5. The playhouse now, before it gets any heavier. Use scrap pieces of treated lumber to lift the corners where needed.
Prepare Your Site
A playhouse doesn’t have to last forever, so forget about concrete blocks, mortar and a complicated foundation— you can build this playhouse directly on the ground.
You need a fairly level spot, about 6×6 feet. Use one of your boards (like part D) and a level to check the slope, and dig and pack the soil to level it out. Your spot doesn’t have to be perfect; it’s easy to slip a few scraps of treated wood or a patio paver under a corner of the finished house to get it level (Photo 5).
How to Build a Playhouse: NAIL THE FLOORBOARDS
6. To the joists. You’ll need small support blocks at the ends, where the floorboards are cut short to fit.
A Solid Floor That Can Take Abuse
The floor on this house is built sturdily, like a miniature deck. The first step in building it is to attach the two small support blocks (N). If you have trouble with them splitting, use a smaller nail or drill pilot holes and screw them on.
Lay the full-length floorboards on top of the joists, then measure and cut the shorter ones that fit around the up- right 2x4s of the walls. When all the floor boards fit well, nail them on (Photo 6).
How to Build a Playhouse: NAIL THE ROOF
7. Supports in place from the ends. For a good fit, it’s best to hold these boards where they’re going to go, mark them and then cut.
A Roof Like an Upside-Down Boat
Now for the roof, and a weird roof for a house it is— no shingles, no tar paper and no rafters. It’s actually built more like an upside-down boat, with ribs (part M) and a hull of thin plywood strips (L). But it works, it’s fast and it’s perfect for a playhouse.
Begin by nailing on the “ribs” (M). Hold the board in position, mark the board for length, cut it and nail it in place (Photo 7). This is easiest to do with a helper, but if your helper’s off playing, hold the other end of the board with a nail.
Now attach the lowest strip of plywood, lining it up so it overhangs part C by 1 inch, and nailing only at the ends. When you lay the next sheet on top of it, line up the upper edge of that sheet with a rib (M), and then nail through both pieces of plywood where they overlap. Be sure the nails go into a rib. Snapping a chalk line across the plywood will help you know where to nail.
The ends of the plywood pieces may not line up perfectly, but that’s something you can fix. Just snap a chalk line and trim the pieces with your jigsaw. While you’ve got the ladder out, run some acrylic caulk into the joint where the plywood pieces meet at the very top of the roof (the peak) to help keep out the rain.
How to Build a Playhouse: THE ROOF
8. Is made of overlapping pieces of plywood that serve as large shingles. If the ends are uneven, they can be trimmed with a jigsaw.
How to Build a Playhouse: CUT THE DOOR
9. And window openings with a jigsaw. The corners are marked by driving a nail through from the inside.
Doors and Windows Are Holes in the Walls
Take a step back now, get a cup of coffee and admire your work for a few minutes. You don’t want to rush into this next step—cutting the openings for doors and windows.
Start with the door. From inside the playhouse, drive a nail through the plywood at the corners of the door open- ing, flush with the floor and the 2×4 uprights. From the outside, wrap your chalk line around the protruding nails to mark where the door opening is to be cut. Pull the nails, drill a 1/4-inch hole at each nail hole and saw out the door opening with your jigsaw, using a fine-tooth blade (Photo 9). Clean up the edges with a rasp or sander.
Once the door is cut, nail on the last piece of plywood (J). Cutting the windows is easy; simply mark the openings with pencil on the outside and cut them out. We made three windows, one in front and one on each side, but you can add more or make them larger.
How to Build a Playhouse: NAIL ON TRIM
10. Around the door and window openings after it has been cut to fit. We tacked on the trim temporarily, then removed it for painting.
Add Some Snappy Gingerbread Trim
Carpentry is like life—sometimes you need to follow a strict plan and sometimes you need to go with the flow. Adding trim to your playhouse is a time for the latter. Rather than strictly following a cutting list, you’ll get better results if you hold each piece of trim in place, mark it and cut it to fit. If you miss the mark and cut a piece too short, either use it somewhere else (I cut the longest pieces first whenever possible), or fill the gap later with caulk.
Don’t worry if there isn’t a 2×4 to nail into in some places; screw the trim on from the inside wherever necessary. Tack all the trim pieces in place with just a couple of nails, and don’t drive the nails in all the way because you’ll want to remove all the trim for painting. It sounds crazy, I know, but it’s a lot easier than painting the trim once it’s on the playhouse.
Start with the vertical 1×4 corner boards (P) on the sides of the house. Then move on to the front corner boards, the horizontal boards and the vertical piece around the door (Photo 10). Build the little caps for the tops of the window openings, nailing part U onto part T. Then cut the other window trim. With a jigsaw and drill, cut the decorative roof trim (V), give it a test fit and sand it smooth.
Painting Is the Final Touch
You’re probably dying to start painting at this point, but try to hold your horses for a minute. You should first round off, using a rasp and sandpaper, any sharp edges and corners that kids might hurt themselves on. Pay particular attention to the roof corners and the edges around the windows and doors. Treated wood is often somewhat damp, so give it a few days of good dry weather before you paint.
Now you can paint (hooray!). Remove and label all the trim before painting. Paint the roof before the sides, so you won’t drip (or bump into) the wet paint. A roller with an extension handle will make those flat surfaces go quickly.
For a more cheerful playhouse, it’s worth painting the inside walls and ceiling white. For all the painting, use an exterior primer, then two coats of paint. We used a latex floor paint for the roof because it had a good deep color.
Nail and screw the trim back on, touch up the paint, and your playhouse is ready for the kids to move in.
Gussying It Up
There are lots of improvements you can make to our basic design. Here are some ideas:
Make the paint on your playhouse last longer by putting a partially buried concrete block under each corner, enough to raise the playhouse a couple of inches off the ground. Just don’t raise the front more than a few inches, or the step will be too high.
Put on a shingle roof. If you want to do this, use 5/8- inch or 3/4-inch plywood for the roof, so the tips of your roofing nails don’t stick through on the underside, a real hazard for the kids.
Add curtains, or even mosquito screens, to the windows. If attached with Velcro or screwed-on strips of wood, the screens are easy to remove and repair.
Embellish with fancier trim. Use a jigsaw to cut your own gingerbread design, or buy some commercially made trim.
Add a light. You probably don’t want to mess with buried electrical wiring, but battery-powered closet lights or camping lanterns work fine.
And most important, have fun!
Reader Project: Permanent Playhouse
How to Build a Playhouse PDF Links:
Figure A & B