Things to Know Before Buying an Artificial Christmas Tree
Artificial Christmas trees are great for so many reasons. They’re easy to set up and lightweight, they don’t drop needles, and getting one means you don’t have to lug a real, spiky tree around.
Getting a real tree can lead to disappointment; once it’s home you might realise that it’s wonky or spindly, that the decorations won’t stay on, or that it has a ‘bald’ spot. This just simply won’t happen with an artificial tree. Once the branches are sufficiently spread out it will be bushy and full year after year, with plenty of space for decorations. Plus, there are some extremely realistic models on the market nowadays.
They might be artificial, but there’s still a forest-worth of options to choose from. There are a few things to consider when trying to choose the best artificial Christmas tree, so I’ve put together the following information to help you make an informed choice:
Buying the Right Size
I think it’s fair to say we all like the thought of having a massive Christmas tree. Our inner-child still seems to think that’s a really fun idea. But then we’re faced with the reality, and something that really doesn’t sound fun: having to squish a huge tree into the house, and maybe even needing to lop the top off so that it fits.
So, let’s avoid extra stress during the festive season, and start by getting the tape measure out.
Find out how much space you realistically have to offer your new artificial tree. A lot of us like to get the biggest tree we can, but when it’s brushing the ceiling it doesn’t tend to look very good.
You’ll want to get something which is, maximum, around six inches shorter than the ceiling.
It’s worth thinking about the width too. You don’t want your tree to over-dominate a room. It’s no good if the bushy branches cover half your TV screen – how will you watch all those classic Christmas repeats?
For this reason, slim-line trees are very popular in smaller living spaces – they make it possible to have a tree, but tuck away into corners much better than standard trees.
Also, make sure the space you’ve reserved for your tree has a plug nearby so you don’t have to trail cables for lights all around the room – this doesn’t look festive, will potentially get chewed by the dog, and people will inevitably trip over them.
Building the Tree
Most artificial trees nowadays are divided into 2 or 3 sections and don’t require any tools to put together.
The stand usually slots into place, and the tree sections simply fit into each other. There are usually some sorts of screws or similar on the base, to secure the tree and stop it falling over.
After the initial assembly, the most important thing is to ‘fluff up’ your artificial tree. Trees fresh out of the box look sad, flat and sometimes fit for the bin, but they only need re-arranging!
Pull those branches out, spread the tips, and you’ll be amazed how it goes from a depressingly squished sight to a full and handsome tree.
Don’t rush this process – it can sometimes take a surprisingly long time, but it’s better to be thorough so that you’re happy with the results.
Lighting and Extras
The idyllic idea of decorating the Christmas tree creates lovely festive imagery: carols, mulled wine and laughter. A blissful evening enjoyed by all…
The reality can often be quite different: the kids are bored, you’re tangled in lighting, the bauble hooks are missing, and everyone’s nerves are getting more frayed by the second.
That perfect Instagram photo does not materialise because no-one is speaking.
Artificial trees could help make Christmas a bit less stressful, particularly if you get a pre-lit tree.
Pre-lit trees prevent the frustration of dealing with the lights that got slung, tangled, back into the box last year.
Plus, they automatically look good with no effort, as the lights are already artfully and perfectly arranged on the tree.
A general consensus is that you need 100 lights per foot of tree – so six-footers should have around 600 lights. It’s a matter of personal taste, but that can mean a lot of lights to buy separately.
It’s possible to find pre-lit trees with a lot of lights already attached, or a sparser covering if that’s what you prefer. Particularly useful is the fact that one pre-lit tree only requires one plug, whereas running several sets of lights on the tree can sometimes be a logistical nightmare when it comes to sockets.
Amongst the products features on the page there are also artificial Christmas trees with extras such as cones, glitter, artificial snow and other festive touches.
These trees have the added benefit or not even needing to be decorated if you don’t feel like it. Simply fluff, plug and the job’s done. Freeing up more time for more internet-shopping and mince-pie-eating…
A Sturdy Base
The appearance of the tree is important, but so are the basics like having a sturdy base. You might ultimately cover it with wrapping paper or a sleeve because you don’t like how it looks, but it’s an important part of the tree.
A flimsy base that doesn’t support its own weight will likely be a disaster. You don’t need the added stress of picking baubles off the living-room floor on Christmas morning because the cat decided to scale the tree in the night and knocked it over.
A sturdy metal stand is best for ensuring the tree won’t topple over or lean when your ornaments are in place.
The majority of artificial Christmas trees come with either a plastic or metal base. If, after a season, you feel that the base that came with your tree isn’t up to the job, you can either weight the base down, or buy a heavier one separately.
