Buying a Christmas Tree? Here’s Every Measurement You Need to Know

published Dec 12, 2019
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Credit: Laura Hoerner

Anyone who’s tried to fit a too-big Christmas tree through their front door can relate: When it comes to this holiday decor, your most powerful tool is a tape measure. Whether you’re cutting yours at a farm, picking it up at a lot, or even ordering it online (fresh or artificial), here are the numbers you need to know.

For height, aim for 1 to 1 ½ feet lower than your ceiling

You’ll need room for a topper, and anything higher will start to make your ceilings look super low. If you have standard ceilings—9 feet—then your tree should be about 7 ½ feet tall.

Allow about one foot between your tree and surrounding furniture

Measure the area where you’re setting up the tree to make sure there’s plenty of space around it. Ideally, there should be a one-foot border on all sides.

Leave at least five feet between your tree and any heat source

Christmas trees cause upwards of 150 fires per year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. Maintaining a safe distance of at least five feet between your tree and heaters, fireplaces, and radiators helps prevent it. Plus, heat sources dry out trees’ needles, making them go brown and fall off faster.

Cut about ½-inch off the trunk before placing it in water

Trimming off the dry end of the trunk will help your tree better absorb water once it’s in the stand. Make sure to cut straight across using a saw; you can usually have this done on site if you don’t have a saw at home. Don’t whittle away the sides of the trunk to your stand, as this can inhibit water uptake.

Measure the tree trunk to know how much water to give

Trees need about one quart of water per inch of trunk diameter, says the National Christmas Tree Association. Make sure your stand has enough capacity for your tree to get enough fluids. Check the stand twice a day to make sure your tree’s trunk is still submerged.

Use the height of the tree to figure out how many lights you’ll need

A good rule of thumb is to allow for 100 lights per each foot or foot-and-a-half of tree height. If you’re buying ornaments, go for about 10 per vertical foot of tree.