Paul's Playhouse Guides, Tips & Blog
Often with smaller jobs, handymen are cheaper than using a construction manager, and more willing to do simpler, single or multiple day projects that contractors won’t bother with. Most of our playhouse and shed plans are no problem for handymen and individual workers, where the larger designs, whimsical or multi-plan builds may require contacting a GC with access to a full crew.
For either a handyman or contractor, the vetting and hiring processes is the same, with the ultimate goal of finding the best value with the right skill level in your local area. By following our 4 part hiring process, you’ll ensure the highest probability of a smooth playhouse undertaking.
1: Determine Your Real Need For A ProPicking up the hammer and saw yourself can be a fun and rewarding experience for both you and the whole family. We realize most of our clients aren’t career carpenters and highly skilled frames, which is why our plans are designed with the layman in mind, being as simple and straight forward to follow as possible. There are, however, some variables that can make the actual construction process impracticable for some. Generally, four main factors determine if doing-it-yourself is the most ideal choice:
Typically for the average person, expect our smaller plans to take 2-4 days to finish, with our larger designs lasting 7-10 days.
Once you have together weighed these components and determined that using a handyman is the best option, it’s now time to precisely coordinate your action plan.
2: Get Your Project Ideas Organized
In order to receive the most accurate quote, you’ll need to decide ahead of time exactly what you want accomplished. Even minor decisions and tasks, when added up can become a significant price difference. We've already compiled 9 tips for designing a cool playhouse, and 10 considerations before building, but there are many more.
Overall, it’s best to write down and compile these ideas, rules and responsibilities so that your handyman has the most clean understanding of what needs to be done. Below are some of the choices you’ll likely come across:
- If you’ve building on a hill, the foundation choice and setup can add significant time and cost to the overall project.
- If you’re going to modify and enlarge the scope the plan, provide dimensional drawings to eliminate any confusion down the road.
- Determine if you want your handyman to handle purchasing all of the material costs or if you’ll arrange supplying the lumber and hardware. One of the benefits of using an experienced carpenter is helping you choose the right type of materials.
- Considering when and how long you’re willing to wait to being building. It’s possible constructing in the colder seasons could save you some money.
- Decide exactly how much work the handyman will do. You may only want them to set the posts and construct the foundation, or do everything except add the accessories and painting.
- If you really just need a helping hand, perhaps only select someone who is happy to work along side you.
3. Finding A Local HandymanNow that you have all your ducks in a row and know exactly what you want completed, it’s time to begin looking for a local professional. There are any number of legitimate ways to locate quality help, but it will be up to you to find the best balance of cost and quality. We recommend picking at least 3 specialists you’ll follow up with for finding the best quote and insuring you’re not overcharged.
As the saying goes, you don’t want a jack of all trades, master of none. With most any career field, there is no perfect handyman who does everything equally well. Make sure when looking they gravitate more to the framing/carpentry trade side of skill sets so you’ll know you’re getting the correct type of pro.
Keep in mind when searching that licensing requirements for day laborers and handymen can vary depending on your state, and will need to be something you’ll ask about, especially considering this is going to be something you child will be using for years.
Word of Mouth
Review & Social Media Websites
National Service Companies
If you’re not necessarily hunting for the best price, but a reliable and professional worker, you can opt for an agency that will send out someone that has already been certified by them. If this sounds ideal, try looking at MrHandyman.com and HandymanConnection.com for starters.
Search Engine Inquiry
If all else fails, you can perform a simple internet search for handymen in your area. Make sure to use your city and state when looking for the most relevant results. There are also many other, smaller companies in addition to the websites above that will provide you with even more connections if you want to expand your pool of potentials.
No matter who you choose to contact, try searching for reviews using their name to see they already have a well established history. You might also have some luck finding them on BBB.org and your State Consumer Protection Agency.
4. Contacting / Interviewing Your PicksOnce we created our handyman short list of at least 3 contenders, we’ll need to schedule a consultation. Many of the basic questions can be answered on phone, but it will most likely take an in-person meeting to get an accurate quote. As in step 2, make sure to write your questions down beforehand and take notes when needed.
