Introduction: PVC Pipe Tunnel of Light

About: We're Mother Daughter Projects, sharing our DIY adventures as we learn to maintain, improve, decorate, and use tech in our homes.

For the past few years, I’ve (Vicki) strung lights in the tree above the sidewalk to my front door. The branches are now too tall to comfortable reach so I needed a new way to have lights over the sidewalk.

We decided to use PVC pipe to construct a structure on which to secure lights. We first used PVC pipe when we made a “tent” for grandson Tyler’s bunk bed. That’s where we learned it was pretty bendy in the smaller diameters so we thought it would be the perfect material to use.

It must be noted that our final design was our second try at a PVC arch. That’s the cool thing about designing a DIY project. Sometimes it works out in the original design, sometimes it's necessary to develop a plan B!

In designing the arch, it had to meet a couple of criteria: materials must be readily available and it must be collapsible for storage, so parts could not be permanently glued.

Step 1: Gather Materials

  • (6) pieces of 1/2” PVC pipe (it comes in 10' lengths)
  • (6) PVC 45-degree elbow fittings
  • (3) PVC Cross fittings
  • (6) Pieces 2’ long x 1/2” rebar
  • (2) Packages netting LED lights (4’x6’)
  • (2) Packages App Lights
  • (2) Cans satin black spray paint that is good on plastic
  • Package 8” black zip ties
  • Miter Saw, Wire cutters, Mallet/ Gloves, Mineral spirits/ Rags

Step 2: Cut PVC Pipe

Using a miter saw (or hacksaw) make the following PVC cuts:

  • Cut each 10’ pipe to 8.5’ (put aside 2 of the cut pieces)
  • From the remaining cut off pieces, cut (6) sections of pipe each 4” in length

Step 3: ​Create the Top Section of the Arch

  • Connect the two PVC pipes you set aside to the cross fittings
  • Place the (6) 4” pieces into the cross pieces
  • Attach the elbow to the 4” pieces making sure they point away from the top of the arch.
  • *If you are concerned about the pieces coming apart, the pipe fittings and pipes can be glued into place.

Step 4: ​Use a Mallet to Hammer the Rebar Into Place

The rebar should be 18” apart (to line up with the PVC pipes). We put our rebar about 18” from the edge of the sidewalk although this can vary. The further from the sidewalk the lower the arch. (Please note: the PVC arch top configuration you see in the above picture is our first try--this did not work, but the rebar placement is the same.)

Step 5: Put the PVC Pipe on the Rebar

Attach the pipes on one side to the top of the arch and then the other other side.

Step 6: Clean and Spray Paint PVC

If you are satisfied with the fit, clean the pipe with the mineral spirits and rags, let dry, then spray paint. You can take it apart and do this but we found it was easier to spray paint it in place. Be sure to protect the sidewalk and adjacent plants from overspray. (Please note: the picture where we are cleaning with mineral spirits is our first arch attempt.)

Step 7: ​Attach Netting Lights Using the Zip Ties

Step 8: Done!

We also used app lights, which are lights that can be controlled with an iPhone. With these lights, we can animate the lights for a fun Christmas light show!

If you want to see what plan A was and why it didn't work, check out our website!