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It’s A Coffee Can Christmas: From Haunted to Holiday in Five Easy Steps

It’s A Coffee Can Christmas: From Haunted to Holiday in Five Easy Steps

by Greg on December 19, 2012

I had actually taken quite a few photos for this post so I could show you all the magic behind this Coffee Can Christmas DIY project, but our 4-year old daughter got a hold of my camera before I had a chance to download them. Just one more lesson that may someday quell my propensity for procrastination.

Not only did she figure out how to overwrite my amazing photos but she also replaced said photos with a random photographic journey that included blurry closeups of our toilet, baseboards, and shower curtain. She’s very proud of them so be sure to watch for her upcoming coffee table book entitled, “Scuzz ‘n Fuzz: A Bathroom Pictorial.”

My wife and I love to decorate our house for the holidays. Outside and inside, our home is awash in white lights, garland, and red bows. We try to stick with what we perceive as traditional. We don’t have enormous holiday inflatables scattered about our front lawn, we don’t drive giant candy canes into the earth, nor do we allow colored or twinkling lights anywhere near our property.

Heather makes the inside of our home look all Norman Rockwell’ish so I try my best to do the same with the outside. Armed with lights, garland, and wreaths, I spend the day with a hammer, nails, and a staple gun trying to echo the holiday beauty she crafted indoors.

The problem is that while I think the house looks great during the day, it takes on a far more ominous vibe at night.

The Holidays By Day…

It won't win any awards, but it's "Us".

Quite a departure from the skulls, zombies, and cobwebs of Halloween.

The Holidays At Night…

The first story says, "Merry Christmas!" but the second story says, "Is there even a second story?"

Downstairs it's a holiday house, upstairs it's a haunted one.

To tackle the issue of delivering a mixed message over the Christmas season, I wanted to create an uplight effect on each of the wreaths on the upstairs windows. I’ve always loved the look when houses are all lit up in white to showcase the decorations but I abhor the thought of planting a bunch of spotlights on stakes in my front yard.

My initial thought was to nail three floodlights into the porch roof but my far wiser wife made it clear that I would only cause hundreds of dollars in damage and a leakage problem. It took some convincing, considering the trade-off was a beautiful holiday effect, but I finally let go of my “How To Ruin Your Porch In Three Strikes of a Hammer” project.

Instead, my plan was to buy three floodlights, place them in track lighting canisters, affix them to boards, brace the boards on the porch roof, and jimmy-rig some sort of filter so I didn’t light up the entire night sky or signal aliens. On paper, the plan was genius. At Lowe’s, the plan was $160.

Standing in the aisle with a cart that was getting fuller with each passing “we’ll also need this” moment, Heather suggested that we just hammer some leftover coffee cans onto some boards and then jam a string of lights into each one to replicate the spotlight effect.

Little Miss Brainiac’s project cost? $6. Time to complete? 10 minutes. If you count roof time.

What You’ll Need
For this project I needed to cast an uplight on three windows. After some careful planning as we restocked Lowe’s shelves, we determined that we’d need the following:

– Three boards, which we already had. Make sure they’re kinda thick and heavy to battle wind gusts.
– Three extension cords, which we already had. Make sure they are rated for outdoor use.
– One multi-outlet Christmas stake, which we already had.
– Three large metal coffee cans. Make sure they’re void of coffee.
– Hammer
– Six roofing tacks or nails.
– Bottle opener. Needed for more than just the celebratory cracking of a cold one once finished.
– Three flat rocks or anything capable of angling the boards upward.
– Three strings of 50- or 100-count Christmas lights. We went with 100.

This is the part where all the glorious photos that Kamryn erased were supposed to appear. Fortunately, the project is incredibly easy so I doubt you need a flurry of images showing you how to nail a metal can to a board. If it’s something you just can’t grasp without explanatory visuals, it’s probably best that you stay off the roof anyhow.

One of two salvaged photos. Just a little bonding time between curious son and clueless dad.

Take your can opener and gouge one or two holes at the bottom of each can. This is to allow rainwater or melted snow to escape. If you skip this step, you better hope your lights and electrical cords are submersible and that your house isn’t flammable.

Nail each coffee can in the center of each board with two nails or roofing tacks. Make sure the H2O escape hatch is at the very bottom. I highly recommend that you do this during the day because you’re going to make a TON of racket as the hammer jingle-jangles and rattles around the can as you try to strike it with enough force to pierce metal.

Get yourself onto the roof via ladder, window, or pogo stick and place the boards about two feet from each window. Prop the board at a pretty good angle with your re-purposed rocks, wood scraps, or Justin Bieber dolls so the lights will shine upwards on the windows.

Stuff one strand of lights into each canister and plug each strand into an extension cord.

With the multi-outlet Christmas stake plugged into your main power source, plug each of the three extension cords into it. Wait for nightfall and then mess with the angles of the boards until you’re happy with the effect.

The end result. I know it *looks* like a total fire hazard but it's actually safer and easier than my original plan. Plus, everything you see, except for the coffee can, is rated for outdoor use.

Oddly enough, this totally works. The canisters are large enough to where the lights don’t get hot and the escape hatch for the water ensures that rain and snow won’t cause any problems. When we plugged everything in after nightfall, I was stunned to see what we accomplished for six bucks and ten minutes of our time.

Ta da! It's a Coffee Can Christmas Miracle!

250 more coffee cans and I can finally have that outdoor lighted basketball court I've always wanted.