Remember, you can tell a lot about a person or company with how they treat you on the phone. Being willing to answer your inquests in a polite and equitable fashion is a good indicator that’s how you’ll be treating during the project.
Some of the questions customers ask are:
- How long have you been in business?
- Do you work alone or with a partner / crew?
- Would a building permit be required for a project like this?
- Do you have workers insurance?
- Have you completed similar work and have a portfolio?
- Do you use written contracts for your jobs?
- Do you itemize quotes?
- What is your schedule like and when would the project start and finish?
- Do you offer any type of work guarantee?
In terms of payment, you’ll probably need to provide a deposit. These typically range from 25% to 50% of the finalized quote. Paying full price up front is almost never a good idea, even if they have positive history and reputation.
Once the Project is FinishedMake sure to do an extensive walk though your new playhouse to make sure everything is as expected and agreed upon. The last thing you’ll want is to be surprised by something after the final check as already been written, such as a wobbly platform. Asking for a full receipt is always a good idea to keep for your records as well.
Finally, if you’re happy with the results, leave a positive review for your handyman online. This is one of the best ways to say thank you for a job well done.
When it comes to backyard construction, it would be ideal if the grade was all perfectly flat and level, making foundational dilemmas a non-issue. Unfortunately, that is quite often not the case. After you've already made all of the other project considerations, what exactly are the options for building a shed or playhouse platform when your property has a hill or the ground has a steady slope, and how does one go about correcting for these uneven surfaces?
8 Foundation Options for Backyard Projects
For small residential outdoor projects, there are generally eight approaches you can employ for setting up your shed, playhouse or play-set support system. Some of these methods partly cross over each other in application, and range in cost, build time, stability, longevity and practicality.
Typically the steeper the drop-off, the greater realization these aspects will have. Play accessories such as ladders, climbing walls, slides and swing-sets will need to be adjusted from the plan specifications if significant grade changes occur. For the sub-infrastructures that are not attached to the ground, shed anchors can be used in high wind areas.
❶ Direct Grade Contact (DGC)
- Impractical on hills
- Low stability & longevity
- Prone to settlement
By far the easiest, cheapest and most common option. For yards where the grade is mostly flat, frost upheaval isn't a concern and longevity is secondary, simply building the structure right on top of the ground is viable. Very moderate regrading may still be needed to keep the play structure level and plumb. The main drawbacks to DGC are it's impracticality with slopped yards, lesser longevity, additional required anchorage for high wind locations and susceptibility to settlement.
❷ Sand & Gravel
- Mild labor and cost intensive
- Mud control
- Safer play environment
- Impractical on hills
- Prone to settlement
For flat or shallow slopped yards, play sand and gravel beds provide another good option. The granular nature of these materials provide the benefit of exceptional hydraulic conductivity, easier leveling, softer surfaces for play and superior mud control. The drawbacks to sand and gravel are nearly the same as DGC.
❸ Concrete Slab
- High stability & longevity
- Mud control
- Impractical on hills
- Labor and cost intensive
- Poor safe play environment
This option is usually only applied if there's an existing patio. Concrete slabs provide the maximum amount of stability and longevity and do an excellent job of controlling mud. However, as with the above methods, this alternative is best suited for flat or low grade yards. Typically concrete should be avoided in high traffic play areas like a swing-set.
❹ Wood Skids
- Applicable for shallow slopes
- Mild labor and cost intensive
- Acceptable stability & longevity
- Impractical on moderate or steep hills
Similar to the cinder block skids and pier & beam support systems below, the wood skid foundation has the structure's joists rest on long stretches of 4x4s, 4x6s, 6x6s or 8x8s, which themselves are directly resting on the terrain. While this does further longevity by keeping the joists directly off of the ground, and potentially affords less regrading compared to DGC, it is still broadly limited in how steep the grade can be.
