Must-Know Tips and Tricks for Christmas Trees

Use these tips to make your holiday decorating that much easier.

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woman trimming branches off the base of a cut christmas tree
Family Handyman

Christmas Tree Basics

Check the height of the tree before you bring it into the house to make sure it’ll fit under the ceiling. Then if you have to shorten the trunk, the sawdust will stay outside. Cut an inch or so off the bottom of the trunk. The fresh wood can absorb more water, so the tree will stay fresher longer. You’ll also want to measure the trunk diameter by test-fitting the stand. If the tree’s too big, you’ll need to either get a bigger stand;—or start whittling. Use a lopper to trim any bottom branches that don’t clear the sides of the stand.

Want to bring joy home this holiday season? Check out the best tips to make your home merry and bright.

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christmas tree set up idea with the base screwed to masonite to keep the tree from tipping
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Tip-Proof a Christmas Tree

To make a Christmas tree stand more firmly on deep, spongy carpet, set the stand on a piece of 1/4-in. hardboard (a.k.a. Masonite). 4 x 8-ft. sheets are available at home centers (some home centers also have 4 x 4-ft. sheets). To make the tree tip-proof, bolt the tree stand to the hardboard using 1/4-in. pan head machine screws. On wood or tile floors, cover the screwheads with duct tape so they don’t scratch the floor.

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a woman adjusting the base of a christmas tree while a child adds ornaments to the tree
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Lazy Susan Tree Stand for Wood Floors

Winding the lights around your Christmas tree can be a pain. Here’s a great way to rotate the tree in its stand without scratching up your hardwood floor. Put a bath rug underneath the tree stand, fabric side down, rubber side up. You can easily turn the tree to string your lights and place your ornaments just where you want them. It makes ‘undecorating’ the tree a breeze too. Fold the rug under the tree skirt to keep it hidden. After you’re done setting up the tree, watch one of these new Christmas movies on Netflix.
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woman and boy placing a tree bag at the base of a christmas tree before standing it up in the stand
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Buy a Tree Bag When You Get Your Tree

Slip a tree disposal bag over the base of the tree before putting it in the stand. The bag is hidden under the tree skirt until you’re ready to haul the tree out the door—without leaving a trail of needles through the house. Just remove the ornaments from the tree, pull the bag up like a pair of pants, and you’re on your way. Don’t forget to tear a slit for the trunk so the tree can get water! Here are some fun ways to celebrate Christmas this year.

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a woman tightens the bolts on a christmas tree stand using a drill
Family Handyman

Easy Bolt Tightening

Tightening tree-stand bolts by hand is tiring and takes forever. Try this, our favorite Christmas tree hint from our archives: Cut off the little L’s at the end of the tree stand bolts with a hacksaw. Chuck the ends of the bolts into a variable-speed drill and tighten them into the trunk. Your tree will be secure, and you can get out from underneath the tree and get decorating.
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woman cutting off a christmas tree net after the tree has been set up indoors
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Don’t Cut Off the Netting-Yet

When you bring your tree home, carry it into the house and set it up in the stand before removing the netting. It’ll slip right through doors, hallways and stairwells without making a mess. You’ll find it easier to get at the tree stand screws and easier to tell if the tree is straight.
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christmas hacks snow saucer unerneath the tree base
Family Handyman

No-Spill Christmas Tree

A plastic snow saucer, the kind with the flat area in the center, is great for keeping overflowing Christmas tree water from staining your floor. Place a carpet remnant under the saucer to prevent scratches on wood flooring. Dress your home up with these chic outdoor Christmas decorations.

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christmas tree trick for watering that will save your knees
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Knee-Saving Watering Technique

To make tree watering easier, hang a funnel from a tree branch with a loop made from a wire clothes hanger. Then slip a plastic tube over the end of the funnel and run the tube along the trunk and into the water reservoir. To prevent overfilling, have one of the kids watch the water level or put a finger in the reservoir and tell you when it’s full.

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Cat playing with the christmas tree
MaxBaumann/Getty Images

Cat-Proof Christmas Tree

Two or three lengths of fishing line can keep climbing cats or rambunctious kids from tipping your tree. Just tie one end of each line to the top of the tree and the other to something sturdy: a screw driven into an inconspicuous spot on the wall, moldings above windows or doors, or even a curtain rod.

If you want a tree that you can keep out of the reach of curious cats, check out this succulent Christmas tree.

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woman watering a christmas tree safely
Family Handyman

All About Christmas Tree Safety

Keep your Christmas tree fire-safe by keeping it watered. Buy a fresh tree, pull light plugs overnight and keep it well away from candles and fireplaces. Click for more fire prevention tips.

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Potted evergreen small Christmas fir tree near house
dmf87/Getty Images

Plant a Live Christmas Tree

Live trees are sensitive. For a tree to have any chance of survival, it can’t undergo extreme climatic changes. When a tree is brought into a warm home, it will react as if it’s spring and start growing. Once it has entered this growing stage, it will likely die if it suffers through a prolonged freeze when it’s set outside after Christmas.

If you live in a moderate climate, when the Christmas season is over, gradually get your tree accustomed to the outdoors by storing it in the garage or three-season porch before planting it. The time for heavy frost must be passed before you take it outside. When you finally plant your tree, place it in well-drained soil where it will get full sun.

If you live in a cold climate, a live tree really isn’t practical. You’d need to leave it outside on a screen porch or deck the entire time so it would stay more or less dormant. And you probably don’t want your ornaments outside. For those who have houseplants, here’s how to keep them alive in the winter.

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extension pole with metal wire hook for putting up or taking down christmas lights
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Hook for Tall Trees

Putting up and taking down holiday lights in a tall outdoor tree can be tricky. The easiest method we’ve found is to use a paint roller extension pole with a hook on the end. You can use a wire coat hanger or other heavy-gauge wire. Just embed it in the pole threads, bend the wire up into a hook and secure it with duct tape to keep the hook from sliding around the pole. This trick works well with these vintage Christmas decorations.

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person using soft bandage wrapping to wrap pieces of an artificial christmas tree for storage
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Soft Artificial Tree Binding

When dismantling an artificial Christmas tree, use the ribbons to tie up the boughs of each section. Or, pull out a roll of self-adhesive bandage wrap. The wrap is strong and reusable, it won’t damage the tree and it’s not very expensive. Next, browse this list of beautiful Christmas decorations.
The Family Handyman
Originally Published on The Family Handyman