Birdhouse overview: Materials, tools and design
This how to build a birdhouse plan is a fun project—so fun that it’s hard to say who benefits more from it: the bird or the builder. You can let your imagination run and experiment with a variety of materials, shapes and designs. You only need to follow a few parameters (see chart below) that are specific to the bird species you’re trying to attract. Follow the clear how-to photos and study the drawing and the cutting list to build our project exactly, or personalize it with the details you want: a stone chimney, some shutters or cedar shingles.
Most any softwood (pine, cedar, cypress, redwood, fir) will work for your birdhouse. We used pine for the walls and base, exterior fir plywood for the roof, and birch square dowels (available at home centers or hobby shops) as well as birch dowel pins for porch balusters.
We used simple tools to build this project. You’ll notice the 1×8 pine boards are actually 7-1/4 in. wide but need to be 7 in. wide for this project. If you don’t have a table saw to rip them to this narrower width, have the lumberyard rip them for you and then cut the lengths at home with the simple tools shown.
Sizing for certain birds
Just as with people, one house doesn’t fit all. In fact, many bird species don’t use houses at all but nest on branches or groundcover. Birds that use hollowed-out cliffs, tree trunks or birdhouses, however, are called cavity dwellers. They come in all sizes.
The size of the entry hole and size of the interior room can make a huge difference in the type of bird your house will attract. (See “Basic Birdhouse Dimensions” below.) We’ve sized this birdhouse to fit a variety of smaller bird species. To attract very small birds like nuthatches, bluebirds or chickadees, you may want to make the floor area a bit smaller by gluing an extra piece of wood to the front interior wall of the birdhouse and another on one side. A smaller interior is not as hard for a bird to fill with nesting material.
Keep in mind that you’ll also need to maintain your birdhouse by cleaning it after the nesting season. To make this as easy as possible, we’ve included a sliding rear door held in place with small hook-and-eye latches. Just lift the latch and slide the door to the side to remove the nest and wipe out the inside.
A Cutting List and Shopping List are available in Additional Information below.
Step 1: Build the base
Photo 1: Cut out the pieces
Cut all the pieces with a jigsaw. Rip the solid board to 7 in. wide (see text) before cutting parts A, B and D.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Photo 2: Assemble the base
Nail the wood flange assembly together with 6d galvanized finish nails. Next, glue and nail the base to this assembly. Use outdoor carpenter’s glue for a stable, water-resistant bond.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Begin by cutting out all the pieces in the Cutting List, available in Additional Information below. Use Fig. A and the Cutting List to identify parts. Then assemble the base (Photo 2). We built our base to fit over a 4×4 post.
Basic Birdhouse Dimensions
Follow these guidelines for sizing your birdhouse.
Step 2: Assemble the walls and roof
Photo 3: Cut the roof pieces
Set your jigsaw base at 45 degrees and cut miter joints for the roof pieces G and H. Use a straightedge clamped to the workpiece as a guide for a perfectly even cut.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Photo 4: Assemble the walls
Glue and nail the front piece (B1) to the side pieces (A). Use 4d galvanized finish nails. Don’t glue and nail the backside (B2). The back piece is 1/8 in. shorter so it can slide in place once the roof is in place. This back panel is removable for cleaning.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Glue and nail all these pieces together. We made the roof angle 45 degrees to simplify measuring and cutting.
Step 3: Cut and assemble the opening
Photo 5: Cut a roof opening
Cut an opening into the front roof panel (G) for access through the dormer. Drill a 3/8-in. starter hole in two opposite corners to start the cut easily. Cut the chimney opening in the rear roof panel with the blade set at a 45-degree angle.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Photo 6: Assemble the entry
Glue and nail parts C to the center entry panel (J) once you’ve drilled the entry hole. Glue this assembly to the front plywood roof panel. Use rubber bands as clamps to hold the dormer assembly in place until the glue dries.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Photo 7: Attach the entry
Nail the roof panels to the side walls with 4d galvanized nails. Use glue along the mitered seam at the top.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Make sure you size the birdhouse hole to match the species you hope to attract. (See “Basic Birdhouse Dimensions” above. Birds enter through the dormer on the roof.
Step 4: Add the finishing details
Photo 8: Glue and nail the railing
Assemble the porch railing and nail it to the posts. Then nail the porch roof (L) to the posts. Glue the seam along the roof and hold it in place with masking tape. Once the glue is dry, nail (use 4d finish nails and predrill a pilot hole) up from the underside of the base into each column.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Photo 9: Add the decorative brackets
Cut the small roof bracket pieces (Q and R) and assemble them using exterior wood glue.
Tip: Use wax paper under the pieces during assembly to keep them from sticking to the workbench. Once they’re assembled, glue them to the sides of the birdhouse. Next, drill the vent holes to keep the birdhouse cool, and finally, select and apply an exterior finish.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Apply finish details to meet your fancy. We had fun with the railing and decorative brackets.
Step 5: Protect your birdhouse with an oil finish
The finished birdhouse
An oil finish leaves the wood looking natural, but protected from rot. The wood color will turn gray over a year or so.Photo: Courtesy of The Family Handyman
Birds would just as soon not have a finish on the exterior, but to make it last you’ll need a coat of oil finish every few years. You can also paint your birdhouse, but keep in mind that birds are color sensitive and may be repelled by certain colors. Try using colors found in natural surroundings and avoid bright and flashy colors. Never stain or paint the inside of the birdhouse. The odor may keep them from moving in. Let the exterior stain dry thoroughly (two to three weeks) before mounting the birdhouse outside.
Step 6: Mount the birdhouse outdoors
We made a wood flange (Photo 2) to secure the birdhouse to a 4×4 fence post or decorative porch post anchored to a concrete base (see Fig. C). You can also mount your birdhouse in a tree; just eliminate the mounting flange and put screw eyes through the roof into the wall, then attach a chain hung from a tree limb. Keep in mind that some bird species like to nest in houses in the open while others feel more protected near buildings or in a wooded area.
Figure C: Mounting Post Details
Mount the post to angle irons embedded in concrete. Use a treated 4×4 so it won’t rot.
Project PDF Files
Click the links below to download the materials list and cutting list for this project.
Required Tools for this Project
Have the necessary tools for this DIY project lined up before you start—you’ll save time and frustration.
- bird hole size
- Combination square
- Drill bit
- Miter saw
- Table saw
- Wood glue
Required Materials for this Project
Avoid last-minute shopping trips by having all your materials ready ahead of time. Here’s a list.
- See Shopping List in Additional Information at the end of the Step-by-Step section.