seal off the ends, and install a plug in. It's really pretty slick. When you watch the DVD you get to see what the differences are.

    I, for one, am sold on them.
  7. A Perfect Shine

    A Perfect Shine LawnSite Member
    Messages: 17

    Did anyone try the mini lights from Sam's club this year? They were selling 400 commercial grade mini lights for $8.87. I was very impressed with them, they held up very well, were 20 guage wire, and had clips on all the sockets so the bulbs wouldn't come out.

  8. JimLewis

    JimLewis LawnSite Fanatic
    Messages: 6,876

  9. A Perfect Shine

    A Perfect Shine LawnSite Member
    Messages: 17


    That comparison makes me think they might not be holding as many cards as it appears at first sight.

    Our lights we get from Sam's club are on 20 guage wire, have clips so the lights don't come out of the sockets are cost us about $2.22 for 100 lights.

    I called my area distributor today and he said it was $4.99 for a string of 50, even after I told him I was a contractor. I called Village Lighting and talked to them about it and they told me they should be able to lower that price a lot if I negotiated with them, so I'm going to call this &@#hole back Monday and tell him to quit playing games.


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