We love using rope lights for external Christmas decorations - they look smart, are reliable, and easy to store. The downside is in installation. You can buy multi-purpose plastic clips that work with all lighting systems (C9, C7, mini-lights, rope lights, etc) that work great for installation on gutters and the edge of the roof, but are a real pain on ridgelines. The only way to install these are to slide them under the shingles which starts separating the glue and causing them to lift. They also orientate 90 degrees in the wrong direction and so you end up having the use some other means to attach the rope lights to the clips (assuming you are running along the apex of the roof).
This project builds a simple frame from PVC pipe that stands the lights off the roof itself, and provides an each mounting surface for the lights. It also guarantees the lights will be in sharp, straight lines which makes your house look all that better when lit up at night.
Step 1: Materials Needed
1/2 inch PVC pipe (schedule 40)
1/2 inch PVC "X" fittings
1/2 inch PVC "T" fittings
1/2 inch PVC 45 degree "elbow" fittings
1/2 inch PVC 90 degree "elbow" fittings
Plastic cable ties (I buy them by the bag of 1000)
Marking pen or pencil
PVC pipe cutter
PVC glue (optional)
Estimating of quantities:
I cut my PVC into no longer than 5 foot lengths to prevent sag. You could increase this, but may see sag, or reduce, but use more fittings. The following is a rough estimate of how much material is needed. For ease of terminology I will call the stands at the end of each ridgeline run an "End Stand" and the intermediate stands an "Internal Stand". End and internal stands are built the same way, they use either a "T" fitting (end stands) or an "X" fitting (internal stands) and 2 x 45 degree elbow fittings. Each stand uses 15 inches of pipe - 2 x six inch legs, and 2 x 1.5 inch pieces to join the T/X fitting to the elbow.
Calculate number of stands:
2 x end stands
1 x internal stand for each whole 5 foot length of the ridgeline (subtract one if length of ridgeline is exact multiple of 5 feet)
Calculate total pipe needed:
Length of run on ridgeline + (number of stands x 15 inches)
Calculate number of fittings:
2 x T fittings (one for each end)
1 x X fitting for each internal stand
2 x 45 degree elbow fittings for each end and internal stand
Assume a ridgeline of your roof is 23.5 feet long. You will need:
2 x end stands
4 x internal stands
Fittings will be:
2 x T fittings
4 x X fittings
12 x 45 degree elbow fittings
Pipe will be 23.5 feet + 7.5 feet (6 x stands x 15 inches per stand) = 21 feet.
If the length of the ridgeline is just slightly more than an even multiple of 5 feet (like 16 feet) you may choose to remove the last internal bracket and cut the last piece of pipe to a longer length (6 feet). If two ridgelines meet, you may choose to join them if possible using an appropriate fitting instead of building the end stands for each end.
Step 2: Build the Stands
Building the stands is easy, but time consuming. Using the formula in the previous step cut 2 x six-inch legs for each stand, and 2 x 1.5 inch joiners. Dry fit the T or X fitting to the joiners, add the 45 degree elbows, then a six inch leg on each end. We chose to dry fit all fittings to allow pieces to be moves while on the roof if any tweaks needed to be made. You could also glue them.
Step 3: Assemble the Frame
Add one end frame to the first piece of 5-foot pipe, and then keep adding either internal stands or the other end stand until the length of the ridge line is complete. I assemble the sections on my drive way with 1 x stand and 1 x 5-foot piece of pipe, then throw these on the roof and build the entire structure in place on the roof.
You may need to twist the stands to sit flush, the end result will be a long PVC frame standing off the roof ridge line.
Step 4: Installation of Rope Lights and Examples
I don't have any pictures of how to do this, but the technique is simple:
Starting at the end of the rope furthest from the electrical plug, lay the rope light along the top of the frame and using a cable tie approximately every 12 inches, secure the rope light to the frame.
Pictures show samples from our roof with different scenarios.