❺ Cinder Block to Joists
- Applicable for shallow to moderate slopes
- Mild labor and cost intensive
- Acceptable stability & longevity
- Impractical on steep hills
For small hills and low to moderately slopped grades, leveling the joists directly with cinder blocks is recommended. Using concrete or cinder blocks to make up the foundation has the benefit of minimizing excavation time, DGC separation, high stability and greater leveling flexibility. Most backyard structures on moderate slopes use this methodology. Concrete deck blocks, which have slots for 2x joists and 4x4 centers are very popular for this exact type of application.
❻ Cinder Block to Skids
- Applicable for shallow to moderate slopes
- Acceptable stability & longevity
- Impractical on steep hills
- Moderately labor and cost intensive
The cinder block to skid approach is a combination of the previous two foundational methods, utilizing cinder blocks to prop up the skids instead of DGC. This provides the advantage of the cinder block's larger leveling capacity, while also maintaining the skid's extensive and versatile support area, making post-construction orientation easier.
- Applicable for steep slopes
- High stability & longevity
- Labor and cost intensive
If the playhouse or play-set uses 4x4s as it's main skeletal supports (like the Red Summit plan), longer 4x4s can be purchased and anchored into the ground instead. This is a solid approach for moderate or high sloped areas.
Exact post placement and architectural positioning is critical if you go this route. Before digging the footers, check for proper distancing between all posts and that they are square. Before poring the concrete, attach solid spacers to insure proper post alignment all through the concrete curing process.
❽ Pier & Beam
- Applicable for steep slopes
- High stability
- Heavy labor and cost intensive
For high or severe sloped grades, a pier and beam foundation is often the only viable choice. Often this design is combined with #9 concrete pier style, though running the posts into the ground is common as well. P&B utilizes anchored posts/piers and skids/beams to support the structure’s starting joists. Unlike the previous method, ultra exact post placement isn’t required.
Because installing posts is much more cost and labor intensive than placing cinder blocks, beams are used instead of skids to reduce the number of piers. For larger projects, a water or laser level is favorable for achieving accurate and timely layouts. For more information on this method, check out our 12x12 island deck page.
❾ Concrete Piers
- Applicable for steep slopes
- High stability & longevity
- Heavy labor and cost intensive
Submerging the piers into the ground is common for light duty, residential construction projects, but for larger projects, using reinforced concrete piers is the standard. After the layout is marked and the holes dug, tube forms are used to make concrete anchors in the ground for the piers. This method yields the highest amount of strength and longevity to your project.
You can use the links below to put your material order in on-line. These links use the Home Depot's website where you can add building supplies to the cart and use their checkout process to have all of the lumber delivered to your home or place of business.
- Regular Kiln-Dried: The most common and cost effective type of lumber to frame with is regular KD material. Typically these are produced from pine, Douglas fir or other types of softwood. If the structure being built has a roof, or the framing will not be directly exposed to the outside elements, this is the best choice. If the structure will be open, or the framing will be exposed to moisture, the below options are better suited.
- Pressure Treated: The most cost effective way to frame a water resistant and lasting play structure. If the play-set is open or will be exposed to the outside elements, pressure treated lumber is the standard to use. PT lumber has a history of being unsafe for frequent exposure, especially for younger children, however since 2003, the lumber industry has switched away from more toxic chemicals and moved to copper, a much more benign element.
- Cedar / Redwood: These softwoods are naturally more weather resistant and will provide your playhouse with a more premium appearance. The downside to using cedar or redwood is the higher cost compared to KD and PT, and are more prone to dents and marks.
- Pressure Treated: PT decking provides little required maintenance to upkeep and the lowest price for a water-resistant material. After 6-12 months, a coat of exterior stain or deck sealant can be applied to help provide even longer protection. This is the most commonly used and recommended decking material.
- Softwood: This type of decking benefits and suffers from the same problems as the framing softwoods. While beautiful when newly installed, it can easily be marked and scuffed, and is not generally recommended.
