Documentation and Labeling

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As you design, construct and install your display everything you're doing is fresh in your mind and can seem obvious. In a year's time, however, it's amazing how many cobwebs have formed in your memory. You can lose valuable time trying to remember or reinvent what you did the previous year. We're all busy, but it really does pay to Document, Document, Document what you did. And Label, Label, Label anything you take apart that needs to be reassembled.

Of course, you will want to document and share your good ideas on the Do It Yourself Christmas Wiki!


First of all, determine a location on your computer's file system where your documentation will be stored. Then create a set of folders and sub-folders that will organize the contents of your documentation in a logical order - a rational place for everything. The organization doesn't have to be perfect - you can update it as you go and realize something is missing. But DO start with a robust initial structure rather than dump it all into a single folder.

Design Documentation

  • If you developed with a design tool, made calculations or sketched diagrams, save the resultant files, spreadsheets, diagrams, etc.
  • If you organized your layout as suggested in the Hookup article, save your rationale/decisions
  • How much current does each component draw?
  • To which GFCI circuit was the component connected?
  • Are there any line length or location (for performance reasons) restrictions?
  • What are the part numbers/specifications of the components?
  • Where did you get the components? How much did they cost?

Construction Documentation

Unless it's really obvious, err on the side of over-documenting.

  • Document how you built each display so that it it gets damaged or you want to add another similar display in the future you can duplicate it
  • What materials did you use?
  • What dimensions?
  • Is it more efficient to assemble in a certain order?
  • How did you attach (glue, tie wraps, Velcro®, zip ties, etc.)?
  • Any special processes (temperature, cure time, disposal of hazardous materials, etc.)?

Installation Documentation

Take copious amounts of pictures!

  • Assembly steps as the display is erected
  • Overall/overview of the entire display, and of key sections of the display
  • Close-ups of details
    • Attachment points
    • Routing and securing of wiring
    • Orientation - left/right, top/bottom, front/back
    • Location of stakes used to anchor display components and wires to prevent tripping
  • Where and how you stored the display off-season

The Final Product

Don't forget to take photos and videos of your final result in action. If you broadcast music on a FM station, place a FM radio tuned to your frequency next to the video camera, and remember to stay silent during the recording.

If something doesn't look quite right in a subsequent year, you can go back to the previous year to find out if it was always that way, or if a problem has developed.



Anything that plugs in or is connected needs a label. Use Ideal® or Klein® adhesive wire labels - they have excellent adhesive and weather resistant qualities.

  • Plug and Receptacle marking

Display Components

Mark the display item itself, or use garden plant markers to label where each light display goes, which end of the item goes to the North, etc.

  • This is the North end of my Family room display

Use painter's masking tape to tag extension cords with their length. When you're assembling your display less time will be spent guessing which cord is longer.

  • Extension cord marking