Modern Concrete Outdoor Solar Light Hack.

Saturday, March 26, 2022

modern concrete outdoor solar light hack on fence
So I'm always looking for ways to add some sparkle to the yard at night with lighting.  As we are sans outdoor outlets, solar is the solution.  Today we have a concrete outdoor solar light hack with, ya know, a modern aesthetic. 

Fun, right?

Sure, I took a perfectly acceptable garden path light and made it more expensive hahaha but in the end, it's super cool custom for less than buying a bunch of predetermined-design ones to drape the fence.  And bonus, it's modern which is my palate.

finished modern concrete outdoor solar light hack hanging on fence
Indoors, light fixtures are the jewelry of the room.  Outdoors, ehh, maybe not as much the point there since it's more one of practicality than anything. 

Still though, outdoor lighting adds loads of nighttime appeal to a garden, yard, or landscape, deck, patio, or balcony, sculpting and shaping with beams or speckles of light, bringing warmth where darkness prevails.

Granted, solar lights typically don't survive an entire night and some are pieces of crap that don't survive in general anyway.

So yes, using the most inexpensive solar light in existence for this project may seem ridiculous but the battery is accessible so changing that is an option.  In hindsight, I probably should use a different glue inside but now I'm getting ahead of myself...


For wall-washing, I purchased some of those spotlight ones with a side solar panel* and those have, for the most part, been great.  They're largely buried in plants so I can't see them during the day though the panel is waahhh quite obvious.  

But I enjoy layers and levels of light, hence desiring something that hangs on the fence.  

And if it's gonna hang on the fence and be seen on the very very regular, it's gotta look fancy and modern and hey why not with concrete.

Certainly my affinity for concrete as a material comes from my Dad.  A concrete gene he passed down coursing my veins hangin' with the sugar.  Odd mix for an odd duck.

I am aware there's uproar about concrete not being a sustainable, green material but nevertheless, I cannot help that the aesthetic is so pleasing to me.  I know.

I've just used the word aesthetic twice, three times, in one post.

Anyway.  Lighting in the yard!  Modern concrete outdoor solar light hack, yes.

modern concrete outdoor solar light hack hanging on fence

What do we need for this project?  Simple:

Key here is the solar light head fitting into the votive glass so test it first.

Hot tip:  with casting things, map out the process in reverse, finish to start in order to start.  Keep in mind, anything you see inside your mold is going to be the face of the finished project.

Hot tip two:  casting, in general, is fun.  I did it lots for props.  If you want to get super fancy, get the Smooth-On silicone stuff,* it's way fun.

Mmk.  Get yourself set up, your mise en place to create your very own modern concrete outdoor solar light hack.

setting up mold and supplies to pour concrete
Spray the mold or mould, ugh which is it...ah, in America, mold, so spray the mold with your spray release.  No need to go hog wild, just a nice light dusting.  Set your piece of wood in the mold, face side down.

Next, mix up the concrete.  And about that concrete.  There are lots of types.  It's confusing.  Here's one of many guides.  But yes, you can generally use most any type.  

mixing up rapid set repair patch concrete
Why, Becky, did you pick a rapid set repair type which is ten times the cost of regular stuff?, you ask.  

Well, a few reasons.  Rapid set, I can pop the thing out of the form in about an hour, crank those puppies out.  It's finer, no gravel.  It's a twenty pound bag where regular concrete is fifty, sixty, seventy five to ninety pounds per bag.  I already hurt my back, don't wanna do it again.  

But.  I will say, regular concrete for this would probably be best.  Patch seems to crack quite easily.

Noteworthy:  concrete, an open bag, does expire.  Who knew?!  Apparently you've got about six months to use up the contents.

Ok, mixing...there's too much math involved, too much division for batching up smaller quantities so just get it similar enough to what the bag says it should be like, aka, not runny.  You need very little water.  I repeat, you need very little water.

Pour the concrete into the mold, weigh the wood down if necessary as you want it concrete-free on the finished face side.  Shimmy the mold gently to wiggle out air bubbles.

weighting down wood in mold with concrete
The weight wasn't entirely necessary but better safe than sorry.
All right!  Oh, tuck some twine or your hanging mechanism of choice into the concrete, or scoop out a hole as it's setting (ooooOhh, an idea just hit me)....I forgot and had to really jam the twine in there.

setting twine hanger loop in concrete
Now let it set.

When it's ready, pop it out of the mold and set it face side up.  How nifty, huh?  Lovin' the subtle diamond lines from the container on there!  

concrete set and removed from mold
Ok, disassemble the solar light by yanking the ground spike off and twist the clear plastic reflector part to remove it.  

So again, I probably should not have so permanently glued the light into the votive in my first tester attempt here since it will absolutely die at some point.  I'm trying to think of another type of all-weather type of sticky to use.  Gimme a minute.  Maybe try an outdoor double-stick mounting tape.*

supplies for solar light portion
Anyway, glue or stick the solar light into the votive with the panel facing down.  The bottom of the votive will be the top.

solar light attached to inside of glass votive
Dabble some outdoor-rated glue such as the Fuze It (whoa that sh*t sticks, holy crap is it good glue) or epoxy* onto the wood and set the votive atop.  If it rolls at all, use some painter's tape* to secure it until the glue has set.

gluing votive to concrete and wood solar light panel
And voila!  Tada, it is an awesome modern concrete outdoor solar light hack!  

Seal it up as desired then run outside and hang it up!

sealing concrete with mineral spirits and linseed oil
(see the list of supplies for the DIY sealer recipe)
Cool, right?!  

modern concrete outdoor solar light hack on fence
I thought so!

view of three concrete solar lights hanging on fence

I'm really quite excited about these if I do say so myself and I am.

modern concrete solar outdoor light with open circle
This was the ooooOOh idea from above -- I set a piece of PVC pipe inside the mold, poured the concrete, and after it mostly set, carefully twisted the PVC out before it completely hardened.
Edited to add even though I haven't posted this yet, heh, using the indoor/outdoor double-stick tape works to hold the light inside the votive.  mwah, you're welcome.

Have fun creating!

*The spotlight solar lights, pencil type storage containers, votive glass, Liquid Nails Fuze It, spray release, twine, Smooth On products, and double-stick mounting tape links are Amazon affiliate links.  The Dollar Tree links are, well, Dollar Tree affiliate links.  The epoxy and painter's tape are Lowes.  Mwah, thanks!  Please see the "boring stuff" tab for more info.

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