Hanging holiday lights? Try hiring an installer

According to the Consumer Product safety Commission, 13,000 people fell off a ladder while decorating for the holidays last year and ended up in the emergency room. Professional holiday lighting installer Jay Nelson is often called for just that reason.

"I've gone to a lot of clients' houses where the wife will say that the husband is either not allowed on the roof or has fallen off the roof for the last time," says Nelson.

Rudy Contratii sets up an elaborate display each year at his house in Fairfax and never even knew there are professional installers.

"I have no fear of a ladder," says Contratti. "Actually I look forward, the higher you go, the better you are."

Many electricians and contractors have added this as a side business during the winter's inevitably slow season. After the holidays, Nelson returns to his mainstay: garden lighting, gutter cleaning and window washing.

"We've seen a lot of increase in the last few years," says Nelson. "We've been pretty steady at an 20 percent growth every year for the last three years."

Contractors generally charge between $200 and $500 for stringing basic lights. They will set up the lights and return after the new year to take them down. Nelson's company brings the works -- lights, timers, extension cords and more.

Angie Hicks from Angie's List has some tips about choosing the right installer:

  • Make sure the company is qualified: Check that the decorator is insured to protect against any falls or accidents, otherwise it falls back on the homeowner.
  • Ask about costs: Do the installers charge by the square foot or by the hour? Are you required to purchase the company's lights and decorations?
  • Check rules and regulations: If you belong to a homeowner's association, ask what decorations are allowed to be added to your home's exterior.
  • Ask about maintenance: If a bulb or timer goes out, do they have staff available to return to your home and fix or repair the decorations?

Also, when you're weighing it all out don't forget that a trip to the emergency room can cost a lot more than hiring a pro to string your lights.

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