- Hardwood: For higher budgeted projects, hardwood decking provides the same weather -resistant protection of pressure treated lumber, but adds the beauty and high quality aesthetic of the softwood types.
- Composite: Typically made up of wood fiber, plastic and glue, composite decking provides the least maintenance and highest durability and longevity. A logical next step up from pressure treated and a popular choice when you want to set it and forget it. The downsides are the higher cost, extended installation times and hot surface in the direct sun.
- Sheathing Plywood: The most common and cost effective type of plywood, sheathing grade plywood isn’t sanded or treated and is made up of softer woods. Often coming in the form of CDX or RTD, an exterior paint or stain is recommend in order to help preserve it in the elements.
- Pressure Treated: PT plywood will last longer outside, with the downside of significant added cost. Exterior paint or stain is still recommend after 6-12 months of installation.
- OSB: Although very inexpensive, OSB has a tendency to swell, rot and fall apart pretty quickly when exposed to moisture. This type should only be used when being covered with another type of siding.
- T1-11: A great choice for a more decorative aesthetic. T1-11 is rated for exterior use and commonly found in shed and small structure constriction. It features a wood grain texture with a overlap-underlay connective pattern to eliminate seams. Because T1-11 is more weather resistant and decorative, it is a pricier alternative to normal sheathing plywood.
- Pressure Treated: Whether it be 1x or 2x material, pressure treated lumber is recommend for window, door and corner trim work. Normal KD is also acceptable if at least two coats of exterior stain is applied to every side, though it’s longevity will still remain less than PT.
- Pressure Treated: As with normal framing and decking, PT material is the most cost effective option for exterior balusters. Typically it is sold as single 2x2x36s. More decorative options can be available as well.
- Cedar: Ideal for both exterior and interior railing systems, cedar and redwood balusters are more pricey than PT, but provide a more premium feel to the project.
- Primed & Hardwood: Non-PT balusters are typically better suited for interior railings where pressure treated material is not necessary. These often feature more decorative looks, but are also more expensive.
- GRK Screws: We recommend that GRK screws be used in place of nails in most situations, as screws provide more rigidity and flexibility during construction. We found that the GRK brand keeps material from splitting less often and speeds up the construction process. 3” screws should be used to hold framing together, and 2” screws should be used to fasten deck boards and plywood together. For more hardware installation information, see our “How to Attach Rough Framing Together with Screws and Nails” page.
- Single Pane Shed Windows: All of the glass windows used in the playhouse designs on this website incorporate single pane shed windows. These windows are designed to be low cost by keeping the construction simple and forgoing energy efficiency. Don’t forget to also apply silicone to the top and sides of the window trim to keep water from leaking inside. For windows and other add-ons, see our playhouse hardware page.
- Asphalt: Provides the most variety in color, styles and cost efficiency. Make sure to purchase about 10-15 percent extra to account for waste.
- Cedar: Beautiful but expensive, cedar shakes can provide a more natural and premium look to your playhouse.
- Metal: Roofs made of metal usually have the best overall longevity over other styles while keeping the price in check. Make sure to purchase a little bit more than what is required.
- Slides, Swings, Windows, Nets & More: We've already done a lot of the work of locating where you can purchase many of the common accessories you will need after the framing is completed.
History of pressure treat lumberModern day lumber chemical treatments first began in the late 19th century to help preserve railroad cross-ties withstand all weather conditions and direct ground contact. Most formulas infused the wood grain with chromated copper arsenate (CCA), a powerful preservative that contains arsenic. Arsenic is a Group-A carcinogen and well known toxin that causes adverse short and long term problems, including heart disease, diabetes and cancer.
CCA's primary uses were typically industrial and utilitarian applications, with the concerns of long term exposure, especially to children, taking a back seat to maximum longevity. The concern didn't really begin until the 1970s where homeowners began incorporating arsenic based treatments into outdoor decks, planters and play-sets, as this was cheaper than using naturally more weather resilient material.
