Step-by-Step Instructions for Replacing Lights on Yard Sculptures

October 24, 2020

Leaves are changing colors, pumpkin spice is in the air, it’s time to pull out and assess how last year’s Christmas decorations are holding up.

Most Christmas 3D graphic yard sculpture is lit with incandescent light strings that have an approximate average lifespan of 3000 hours so it pays to know how to replace the lights instead of purchasing new sculptures.

Here is a 5-minute video and a detailed written list below with tips to help with that process.

Jump to transcript

Step-by-Step Instructions for Replacing Yard Art Lights

Shellie Gardner
Quick tips to make this task as quick and as easy as possible.

Special Equipment

  • Adjustable wrench
  • Wire Cutters

Materials
  

  • 1 or more Christmas Light Strings See all the lights that are available with 2.5 inch spacing which is the type most commonly purchased for use on yard art frames.
  • 100 or more Sculpture Clips Be sure to measure to ensure a good fit on your frame.
  • 1 or more rolls Electrical tape

Installation Tips
 

  • Do not remove old lights until you are ready to replace them. This is not the time to tidy things up and "throw out the trash". Those light strings will be your installation guide and help you choose replacement strings.
  • Examine the old light strings. Measure distance between bulbs. Take notes about number of lights, number of strings. The more closely the current installation can be copied, the better. Build a shopping list for lights strings based on all of these variables. Check out different colors of bulbs and wire colors.
  • Measure the frame diameter. You can't assume or eyeball this measurement. It requires a couple of tools. Grab an adjustable wrench and ruler with 1/16" divisions or a caliper. Tighten down the wrench on the frame in several places and measure and record the width of the gap. This is your "frame size". This is also the size of the clip you'll need for this project.
    Sculpture clips fit a standard mini lights string on one side and your frame on the other (that's the measurement you just completed). Note, some LED light strings have bases that are the right size to use with this stule of clips but some are larger than standard size and may not work. We've listed all of our LED light strings that will work with our clips in the clip description.
    Measuring in several places is especially important on vintage or older frames that have been painted and are worn in places. Two clip sizes may be required.
  • Plan to purchase one sculpture clip for each bulb plus a few extra for good measure or the next project.
    After measuring and roughly counting the lights currently on the sculpture, put pen to paper and list all the availble lengths of lights that will work on your project.
    Keep in mind that light strings cannot be shortened so you may need to mix a short string with a longer one to combine into your desired length. Also, remember that not more than 500 bulbs can be run in the same circuit so plan for splitters accordingly.
    Don't forget matching extension cords and electrical tape that matches the wiring of the lights.
  • Find a wire cutter to remove the clips or wire ties that are currently attaching the original lights.
  • Set out electrical tape. Grab a pair of scissors. (Do not use anyone's fabric scissors. This is essential for domestic harmony.)
  • Queue up your favorite music or movie to play in the background while you work. Pick an adult beverage. (Iced tea is fine for now or a spirited alternative could make this process pretty adventurous.)

Tips while replacing the lights

  • Plug in all new light strings before installing to confirm there are no issues. Better to know before rather than after installation. Unplug after testing.
    Plug the new lights every half string or so to make sure a bulb hasn't become unseated during the installation process and to test your work. Sometimes issues with wiring harnessees aren't revealed until the lights are wiggled around a bit.
  • Start at the end with the male plug.
    Observe how the old light string is attached to the frame. Unclip a couple feet of lights. Snap clips onto your new light bulb bases and install them on the frame in the same way the oritinal lights were installed.
    Easy.
    Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.
  • Did you end up with a "tail" at the end of a newly installed light string? Double it back on the frame until it's used up. the doubling of the lights should not be that obvious from the sidewalk.
  • Plug in the sculpture with all the light strings installed for one final test before moving it to the yard.
  • Consider wrapping male and female plug connections with electrical tape to make the connection weather-resistant and more securely connected together.
    Perform this after final test.
  • Stand back and admire your work with another glass of tea.
Keyword repair, repairing yard art, sculpture clips, yard art, yard sculpture
Tried this project? We’d love to see it.Share your photos! @christmaslightsource or #christmaslightsource on Facebook and Instagram.

Here is repaired Joseph and the rest of the nativity.

Video Transcript

Shellie: Do you have a yard sculpture like this Joseph with burnt-out lights? Don’t throw it away. Replacing the lights is quick and easy. That’s the topic of today’s video. So, you’ve got a yard sculpture that you really love, but the lights are starting to go out. If your frame is standard diameter, using sculpture clips makes that process quick and easy. Here are a few tips. First, don’t remove the lights from the sculpture before you replace them. They’re going to be your guide for choosing what lights to purchase for replacement lights for your whole assembly.

So, what you’re going to want to do is visually inspect the lights on the frames. Take a note of how far apart the lights are. Then do a quick visual estimate of how many lights are actually on the frame. That’s going to let you know how many lights to order. You’ll also want to notice the orientation and the layout. Next, we need to measure your frame so you order the right sculpture clips.

You’ll need just a few pieces of equipment and about five minutes to do that well. This is a sculpture clip. How this works is that one size is the size of a standard mini-light base. And that way, you can just clip it onto your mini-lights. The other side is measured to fit your frame. So, in order to make the right purchase, you need to know what the size or diameter of your frame is. And that’s the size sculpture clip that you’ll order.

In order to measure your frame, the most important piece of equipment you’ll need is an adjustable wrench. So, just take that crescent wrench and pick a place on your frame that’s easy to get to. And tighten your wrench on the frame, and then gently take it off and then measure the distance in the gap. You see the distance here is 1/4 of an inch. So, we’ve measured our gap, and we note that the diameter of this frame is 1/4 of an inch.

If your sculpture is old and has a lot of paint on it, you might need to measure in more than one place. So, after you make that measurement, you’ll be ready to start counting your bulbs visually, getting a rough estimate so that you can order your lights and your sculpture clips. To build your shopping list, count for one sculpture clip per bulb. Then, with your list of lights and your sculpture clips, make an order, and be sure to get a variety of lengths of Christmas lights so that as you go, you can adjust measurements and distances based on your estimation.

First, look for the male plug. This is where you’re going to start. Let’s go ahead and take a look at that. Go for it, Dave. So, all he’s doing is unclipping the lights that are already there, just about a foot or two, a foot, 6 inches at a time. Then you just put the clip on the light. And since you just took it off, you know exactly how to put it right back on. So, you just go through one by one and repeat until you’re finished installing all of your new lights. Dave, what’s your favorite beverage when you’re doing this?

Dave: I would have to say a vodka soda.

Shellie: A vodka soda, a grapefruit vodka soda?

Dave: Yes.

Shellie: Yes. But iced tea works really great as well. So, just keep on going until all of your lights are replaced. So, folks, that’s about how hard it is. Oh, wait, I’m not even in the frame. So, that’s about how hard it is. So, you can see that with the right equipment, this is an easy project. So, you can preserve and keep your yard sculpture.

So, we’re going to finish out Joseph and get him lit up. Now, if you have any questions, please put them in the comments below. Also, be sure to subscribe so you’ll get a notice for all of our videos that are coming up, especially now during the Christmas season. Anyway, I’m Shellie at “Christmas Light Source.”

Dave: And David.

Shellie: And David.

Shellie Gardner
Aside from throwing dinner parties that feature at least two kinds of cheese dip, Shellie's passions include travel, Mid-Century Modern furnishings and finding the perfect street taco. Has been known to snort laugh champagne.

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