Balloons Outdoors

Feb 14, 2023

Balloons Outdoors

Latex biodegrades with sun, wind and heat.
– unknown

Some of the following comments include amounts of money in the imaginary unit called “C-shells.” These units are used to avoid any hint of illegal price fixing in the balloon industry.

Best Brand Of Balloons For Outdoor Work

  • Anything outside is one day at a time. Rain, heat, and WIND are killers. The best chance for outdoor is Chlorprene balloons from Toy-Tex in Chicago. They come in a true 5ft. and larger, and they’re designed to last “longer” outside. The ultimate answer is a 10 foot vinyl (about $200 to $250) which will last, and is reusable as long as you can recover the balloon (does not blow away). As far as your columns go, I would go to what the car dealers use down here which is “Tuff-Tex” 17 inch balloons and have them hooked up like a kite at the base of the large balloon with a swivel.
  • I try to use Qualatex at all times but am finding that for anything more than 11 inch (especially outdoors) I go to other brands. I’m not sure they understand outside work. There is no way I would ever use a Qualatex 5 ft. It is not even close to what is needed for outdoor work. I have brought this up to them to no avail, so I use Toy Tex, Grainger, etc. I have the best luck outside with the Tuff-tex 17 inch. Outside it is great. I would love to use a Qualatex if it would fit the bill, but they don’t.
  • I too use Tuff-tex 17 inch for my outdoor work. I live in Las Vegas, NV, and they are the only ones that fit the bill, as far as I’m concerned.
  • The large qualatex (larger than 11 inch) doesn’t really work for me outside. Outside I have found that a balloon called Tuff-tex is far superior to anything qualatex puts out. It is a 17 inch and for outside use and it is the best. They are made by Maple City Rubber Co. 800-841-9434. They will sell direct so we don’t pay the middle man like we do for qualatex – consequently their pricing is a lot cheaper. Case in point Tuesday I did a 150 ft outside arch using 4 colors. I used 3 colors Tuff-tex and 1 color qualatex 18 inch. By the time I was done I had 8 Qualatex balloons that were bad and only 1 Tuff-tex, and I used 3 times as many Tuff-tex. I would never use Tuff-tex inside to decorate but for outside work it’s Tuff-tex. I sell a lot of 6-10 ft balloons and find that the best 6 ft is a Toy-tex 847-673-660. They will sell direct and have a good balloon. The Qualatex large balloon won’t pull any kind of weight. I don’t think it is made for outside work. I am a CBA and the QBN has really helped me, but I can’t be successful with my outside work and use their big balloons.
  • I highly recommend using the Duo balloons. I did a large display with 5,000 18″ duos and they stayed up for months. Only a few shrunk because we did not have them sealed right. You can reuse them if you want to save money and have the space to put them in – I don’t recommend taking the air out because it takes too long.
  • Treb Heining has a wonderful product that protects 16in balloons. It is actually a plastic type encasement. It is expensive, about $1.25 plus the balloon you want to use, but Helium will float for 3 WEEKS minimum and the inside balloon does not oxidize!

Balloons Outdoors In Hot Weather

  • Getting latex balloons to last for 3 days outside is pretty tricky. As you know, the latex biodegrades with sun, wind and heat. At a cooler time of year you might get away with it if the days are overcast. If the days are bright I doubt this will work. I typically only sell latex to last for one day outside. That being said, you can take steps to hedge your bet:
    1. Rent the 18″ Duo balloons for the garlands. These are designed to last outside, and you can rent them again later.
    2. Use smaller air-filled latex that you can really underinflate (11″ down to 7.5″ maybe) and allow the lift power of the big balloon to raise them.
    3. If you must use helium-filled latex, I’d suggest trying the new 24″ balloons sized down to 16″.

    You won’t need to hi-float the day before. However, if you pack wet balloons into a garland they may not dry properly. You may have to inflate the balloons in pairs and temporarily affix them to a ribbon while you wait 2 hours for them to dry. Then spiral as usual.
    I’d suggest you make overhand loops in both lines, and wire the loops together. Note if you use the Canadian Twist method for garland creation you’ll want to wrap another cord through the garland (lightly figure-8-ing it through) to trap the balloons on the line in case (or when) the balloons start popping. Otherwise you’ll end up with a dissolving garland! Some people prefer the paperclip method outside to avoid this problem.
    As long as you use a strong nylon cord you won’t have any problem with them escaping. The cord I use is a sailing cord. Just make sure that the attachment at the base is not rubbing against anything rough. If that’s a concern, cover the cord with duct tape at any potential problem places.