Where is PT lumber today?Toward the end of 2003, the United States' Environmental Protection Agency and the pressure treated wood industry as a whole mutually decided the move away from arsenic based formulas and toward something safer for children and adults. The solution was ACQ (Alkaline Copper Quaternary) treated lumber. Although ACQ's preservative properties can't quite match CCA's, the substantial risk reduction of toxin exposure was worth the switch. While CCA is still sold for very specific applications, all the lumber you'll find in hardware stores and residential lumber yards use the ACQ or similar treatment.
In order to closely replicate the protective abilities of arsenic, tremendous levels of copper are instead infused into today's PT lumber. This technique allows the wood (typically Pine) to withstand moisture, fungus and ground contact for many years. While this process is safe for humans to touch and interact with, it does have very corrosive properties when in contact with metallic building materials, such as nails, screws, bolts and joist hangers. Be sure to use galvanized, stainless or coated fasteners when constructing with PT lumber.
What lumber should I use to build my playhouse?
ConclusionMuch of the concern over pressure treated lumber is rooted in legitimate suspicion. It was less than two decades ago when most PT wood contained arsenic, and there still are parts of the United States with contaminated ground and water surrounding treatment sites. However, since 2003, the entire lumber industry has moved on to safer methods of preserving building materials. Rest assured all the wood you'll find at your local Home Depot has the EPA's blessing and you can have peace of mind knowing little Johnny will be just fine doing a hand-stand down that pirate ship's gang plank.
If you have a larger family, or even just have a few roaming neighborhood kids who like to stop by, you may find having just one playhouse doesn't all ways cut the mustard. However, if the investment of two playhouses is going down, you want to be darn sure they are going to worth the while. Adding a connecting bridge from one play structure to another provides not only more play interactivity and child level diplomacy, it also ups the fun factor by making two, smaller playhouses into one huge one.
The connecting bridge in the below steps is designed to work with two "King Author's Castle" playhouse plans, though the concept can be applied to any two play-sets with the same deck height. Make sure that the two platforms the bridge will rest on are no further away than 11' 7". The bridge is also 3' wide, so make sure that the railing opening on the playhouse is at least this width and preferably not much more. The below illustrations depict two modified King Author's Castle playhouse plans to connect a bridge.
Step 1: Framing the BridgeFrom (1) 2x8x10 and (4) 2x8x12s, construct the joist unit depicted in the below illustration.
Step 2: Decking the BridgeFrom (7) 12' decking boards, cut and install the 3' decking pieces depicted in the below illustration. Space the decking boards apart by 1/8".
Step 3: Railing PostsFrom (3) 4x4x8s, cut six of the piece depicted in the below illustrious. Install these pieces to the bridge as shown in the 2nd below illustration. Use carriage bolts to secure the posts to the bridge.
Step 4: Framing the RailsFrom (4) 2x4x12s, cut four 10' 10" pieces and install them to the posts as depicted in the below illustration.
Step 5: BalustersFrom (6) 2x8x10s and (1) 2x8x8, cut twenty 3' 2 1/2" pieces. Install these pieces to the railing as depicted in the below illustrations.
Step 6: Final PlacementInstall the bridge between the two platform openings as depicted in the below illustrations.
No matter what size kid you are, it's almost a guarantee that you'll like a cozy place to call your own. If you happen to be particularly small, a particularly smaller house may be in order. Designed for children 2-5, this playhouse is perfect for really anyone who is young at heart, and under 42" tall. It's hard to argue this free toddler plan is just the ticket for that little guy who doesn't need too much space and rather have something that fits them well.
This plan has been designed to have a whimsical feel, but still be a easy build, so that you and your child can be involved with the process. The total cost to build is also aimed below $150, so that it won't have to cut into a future Christmas or birthday budget. Don't forget to also get a little messy with the painting too.
