7 Tips for Hiring a Professional Christmas Lights Installer
If you’re considering a Christmas lights display, ask yourself some questions.
Are you a Christmas Enthusiast who loves knowing all the details about what makes a great Christmas light display? Are you someone who has learned what professional installers do and feels confident about designing and installing your own display? Are you the type of person who enjoys a lot detail work that other people might consider drudgery and that mostly goes unseen beneath a finished project? If you answered “Yes” to those questions, if you’re someone with a track record of mastering the finer points of involved DIY projects, why are you still reading? You’ve got a Christmas lights display to work on! You may even want to check out our book, Starting Your Own Christmas Lighting & Decorating Business (it’s a great resource for do-it-yourselfers).
Now that the DIY guys are gone, the rest of us can have a talk.
If you answered “No” or “I just want somebody to get this display up and lit,” when reading the above questions, this is the article for you! If you have grand plans for a Christmas lights display but no knowledge of how such displays are safely installed and powered, we highly recommend hiring a professional Christmas lights installer. Every year, more than a few emergency room doctors find themselves dealing with injuries to poorly-prepared homeowners who attempt to install their own Christmas light displays (there is even the occasional death involved in such situations). Hiring a pro installer is a safe and efficient way to get a home or business decorated for the holidays. But just as it’s important for a dedicated do-it-yourselfer to learn the details about how to install a Christmas lights display, someone seeking to hire a pro-installer needs to know enough about it all to make a smart choice on which installer to use.
We’ve put together seven tips to help you make that decision:
Low bids can signal low quality.
There are people out there who figure the only qualification for being a Christmas light installer is the ownership of an extension ladder. Given the exceptionally low overhead involved with an extension ladder, such an installer tends to work pretty cheap. Please, avoid hiring anyone whose prices sound just too good to be true. Odds are they don’t have a whole lot of experience, don’t put a lot of design thought into their work and—this one is big—don’t have the basic understanding of electricity necessary to do the job safely. Cut-rate installers can also be less than reliable, because they’re offering this service as something they do on the side, rather than as a regular business with a reputation to protect. If a cut-rate guy says he’ll be at your house on Saturday, but lends his extension ladder to his brother-in-law on Friday, you could be out of luck.
Insurance is a must-have
If you find someone you’re confident in (who doesn’t leave you feeling he just decided to start installing Christmas lights shortly before you dialed his number), make sure he’s invested enough in his business to be insured. Since it involves both tall ladders and electricity, Christmas light installation comes with some inherent risks; in fact, those risks may be the very reason why you don’t want to do the installation yourself. Don’t be shy about asking if the installer you’re considering is insured and the extent of the insurance he carries. It’s not an insulting question; it’s a question that shows you’re a careful consumer who wants to know that anyone working on your property can count on the protection of insurance, should injury to themselves, or damage to your home, occur while they’re working on your project.
Make sure professional grade lights are being used.
If you happen to run into your installer in the parking lot of your local big-box retail outlet, and you see him loading up his truck or van with boxes of Christmas lights, consider cancelling your appointment with him. Professional grade lights are not what you find at retail stores, and any installer using them is tipping his hand about just how much experience and knowledge he has about the job he says he can do. Of course, since you can’t count on running into your installer at the mall, the best thing to do is ask where he gets his lights and then check out that supplier. If he isn’t buying from a supply house that specializes in commercial-grade lights, either look for another installer or look into buying the lights yourself. If you need a recommendation, we can guarantee you’ll get nothing but the best, professional-grade Christmas lights from a website called ChristmasDesigners.com. Seriously, we deal in only top-quality material.
Requests for large upfront payments are a red flag.
Asking for some good-faith money up front is a fairly common practice with reputable Christmas light installers, but if someone asks you for more than half the cost up front, give him your most polite smile and tell him you won’t be using his services. If an installer can’t afford to start work on your project without a large deposit, that could mean an unstable business. And, to put it in a slightly more cynical light, if all that upfront money is followed by delays and poor service, a less-than-reputable installer may count on your unwillingness to cancel the job and pursue a refund, while stringing you along about a completion date.
Make sure your installer has installed successfully for other people.
Christmas is a time of joy. Right? And Christmas light installers are in the business of helping to spread joy. Right? That means any installer worth his salt should be able to put you in touch with a lot of happy people who have used his services and would enjoy an opportunity to give him a recommendation. Find out how long your installer has been in business and ask for as many references as he can give you.
Find out what happens if things go wrong.
Even the most competent professional Christmas lights installers can be somewhat lax when it comes to laying out a complete business model that covers every step in the customer experience, especially where it concerns how to handle any problems that might arise. Suppose you don’t like the way an installation crew is behaving or treating your property? What if the crew isn’t installing to the specifications you agreed on when hiring the company? What’s the procedure for replacing lights that go out in the middle of the season? Before you sign on the dotted line, make sure your installer has a stated policy on dealing with customer issues. That includes making sure you won’t be charged an unreasonable fee if a crew has to return to your home or business in order to replace burned out lights or troubleshoot a malfunction. Unexpected problems are a fact of life, so don’t expect an installer to guarantee that nothing can go wrong; just make sure you have a guarantee of fair treatment and having your issues dealt with within a reasonable amount of time.
Avoid one-man operations.
A one-man band with various musical instruments strapped to him is a fun novelty, but you wouldn’t hire one to play your daughter’s wedding reception. Right? Apply that same line of thinking to selecting a Christmas lights installer. Sure, your installer will most likely do different types of work during the not-Christmas time of year. Just make sure you’re not hiring someone who (largely because he owns the aforementioned extension ladder or can borrow one from his brother-in-law) jumps into the business every season for some quick cash. It’s not your job to fund someone’s Christmas shopping. A reputable, professional Christmas lights installer will NOT be a one-man band. He will have a team that, while they most likely do other types of work the rest of the year, know what they’re doing with Christmas lights. And he will have enough people on that team to provide qualified installation and maintenance service throughout the season.
Whatever you do, don’t delay.
Whichever way you go with your Christmas lights display, we strongly recommend getting started as soon as possible:
Qualified do-it-yourselfer? (Honestly, why are you still reading?) Get your design done and order all the lights you need, along with any other supplies, so you’ll have everything on hand and ready to go when you have a window of time to install your display.
Hiring a pro-installer? Do your research and get on the calendar with a reputable installer as soon as possible. The best installers have a lot of repeat customers, so calling early gives you your best shot at getting your display up when you want it up.
However you get that display up and running, here’s wishing you a wonderful time enjoying it!