In the end, we saved more than $150 with her idea and I was able to achieve the exact effect I was going for. Is she not awesome? I totally love this woman.

Aside from being incredibly sexy, a wonderful mother, and an amazing wife, she’s also pretty handy to have around the house.

With Heather, I get the best of both worlds. I get an in-house handyman without the man.

In a way, it’s like I married Bob Vila. Only I don’t have to navigate any facial hair when planting a kiss.



Marianne December 19, 2012 at 1:24 am

Wow! That looks awesome! It’s great when a simple, inexpensive option produces a better result than the complicated, expensive option.
Merry Christmas!

Andrew Reese December 19, 2012 at 6:40 am

I’m impressed. I think I’ll have to drive by after dark to make sure these aren’t photoshopped or something.

Mrs. TellingDad December 19, 2012 at 8:44 am

I told him Barb would be proud!

Christina December 19, 2012 at 8:51 am

Your house is lovely and great DIY project. Heather is a very smart woman, very lucky man you are.

Catherine December 19, 2012 at 9:22 am

My husband and I have the same battle each and every year. He wants MULTICOLORED (say it with umph) lights and I want white lights (say it with grace). Unfortunately, our two girls are divided as well. So what do we get? A very tastefully decorated house with these blow-up beings to satisfy all of us. Oh well. Gotta love my family for rolling with it all. 🙂

Another Lurker December 19, 2012 at 12:30 pm

My husband and I are much the same- he’s great with ‘girly’ things, and I play with power tools. We’re perfect for each other!!!

Valerie December 19, 2012 at 12:43 pm

What a great idea!! And the house looks totally classy! Well played.



Melinda@LookWhatMomFound...andDadtoo December 19, 2012 at 1:25 pm

you did a craft post??????? cool idea

Christie Critters December 19, 2012 at 1:45 pm

Yea, Heather!

Bubbe December 19, 2012 at 1:55 pm

Nicely done Mrs. Telling Dad! Your home is beautiful and the Christmas decorations make it more lovely.

Sarah December 19, 2012 at 4:51 pm

The effect is terrific! I totally think Heather gets the rest of that original lighting budget to use on herself. She did save you a lot of money!

karen December 19, 2012 at 5:33 pm

My husband would totally go for this idea. Anything he can re-purpose, and any natural products ( ie rocks) he can use, and he’s happy.

Diane from Boston December 19, 2012 at 6:12 pm

That is awesome! Yay Heather!

Lyssa December 19, 2012 at 7:18 pm

Very cool in brainstorming (Heather obviously 🙂 ) and end product (you). Brought to mind my grandparent’s treatment of their Christmas lights – they had one string of C9 lights (I think those are the ones… the bigger chunky lights) and behind each light was a pie tin. Don’t know if it was supposed to reflect the light or what, but as a kid, I thought it looked really cool.

Plan to do the same thing myself for a “retro-cheese” vibe around my house but first I need an outdoor plug for lights and oh, twenty or thirty pie tins…

Great job!

Caroline December 19, 2012 at 8:13 pm

Very cool! Now I’m wishing I had put up wreaths on my windows this year…and lights… Hey, the tree is up! I got there at least!!

Mishka December 19, 2012 at 10:46 pm

Nice job on both the economical and functional counts. I am truly impressed. Hopefully you won’t have any crazy weather to worry about sending rocks and boards flying towards the ground…LOL. We are supposed to be experiencing 75 mph gusts tonight here so I would definitely have to attach the boards to the house somehow.

I am not a big fan of twinkling lights except on a Christmas tree but I do like the multicolors…have them around 3 windows and our garage to spruce the place up…LOL. Last year, I had some on the back porch and left them through the summer since we didn’t have a porch light back there.

ScarletTerri December 20, 2012 at 8:56 am

A DIY post! You’ve entered a whole new genre of blogging! Your house looks festive and beautiful.

Minnesota Red December 20, 2012 at 11:37 am

As far as “Bob Vila” and facial hair–just wait another decade or so. You’ll be hairless and she’ll be covered in it. Sorry to be such a buzz kill. Merry Christmas.

Stephanie R Awesome December 20, 2012 at 5:19 pm

That looks great! What a genius plan!!

You two are an unstoppable duo.

Nancy B December 20, 2012 at 7:51 pm

Beautiful! And yay to Heather!

valmg @ Mom Knows It All December 20, 2012 at 10:39 pm

Looks great!
I don’t mind “regular” colored lights outside. I don’t like flashing lights outside, or on the tree for that matter.

Josanne December 21, 2012 at 9:25 am

It looks very pretty! It’s pretty amazing what wives can come up with to save a bundle of money! Maybe the DIY TV shows are in cahoots with the home improvement stores…. What a great idea, and it looks good too!
Hope you all have a wonderful Christmas!

Eileen December 21, 2012 at 11:24 am

Your home looks great, so agree, wreaths, white lights, simple, tasteful. I am so against those blowups since during the day they are covering the lawns looking like pile of dirty laundry. Now never underetimate the ingenuity of women, remember, a butter knife and a high heeled shoe serve as the most used tools. Have a joyful holiday with your wonderful family.

Shan @ Last Shreds Of Sanity December 22, 2012 at 2:32 am

Well, we already knew Heather was way smarter than you, Greg. ;P

But how are the boards attached to the roof? You get hurricanes and blizzards there in the great white north — won’t they blow off?

cat December 23, 2012 at 8:06 am

what a great idea, totally going to try that as we cannot put any holes roof! happy holidays to you and yours!

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