Worn or broken solar light stakes needn’t mean the loss of the fitting, as they are fairly easy to replace.
Stake-mounted solar lights are perennial favorites in most solar landscape lighting enthusiasts’ arsenals. They are convenient, portable, and, with today’s sophisticated solar technology, increasingly efficient and effective.
Unfortunately, they fail sometimes, with their mounting stakes being common victims of prolonged use. The good news is replacement stakes for solar lights are easy to purchase from hardware, home improvement, and online stores.
In fact, if you are a DIY enthusiast with a fair range of hand and power tools, you can easily roll your own and save money. Let’s look at how to choose, purchase and install replacement stakes for solar lights.
How to Choose the Best Stake for Solar Lights
There are an enormous variety of stake replacement options available that will cover most makes and models of lights. That said, there are two things you have to consider carefully before choosing a replacement.
There are two common types of replacement stakes for solar lights: stakes for solar pathway lights and threaded spikes for solar flood lights.
Replacement Stakes for
Solar Pathway Lights
Threaded Metal Replacement Stakes for Solar Flood Lights
1. Replacement Stakes for Solar Pathway Lights
Most stake-mounted solar lights or their extension poles have similar stake mount fittings. Usually, these are cylindrical sockets that the end of the stake pushes into. This is illustrated in Fig. 1 below.
It’s important to calculate the size of the fitting mounting socket (A) and the stake fitting plug (B) to make sure they are compatible. You could use a ruler or tape measure to do this. However, if you can rather use a vernier to get an accurate measurement.
Sometimes the light fitting comes with a male plug and the stake with the socket. Although the opposite of the more common system, the principles of checking compatibility are the same.
2. Metal Replacement Stakes for Solar Spot and Flood Lights
Often spot or floodlight stakes differ from their path lighting peers. They generally carry more weight and support lights with larger, adjustable foot pieces. These are usually heavy-duty aluminum or steel and have a round or square footplate mount on top.
That plate will have several mounting holes drilled through it or a pre-mounted threaded bolt insert. These will mount the lighting fitting. I illustrate an example in Fig.2 below.
Again, make sure you are getting a compatible stake mount if you are buying online. Or take both light fitting and stake into the store with you.
Replacement Stake Length and Design
Once you know the fitting sizes, the length and specific design of the replacement stakes are a question of preference.
They are all made of ABS or PVC plastic and have a cruciform, or cross-shaped, cross-section. This lends the stake strength and rigidity while reducing the overall surface area.
That makes the stake easier to drive into the ground and less inclined to be deflected by rocks or pebbles.
As a general rule of thumb, heavier fittings will require longer stakes. As will fittings intended for mounting in soft soil. Typical spike lengths range from 6 ” to 12 “.
How to Make Replacement Stakes for Solar Lights
Although commercial solar light stakes are affordable and freely available, they are not the only solution if you break one. If you don’t have access to off-the-shelf replacements or just enjoy making stuff, you can DIY them with relative ease. Not to mention at a lower cost.
Before we dive into the DIY solar light stake options, let’s look at the common parts of a lighting stake. There are 3 basic components of solar light stakes and I illustrate them below in Fig. 3.
- At the top, or connection point, of the stake, is the socket, plug, or mounting plate (A). This connects the stake to the riser pole or light fitting.
- The shaft, or body, of the stake (B), is partially or completely buried in the ground.
- A spike at the bottom of the stake (C) eases insertion into the ground
The most common cross-shaped cross-section of stake shafts is also illustrated. As mentioned earlier, this shape minimizes surface area and makes the stake easier to drive into the ground.
It also pushes obstructions away easier in stoney ground while still being strong and rigid.
A Basic Overview of Making Your Own Solar Light Stakes
To successfully make your own stakes, you’ll have to replicate two of the elements of the original. The most important is of the two is the mounting plug or socket.
The second is the pointed spike at the end of the shaft which need not be as exact. The important dimensions are listed below in Fig.4.
Re-creating the cross-shaped shaft is far less important than getting the measurements of the solar lights plug or socket right. The DIY stake can be square or round and, although it may be harder to insert, will work just fine.
Important point: DIY replacement solar lighting stakes that feature a male plug connection are by far the easiest to make. They can be put together using very basic hand tools.
Stakes that feature socket connections with a specific inner diameter are a different kettle of fish though. Getting the inner diameter of the socket correct takes some serious precision. And in some cases stake sockets have specific outer and inner diameter specifications.
What you’ll need: Necessities
- Bench vise (doesn’t need to be massive)
- Fret or coping saw
- Tenon or dovetail saw
- Medium wood rasp or a coarse file
- Good quality exterior varnish or deep penetrating timber oil finish
What you’ll need: Optional
- Power hand drill – ½ inch chuck
- Lathe – a small bench-top model would be fine.
- Jigsaw with wood, metal, and plastic blades
- Dremel tool with a groove cutting attachment
Using Wooden Stakes or Dowels for Replacement Stakes for Solar-powered Lights
Using round wooden dowels or square stakes is the easiest method of making replacement stakes for solar lights. The materials are affordable, easy to work with, and if treated, last quite a while.
Using Square Wooden Dowels for Solar Lighting Stakes
Square wooden dowels are among the simplest materials to use for DIY stakes for solar lights. The only real consideration is that they are the same size or even slightly bigger than the original stake.
Cutting the Plug
The first part of the procedure, cutting the connection plug, is illustrated in Fig. 5 and described below.
- Step one. Secure the dowel in the vice with the end face upwards. Use a ruler and pencil to mark the center of the dowel as illustrated.
