How To: Pillar Candles

Pillar Candles

So, you want to have candles in your Haunt, but you don’t want to risk burning your house down?  And, the flickering battery-operated lights sold in stores don’t quite get the job done?  What you need to do is to turn those tiny, dull lights into tall pillar candles.


  • PVC pipe
  • Expanding Spray Foam
  • Battery-Operated Tea Lights
  • Hot Glue Gun & Glue
  • Spray Paint
Tea Lights

The first step in this build is to find your tea lights.  The cheaper, the better.  For our project, we were fortunate to find a set of 24 tea lights for sale at Sam’s Club in a package that included an extra 24 batteries.  Sam’s Club had them for sale as a seasonal item starting in early October, and they were gone by Christmas.  Tea lights can be used in so many places and in so many props, that it’s always worth picking up extra when you can get a good deal.

The Pipe

To start, grab your PVC pipe and cut it into various lengths.  Since you want your candles to have a “melted” look, it’s best to make some tall and some short.  As you’re cutting, think about where you might want to display the candles.  Short candles go great in front of tombstones, and tall candles work well when paired with larger features.

The Foam

Expanding spray foam is very sticky and it is nearly impossible to get off of something once it has been sprayed there.  Keep this in mind when you prepare to fill the pipe with foam.  You may want to lay down paper or some other protective covering before you begin your work.

Stand all of the pipe bits on their ends and spray the foam into them.  The foam will expand very quickly, so start small and give it time to grow.  The goal is to have about a 1/2 inch of foam stick out over the top of the pipe.  Whatever sticks out will be cut off later.  Once all of the pipes have been filled, leave them overnight to dry.

After the foam is dry, using a saw, cut the excess foam off of the top of each of the candles.  Then, cut some of the foam out of the top of the pipe to create a spot for the tea light to fit.  The best way to do this is to use a Forstner Drill Bit that is the same size as the pipe.  This will make a nice clean cut.  Whatever you use to cut, go down low enough so that the base of the candle sits below the top of the pipe, but keep it up high enough so that the “flame” sticks out above.

The Glue

This prop takes a lot of glue, so be prepared with an extra package.  The hotter you can get the glue, the better.  Start off by putting a ring of glue around the top of the pipe and then keep layering it on to mimic the look of dripping wax.  It’s best to hold the glue gun still and slowly turn the pipe, pausing at points to create extra long drips.  The shorter the candle, the more wax build-up you want.

When you think you might have enough glue on the pipe, go back and add more.  This is one step where there’s no such thing as too much.  For the best effect, you want your candles to look like they are spilling over with fresh wax.

The Paint

To paint the candles, find a spot with good air-flow and go for it.  If your pipe has any text printed on the side, you’ll want to pay extra attention to those areas.  Be sure to follow the instructions printed on the side of the can.  It may take an extra coat of paint to get everything covered up just right.

For our candles, we thought that painting them black would make them look extra spooky.  This turned out to be a big mistake.  The candles looked great when the lights were on, but the moment we placed them in the graveyard, they disappeared into the darkness.  For this year, we are planning on repainting the candles white so that they’ll stand out even better.


A big “thank you” needs to go out to jimmyzdc from Halloween Forum for the idea/inspiration.

1 Comment

One thought on “How To: Pillar Candles

  1. Kitty

    Wow! These look really great. And, don’t look like tooooooo much work. Thanks!

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