Installing LED’s to showcase an unexpected pattern

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INDIANAPOLIS —  When finishing basement beams, I spray painted them and drywalled a few, but there was still one last beam to go. I had already drywalled the bottom, but I didn’t want to drywall the sides that faced the bar area. This time, I wanted something more spicey in the bar area.

The best way to do that is to add electricity. I tapped into the electricity from an outlet below the beam, ran a line up to the interior beam, and installed an outlet. Just make sure it is secure and properly grounded. Now, I can plug in an LED strip, run it down the beam, and light it up. That made it much better, but it was still not thrilling, just a beam with some illumination.

So, to pretty it up, I made extended rectangular wooden frames to cover up the beam but still allow light out the middle. The frames were just thin 1-by-3 boards pocket screwed together. They were also stained brown. I needed several 8-footers to cover the length of the beam. But even after installing the lights, it didn’t pop. I thought diffusion might help, such as a plexiglass covering to spread the LED lights. 

So I went to the hardware store. Did you know most big box stores have areas of plexiglass and acrylic? They are generally 4-by-8-foot sheets. Some are flat, others have patterns, which is the key to a different look. The sheets can be cut to size if you have a circular or table saw. But you may want to tape the area to be cut to prevent chipping, as it’s often a bit brittle. Once cut, mount it to the backside however you’d like. You can route out a channel for the plexi to set it, screw it on the back, or even tape or glue it. 

And here’s the surprise. I chose an acrylic sheet with a ribbed pattern in it. There were a bunch of horizontal lines embedded into the plexiglass. I knew it would look slightly different once mounted, but I wasn’t expecting this. When you put the panel in front of the lights, each LED behind the plexi becomes its vertical row of lights, turning a single LED into about 30. However many ribs there are.

Then attach each frame with finishing screws. But, all the panels together and have fun with your new color-changing lights that cast a cool look onto the bar area. You can also use this idea to cover and highlight any room in your space, such as a hutch or cabinet door.

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