DIY: How To Light Up Below Your Deck Umbrella

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Last weekend was like any other weekend, save for the fact that I ended up performing tasks that were not on my to do list. Usually I just don’t do anything. I like to read and exist and respond to life rather than constantly DO SOMETHING. The weekdays are for that.

Two evenings prior, we had guests over and our deck was dark. We didn’t go into the hot tub, as we might normally, because some of our guests weren’t interested. So we sat at our table beneath our 9′ deck umbrella and strained to see each other by the glow of three table-top candle lanterns.

It was cozy enough, but let’s be honest: dark. And I’m ancient now (46).

So the next day, I did what I’ve been meaning to do: I went online and looked for light kits for our umbrella. When we lived in our first home, we had a patio umbrella that I strung up with lights. Then we had a baby. And then we moved. And then another baby. And then another. And then all incidental and whimsical ideas went by the wayside, except sex, clearly.

Fast forward 14 years and we were faced with a situation that we’d spoken of many times but simply never managed: the light scheme for the deck. Our deck has railing lights (they’re about as effective as fireflies) and flood lights (air raid!).

The light kits available in catalogs are mostly battery powered (weak), solar (weaker) or LED (WHITE LIGHT THAT IS FAR FROM SOOTHING!) illuminated.

I was dissatisfied with all of the commercial options. So I did what I did years ago: opened up our big 9′ umbrella, took it out of its stand, opened it up, leaned it against the table so I could access all panels and spines, cleaned it (oxyclean and a scrub brush) and then installed a string of white tiny-bulbed traditional Christmas tree lights.

I ended up using 400 bulbs (4 lines). THE UMBRELLA MUST BE OPEN as far as you can open it — I CAN NOT STRESS THIS ENOUGH.

You start at the center top with the female end.

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As you can see from the photo, I wrapped the line around each spine between the umbrella fabric (yes, inside the umbrella — I feel compelled to say this because … well … some people …). The first line went about three times around the inside of the umbrella. We plugged in the next line to that first line and continued our journey.

Leaving a little bit of slack (although it’s not really necessary because your umbrella is open all the way), continue to wrap your line around each spine and bolster that with electrical tape.

But Molly, why should I wrap my line around each spine and double it up with electrical tape?

SO IT DOESN’T SLIP, friend.

At some point, you’re going to run out of line faster than before (because the design of an umbrella (or radius) dictates that as you go out, your spines are farther apart than in the beginning of this adventure) and you’re also going to want to power the thing, right?

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Leading the line back to center: So when all you’ve got left is about 12′ of line left, come back up a spine with your line (sounds like a dance tune) by running that line between the fabric and your installed lines to keep that final line close in. Then run it down the pole.

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If you’re like us, you have to drill a hole in your table (providing it’s wood –see pic above one more time) to get the line beneath the table to connect it to your ready and waiting power supply.

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At night, it looks like this:

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And closed, it looks like this:

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Again, we used four 100-bulb lines on our 9′ umbrella and it’s plenty. I was actually on the fence about maybe it being too bright. The good news, is that you can unplug a line from the center first line if you wonder. And I have to add this: the golden light from these little bulbs is very gentle on the eyes.

Enjoy your starry evening; it’s a magical place when you’re under that umbrella and the creativity flows; you are your own Vincent Van Gogh.

Questions? Comments? Concerns? Suggestions? Fire away!

Thank you.

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