(5) 5/4" x 6 x 8'
(1) 5/4" x 6 x 12'
(3) 1/2" sheets
Step 1: Framing the Joists
From (1) 2x4x8 and (2) 2x4x12s, cut and assemble the six pieces together as depicted in the below illustration. Cross measure the corners to check if the box is square.
Step 2: Decking the JoistsFrom (5) 8' decking boards and (1) 12' decking board, cut and install thirteen 4' pieces to the floor joists. Space the pieces apart by 1/4".
Step 3: Framing the Front RailingGoing off the below illustration, from (2) 2x4x8s, cut one of the 2' 2 3/8" piece, one of the 2' 7 7/8" piece and two of the the 4' 3/8" piece. Arrange these four pieces together as depicted in the 2nd below illustration.
From (4) 2x2x4' balusters, cut eight 2' pieces. Install these eight pieces to the previous assembly as depicted below. Install this railing to the front of the platform as shown in the 2nd below illustration.
Step 4: Framing the Front WallFrom (4) 2x4x8s, construct the wall depicted in the below illustration.
Step 5: Framing the Back WallFrom (3) 2x4x8s and (1) 2x4x10, construct the wall depicted in the below illustration. All of the measurements and angles are the same as the wall from step 4, but with a full bottom place and an added 1' 6 3/8" piece for the bottom window sill.
Step 6: Side WallsFrom (1) 2x4x8, cut the piece depicted in the below two illustrations. From the remaining 2x4 material, cut a 2nd, mirrored piece. The two below illustrations are a top and side view of the same piece.
With these two pieces, as well as (2) 2x4x8s, construct the wall depicted in the below illustration. Two of these walls will be required.
Combine all four walls together as depicted in the below illustration.
Step 7: Rafters From (1) 2x4x8, cut and assemble the two piece unit depicted in the below illustration. Three of these units will be required. Install these three units to the top of the walls as depicted in the 2nd below illustration.
Step 8: SidingForm (3) sheets of plywood, cut and install the eleven pieces of siding to the playhouse as depicted in the below illustrations. Cut the openings out after the pieces have been installed.
A proper work bench isn't something suited just for wood workers or experienced craftsmen, but really for anyone who owns a house or likes to make repairs and tinker with things. There's no need to go out and spend $300-$500 on a prebuilt or fabricated garage bench when building a simple yet highly effective one yourself is so easy. If you consider yourself a DIY type, this home project is certainly a must!
The design below offers a roomy, but not overtly large working space at 5' x 2.5'. A lower shelf of equal size provides quick access to power tools, paint or anything else that is used regularly in your household. At less than $100 to construct, this free work bench plan will provide a handsome addition to your garage, basement or shed!
Materials:( 3 ) 2" x 4" x 8'
( 4 ) 2" x 4" x 10'
( 1 ) 2" x 4" x 12'
( 2 ) 5/8 Sheet of Plywood
Building the Free Work Bench Plan
Step 1: Framing the Shelves
From (1) 2x4x10, cut two 4' 9" pieces. From (1) 2x4x10, cut two 2' 6" pieces and two 2' 3" pieces. From (1) 2x4x8, cut one 2' 3" piece, two 1' 1 3/4" pieces and two 9 3/4" pieces. Assemble these eleven pieces into the unit shown in the below illustration.
Two of these units will be required.
Step 2: Adding the LegsFrom (1) 2x4x12, cut four 3' pieces. Install these four pieces to one of the previous units as depicted in the below illustration.
Step 3: Adding the Plywood to the Lower ShelfFrom (1) sheet of 5/8" plywood, cut the piece depicted in the below illustration. All four corners will have the same size notch. Install this piece to the lower shelf as depicted in the 2nd below illustration.
Step 4: Adding the Upper ShelfInstall the 2nd unit to the top of the four 2x4 legs as depicted in the below illustration.
Step 5: Adding Cross BracingFrom (1) 2x4x8, cut two of the piece shown in the below illustration. Install these two pieces to the back of the work bench as depicted in the 2nd below illustration.