  • Indoors the balloons will last 3 days, no problem. Hi-Float is not really meant for outdoor work (at least as a float-time extender), and I for one would never sell outdoor work for 3 days without at least a daily touch-up fee and a “no-guarantee” clause.
  • Balloons NEVER last out of doors overnight. The reason for this is that the colder night air shrinks the balloons and then the dew (even if it’s just a little bit of dew) settles on the balloons. As the dew dries on the latex, it becomes slightly sticky -just sticky enough to “glue” the balloons together. Then, as the daytime arrives and the air warms up, the balloons start expanding and, boom, boom, bang, bang, boom. The balloons start popping. Trust us on this one, we had it happen to us very early on in our novice years. However, all of this could be avoided IF you bring the balloons in each evening. Even so, I doubt very much you will be happy with the product after the first day. Even a little bit of breeze will buffet the balloons so much they’ll look terrible after only about 4-6 hours. 4-footers by themselves would be fine. But arches/columns look good for one day only.
  • Outdoor Balloon Tip – use lots of white balloons (they fade less).
  • Regarding heat: when you have temps close to triple digits and you are trying to do helium work… keep in mind that this weather will actually speed up things and cause the helium to escape faster — drastically reducing floating time.
  • I doubt that you can get 4 days out of a 4 footer outside, at least not in this neck of the woods! I am not sure it will lift an airfilled column for that amount of time either.
  • I have used foils outside. The only problem I have had are the normal shrinking or expansion due to weather. I also found the foil did not hold its color, shine or print very well. I have made an arch with the foil quads. They held up nicely but color did not look nice after a day in the sun. Maybe you could go with the new Duo’s from Qualatex. They hold up as long as foils but are made for the outdoors. Besides you don’t have to worry about some breaking lose and getting tangled in power lines like with foil balloons.
  • Living in the Midwest, we do not have the opportunity to decorate outside year round, but in the summer and fall we do several outdoor weddings a year. One thing we have to contend with here is not ever being able to count on the weather. It can be sunny and calm in the morning, and by afternoon it could be overcast and windy with the clouds just waiting for you to put out your decor so they can pour rain on it. One thing I strongly suggest in any climate is always using some kind of framework to give your decor “a skeleton” so that it can withstand wind, a little rain, and heat. If using helium balloons outside, the slightest little breeze will whip the balloons all over the place and if it is hot, helium balloons will lose float time very fast. By using a frame, you can avoid most of these problems.
  • Also, keep in mind that darker balloons will absorb heat and pop faster than lighter colored balloons will – so only offer white or light colored balloons and accent with ribbons in a darker color if needed. Also, make sure you under-inflate the balloons a little so that they have room to expand when absorbing heat – we always over-inflate and then release the air until the balloon is slightly underinflated. That way, the latex is stretched a little and not as brittle and it can “breathe” or expand easier.
  • I wouldn’t use latex at all outside. As an example: three years ago I had a large outdoor job for a grand opening of an outdoor mall. We had latex balloons everywhere on roofs, in columns on the ground, and arches on the ground. We told the client that there was NO guarantee for use of latex outside for any length of time, since in our experience wind and sun really take their toll on latex. As it happened, just as we finished a wind blew in and really tore up the arches. The columns stayed up two days, but after the second day the latex just fell apart in our hands when we touched it.I would stick to the new polyurethane duo balloons- we have used them outdoors with great success and feel that they hold up much better than mylars. I suggest that you blow them up with air that is the same temperature as it is going to be outside (if possible) and that will help them retain their shape better. The mylars have ink on them that can run, too. Any rain could cause the coating to run.
  • We do a lot of outdoor decorating work and have been very fortunate to have success with our work. While we don’t get the high temps as often, we do always consider it and advise the client and offer alternatives. These are a few of the rules (precautions) we apply when decorating outdoors – especially summer:
    1. We try to do as much as we can in air and avoid helium.
    2. We always use a balloon at least 2 sizes larger than we need — if we want 11 -14″ we use a 16″. If it’s going to be hot – we preinflate then inflate and bring them down to where we need them. Especially if we are using helium filled.
    3. We build as much as we can in advance and either turn the A/C really low or off when working on them.
  • If you do not OVERinflate the balloon first, underinflating does no good. Inflate the balloon as large as possible, a three foot will reach almost four feet and the neck end will start to buldge. Then drop it down to about 28″. Make sure you measure them. We at Balloon Builders do 3′ balloons outside all the time. If treated this way, they will last for days. It seems that if they are going to pop, they do so in the first half hour. I did 16 columns outside in 100 degrees 2 weeks ago, they lasted from 4:00 am until I popped them at 10 at night. Go ahead and waste a 3′ and see just how large you can preinflate it, this is the most important part.
  • If you are doing Helium outside, preinflate the balloons with air first and let it all out. You don’t want to waste helium. And you can do this in advance of the event. It is a good thing to do this will all size balloons outdoors. I prefer to do this for 30″ or greater balloon indoor work also but don’t always have the time. It prestretchs the balloon and if it bursts you haven’t lost all that helium.
  • It is my experience that in 80 degree temperatures balloons expand. Also, 80 degree weather calls for 16″ balloons sized down to 12″ so there is expansion room in the heat. They should stay up all day. However, I warn customers not to expect latex to last more than one day outside in the heat.
  • I know someone who lives in Florida, and she says that she has been able to get 14″ balloons, treated with the amount of Super Hi-Float for an 11″ balloon, and blown up to 11″ inches, to float for a couple of days outside in 80+ degree weather. You would need to make sure you let the balloons dry for a few hours before taking them outside, and you would want to make sure you were using Super Hi-Float (it works better in heat and humidity). It might be worth it to do some tests outside your own store and see what kind of floating life you can get with this method.
  • Don Burchette, the inventor of Hi-Float, told me that the Hi-Float coating will stretch with the latex balloon in hot weather, so that should not be a problem. I agree, though, that it is not very safe to guarantee customers more than one day floating time for balloons that will be outside in the heat.
  • We have found it helpful blowing up all the balloons with air to their maximum size and then deflating them. Usually a 16″ can easily go to near 17″ depending on the color. Now you have prestretched all the balloons so when you undersize with helium they should be more reliable. By preinflating you now know that they should withstand the effects heat enlarging. This prestretching can be done far in advance of the actual event.
  • I’ve heard you’re not supposed to use balloons in winds over 15 miles/hour.
  • I don’t think you can do anything to protect balloons from the extreme heat. We have done outdoor parties and we tell people that if the balloons are in the sun, they will not last in hot hot weather. Oxidation isn’t the worst problem, popping is. We discourage balloons under these conditions.
  • Oxidation and size are common problems for outdoor events in the heat and even worse for those of us that deal with humidity. A few simple solutions I have found:
    1. Build Arches and columns and decor out of AIR FILLED and only with TOP QUALITY latex as much as possible. It can be 5 inch, 11 inch, 16 inch or 40 inch paddles. The better the balloon – the better the performance.
    2. Use bright colors that are “brightened” by these conditions….Think Qualatex FESTIVE ASSORTMENT. They look even better when oxidized!!
    3. Blow it…twist it and place it FAST….No fingerprints to mar the surface and ruin the look. ( Eat no garlic the day of or the day before. The acid enzymes seep thru your fingertips and weaken the latex. HONEST!!!!)
    4. Sell your client on the fact that balloons, when in this type of environment, take on a beautiful “VELVET” matte finish as opposed to a shiny translucent finish. WOMEN love the wording that way. That’s how we buy our facial powder!!
    5. Try the DUO’S. They hold shine and color longer.
  • My #1 Rule: Use only the very best quality balloons! In my early years in this business I shopped around and tried every balloon available to us in Australia at that time. It was frustrating. I have used Qualatex exclusively for outdoor work for the last 5 years or so. In fact, I use no other balloon – period! I have not found it necessary to even try another brand for outdoor work, although some tell me they achieve excellent results with BSA latex. Someone on this list once praised Tilly latex balloons for outdoor work. They are not available in Australia to my knowledge. Quality of the balloon makes a BIG difference! I suggest you experiment to your satisfaction. Check the balloon products of the sponsors of the BHQ first. My husband tells me that all the sponsors on the BHQ are reputable suppliers with quality products.
  • After choosing the best in latex quality, you can apply a product called “Balloon Shine” to the inflated balloons. There is also a technique where diluted HI-FLOAT will serve the same purpose in protecting the latex from UV rays. Again, both are excellent products when applied as directed. Play it safe and – experiment. I can’t stress that enough.

