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How to Make a Light-Up Pumpkin Pail Arch

Our house has become a bit of a spectacle on Halloween thanks to our plastic pumpkin pail creations. One of the big draws is our light-up plastic pumpkin pail arch!

Want to wow your neighbors with a simple pumpkin pail creation? Here’s how you can create your own light-up plastic pumpkin pail arch!


  • (2) 10′ long 1/2″ diameter Schedule 40 PVC poles. (about $2.50 each at Hardware Store)
  • (2) 1/2″ x 2′ Rebar Stake (about $2.00 each at Hardware Store) or 4′ rebar ($3.00 each)
  • (1) 1/2″ PVC connector (about $0.50 at Hardware store)
  • (34-35) Plastic Pumpkin Pails ($1.00 each at Target/Walmart)
  • (2) 15′ LED Rope/Ribbon Lights ($20 each at Target)

These materials will create an arch 20-feet long. (The width will determine the height) The PVC frame will only cost $10-12 to make. The pumpkins and lights will be the bigger cost and could run you about $75 if you pay full-price. If you get a sale, however, it will be much more affordable. You can also use Christmas lights or any other light strands you have on hand.

Want a smaller arch? Shorten the PVC lengths and use less pumpkins! (10 stacked pumpkin pails is just shy of 6 feet high)


  • Hammer
  • Drill or Utility Knife
  • Zip Ties

Another great thing about this build is that it doesn’t require any fancy tools. The hammer and drill make things easier, but you can get by using any tool with sharp edges like scissors or a kitchen knife instead.

Building Your Pumpkin Arch

Pumpkin Pails come in a variety of colors. I used all orange for my arch and save the other colors for a different pumpkin pail project. Warning: The purple pails are much darker and don’t light up as well as the other colors.

For the arch, prepare the pumpkin pails by removing the handles. A quick tug on each side usually does the trick. If they are giving you trouble, try cutting the handle off instead.

Put Holes in Pumpkin Pails

Next, you’ll need to cut holes in the bottoms of the pumpkin for the PVC and lights to pass through.  My PVC is 1/2″ thick, plus I wanted room for the light rope, so I went with a 1″ drill bit. A drill makes quick work of this, even with 35 pumpkin pails. The pails are thin enough to cut with a knife or even scissors if that’s all you have.

After the pumpkin pails are ready, it’s time to set up the arch frame.

Attach Rope Lights

Lay out your PVC and rope light. I love the flat rope light for this project because it wraps nicely to the PVC and still allows the pumpkin pails to slide ride down the length.

If you have a helper, you can zip tie one end of the lights at the base of the PVC, and then twist the pole instead of wrapping the lights around.  Place more zip ties as needed to help keep the lights from sliding and bunching up.

Put in Supports

The 1/2″ rebar fits perfectly inside the 1/2″ PVC. It’s a great way to add support to an arch.

Decide how far apart you want to ends of your arch to be, keeping in mind that the farther apart they are, the lower the height will be in the middle. Use a single pumpkin pail to make sure you have enough clearance from any objects near your arch. Drive your rebar into the ground far enough that it doesn’t wiggle anymore. Then slide your PVC pipe over the top!

Add the Pumpkin Pails

This is the fun part. The kids loved helping me put all the pails on to the PVC poles. In the picture you can see how flexible the 1/2″ PVC is. It’s very easy to pull it down and add a few pumpkin pails, then let go and watch them slide down.

Connect The PVC Pipes

This is the trickiest part. And I don’t have a picture because I needed both hands to make sure the connection was tight enough.

For me, I found it easiest to leave off a pumpkin pail so there is room for my hands to get in between and connect the light strands and push the PVC poles into the connector.

Then, I pull up one end of the arch off of the rebar support and add the last pumpkin to the bottom.

Light it up!

The last step is to plug it in and wait until dark to see how it looks! I love how evenly the rope light illuminates the pumpkin arch. But I do wonder how it would look if I put in some lights that dance and change colors as I did with my plastic pumpkin pail wall.

However you choose to make it your own, it’s certainly unique! It will make your house stand out by day and by night!

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