Step 6: Adding the Plywood to the Upper ShelfFrom (1) sheet of 5/8" plywood, cut a 5' x 2.5' piece. Install this piece to the top of the work bench as depicted in the below illustration.
If you liked this plan, be sure to also look into the free swing-set design, as well as building a clubhouse with a loft!
If you're looking for a swing set that can also implement monkey bars, a slide and platform, check out Paul's Swing Set Plan. This design is great if you're looking for a very simple play-set that is easy on the wallet and can be built over the weekend. If you're looking for something even more basic or easy to add onto an existing playhouse, use the plan shown below.
Building the Simple Swing Set Plan
Step 1: Cutting the Legs
From (4) 4x6x10s, cut four of the piece shown in the below illustration. Cut (1) 4x6x12 to 11' 9" in length. Install these five pieces together as depicted below. Use 8" lag bolts to secure the pieces together.
Step 2: Bracing Pt 1
From (3) 2x6x12s, cut and install the four pieces to the swing set as depicted in the below illustration.
Step 3: Bracing Pt 2
From (2) 2x6x10s, cut four of the piece shown in the below illustration. Install these four pieces to both sides of the swing set as depicted in the below illustration.
Step 4: End Cap for the Top 4x6
From some excess 2x6, cut and install the tow pieces to the top of the swing set as depicted below.
Step 5: Bracing Pt 3
From (2) 4x6x10s, cut two of the piece shown in the below illustration. From (1) 2x6x8, cut and install the two 3' 8 1/4" pieces.
Step 6: Securing the Top Beam
Attach (1) 2x10x12 to the top of the 4x6 to help secure it from swaying during play.
Step 7: Swing Set Accessories
If the structure is meant to be freestanding, swing set accessories can be added at this point. Check out our accessory page for a great variety of play-set attachments you can add.
Adding the Swing Set to a Playhouse
If you're planning on attaching this swing set to an already existing play-set or playhouse, simply leave off one of the sides, and allow the existing structure to support it instead.
The top of swing set is 8 feet off the ground. Keep this in mind when measuring and installing. Whether the top 4x6 of the swing set is being built into a wall or railing, it should have some type of framing on both sides holding it up, to keep it from excessively swaying when it's in use.
In the illustration below, the swing set has been built into the railing of a pirate ship. Notice that two additional posts have been added on each side to help support it.
In the 2nd below illustration, the swing set has been built into the wall of a castle playhouse. Notice too that extra 2x4s have been installed on each side of the 4x6 to help secure it in place. You can also download this plan in PDF form.
Before beginning, make sure to read over the entire plan to get a feel for the project and add up all the materials that will be needed. If you have any questions, feel free to send off an email. Don't forget to reference the below points before and during the build too. Happy play housing!
Before you swing that hammer:
- Many hardware stores offer a lumber delivery service and a bulk purchase discount, which we encourage you to take full advantage of to save time, money and hassle. Paint, hardware, roofing materials and other accessories can also be bought at this time.
- If the project will not be on ground posts, the structure should be built on a flat, level grade that is slightly larger than the footprint's dimensions. Regrading may be necessary to achieve level ground. This area should also be at least 6' from any other structure or obstacle.
- For the structure's foundation, 4x4s, concrete blocks or anchored ground posts with beams can be used to keep the project level and off the ground. Building the structure on an island deck of equal size is the most secure and the method we recommend.
- When building, make sure the framing is square. You can achieve this by cross measuring the corners, checking to see if they're equal, or the 3,4,5 rule can be used as well.
- For screwing or nailing the framing together, use two screws/nails to connect 2x4s together, three screws/nails for 2x6s, etc. When attaching 5/4” decking material, use two, 2” decking screws 3/4” away from the edges to attach them to framing. Use two ½” carriage bolts to attach any 4x4 posts to a joist. Toe screwing may also be needed to attach some joints together. Use our How to Framing page for a more detailed and comprehensive set of framing instructions.
- Be advised that if an exact 8', 10', 12' or 16' piece is required, you may still need to cut it as they can vary in length by up to an inch.