Balloons Outdoors In Cold Weather

  • My experience with freezing weather is following:
    1. Latex balloons with hi-float look awful.
    2. All balloons shrink up terribly
    3. Your only chance is to use COLD helium or nitrogen.
  • Just returned from Europe and saw tons of large mylars being sold outdoors. Each vendor must have been holding 50-75 mylars, none of which were “shrinking” from the cold temp. The secret is to fill them in the same temp that they will be in for display. That also means that the helium must be left out in the cold before inflating the balloons to create a balance in the temp. You cannot go from room temp to cold and get a proper balance.
  • If you blow up a foil balloon outside to the proper size – what happens after the customer buys it and takes it home? I blew up foils outside and found that when I took the balloons inside, they popped when the helium warmed up and expanded.
  • I know that San Diego is not extreme but this year I did a Candy Cane Lane with 9″ Red and White on bend aluminum frames. They lasted well for two weeks prior to Christmas. Neighbors complained when I took them down. Balloons outdoors can be very exciting to see.
  • Treb Heining (a well known balloon artist) had a funny story to tell at the local San Diego chapter meeting of the QBN. He has coordinated the confetti and balloon drops at the Times Square New Years events for years now and last week when he was in New York it was of course very cold, well… this year the coordinators asked that he drop several hundred 5′ white balloons down on the crowd. These balloons were inflated at about 9:00AM Dec 31st. They were kept outside in freezing weather all day and they held up extremely well. He uses Qualatex exclusively.– here’s the funny part.

    Several of the balloons on Treb’s rooftop were being held in an electrical room at the top of a skyscraper. Well, when it was time to drop the balloons all went as planned with the 120 balloons he had out on the roof under a canvas but when he and his crew dropped the balloons that had been sitting in the relatively warm electrical room they slowly floated UP! instead of down. — After they cooled, they then started to drop again. That unexpected effect was the New Year’s highlight for him and his crew.

Outdoor Columns

  • If the ground is dirt or grass we pound in Rebar stakes. Pound the rebar into ground and then use a PVC pipe to hold up the item.
  • Here’s something to consider whenever you are pounding anything into the ground such as tent stakes, PVC or Conduit poles or any object to secure and/or anchor decor, tents, or other supports. It is a good idea to confirm location and existence of underground sprinkler systems and sprinkler heads. It can be very costly if you accidentally hit and damage an underground system. Get a clearance from the people who come out and check for underground utilities.
  • We use 1/2″ conduit cut to whatever size we need and then hammer it into the ground as far as we need to or can handle (this is when women REALLY appreciate MEN!). If we need to cover these ugly rods, we use plastic shower curtain rod covers that can be purchased just about anywhere. I’ve actually found the best colors and prices at our local Burlington Coat Factory here in Maryland — they come in every color within reason, (however we use white for just about anything) and they’re only 99 cents!
  • If you inflate your balloons with air that is about the same temperature as that on site, your balloons will hold up better. Extreme changes in temperature up or down will have a negative effect on the balloons.
  • Grossly underinflating latex balloons will help some also. This gives you thicker skin to deal with the adverse weather and extra expansion room should things suddenly turn warm after you have the balloons inflated with cold air.
  • Tightly packed garlands will help to absorb balloon shrinkage without showing gaps as badly as loosely packed garlands or single layer balloon graphics techniques.
  • Another approach would be to use tubulars with constant air blowers attached. This will keep the display fully inflated regardless of temperature changes. Both vinyl and mylar tubulars can stand the temperature but require different installation techniques to keep the air flowing and hide the associated machinery.
  • One thing that has worked really well for us outside are “Floating Clouds”. These are simply air-filled cloud nines taped onto a pole made of 1/2-inch conduit and then pushed into the ground. You then add lots of ribbons and tulle at the base of the cloud to really dress it up. Brides love this because with the gentlest breeze, the ribbons and tulle will billow and sway in the wind, but the balloons will stand perfectly still. The advantage for you is that you can have these done ahead of time and then it is very quick and easy to set them up on site. Also, they are very cheap to make, but they look very elegant and expensive – so you can charge more!.
  • There are lots of things you can do with these – you can line a pathway, mark a special area, or make a pretty divider. Stagger the heights of the poles (starting with the tallest in the middle and tapering down each side to form a sort of inverted “V”) and drape tulle and ribbons from cloud to cloud to make a gorgeous backdrop. The possibilities are endless!

