How to Build a Playhouse

Backyard playhouses are the quintessential childhood dream. Kids can have a place to call their own, seemingly far from parental intrusion. Meanwhile, parents have the peace of mind that comes with knowing that the kids are just steps away in the backyard.

But for some families, the idea of building a playhouse is daunting.

Approach this DIY project as a chance to bond with your kids and teach them the benefits of hard work and perseverance. They will enjoy the fruits of their labor for years to come.

Check the Laws First

Before you don your tool belt and promise the kids a playhouse, be sure to check with your local code office as well as your insurance company. You may think playhouses are so small that they don’t need permits and insurance, but they often do. One New York family, for example, found out the hard way that they should have applied for a permit for their playhouse due to rules governing setbacks and lot coverage.

Some insurance companies recommend coverage for backyard additions like playhouses and trampolines, so call your agent before proceeding. If your playhouse will be visible to a neighbor, you may want to give them the heads up that you’ll be adding the structure to your backyard.

Some basic construction tools are required for this project, including a hammer and level, among other tools.
Photo courtesy Pexels

Design and Materials

Once your paperwork and insurance are squared away, you can move forward in choosing a design and purchasing materials. While super modern designs and interesting building materials may catch your eye, remember that you’ll look at this playhouse every day, and that it’s visible from your home. So look for a style that complements — not competes with — the rest of your property.

Once, you select your style, it’s time to find your materials. Your local hardware store may have the materials on site, or they may have to order them from a surrounding store. Depending on where you choose to place your playhouse, you may need a utility vehicle to transport the heavy items, such as the wood, across uneven terrain. I mean, as appealing as holding a bottle of Tylenol on the couch and clutching your back is, I’d personally rather be pain-free! Now, onto the fun part, building the playhouse.

For the purposes of this post, we are going to proceed with instructions for building a traditional style wooden playhouse that measures six feet by eight feet. For tools, you’ll need: safety goggles and gloves, a level, hammer, framing square, drill, tape measure, jigsaw, circular saw and reciprocating saw. The materials you’ll need include 2x4s, 2x8s, 1×6 decking planks, quarter round molding, roof shingles and nails, wood siding, 3-inch galvanized screws and three-fourths-inch plywood. All of these materials and tools should be available at your local hardware store if you don’t have them already.

The type of wood you choose for your playhouse should mimic the style of your house, rather than clash.
Photo by Unsplash


Now it’s time to start building. Be sure everyone is wearing safety goggles and gloves. As mom always says, safety first!

1. The base: The construction of this playhouse starts at the base. Measure out the 2×8 boards to form a six foot by eight-foot base. The sideboards need to fit between the long boards, so cut them one inch shorter. Adjoin the boards using the 3-inch screws. You should be looking at a hollow rectangle. Next, screw in two more 2×8 boards to serve as floor joists.

2. Floor: Your rectangular base should now be covered by your 1X6 deck plank, cut to cover the entire base. Secure with the 3” screws.

3. Frame: Start 2X4 boards to measure the frame that will eventually serve as top and bottom. These will measure 7’11” so that they don’t overlay the floor. Using five additional 2×4 boards, cut them to 3’9” to ensure they meet evenly with the frame. Screw two of these newly created 3’9” boards to two 7’11” ones. This will make a hollow rectangle, and you can then affix the three support beams in the center of the rectangle in equal spacing. Repeat this process to make the front wall as well, adding a cross board to create the frame of the door. Screw in this cross board six inches from the top board between any two studs, based on where you want the door to appear.

Side walls are made by using two 2x4s for each way (so four total) cut to 3’9”. Cut another 4 2x4s to 3’4” to use as the tops and bottoms of the sides. Then, add two more 3’9” boards to the center frames to create support. If you’d like side windows, add a board between the studs at 9 inches from the top and bottom of the structure.

Attach these walls to the base using many galvanized screws. Start with the back wall, then screw in the side walls, and end with the front wall.

4. Roof: Create the roof by building triangular rafters. Start by cutting a ridgeboard to 7’11”. The struts should measure 14” long and should be mitered to fit securely against the wall frame and the ridgeboard. The eight rafters will be made from 2×4 inch boards — miter four of these to fit the top of the walls and the ridgeboard. Attach the struts to the ridgeboard and add the rafters, then affix this roof frame to the top of the wall frame. The result is two hollow triangles at the edge of the frame, atop the side walls.

Now measure and cut the plywood to fit atop the roofing frame you just finished, ensuring the entire frame is covered except the side triangles. To make sure there is as much support as possible, screw the struts and rafter directly into the frame at the studs.

5. Outer Walls: Cut the wood siding to fit the wall frame into pentagonal shapes to cover the frame, from the floor to the roof. Screw the walls directly into the frame and cut out the spaces for the windows and doors. Use the quarter round molding to finish off the windows.

6. Finish the roof: Do this by nailing the shingles into the plywood roof. Start by lining up the initial row of shingles, allowing all following rows to slightly overlap. Four nails per shingle will ensure they are affixed properly. Excess shingles can be cut with a utility knife.

Once you finish building your playhouse, you can have your kids help with the painting or even pick the colors.
Photo by Unsplash

Now the structure of your playhouse is complete and you can spruce up the design using paint and flowers. Don’t forget to add toys or furniture to turn your playhouse into a home!

  • Published on Mar 21, 2016
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