Do-it-yourself balloon arch

Updated April 17, 2017

A balloon arch is a flexible, large-scale decorating element you can quickly create for little cost. Building one takes just a few hours, and the elements you incorporate into your design can make it appropriate for just about any celebration, ranging from weddings and graduations to hen and retirement parties.

Balloon arch supplies

The balloon arch does not require you to work with helium. Using helium costs more and it makes the behaviour of the arch unpredictable over time. To create this arch, you will need to buy helium-quality balloons. These balloons stay inflated for longer, which means your arch will last longer. You need to buy six balloons per 30 cm (1 foot) of arch. This means you should buy the balloons you want to use in bulk. You will also need to buy enough clear 3.75 cm (1 1/2 inch) PVC pipe to define the length of the arch. PVC pipe is stiff enough to hold the shape of the arch, but flexible enough to bend into almost any shape. The instructions for creating a balloon arch can be tailored to create balloon hoops, tunnels, spirals and trees as well. You just need to have enough PVC pipe to create the structure to which you want to add balloons. You may want to purchase LED lights to slide inside the PVC pipe. You can use this to make your balloon arch twinkle. You may also need to get 4.5 litre (1 gallon) paint buckets and enough plaster of Paris or quick-setting cement to fill them. You can use these buckets to create bases for your arch. If your arch is going to be tied to tent poles or the structure of a building, the bases are unnecessary.

Make the arch segments

Four balloons, tied together at their nozzles, create each arch segment. If you are creating a large arch by yourself, you'll need to buy a balloon inflator. If you are working with five or six assistants, you can make do without one. Inflate all balloons to their full sizes. This ensures they are all the same size and that they cover the maximum space possible. If you want to create a colour pattern in the arch, combine the right colours in each segment.

Attach the balloons

Take a balloon segment composed of four balloons tied at the knots. Press the knots on to the PVC pipe, then twist one pair of balloons around the pipe. You will see that this firmly attaches the balloons to the pipe. Try not to slide the balloons along the pipe once they are attached. This will usually pop one or more of the balloons.

Add the lights

After you've attached the balloons to the PVC, slide the LED lights inside. The PVC pipe diameter must be thick enough to let the LED plug slide inside.If you prefer, weave LED lights through the balloons by wrapping them around the PVC pipe.

Erect the arch

Tape a balloon arch to tent poles or door frames because you are using them to decorate the entrance to an existing structure. In some cases, you need to create a freestanding arch. To do this, mix plaster of Paris or quick-setting cement into your paint cans. Stick the ends of the PVC pipe into the paint cans, and hold the arch still as it sets. Plaster of Paris sets in minutes. If it is not heavy enough for your arch, put some heavy rocks in the base of the paint can, then pour the plaster of Paris, then stick it in the PVC pipe. This will create a heavy, fast-setting base. For larger arches, use quick-setting cement, which costs a little more and can take up to 30 minutes to set. Decorate the bases using balloons. If you are using LED lights, cut the PVC pipe to allow the cord for the lights to escape from the PVC before the PVC goes into the base.

Recycle your balloon arch

Just pop the balloons when the party is over so that you can reuse the arch structure. If the bases are set with plaster of Paris, you can usually pull the PVC straight up out of the base with just a few very hard tugs. Alternatively, cut the PVC and have a shorter arch next time.

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About the Author

Nancy Fulton is a professional writer with more than 20 years experience writing articles, books, business plans, marketing materials, website content and training products for schools and fortune 500 firms. She has also taught for UCLA and produced multiple films. As a serial entreprenuer she has worked in many industries and with a variety of government agencies.