Outdoor Arches

  • In response to specific questions regarding outdoor arches filled with helium:
  • Balloon Size: Use the largest balloons possible and under-inflate them by at least 2 inches, more for a 3 foot balloon. We have the best luck with 16-inch balloons down-sized to 14 inches and really prefer the 3 foot balloons when the client’s budget permits them.
  • Outdoor Temperature/Inflation: Try to inflate the balloons at about the same temperature they will have to withstand. If they are to be subjected to sun and heat in the display area, fill them in a sunny area – not in the shade, or they might begin popping when you put them into position in the sun.
  • Second day appearance: They are going to be smaller and they will look ‘suede-like’ from the oxidation process. The 3 footers will definitely look better and be more buoyant.
  • Balloon colors: Use light colors, not jewel tones (they’re just going to oxidize anyway). The darker the balloon, the quicker it will be to pop when subjected to sun and heat. Random patterns on spiral arches will show less obvious damage than will a 4/1, 2/2 spiral; blocks of color also work better (4 clusters of 4 light blue, then 4 clusters of 4 white…) If the client insists on dark colors, bring a sample of an oxidized balloon and show them what will happen. Explain that they will be more susceptible to heat/sun damage… anything dark colored that is absorbing sunlight will be hotter than something light colored.
  • Exterior treatments to retard oxidation: I don’t think it’s worth it unless it’s an entry in a competition, or something very simple with very few balloons. Inform the client of the natural process that will occur; perhaps they will like it. On a one day event, it’s never been a big problem. On longer terms I try to sell the 3 foot balloons.
  • Hi-float/Super Hi-float: I don’t use it on my outdoor work because I would opt for air filled designs or 3′ balloons.
  • Weights/anchors: In good weather I usually quadruple what I would use for weight indoors, and I add even more for windy situations. For 100′ quad of 12″ – I’d use 50 pounds on each side and tether the weights to the ground with 8-inch ‘U’ pegs. You can also use covered cement blocks, bricks, etc.. Remember to cover them because the wind will cause the balloons to brush back and forth against the weights.
  • Cord: We use various thicknesses of braided nylon cord. For simple, short arches or columns of 16-inch balloons we use nylon cord that’s made for blinds or clothesline; for 3-foot balloons and larger, or more complex structures, we use the thicker braided cords. If it’s going to be windy, we use heavier cords than if it’s a still day. Have several thicknesses on hand.Professionalism: Our clients have been appreciative of the information, education and contingency planning. Nobody planning a large event likes to be taken by surprise. It’s good business because it shows you care about the success of the event AND the event chairperson.
  • Pricing: Price outdoor jobs higher than indoor jobs. You may need more people on site, you may need someone to remain in the area if it’s a really important job (whether client requests it or not), it’s going to be hot and uncomfortable and your staff is accustomed to working in an air conditioned shop. Access to the area is likely to be difficult and cumbersome. Bring additional balloons, helium, cords, and weights.
  • Keep your design well away from trees, bushes, bricks, stucco, wood poles, telephone wires, etc. – As the wind blows, the arches may go completely horizontal. The abrasion can cause the balloons to pop, the line to tear apart.
  • If it’s a mild, calm day, the event will be a cinch; if it isn’t, you will have been as prepared as possible.
  • Speaking from one very bad hot, windy, outdoor experience – here’s what NOT to do:
    • Don’t use 11″ balloons (use 16″ down-sized radically)
    • Don’t use dark colors (light colors were the last to pop)
    • Don’t use pearlized colors (oxidize more quickly)
    • Don’t inflate in an air conditioned environment, then place into heat (more damage will be done as they hit sun and hot air)
    • Don’t begin the job too early or forget to think about mid day sun (most of the our damage problems happened between 11-2:00)
    • Don’t hi float
    • Don’t use single arches or intricate patterns (damage will be more apparent)
    • Don’t forget to run a test approximating similar conditions (you’ll be more prepared for bidding and building)
    • Don’t forget to bring strong cable, mono line won’t do
    • Don’t forget to bring HEAVY…or EXTRA HEAVY weights/anchors (wind havoc)
    • Don’t forget to arrange a contingency for rain (discuss and plan with client)
    • Don’t forget to prepare the client for potential problems (make sure they know how knowledgeable and prepared you are)
    • Don’t forget to price the job properly!
  • Balloon conditions — if you haven’t worked outdoors take real care here in planning what size, how long they’ll last and specifically what colors.
    • I would not use PVC at all — the stability factor for outdoors leaves much to be desired, way too much flexibility from my view point.
    • I would use at the least 1/2″ conduit in steel bases with extra heavy duty weights.
    • I would keep the arch as low as possible if there is ABSOLUTELY NO WHERE to secure the arch with mono.
    • Do you have GOOD liability insurance? This is just an ABSOLUTE MUST in my humble opinion if you are going to start working in Mother Nature’s playground.
  • We did a string of pearls arch with 16-inch balloons and used Super Hi-float for a 2 day event and didn’t have any trouble. They stayed up fine. Two things to consider, though. The color and type of balloon you use will have an effect on how good it will look on day two. Lighter colors and pearl balloons will look better longer and not show up as much oxidation. The second thing to consider with 16-inch balloons is the length of the arch. If it is a short arch then it might not look proportional with larger balloons. If it is longer then it would be great.
  • We just finished putting up a 20 foot air filled arch at an outdoor festival in Arizona. Two pillars topped with a 16-inch balloon and decorated to look like a cowboy clown. We used rebar driven into ground for each end of arch, built the arch itself out of pvc and inserted the ends into the rebar on each side. For the pillars we drove rebar into ground; covered rebar with tape (so as not to pop balloons), built the pillar onto the rebar, tied in a 16-inch ‘head’ and decorated with eyes, nose, mouth, (5-inch balloons and 260Q) and bandanna and cowboy hat.
  • Whenever possible, I do air-filled arches on fixed frames. For instance, this weekend I have 2 arches to do which lead into corporate tents. I will use aluminum rod, affixed to a stationary white picket fence. I also use ‘standard’ or ‘fashion tone’ colors as opposed to ‘jewel tone’ as the oxidation isn’t _as_ noticeable. Air-filled balloons all but eliminates the popping problem caused by helium-filled balloons, which can expand with excessive temperatures.
  • The arches I am doing are not too high/wide so they lend themselves well to using a frame. You could also consider the use of conduit, for better support, rather than lightweight aluminum rod??
  • Unless you build your arch on a rigid frame it’s gonna sway in the breeze. If you ever watch the thanksgiving parade Old Bullwinkle and his friends have the lift of a few thousand 3-footers and they still sway in the breeze. It’s a matter of surface area, mass, and aerodynamics. The wind IS going to take a balloon and have its way with it. For Macy’s parade balloons, they have about fifty tethers – some ahead, some behind, and some to either side of the balloon. The idea is: if the wind pulls the balloon forward, the tethers on the back will keep the balloon from pulling too far forward. No matter what the vector of the wind is, there are several tethers roughly opposite the wind, and they counter the force of the wind. If the wind blows straight down, however, that balloon is going to go straight down, since there’s no one above the balloon holding onto a tether. But the wind which forces an arch flat to the ground is usually not a down draft, but a cross wind, and the difference will be negligible using 3-footers to try to keep the arch up.
  • If you have the rigging points, you could actually run guy wires from the arch up and out to the sides, much the same way that a tightrope is rigged. Leave a little play in all the guy wires so that when the wind was still, the arch would support itself in a smooth helium arch shape, but when the wind started to blow it could only deviate ‘so much’ before the guy wires stopped it. Trouble is, your arch is probably gonna lose balloons, and thus lose its color pattern. Arches like to flow in the breeze or be totally rigid. Once you try to tether a portion of an arch you make it mad.
  • We often do arches outdoors that need to be ‘solid’, the most common of which is used as a start/finish line for walk-a-thons or small-scale races. These usually span no more than a 10-foot wide sidewalk, and we use 1/2 inch conduit pounded into the ground on either side of the ‘track.’ 1/4 inch aluminum rod spans the distance to complete the arch. If there is no ground, we’ll drag out the 100-lb base plates, but if we can avoid that… we do! Put the balloons on monofilament line as opposed to direct-wrapping them… the wind is definitely NOT your friend! In addition to an extra twist of balloons around the pipe here and there, we will also use cable ties every few feet to attach the mono to the frame.
  • I have done outdoor events before and have found what will go wrong “DOES”. Remember that the least bit of wind will make the balloons move. The worst thing to have on a stage is an arch that is blowing over on the speaker. A balloon arch will blow over to its lowest point. So if it is anchored onto a weight on the ground then the wind has a potential to blow it over to the ground. If someone requests an arch outside, I will anchor it onto 8’columns. This way the lowest point is about 6-8ft off the ground. Also, single pearl arches make background noise if it is breezy. I would suggest doing a SDS wall if you have panels or a simple balloon wall. Or a reinforced spiral arch. Here in Sacramento, CA, the temperature can go up quickly, so I always oversize my balloons first and then downsize about 2-3 inches. I also avoid dark color balloons. And bugs love yellow balloons.
  • A very simple balloon size determinator for an outdoor arch is the length of time it has to last.
  • If you set up at say 5-6am, open at 10am, close at 4pm; 11inch is fine. (sized to 10inch). If it has to last longer, use 16 inch sized to 13-14 inches.
  • The costs and the proportional costs will vary, but so will selling price.
  • I do high float spiral arches. I high float and blow as duplets. I have balloon corrals that allow air to circulate around them. Before balloon corals I used weights on each end of 3 different lengths of curling ribbon (be careful storing these as they do tend to tangle.) It looks something like this

