I loved watching Angela Rose make a life-size, giant Lite-Brite board for her children in late 2020. She utilized the space under a stairwell to create the installation for her kids. Genius use of otherwise unused space, right? At the time we were living in Florida, in a home without a basement and stairs, so I couldn’t quite conceptualize how to make a giant Lite-Brite work in our home.
Enter a move to the midwest where we have stairs in our home. Lots of stairs. And a stairwell adjacent to the playroom. It’s likely that I contributed the highest number of views to Angela’s stories on how she constructed the Lite-Brite! (note: she’s since published a tutorial on how she constructed hers in this blog post).
Below is the supply list for the project, tools used, the steps and the time that it took to build the giant Lite Brite. I’ll wrap with lessons learned in the process. There are always lessons learned. I love that aspect of building and creating.
- 2X4 Tempered Hardboard
- Paint of choice (I used PPG in F&B Railings – I will be using this color to repaint our entire basement this winter)
- Minwax Polycrylic Clear Semi-Gloss
- 3/4″ Spade bit
- LED Tape Light
- Acrylic rods
- Sandpaper – I used 120 grit
- Fabric to diffuse light; a white pillowcase would work perfect
- Table saw
- Miter saw
- Staple gun
- Brad nailer
- Orbital sander
- Stud finder
- Order your acrylic rods! I ordered mine from Alibaba Express and it took nearly 7 weeks for the supplies to arrive.
- Buy your board and cut to size. You’ll need to cut strips from your board (via table saw) to offset it from the wall. I cut 4 strips off the length of the 2×4. You can also use your preferred board(s) of choice for this part.
- Plan your grid. I would recommend watching Angela Rose’s highlight reel to plan this out. I wanted a 2″ border all around and mapped out alternating rows of 15 and 14 holes each that were spaced 1″ apart.
- The most labor intensive part: begin making your holes with the spade bit. This took me about 3.5 hours. I also had two batteries that were in rotation because of the amount of power needed to cut the holes.
- Once you have all your holes drilled, sand your board.
- Paint your board (I needed 2 coats).
- Seal your board with Polycrylic.
- Acrylic rods – if you need to make cuts like I did, this is the perfect time to cut. Make your marks and make your cuts; I marked the 10″ rods into 3.33″ sections.
- Assemble the offset frame. I found a stud and used star screws (my favorite!) to attach the first strips to the wall.
- String up your LED lights. I bought 64′ and ended up only needing one package. They come with a 3M adhesive backing, but I found that I wanted to add staples for extra stability/security, especially as I made turns at the tops and bottoms).
- Add your diffusion material to the frame with a staple gun. I used a fabric covering that came off of one of my kid’s Christmas presents! Anything that is light in weight and texture will help diffuse the LED lights.
- Add the next layer of wood to the offset frame. Kind of like building a sandwich – all about the layers! I used a couple of star screws on each side. This is for kids – making it extra secure!
- Add the top board with the holes for the acrylic pegs! I used the brad nailer for this part.
- Plug it in and ENJOY your kids having fun!
Time and Money and Lessons
Embarking on a project like this takes both time and money. I wanted to have 150 pieces of acrylic rod so I went the custom cut route, which saved me around $100 total. I would still do this if doing this project again because it was smelly (you’re burning plastic with each cut) and messy, but not super labor intensive. I took me about an hour to cut 150 pieces, which included changing the saw blade and marking up each rod for cuts. It took me about another 30 minutes to clean up my acrylic shaving mess.
Cost of acrylic rods and saw blade: $208
The next biggest expense in the project was the LED lighting. This is totally personal preference and features based on what you want, but I went with a basic, plug-in 32 foot LED strip from Home Depot. There are lighted options, Alexa-enabled options, etc., etc. But I kept this basic.
Cost of LED Strip Lights: $34
Making the cuts for the holes was the most labor-intensive part. I was rotating through batteries with my drill. I purchased the 3/4 bit as recommended by Angela, but found that the holes were still too small. Enter my dad, who is a machinist by trade. He crafted a custom-sized spade bit that was the perfect size, which saved me a ton of time and fatigue! I know this is not an option for most of you. Reach out if you plan to try the project and I’ll see if I can hook you up!
- Total cost of spade bit: $8
- Total time spent cutting holes: 3.5 hours
- Total time sanding, painting, sealing: 30 minutes active time (about 7-8 minutes for each step, each layer); ideally wait 24 hours for it to fully dry before installing
With paint and already having most of the tools on hand, I was able to keep this project under $300 total. The majority of the work was in the planning (there was no guide when I set out to do this!) and in drilling the holes. The assembly was straightforward once I had all the pieces in place. The last step I am taking, which will bump my total cost on the project up, is to have our electrician install an outlet inside the stairwell. Right now we’re running an extension cord outside of the stairwell.
Between the planning, painting, constructing, and assembling the project ended up being around 15 hours total over the course of four weeks. I’m not a full-time creator, so my projects are based on the available hours I have in a given period.
Oh! On the wall opposite of the Lite Brite, I cut strips of MDF that are 4″ in height, cut to fit end-to-end on the wall and added shaker pegs. Sidebar, I’m super proud of my corner miter cut! My kids have a big collection of play clothes and this makes finding their costumes much easier. Plus, they’re in charge of organizing and putting them back. #ParentWin!
I’d love for you to check out my highlights and full reel here on Instagram. Please reach out if you have any questions! Happy building!