- Step two. Using the center point as a reference, mark out a square using the dimension (A) in Fig. 4. This is indicated by the blue line in Fig. 5. This is the outer profile of the plug.
- Step three. Turn the dowel 90 degrees and secure it lengthways in the vice. Using the (B) measurement in Fig 4, mark a line along all 4 sides of the dowel. This is shown by the green line in Fig 5. This will be the total depth of the plug. Turn the dowel to face upwards again. Using a fret saw, cut down along the blue lines until the cuts reach the green line. When doing this, try to cut just along the outside of the blue line.
- Step four. Sticking with the fret saw, cut along the green line until you meet the vertical cuts. Rotate the stake to cut all four sides removing all the excess wood. This will leave you with the finished plug illustrated as “Final Profile” in Fig. 5. If you look at (A) you can see that even though the plug shape is square, it will work perfectly. It will contact and secure the stake in the same way as the original did.
Note: If you made the vertical (blue line) cuts just outside the lines, you’ll probably have to remove some wood. This is easy to do with sandpaper or a file, and too big is far better than too small!
And, as always, carefully does it. Remove small quantities of wood at a time checking regularly for a snug fit in the light fitting socket.
Cutting the Spike
Cutting the spike end of the stake is a fairly simple, two-step procedure illustrated in Fig. 6 below.
- Step One. Secure the stake horizontally in the vice. Mark the desired spike length on all four sides of the stake (A). There’s no exact science here. The depth of the spike is up to you, but the same length as the original would be good. On the same two sides mark the center of the stake (B).
- Step two. Mark lines (the blue lines in Fig.6) from the depth indicator to the center marking. You don’t really want a dagger point, so leave a little leeway between the cut line and the center mark. Move the stake in the vice so you have enough room to make the cuts. Now use the tenon saw to cut all the way through the stake along the cut lines. This will produce a traditional four-sided stake shape. You could only make two cuts on opposite sides of the stake, but this method works well.
Note 1: If you have a Dremel tool with a groove cutting bit, you could cut relief grooves up the sides of the stake. Seeing as the average stake is seldom bigger than 1 x 1 inch, it’s not really called for.
Note 2: Once your stake is done, it needs to be given at least three coats of oil or varnish to protect it against rotting.
Using Round Wooden Dowels for Solar Lighting Stakes
If you want or have to use round dowels, the entire procedure is identical. It is, however, tricky to get the center of the round dowel and the spike cut lines marked.
That said, these items are hardly high precision machine parts, so there is a fair bit of “wonky” allowance allowed.
The process of cutting the plug on a round dowel is detailed below in Fig. 7. The similarities between square and round dowels are obvious. The spike cutting procedure is not illustrated but is identical to the square stake.
Note: If you have a wood lathe and are experienced in its use you’re in luck. Turning a precise round plug and a perfectly concentric spike is then a piece of cake.
Alternate Materials for DIY Stakes for solar-powered Lights
There are several other materials that are suitable for making your own stakes for solar lights. These include:
- Acrylic round or square stock. The entire procedure for this material would be the same as wood.
- Aluminum round bar.
- Brass square bar.
- Steel round bar or rebar.
Acrylic can be worked with the same tools as wood and the process is similar for square and round stock. Even so, polymers are usually cost far more than wood even if they are far more rot and corrosion-resistant.
Metal materials represent a huge overkill in terms of price and complexity of production. This, even if they are extremely long-lasting and robust.
These materials are only really suitable for long-term installations of heavy flood or spotlighting. For example, solar spotlights used for illuminating flag poles that are likely to be set in concrete. Or at least left in place for protracted periods.
In all cases of metal material stakes for solar lights or landscape light poles, lathe turning will be required. And that is an extensive subject best covered in another article.
Tips on Setting Up Solar Stake Lights
How Do You Secure Solar Lights in the Ground?
For installing stake mounted solar lights, there are a couple of points to consider:
- Don’t force staked solar lights into the ground. In moderately hard soil, use a rubber mallet to gently tap the stake into the ground before installing the light. Never push on or hit the actual light fitting when setting into the ground.
- Trying to install staked solar lights in frozen ground is an absolute no-no.
- If the soil is very hard, soak the area with water to soften the soil before installing the light stake.
- In rocky ground, it may be necessary to move the light around to find clear ground. If that is not practical, turn the soil over and remove stones or rubble before installing stakes for solar lights.
- In very soft soil, use a wooden stake to firmly tamp the soil around the stake to prevent sagging.
- In situations where solar stake solar lights may be stolen, set them in concrete.
How Far Apart Should Solar Path Lights Be Placed?
The spacing of solar lights depends on their intended purpose. For instance, if a set of candy cane path lights are meant for purely aesthetic appeal, spacing is not critical. It’ll all boil down to what looks best. The same is true of any stand-alone solar lights for decorative effect only.
Solar lights used for practical illumination along paths or driveways require a very different approach altogether. The lights should be spaced so that dark, dead spots are minimized.
There are so many different solar-powered lights on the market, each with its own lighting characteristics. Finding that spacing sweet spot will probably take some trial and error testing.
A fairly reliable generalized rule is to place lights 6 to 8 feet apart in areas with good ambient lighting. In high traffic areas with little external lighting, 4 to 6 feet apart is more appropriate.
The spacing of most lights should also be reduced around turns, on inclines and stairways, and over decorative bridges.
Hopefully, this article has given some valuable insight into buying or making replacement solar light stakes. If you have any questions or need advice, drop us a line in the comments section below.
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