    Hang the ribbon over the duplet. The reason for 3 different lengths is that then they are drying at 3 levels in the room which gives you much more drying space. I do the balloons at night, and by morning they are dry and ready to be assembled. I bag up all the duplets and away we go.

  • How do you hold down a spiral arch outside?
  • Rig from metal street light to metal street light, phone pole to phone pole, or tree to tree. Take a 4-5 inch nail and HAMMER into tree/pole To avoid people touching the arch, tie it 7 or 8 feet up. 8-9 feet is better! Keep all latex away from children, sticks and pesky teenagers.
  • Use 1/4 inch (or thicker) laundry line NOT 100lb monofilament – it’s stronger and sturdier. Rig/tie/wrap your line WAY around the tree/pole several times, then re-nail another one THROUGH the laundry line.
  • NOTE – In many places it is against the law and you can be fined for putting a nail or even a poster onto a telephone pole! There are also rules about who can erect anything that goes over a public street. Who will be responsible if your arch causes a traffic accident, or worse?
  • The customer wants a spiral arch on the street. It will actually be corner to corner…. 40’… no trees… no grass, just concrete. Is there any other method to use for weights besides major weights?
  • Get a car dealer to park a new car on each corner, and tie the arch to the bumpers/trailer-hitches/axles/etc. Police & fire vehicles work especially well for this at night; they have built-in disco lights.
  • You could always tie it to the storm sewer grates on the corners,… but I’d cover the grates with something decorative, lest your arch be mistaken for a 40′ geyser of soap suds bubbling out of a backed-up drain ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚
  • I need to know the best way to keep the cord from sliding up and down on the pole in case of windy conditions.
  • Using large diameter stainless-steel “hose” clamps which are available at any hardware store, you should be able to rig up something. (Or get some radiator hose clamps at an auto parts store and screw one into the other to get the size you need.) Use the hose clamp to secure a metal ring (like a link of chain) to the pole. Tie your rope to the ring rather than around the pole.
  • I am wondering what is the largest outdoor air-fill arch anyone has built. How it was anchored did you have to use guide lines for support. I would like to build a free standing arch out of duos this would be outdoor. I would like some help and advice.
  • Lately there have been a lot of questions about air-filled outdoor balloon arches, most of them dealing with structural design of the arch to keep it from falling over.Short arches are generally no problem, because you can do a lot of things wrong and still not push any limits.

