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Handy Tips for Taking Care of Christmas Trees

Use these tips to make your holiday festivities easier

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Buying a Christmas tree at a garden storeBetsie Van der Meer/Getty Images

Christmas Tree Basics

You found it. After standing up and spinning around dozens of trees, you finally found the perfect Christmas tree. Now that you’ve got it home and unloaded it from the roof of the car, there are a few important things to do that will help get it in the house and make it easier to care for throughout the month.

First, measure the height of the tree before you bring it into the house. That helps ensure that it fits until the ceiling with enough room for decorations. If it’s too tall, you can shorten the trunk outside or in the garage where you don’t have to worry about a pile of sawdust all over the rug. Even if you don’t need to shorten it, it’s a good idea to cut an inch or so off the bottom of the trunk, or have that done where you buy it. Fresh wood will absorb more water, helping keep the tree fresher longer.

Next, test fit your Christmas tree with the stand. You may need a bigger stand if the tree trunk is too big. Or, you can whittle it down to fit. Now’s the time to trim the lower branches too. That way there’s plenty of room between the floor and the lower reaches of the tree. Remember to use a lopper to trim branches.

Leave the net on it until you’ve got in the stand and set up in the house.

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Tighten Bolts the Easy Way

Tightening the bolts on most stands is a pain, literally, and it takes forever. To save time and your hands, get a little help from your electric drill. Start by using a hacksaw to cut off the little ‘L’ at the end of the tree stand bolts. Chuck the ends of the bolts into your drill and tighten them. You’ll have your tree locked down in minutes. If one of the bolts breaks or gets stuck, don’t stress it; you can fix them easily.

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Secure the Tree

If you’re concerned about your Christmas tree standing firmly on your carpet, put the stand on a piece of 1/4-in. hardboard. You can get 4 x 8-ft. sheets, or smaller, at any home center. If you really want to lock it down, use 1/4-in. pan head machine screws to mount the tree stand to the wood. If you have wood or tile floors, just put some duct tape over the screwheads so they don’t scratch the floor.

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Christmas tree watering

Knee-Saving Watering Technique

You have to keep the tree watered, so it doesn’t dry out and leave brown needles all over the floor and to keep the tree from becoming a fire hazard. But squeezing under a tree with a watering can is a little difficult, so to make watering it easier, hang a funnel with a plastic tube attached to the end of it from a tree branch. Then, run the tube along the trunk and into the water reservoir. Have someone keep an eye on the water reservoir to prevent overfilling.

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No-Spill Christmas Tree

Water leaking from the reservoir at the bottom of the tree stand can cause serious damage to your floors. One easy way to prevent that is by using a plastic snow saucer, the kind with the flat area in the center, underneath the tree stand. If you have wood floors, use a carpet remnant or an extra bath mat to put under the saucer to prevent scratches. If you’re really worried about leaks, you can also use technology to detect water leaks.

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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. Don’t forge to tear a slit for the trunk so the tree can get water. 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 and you’re on your way.

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All About Christmas Tree Safety

Fire Safety

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

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Hook for Tall TreesFamily Handyman

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.

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Soft Artificial Tree BindingFamily Handyman

Soft Artificial Tree Binding

When dismantling our artificial Christmas tree, we always used the ribbons it was originally packed with to tie up the boughs of each section. Last year, the ribbons finally wore out and we couldn't find a strong enough replacement. Instead, we came up with a terrific substitute—self-adhesive 'bandage' wrap. The wrap is strong and reusable, it won't damage the tree and it's not very expensive.

Check out some tips on how to keep cats out of your Christmas tree and more Christmas tree care.

Ryan Van Bibber
Ryan Van Bibber is a senior editor at Family Handyman. He learned DIY helping his father, a carpenter, at home and on job sites over the years, putting those skills into practice as a homeowner. A resident of Santa Fe, New Mexico, he is especially proud of his aptitude with a swamp cooler, repairing stucco and engineering makeshift shade. As a career journalist, Ryan covered the NFL for more than a decade, worked as a senior editor at Outside as well as writing and editing buying guides and product reviews for several national publications. When he’s not working, you can find him on the trails with his family and two very good dogs.