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Step by step instructions on how to build a sandbox the kids will play with for hours!

How to Build a Sandbox… Finally!

Hey friends.  We’re still working furiously to get our home ready to put on the market this week, but I haven’t forgotten about you! Since I didn’t get around to posting about our DIY sandbox until the end of the summer when it first debuted – I thought I’d get ahead of the game this year and post it now.  You know, so you could build it and actually enjoy it all summer.

 

It’s a good project – you should totally do it if you have the space.  Young House Love even based their sandbox on our design (she says with her chest puffed out in pride like some kind of psychotic rooster).  Here’s the details and LOTS of photos too…
Remember way back here, when I mentioned we were building a sandbox and promised details?  Surprise, I didn’t forget about you!  I’m so sorry, my dear friends, that it’s taken me so long to post on our favorite backyard toy.  The problem was summer got away from us, as it often does, and I just didn’t have time to do all the photo editing needed for this one.

 

I contemplated waiting to post this until next summer but I hear there are lots of people still experiencing summer warmth around the country (insert Seattle bitterness here).  Also, I’m so appreciative of all the time and effort that my husband put into the project that I couldn’t resist showing off his hard work.  Because there are SO MANY photos in this one, I’m keeping the commentary to a minimum and trying to let the pics speak for themselves (but feel free to ask questions in the comments if you have them) – enjoy!

P.S. – Please excuse the mess!  You may recall, we’re still recovering from this.  Our fence was step 1 and this was step 2.

Measure out where you want to put your sandbox to be sure it fits.  (Ours was a six foot square.)  Place stakes at the corners to mark where you need to dig.

Dig a hole in each corner for the support beams.

Cut your four sides to size.  We used 4 pieces that were 6′ x 1′ each.

This is what it should look like once the posts are in the ground.  For reference, our posts were 2 feet tall.

 

Once things are lined up and level, screw it all together.

You’re probably wondering why my husband didn’t just assemble it in the ground.  Initially we had planned to put benches on top of the posts so he wanted to ensure they were screwed to the sides at the exact same height (to make everything perfectly square… He’s picky like that).  We eventually nixed the benches though, deciding that the underside would be too inviting for spiders.

Use a sledge hammer to make it level and sturdy in the ground.

 An essential step for preventing weeds!

 

And by “nails”, I mean “staples” – I’m just too lazy to fix it in Photoshop.

We decided a bi-fold style cover would be easiest to lift.  Each side was framed out using 2″ x 2″ pieces and 1/2″ plywood was mounted on top.

A nice earthy green to match all the nature – two coats of primer and two coats of paint.

To C any big amount is “five”, so this is him conveying that we got A LOT of sand.

And he was right… 35 bags at 50 lbs. each, you do the math.

You can tell by the framing still in the background, we hadn’t attached the cover at this point but once the sand went in C was too excited to be deterred from trying it out.

 

Two doors, some large hinges, a pair of handles and the sandbox was complete.

 

We’ve been enjoying our sandbox for months now and it was one of the best investments we’ve ever made.  We thought briefly about buying a swing set instead but you gotta know your kid… ours never tires of playing with trucks.

Similar Stuff: DIY Creativity Center (Toddler-Friendly & Baby-Proof)

P.S. Don’t forget to get our tips on getting out with the kids this summer and enter our giveaway for over $70 in goodies!

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{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Tereza August 24, 2011 at 4:07 pm

Great sand box! I love how it’s home made, I find anything homemade is always more special :)

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Anonymous August 24, 2011 at 4:35 pm

cute… did the similar back in 2000… no longer have it anymore, kids out grown it. though it’s great memories.

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kate @ another donkey design August 25, 2011 at 12:09 am

Love the insert child pic! Great looking sandpit. Good job

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Cindy February 26, 2012 at 7:03 pm

I love the sandbox but have mixed feeling about the way the cover is made. The doors seem to take up a lot of space once they are opened. Has anyone tried different covers. Something sturdy but light weight to be able to be removed and put out of the way when not in use?

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MeMeSue April 11, 2012 at 2:23 pm

I love the box! Thinking this may be a great project to add to the yard for the grands. My question is tho do you get water fill up when it rains. Did you put drainage holes in your plastic? I love the top and feel its a must have to keep any roaming critters from using it as their potty. Great job!