    The world’s longest arch is 518 meters long… more than a quarter of a mile. (New River Gorge Bridge). Obviously, long arches can be built, but they are only attempted by structural engineers who design arches for a living and know what limits to push and how far to push them.

    Don’t have time to take structural design courses? Ok, here is a layman’s arch tutorial, for balloon pros.

    1. Understand basic arch behavior.To understand basic arch behavior, think in one direction at a time.

      Arches are planar structures… they are very thin in comparison to their height and width.

      Arches are stiff in response to in-plane loads. In-plane loads include the weight of the arch, the balloons, the lights, etc. These loads are usually small. Stiff structure, small loads, no problem.

      Arches are flimsy when loaded perpendicular to the plane of the arch. These out-of-plane or lateral loads include wind loads, arch members bending out of plane (leading to buckling), etc. These loads are usually large. Flimsy structure, large loads, BIG problem.

      Looking at arch behavior, you can see that arches provide exactly the opposite of what balloon artists need in an air-filled outdoor balloon arch! No wonder balloon pros have such trouble with them!

      So how do you make a long arch that won’t fall down? It’s not hard if you follow rule 2.

    2. To prevent collapse, basic arches must be stiffened in their flimsy directions.This generally involves stiffening the arch perpendicular to the plane of the arch. There are many ways to to this.
      • Build the arch against a wall and tie it to the wall with short pieces of wire. Let the wall fight the out-of plane loads for the arch.
      • Use guy-wires strung in the out-of plane directions to fight the out-of plane loads. You can think of this as a modification of (a) where the the wall is far away so the wires have to be long. With guy wires even the ground can be used as “the wall” mentioned in (a). However, guy wires, while efficient, are ugly and typically need to be anchored in places that ruin the aesthetic effect of the arch.
      • Increase the “thickness” of the arch measured perpendicular to the plane of the arch.Let me explain letting the wall fight the out-of plane loads and why it is my favorite. Without going into the physics, we’ll use a dramatic example. Look at a yardstick. It is about 1/8″ by 1″ by 36″. Lay it across the armrests of a chair with the cross-section oriented this way (1″ side flat):
                <------ 1" ------->    |
                +-----------------+   ---
                |                 |   1/8"
                +-----------------+   ---

        Now push down in the center of the yardstick. Pretty flimsy, yes?

        Now turn the yardstick so the cross-section is oriented this way (1″ side vertical):

             --> 1/8 <--
                +---+   ---
                |   |    ^
                |   |    |
                |   |    |
                |   |
                |   |    1"
                |   |
                |   |    |
                |   |    |
                |   |    v
                +---+   ---

        Then push down in the center of the yardstick. Pretty stiff, yes?

        Same yardstick, same material, but a big difference in both stiffness and the amount of load it can support without breaking/collapsing. What is the moral of this story?

        To stiffen a structure like a yardstick on an armchair, increase its "thickness" as measured in the direction of the applied load.

      How does this apply to an arch? Well, tilt your head a quarter of a turn (put your head on your shoulder) and repeat the experiment. Now you should see the parallels ๐Ÿ™‚

      To increase the "thickness" of an arch you can stack 10 arches one behind the other and fasten them together. Now when the wind tries to blow your arch down sideways, the arch will be thicker in the direction of the wind load, so it will be stiffer and better designed to resist the load.

      What, you don't have time to build 10 arches and fasten them together? Too much work you say?

      OK, then let's be smart about it and learn a lesson from the bridge designers who have found that the first and the tenth "arches" do most of the work of resisting the wind load. As long as the first arch is "well fastened" to the tenth arch, you don't need arch 2,3,4,5,6,7,8 or 9.* That cuts down on time and materials, does it not?

      However this fastening is crucial. Imagine bending a long ladder into an arch, the way they do in a jungle-gym. With the rungs connecting the 2x4 sides, you have a structure that is many, many times as stiff laterally as a single 2x4 would be. However, if you don't fasten the arches together, you only have two side-by-side, flimsy arches.**

      Get in your car and go find a metal arch bridge to examine. <!-- Or search the web for a link like this one: -->

      You'll find that there are usually two arches, one on each side of the bridge. This is analogous to our arch #1 and arch #10. To resist wind blowing down the river, the bridge is quite "thick" in the direction that the wind blows. How thick? 4 to 6 lanes thick!!! The arches on each side of the bridge are "strongly fastened" together by the bridge deck and the horizontal members that you see all along the top of the arch.***

      (Ignore the vertical members... they just hold up the bridge deck... something balloon arches don't have ๐Ÿ™‚

      For you advanced arch builders, here's a tip. Because of the way that a "thick" arch responds to lateral loading, thick arches don't need to be as thick at the top as as the base. This can be used to your aesthetic advantage. Check this link for ideas:
      <!-- -->

      Again note the horizontal bars at the top which act to "strongly fasten" arch #1 to arch #10.

    So if you want to build a long air-filled outdoor balloon arch, build it thick, like an arch bridge. For more balloon arch designs that you know won't fall over, go buy one of those oversize, coffee-table picture-books of modern, elegant, form-follows-function bridges. I've seen several of them at every good bookstore I go to. Look at the pictures of the arch bridges (not the suspension, cable-stayed, or other designs. Their load paths are different). Lastly, here's a couple more assorted tips:

    • The ends of the arch need to be firmly anchored to the ground. Weight them down with as much weight as you can manage.**** Pound them deep into the ground if possible. You should be able to lean against the frame and not have it budge.
    • Prevent sagging by using the largest, thickest size metal frame you can handle, and still hide amongst the balloons. Plastic might be easier to work with, but a piece of metal is 50 times stiffer than a piece of plastic having the same dimensions!!!