Spend As Much As You Can
Cheap artificial trees can look extremely fake and their quality is often poor. I know it’s a drain on your waning Christmas-time wallet, but the best artificial Christmas trees will last decades so it’s worth forking out a little bit more.
One of the benefits of buying an artificial tree is keeping it long-term. The better ones can last ten years or more, so it can work out cheaper in the end.
Cheap trees are packaged with a host of problems. They may not be fire retardant for starters and the flimsy tinsel branches just don’t cut the festive look. You need as many tips as possible and plenty of branches too, something often lacking with cheaper models.
That said, we don’t all have hundreds to shell out on a decorative tree and some of the cheaper trees are actually pretty good – generally, manufacturers are getting better with design and materials.
The most important thing to look out for is that the tree is fire retardant.
Secondly, try to go for a tree with a mix of PVC and PE branches – these are generally more expensive, but they look more realistic thanks to the mix of textures and branch shapes.
You must look for a flame-retardant tree. Real trees dry out and become flammable, but cheap artificial trees can cause fires too.
If the tree you’re looking at doesn’t specifically state that it is flame retardant, contact the manufacturer to ask. If you’re not sure, it’s better to give it a miss. It’s not worth the risk when there are definitely safer models out there.
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Artificial Christmas Tree FAQs
Are artificial Christmas trees better for the environment?
You might think that real trees are better for the environment, but this isn’t necessarily the case.
Artificial trees don’t leave huge carbon footprint – they can be used for ten years or more which offsets its transport and construction costs. On the other hand, real trees create a yearly carbon footprint. Not everyone lives near a garden centre and all those trips to buy a real tree add up.
Am I allergic to my Christmas tree?
Real trees can emit scent and pollen when they warm up even during winter.
If you find your eyes are watering, or you’re sneezing and itching at home then it’s time to try an artificial tree.
What are ‘tips’ on an artificial tree?
Tips refer to branch off-shoots and their combined density on a tree. More tips mean a fuller denser look, fewer tips means its less bushy.
In general, more tips are better, but if you have lots of decorations a lower tip count is just fine.
It’s worth checking the material of those tips too. They are usually made from PE or PVC. PVC needles are attached to branches, whereas PE tips are part of the whole tree. PE usually looks more natural and lasts longer, depending on how you look after the tree.
How do I put my artificial Christmas tree together?
This depends on the type of tree you purchase. Most artificial trees will dismantle into a few separate parts that can be slotted together. Put the bottom of the tree into the stand, then add the remaining ‘trunk’ sections on top. These are often labelled, so you know which order to stack them in.
Fluff the branches by separating the wires evenly. Attach the branches to the stand, using the smallest branches at the very top of the tree. Take a step back to see if there are any sections that look uneven.
How should I put lights on my artificial Christmas tree?
Putting lights on the Christmas tree is the source of many family fall outs, but this task is actually relatively simple. For a standard light display, you should use 100 lights for every 1 ft of tree. A 4 ft tree looks great with 400 lights.
Divide the tree into 3 equally-sized triangle sections. Plug in the first set of lights and put the last bulb at the very top of the tree. Weave the lights back and forth across a small vertical section of the tree. Once you reach the bottom, plug in the next set of lights and do the same for another section until the whole tree is covered in lights.
How can I clean my artificial Christmas tree?
Artificial trees can accumulate dust from standing in storage, so they will need cleaning before you decorate. Use an upholstery bristle brush attachment on your vacuum if you have one.
Test a small section at the bottom to check the brush can clean the tree without damaging the tips. Handheld vacuums are better as they have less power.
Start vacuuming from the top of the tree to the bottom, gently removing dust without allowing any part of the tree to be sucked into the hose.
If you don’t want to vacuum your tree or you don’t have a handheld vacuum, wipe down the tree using mild soap and water. Wipe the branches and the trunk, working from top to bottom and rinsing the cloth regularly.
Where should I store my artificial tree?
We all tend to put our fake Christmas trees in the loft, but this is the worst place for them.
Temperature changes up there cause problems. It’s boiling in the summer, freezing in the winter and everything in between during spring and autumn. These changes create condensation which damages the plastic and metal components.
You may also have rodents or other visitors up there that chew or nest in the cosy branches. This leads to a tatty looking tree in December.
The best places to store your artificial Christmas tree will be a cupboard with a steady temperature (under the stairs for example) or beneath a bed.
How to dispose of an artificial Christmas tree?
Artificial trees can’t be recycled as they are made up of too many different materials. It’s important you try to get as much use out of your tree as you can, as it will most likely end up in a landfill.
You don’t want to have a negative impact on the environment just because you’ve decided you’re done with your artificial tree.
Many people choose to donate their artificial tree to a charity shop if they are still in a relatively good condition.
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