Years ago air-blown inflating yard decorations were a novelty you’d only see on a few front yards during the Christmas season. The last decade has brought an explosion of more elaborate holiday decorations, from giant air-blown Santas, to dinosaurs to dragons to Star Wars characters. And while Christmas is still the predominant time to see and buy these decorations, we’re now regularly seeing large Halloween, Thanksgiving and even Easter air blown decorations in the big box home improvement stores. These airblown inflatables are quickly and easily set up, don’t take up much storage space, and can transforming the look of a yard in minutes. But they all have one big weakness: strong winds can blow them down, or even send them flying right out of your yard.
Almost all airblown inflatables are designed in the same way: The decoration is inflated with a constant flow of air provided by an electric fan encased in a plastic base. The plastic base usually has three or four legs which are supposed to be “staked” into the ground with thin, smooth and light aluminum spikes. The inflatable decoration itself usually features two or more “tie down” cords which are staked into the grass as well, just to keep the inflated decoration standing straight and slightly more secure in breezy weather.
But as any homeowner will tell you, the months of October through April can bring some pretty cold, windy, rainy, and downright nasty weather down to bear on any outside yard decoration. The downright tiny aluminum stakes or plastic pegs included with most airblown inflatables are just not adequate enough to hold down a decoration during a fast moving storm or blustery day.
I’ve had my decorations blow down, smash into my house, roll across my lawn and get hopelessly tangled around each other before I started securing my decorations myself. So here are some great tips and tricks you can use to secure your airblown inflatable decorations and keep them from blowing away:
Use Longer Spikes or Nails
The first step in securing inflatables is to use longer spikes or nails then the ones provided. I have a 10 foot inflatable Santa Claus and it came with tiny 8 inch aluminum spikes. They didn’t last more than a week in my yard. At a minimum you want to use the larger 12 inch hardware nails which can be found in the roofing or decking area of most home improvement stores. They’re cheap and they’ll do the job in a pinch.
Upgrade to Tent Pegs
If nails are cutting it, then go with the slightly stronger option of metal tent pegs. In my experience plastic tent pegs generally don’t cut it, regardless of size, because they can become brittle and snap in half in frigid January temperatures. I’ve used the 10 inch metal tent pegs with the plastic top for years without much trouble, though I have found that if you have a lot of rain and the ground gets extremely soft they can slide out a bit. In that case, consider the next option.
Use Screw In Ground Anchors
Screw in ground anchors are beasts and will definitely, absolutely hold your airblown inflatable decoration on the ground in all just about any wind or storm imaginable. They’re over a foot long and they have the anchor at the bottom of the stake so that by the time you’ve put them in the ground they’re being held down with 12 inches of tight soil above them. As great as they are, they won’t work in every circumstance. First, they’re too big to thread through the default holes on the legs of the fan base of inflatable decorations, so these can only be used to keep the tie down cords in the ground. Second, they can be difficult to actually get into the ground (or remove) if the ground is frozen. Once they’re in, there’s really secure. A trick for screwing them in: Slide a big screwdriver into the hole at the top and twist in easily with the added leverage.
Use Stronger Cords
I have not had much problem with cords snapping, but I’ve seen it happen. If the cords included with your airblown inflatable are thin or not very strong, consider going to the local hardware or marine supply store and finding some good polyester cord. It shouldn’t be too thick or too heavy because a lot of inflatables can’t take much added weight in order to inflate properly.
Angle Your Spikes
No matter what type of securing method you use (nails, pegs, ground anchors) remember to put them into the ground at a 30 to 45 degree angle AWAY from the center of your decoration. This angle will increase the amount of pressure your spikes can hold and will make it harder for a swaying decoration to loosen or pull out spikes over time.
Widen Your Base Area
I found that four nails don’t always hold my inflatable base in place, so I now built “securing bars” onto my larger inflatables. I took some stainless steel plates and screwed them on to each of my four inflatable base legs. These stainless steel plates have a pattern of holes where I can hammer more large nails or stakes into. This allows my inflatable base to have eight (or more) spikes in the ground and it spreads out the spikes by a few inches, which should distribute the force of a swaying inflatable by a little bit. The video below shows how to install these simple airblown inflatable decoration base plates.
Airblown Inflatable Decoration Video
Mark the Base of Your Inflatable
This won’t keep your inflatable secure, but it will help assist you in setting it up each year. Unpack your inflatable, plug it in and let it inflate about half way on a calm (not breezy) day. Untangle everything and take a moment to somehow mark which base leg is the FRONT and which base leg is the BACK. I usually wrap a few lines of white tape around the legs and then use a permanent marker to just label them. This way when I start positioning my decorations I can have the base set up almost exactly as I need it each year without inflating it to find the front.
There are, of course, things you should NOT to do secure your airblown inflatable decorations. Here are a few:
Do NOT Use Bricks or Cement Blocks to Secure Your Inflatable Decoration
Bricks and hard blocks might seem like a good idea, but they aren’t easy to secure and could actually be thrown a bit of a distance or dragged along the ground if your inflatable were to blow over. Bricks and blocks in a yard can be a tripping hazard when you are setting up and taking decorations down.
Do NOT Mount Your Inflatable Decoration On A Plywood Base
I’ve seen this done before, and it might secure your decoration if you use heavy duty nails or tent pegs, but it will also kill the grass beneath it. Using a large square of plywood and then securing it also adds a bit of a setup and storage problem to the otherwise convenient inflatable decoration.
Be Careful Attaching Your Inflatable Decoration to Objects
Generally, your inflatable decoration should only be secured to the ground. However, in tight spaces it might be okay to tie the cords to something permanent and strong, but don’t tie your cords to other decorations, movable landscape objects (rocks, bricks) or lawn furniture. Those could all lead to a dangerous situation on an extremely windy day.
As always, use good judgement when inflating your airblown decorations for the day or evening. If there’s a big storm coming through, expected blizzard, or any other hazardous weather predicted, it’s usually best to keep your decoration turned off until the danger has passed.
With a little care and preparation your inflatable decorations can make your yard look great for many holiday seasons to come!