    * This is also why "I" beams look like an "I" in cross-section.

    ** Fastening the arches together well also reinforces the arch members against another failure mode called buckling.

    *** Lots of bridges have diagonal members between the arches too. That's even better than having only members which just go straight across because the diagonals form what structural engineers call a "truss."

    **** I've seen tent companies use white or blue plastic 55 gallon drums as weights... they roll them into place, then fill them with water. Maybe you could wrap it in tulle ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚ ๐Ÿ™‚

Outdoor Decorating With SDS

  • One of the things we do for outdoor SDS is this: If it is to be suspended, we don't use fishing line or cord to tie it up. I use light chain. The maximum size chain link that will fit INSIDE the steel conduit that is used between the panels. By passing chain through the steel conduit that is run down the outside (verticals) and ccross the bottom edge conduit (horizontal) you support the entire "unit" better. Cable tie the conduit to the panels. Don't rely on SDS clips alone. At the rigging fixing point, simply use a GOOD padlock to tie up the chain. Don't allow the padlocks to be taking the stress of the entire frame. Wrap the chain around a rail or post a few times. If the logo is quite wide, you may require additional supports in between the two outside chains. This also prevents "sagging" in the middle. Here, you simply feed chain through a piece of the steel conduit used horizontally across the top edge. Again, cable tie the conduit. Now you have 2 more tie off chains.
  • Advantages: Chain can't be cut or untied by teenagers. Chain won't stretch. Chain is stronger than cord (depends on the type of chain link). You sleep better when you are confident you have made that job as safe and secure as possible. Can be cut easy with your mini bolt cutters.
  • Disadvantages: Takes longer to install. Chain above the logo / mural is visible. So use nice shiney zinc coated steel chain.
  • Using panels outside or suspending them overhead does require special attention to rigging. The largest wall which we have suspended was 20 feet by 78 feet, around 1500 lbs. In this instance we ran conduit through the grid vertically at 8 ft. increments and then ran aircraft cable through the conduit. This was similar to what Don had suggested with chain. Instead of running the cable through the bottom (horizontal) piece of conduit and back up inside the next set of vertical conduit, as Don suggested, we simply wrap the cable around the bottom conduit twice, making sure it wraps over itself, then double clamping the cable with cable clamps. Executing the rigging this way keeps all the weight hanging directly down. Conduit was also zip tied in horizontally along the grid to help keep it from flexing.
  • Hanging this wall or any wall like this out side would require stabilizing the structure after the piece is in position. If at all possible I would still keep the weight on the cables fixed to a rigid beam overhead keeping the load vertical on the cables and easier to control. From this point on I would secure the piece to the building or fixed structure with multiple rigid rig points spaced along the back of grid to stabilize it against wind. Note: Airline cable is available through hardware stores along with the clamps. The cable itself is basically 7 strands of wired wrapped around themselves and then 7 of those strands again wrapped around themselves creating the finished cable. It comes in several widths. Also, you need to realize temperature will change the air density within foils making them loose in the grid when its cool, and tight when its hot. Latex , particularly the darker colors, are more vulnerable to oxidation due to HEAT and humidity. For the short period of 6 hours I don't think, ('though I probably would be proved wrong), either the latex or foil would suffer too much in mild weather.
  • If you set up the night before, know your weather!
  • If you care to... tie them in!

Giant Balloons Outdoors

  • For 3 footers on the roof - it'll probably be much windier up there than down on the ground. We have done these often and find that inflating them on site, tying them to 2-3 bricks with clothesline rope (equal length tail) and walking them up is the easiest way to get them in place. Make certain you check all doorways to assure that the balloons will fit through - the last door is invariably only 32-36" wide. Once on the roof, look for electrical pipes, conduit, etc. that they can be tied to with the free end tail - that way you won't worry about it getting away - they balloon will take more force to hold on to up there - be ready to be jolted a bit when the balloon gets out of the door and into the wind.
  • Do not space the balloons so closely that they will intertwine with the wind.
  • Do not leave them on the bricks without holding them or tying them down to a more secure appendage on the roof and remember to cut the cord attached to the brick, knot it again several times under the balloon neck and cut off the remaining cord. Add some wide mylar tails or clusters under the necks for extra effect.
  • Do not make life more difficult than it is; the balloons are helium filled, stand on the ground, let them up on a line, until a person on the roof can grab it and tie it off on the roof.
  • Blow them there, you get 25 from a tank (219) and it only takes about one and one half minute per balloon.
  • You can add a quad or two of 11" latex at the bottom, it gives it a finished look.
  • We once did a surprise wedding proposal by floating a tethered 5-foot balloon with a banner hanging from it saying "Will You Marry Me Darlene?", in front of the woman's office building. She was on the fifth floor!! The man had worked it out ahead of time with one of the woman's office mates to take her to the window at the appropriate time. Needless to say, it went over very, very well.

Outdoor Decorating - Pools

  • If you are going to put anything in a pool, it is always smart to protect yourself and have a "release of liability" clause in your contract stating who will remove the balloons and that you are not responsible for any damage to the pool or pool filter system. I learned this the hard way!!!!!
  • Any foil balloon will not respond well to water. The paint does come off. Water or sand will not hold the balloons in place either. The filter in the pool will draw all the balloons down to it.
  • I do pool flowers and pool floats for a major hotel and I put them on little monofilament leashes. I use 10-15 lb. This is only used if NO ONE is going to be using the pool. You have to find that out ahead of time. Then I would tie the ends to the ladder or diving board. If there were no ladders I put a decorated brick, follow the theme, if possible, and tie the end to that.
  • If you really wanted to use foil stars, decorate a piece of styrofoam, place the star arrangement on it and tie leashes. It will stay in the middle of the pool.
  • We just did an engagement party with two joining hearts in the pool and we tied in three places. The photographs of it were taken about noon time and the reflection in the water was as cool looking as the balloons themselves.
  • A pool decoration can be stunning or "way underdone" depending on its position in the yard, but mostly whatever you do will be NEW and different to your client. That is unless they have balloons in the pool every other day.Having two hearts joined together is romantic and symbolizes LOVE to most.

