Shedding Some Light On The Stairway

*You are at part 8 of the Dueling DIY.  Click on these to get caught up: 1/2/3/4/5/6/7

“Main Floor Flight 22:00, this is the control tower, you are ready for take off.  Enjoy your flight to the second floor, all looks clear”

stair lights6

I finally can reveal the Stairway Surprise!  Stairway illumination with LED Tape! Woot!


Weeks ago we ordered LED Tape to illuminate the stairwell.  I sent teasers through my Facebook page, giving hints like this:led roll 1

I wanted to see how many could guess what this was and what the heck we planned on doing with it.  There were some funny guesses, some spot on.  I didn’t tell, though.  I thought it would be fun to keep it a surprise.


Looks like an old movie roll, doesn’t it?

Well, Edmond and I are kinda geeky and love LED lights and all the new ways you can use them. We once, not to long ago, spent a few nights in bed designing a circuit for a homemade LED bulb. LOL. I also have been batting around the idea of lighting  up the stairwell.  Especially since the remodel.  The stairs are darker and our dog, Sydney, was having trouble navigating them without someone turning on the overhead ligh for her. She has since gotten used to them, but we were convinced we still wanted to do it-Hopefully cheaply. And easily. And with LED.

After months of tossing ideas around, I finally struck gold while reading a forum discussion on stair lights.  One contributting contractor explained how new build houses have LED pucks installed under handrails (?),  So he had recently installed LED tape for a client for her older home remodel, under her handrail (!).  Here is a similar, if not the same link  he gave.  I popped over to the site and knew right away that I had found my answer to lighting up the stairs.

It was amazing how inexpensive this 16′ (as in feet, not inches) roll of LED lights were – $13.88.  But you need to buy a wallwort to fully install the strip. You can also buy a dimmer, but don’t need to.  All in all around $30.00 for all three.

But luck was not on our side and this little surprise we were planning was testing our patience.

The first order we placed, for a kit that had all three components-LED strip, wallwort and dimmer for around $28.00, got misdirected due partly to an error of Edmond’s and partly Amazon’s.  Edmond had forgotten to update the address for shipping to my house,  so it was scheduled to arrive at his house.  Luckily, we know the renters fairly well and thought they might be able to intercept the package for us.  However, Amazon, had put the wrong zip code on the package (not from our order which had the right one listed).  Now, my town is small and we only have two zip codes and the second one happened in my lifetime.  So really, why was it so difficult for the post office to look at the Street address and realize it was for the other zip code?

Well, that shipment was sent back to the  shipper and we had to reorder.  This time the kit was not on sale, and it was cheaper to buy  the roll of LED tape ($13.88) and the wallwort (about $8.00) that connects to the strip and plugs into any old outlet, separately, forgoing the dimmer.

These arrived just fine, except Edmond accidentally ordered the cool, bluer lights and not the warm, golder lights, I wanted.  I didn’t really mind, the cooler ones are nice and clear and actually not very blue.  But he decided he really wanted the dimmer ($8.00) – So he ordered one, along with  another roll of LED tape in warm light.  So now we have TWO! And another week had passed.

By now, we were almost ready to install this project, but we realized we needed to extend the wallwort to go through the wall:


(I taped the connection between the wallwort and dimmer to avoid them pulling apart and having to fish the wire through the wall again.)

down to the basement:


Over the stone wall:


To one of the outlets (using a short extension cord):


But we couldn’t find an extension for the wallwort locally. We checked radio shack to see if we could get the proper plugs, jacks and wires to make our own, but no luck.  It looked like we would have to order one online.   That’s when I asked Edmond to call our friend, Bob.  Bob loves working with all things LED and Neon.  We had conversations in the past, about the different projects we wanted to do and some he had already done regarding LEDs.  I knew that if anyone locally sold the components we needed, Bob would know.  There isn’t, so Bob offered to extend our wallwort for us.  He did this by cutting off the end, soldered some coax cable my dad gave us and used some shrink tube to insulate it and make it pretty again.  We bought him an itunes card as a thank you, increasing our project cost to roughly $45.00 (minus the extra strip of lights).  Still so worth it.  Thanks Bob!

NOW we FINALLY had all the components to get this puppy done!

So, up went to handrail, back to were it was before:


Anchoring in the holes that needed one:


Then taping the lights on:  The tape on the strip is by 3M and holds really well.



The width of the light tape is only 1/4 inch, and very thin as well, so we had no problem attaching it through the small gap between where the back of the bracket and the handrail intersect .


Too cool!!


That is the dimmer hanging on the bottom right of the picture.  We will attach it either to the wall or up under that handrail.  I like it either, way they both look neat and tidy.


That is blue painter’s tape, not the light reflecting that color.  I am still slogging through caulking, woodfilling and painting. Blah.


These last two pictures are truer to what it looks like in person. Here the strip is partly dimmed. These lights are really bright!  The dimmer also turns the strip off, if you like, but we connected a timer at the outlet to come on at night and shutoff sometime around 5am.

A project like this could be really simple-tape on the strip, cut where needed (be sure to cut at the proper marks), plug it in.  Our version was a little more complicated with respect to fishing wires through the wall with only a 3/8 inch hole on one side and an inch hole at the other, customizing the wallwort length, figuring out how best to hide/tidy up the dimmer. But still, not a hard project, just a more, thinky type of project.

We love how it looks and I am already thinking about returning my Ikea LED light bar for under the kitchen cabinets that was a whopping $50.00, and installing these strip lights instead.  You can buy connectors, so you can cut the strip in as many lengths you need, then attach them back to a single wallwort connector.  Maybe I could put the Cool, bluer roll under the toe kick of the kitchen cabinets.  Boy we would be high falutin then :)

Have you used LED strip lights before?  Where?

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~ by Perfect Prospect on April 2, 2013.

2 Responses to “Shedding Some Light On The Stairway”

  1. Wow, now that’s a cool stairway! I like the fact that you have it on a timer too! No, I have not used LED strips and I don’t know if I ever will. But if I do I will let you know!

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