Christmas Trees 101 - Sutton — Canadian Real Estate Listings & Agents |

Christmas Trees 101

04 December 2018

A Christmas tree laden with decorations topples over, bursts into flames and sends the family cat scampering up the curtains. It sounds like a scene from a National Lampoon movie involving Chevy Chase and a drunken squirrel, but every December, doctors and veterinarians across Canada treat burns, poisonings, allergic reactions, and the results of swallowing small ornaments.

Mould on a freshly-cut tree is one of those unexpected health hazards. People often do not know they have a mould allergy until they experience their first reaction. Even if a tree contains small amounts of mould when it is cut down, it can rapidly multiply in a warm, indoor environment. Trees usually also harbour pollen, which can bring on asthma attacks. Reduce the risk (and help remove insects) by cleaning the tree before bringing it indoors. Place it on the ground or a garage floor with a drain. Slosh a few buckets full of tepid, soapy water over the branches and trunk followed by a solution of water and white vinegar. Finish by rinsing with clean water. Allow the tree to dry in an upright position before bringing it indoors.

Live trees can pose a significant fire risk unless they are handled properly. When a tree is cut down, natural resins in the plant form a seal over the wound. When a tree is cut at the trunk to become a Christmas tree, that seal prevents the tree from absorbing water. Saw off the bottom few centimetres of the trunk, then immediately place it into a container of fresh water.

Do not trim off any bark to make the trunk fit into a stand because water moves up the trunk via the xylem layer of the bark; invest in a larger diameter stand, if needed. Check water levels daily and replenish often to help keep the needles moist and green for as long as possible.

When purchasing an artificial tree, look for one labelled “fire-resistant.” According to the Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs, this does not mean that it cannot burn, but rather that it should not easily catch fire.

Whether your Christmas tree is real or artificial, be sure to keep it far away from heat sources such as fireplaces, lamps, heaters and candles.

How many strings of lights can you safely plug into an extension cord? The Ontario Association of Fire Chiefs recommend using no more than three standard sets of lights per extension cord to reduce the risk of an electrical fire. Overburdened cords and outlets are not the only light-related fire hazards. Consider:

  • Hot bulbs: Old-fashioned, incandescent bulbs can become very hot and, in some cases, the heat is enough to cause the tree and decorations to ignite. LED light bulbs are a good choice because the bulbs remain relatively cool and are energy efficient.
  • Short circuits: It is impossible to predict if or when a bulb will short circuit, so it is a good idea to always unplug lights before you go to bed or leave the house.
  • Damage: Before you hang lights, check the entire string for any exposed wires, broken sockets, or broken or loose bulbs and replace them. If you need to purchase a new string, choose products bearing an accredited certification from agencies such as CSA or cUL.
  • Defects: Canada’s federal government provides product alerts and recall notices on a variety of products including defective and potentially dangerous holiday lights. Take a moment to visit If your lights have been recalled, the retailer should issue you a refund.

Everyone loves sparkling and colourful ornaments—especially pets and children, who may try to grasp an ornament and bring the tree toppling onto them. Avoid using food ornaments (e.g., candy canes and wrapped chocolate), any items that may shatter and snow globes, which contain liquids full of chemical preservatives, in some cases, even poisonous antifreeze. Hang ornaments high above the reach of a curious pet or a child.

To secure your tree, tie a clear fishing line around the trunk then attach the line to the wall using a molly screw. A heavy tree stand with a wide base will also help to prevent the tree from tipping over.

Instead of a disastrous Chevy Chase Christmas tree mishap, with a few precautions, you can enjoy a holly, jolly holiday.