    I gather your're planning to lay the hearts on the water? Watch out for chlorine. I'm visualising a basic frame covered with balloons to make a small island that would float on the water with the two hearts (built in) on top. To allow the whole thing to float in the middle of the pool you'll have to tether it in several places back to the pool to ensure it doen't drift all over the place. A nice touch would be to incorporate a small palm tree smaller than the hearts) even a little native hut representing an Island Of Love. Sound romantic enough?

    If your budget won't allow such a grandiose feature, try making several hearts at different sizes out of Link-O-Loon chained and allowing them to freely float about on the pool, although some tethering may be needed. This would be a sort of "Sea Of Love" if you catch my drift. I'd basically forget the petals for they may not have a strong enough impact compared to the sculptures.

    You could use numerous sizes of air filled foil hearts attached to a weight and allow them to sit on the water then by adding a few helium fill 18" or even a few 36" hearts attached to fishing line and weighted these balloons will float just above the water giving that extra magical look. With the addition of spot lights the or maybe even the pool lights will be enough the whole pool area will come alive.

  • We noticed our white balloons discolored when they came into contact with the chlorinated water. Since it was a square packed flag the top layer wasn't affected. I have a feeling putting a little bit of water into each balloon will get quite awkward when it comes to inflating them - upsidedown is the route you'll have to go, maybe sideways would work...
  • We attached suction cups to the tiles at the sides of the pool with lines going to the flags, but if you were trying to avoid having them all attached that wouldn't work.
  • Despite pre-inflating all the balloons (Qualatex 5") we had substantial numbers go down, presumably from the sun/chlorine/temperature, so I'd say it's defintely worth the time involved to pre-inflate.
  • 100 degrees spells a short life for latex balloons. If you want to control your balloons while they are alive and float them in the pool, you may want to try Rouse Matrix Systems(TM).These light weight, flexible, expandable, plastic frameworks will allow you to create a large sheet of balloons in a single layer. The sheet of balloons will be light enough to float in the pool whether you use balloons inflated 4" in the RMS(TM) Banner or balloons inflated 8" in the RMS(TM) Builder. You can prepare your sheet of air filled balloons off site. You can fold the sheet of balloons for easy transport. You can put the sheet of balloons into the pool at the last minute to keep them as fresh as possible.

    You can create a random pattern with the balloons or make any graphic design you desire and have it float flat on the pool. With a little more effort you can even create designs that float vertically or at angles in relation to the water. The plastic framework can be tied to anchors on the bottom of the pool or to anchors on the edges of the pool.

    You can connect the RMS(TM) Builders or Banners together with simple cable ties (Zip Ties, or Electrical Ties) to create a sheet as large as you like. You can cut the sheets with scissors to create any shape you like. There are also some specialty shapes available ( Hearts and Stars) that will also float when filled with balloons. For next season you may want to try the RMS(TM) Super Builder. It will hold 18" round foil balloons. The foil balloons will be much more resistant to the summer heat. The Super Builder will not be available for a few months.

    The Rouse Matrix Systems(TM) products are reusable, but they are inexpensive enough that you may prefer to build them into the project cost and eliminate the cost of going back to reclaim materials.

    While the RMS(TM) products may seem magical in their versatility and low cost, they provide no magic for keeping latex balloon alive in 100 degree heat. Be careful about making guarantees to your customer.

  • In the May/June 1997 Images Magazine, pages 36 and 37 is a lovely pool decor done by Susan Yaffe of Brookeville, MD.
  • I use a couple of heavy lead fishing weights which I then put into double stuffed balloon for security and have flown no more then twelve balloons made into a puff. I always use mono filament - it gives the effect of the balloons hovering over the pool with no visible line of attachment.
  • Get some 1/2 gal or gal size plastic milk containers (depending on number of balloons in each arrangement). Fill with sand, put the lid back on and tie the balloons thru the handle of the jug. If you want - wrap them in mylar paper - it will do OK in the pools.
  • I plan to put several balloons over a pool, flying over the water. What should I use to hold them down?
  • We have used everything from cement blocks to cement-filled buckets. Any weight will work, but remember if this is an outdoor pool, the wind will affect any type of weight. The wind will blow the balloons, sliding the weight across the bottom of the pool. You would need to increase the amount of weight proportionally with the degree of wind that day. If the pool has a vinyl liner rather than a cement bottom, this will present a problem!
  • Our advice is to have a contigency plan ready in case of strong winds.
  • On a tangent, when doing pool decor, we always find out whether folks will be swimming during the party because of the presence of mono line in the pool. We alert them to the potential dangers of the swimmers getting tangled in invisible line and drowning.
  • Any foil balloon will not respond well to water. The paint does come off. Water or sand will not hold the balloons in place either. The filter in the pool will draw all the balloons down to it.
  • If you really wanted to use foil stars, decorate a piece of styrofoam, place the star arrangement on it and tie leashes. It will stay in the middle of the pool.
  • We created a 35 foot long sea monster/serpent for inside a swimming pool and it was a great hit. We created it so that it appeared to have the head and neck above the water, then part of the body below the water and then the tail section above the water...kind of like 2 and a half horseshoe shapes above the water.
  • SDS frames will float, providing they are filled with balloons. There is also a Foam version of the grid called Flex-Frame which seldom gets talked about on the net, but it is excellent for pool decor, hanging and forming. I think you would get more stability out of the steel frame and they definitely will not get blown out of the pool.

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