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Steph at ModernParentsMessyKids.com April 17, 2012 at 6:21 pm

Cindy – we were concerned about the cover initially too. We have the space for it though and when open the sloped doors actually provided an easy way for our youngest to get into the box on her own once she started walking.

MeMeSue – There aren’t any drainage holes. We get plenty of rain here in Seattle and haven’t had a problem with water. Some rain does get in but we’ve never opened up the doors to find a swamp – just enough wet sand for good sandcastle-making.

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Casey April 17, 2012 at 8:19 pm

MeMeSue – To your point about drainage holes in the plastic, the barrier we used is a semi-permeable barrier (available in the garden section of any hardware store). It’s purpose is to keep weeds from growing into the sandbox but allows water to drain. We haven’t had any problems with the water collecting in the sandbox, which is good because our kids actually like to pour buckets of water into the sandbox for superior sand castle construction conditions.

Cindy – As for the lid, I played around with several designs before settling on the one featured here. The lid I built is a little heavier than I had originally intended for a few of reasons 1) With Seattle weather, I wanted a sturdy frame so that the lid wouldn’t warp during the (extremely) wet winters, 2) Due to the huge trees in our back year, we occassionally have pretty large branches come down during wind storms, and I didn’t want a rouge branch to break the lid, and 3) I wanted the lid to be heavy enough (though not too heavy) that it wouldn’t be blown shut while the kids were in it. As Steph noted, the unintended benefit of the design was that our youngest (and oldest) can use the lid as an easy access ramp that is strong enough to easily support her weight. I think that the lid could be made with much lighter/thinner materials, but I would definitely recommend attaching some sort of rigid frame to any lid to keep it from warping.

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Megan April 20, 2012 at 8:08 pm

This comment has been removed by the author.

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Anonymous May 16, 2012 at 2:01 am

Hi – thanks for sharing your project! Can you tell me what kind of wood you used and if you treated or stained it?

Thanks!

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Chris October 5, 2012 at 6:59 pm

Love your photos! We put chicken wire under our sandbox to keep the moles out. Good lesson learned from a friend who had to replace lots of sand. Now we need a cover. Thanks for the tips!

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Laura January 20, 2013 at 12:41 am

Love this sandbox! I’m planning on building one so I’m checking out different styles…

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Beth February 17, 2013 at 1:54 pm

Thank-you for posting. My son is turning four in March and a sandbox won over a swing set for his birthday present. Like your son, my son will play with cars, trucks, etc..for hours on end. I feel that this may be one of the best investments I can make for him and for ME! We live in Indiana and have our share of bipolar weather conditions, so this project wouldn’t take place until April/May when I know winter is over. I love my son being able to see his mom build things in front of his eyes as opposed to purchasing them. However, I always weigh the cost per time factor and I am no Bob Vila. But–I’m pretty sure I could make this. My question is, round about, what was the total cost of this project–not including the sand?
Thanks

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Steve May 20, 2013 at 4:55 pm

What size hinges did you use?

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Steve May 22, 2013 at 8:01 pm

I compared the visible hinge to ones available on a national home improvement store chain, plus the size in relation to the 12″ boards you mentioned, and have decided that you used 4″ hinges.

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julia-lifeonchurchill May 29, 2013 at 10:18 am

so cute! I like that it has a cover. going to pin and show my husband later!

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Cherry May 30, 2013 at 5:24 pm

Oh my! I’m so, so inspired! I hope we could do this at home, my daughter will love it for sure!

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Holly June 1, 2013 at 1:46 pm

Can you give me an estimate of how much you spent for all materials?

Thanks!

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Steve June 10, 2013 at 6:10 pm

I made a 4 x 5 version out of all pressure treated wood (costs twice non-PT wood) for $160.

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Roger August 3, 2013 at 12:27 am

I would be careful building any project for children using any type of treated lumber or railroad ties. There are chemicals in them that could be harmful. Here is a link to view:
http://www.epa.gov/oppad001/reregistration/cca/cca_consumer_safety.htm
There may be some types that are safe, however, I would do some research before building.

I also would recommend mason sand from a local sand pit. You can get a pickup load for $10 to $15. That is much more economical and it is clean, fine sand.

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Best California Pet Transport with TLC February 7, 2014 at 10:37 pm

What a great idea! We don’t have a ton of space where we live so this will be great for our daughter next summer :)

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