Cross bracing with wood or cable can be used to help stiffen up a platform and prevent it from wobbling.
- Make sure to paint or stain all the exterior lumber to keep it safe from the rain and other elements. All exterior framing and decking material should be pressure treated or intended for the outdoors.
- Spreading mulch and having distinguished walks can help reduce trip and fall injuries.
- Be sure to also read over the United States CPSC's Outdoor Home Playground Safety Handbook. This short publication goes over important safety factors when it comes to a variety of topics regarding backyard play structures.
- Don't forget to also look at the FAQ page.
Building the Free Loft Playhouse
Step 1: Building the Floor
From (4) 2x4x12s, cut and assemble the eight pieces as depicted in the below illustration.
Step 2: Cover the Floor
From (2) sheets of plywood, cut and install the two pieces to the top of the joists as depicted in the below illustration.
Step 3: Walls
From (8) 2x4x12s and (1) 2x4x8, build two of the wall shown in the below illustration.
From (3) 2x4x12s and (1) 2x4x10, build the wall shown in the below illustration.
From (3) 2x4x12s, build the wall shown in the below illustration.
Install these four walls to the platform as depicted below. From (2) 2x4x12s, cut and install the four top plate pieces as shown.
Step 4: Siding Pt 1
From (3) sheets of plywood, cut and install the four pieces to the left and right walls as shown in the below illustration. Cut the window openings out after with a hand saw or reciprocating saw.
Step 5: Framing the Loft
From (1) 2x4x12, (1) 2x4x10 and (1) 2x4x8, cut and build the unit shown in the below illustration. From (1) sheet of plywood, cover this unit.
Step 6: Loft Rail
From (1) 2x4x412, cut and assemble the four pieces as depicted in the below illustration. Install this unit as shown in the 2nd below illustration.
Step 7: Loft Ladder
From (1) 2x4x10, cut two of the piece shown in the below illustration. From (1) 2x4x10, cut six 1' 6" pieces. Assemble these eight total pieces into the unit shown in the 2nd below illustration. Install this ladder as shown in the 3rd below illustration. Install the entire loft assembly inside the playhouse as shown in the 4th below illustration.
Step 8: Rafters
From (6) 2x4x12s, cut twelve of the piece shown in the below illustration. From (1) 2x6x8, cut a 6' piece. Install all of these pieces to the top of the playhouse as shown in the 2nd below illustration.
Step 9: Framing the Gable Window
From (2) 2x4x10s, build two of the unit shown in the below illustration. Install these two units inside of the gables as depicted in the 2nd below illustration.
Step 10: Siding Pt 2
From (3) sheets of plywood, cover the front and back walls as depicted in the below illustration. Cut the door and window openings out after.
Step 11: Roof Sheeting
From (3) sheets of plywood, cover the roof as depicted below.
Step 12: Front Door
From (2) 1x4x8s, (1) 2x4x12, excess plywood and door hardware, build and install the door and trim work as depicted in the below illustrations.
Step 13: Windows
(3) 18" x 27" shed windows and (2) 14" octagonal windows will be required. Use (4) 1x4x10s to trim out the windows. See the below illustrations for details.
If you do decide to build the Free Loft Playhouse, don't forget to shoot us a finished picture, and make sure to check out our accessory page to furnish your new project!
Boys are dirty, smelly and all around quite a noisy bunch. We like to play rough and have no qualms or remorse about smashing things together. As a collective, we love cars, trucks, trains, plains and anything that shoots lasers and goes boom! It would only be appropriate that there would be a sweet collection of outdoor play-set designs parents could build for their wild offspring. With Paulsplayhouses.com, that collection is here. I've hand picked my top 10 favorite boy's play-set blueprints you can download and start building today! No matter which one you ultimately go with, you'll be sure to build something awesome!
Don't forget to also check out the top 10 list of girl's playhouse plans too!
# 10: Strapping Steamroller Play-set
If you're looking for your son to find a way to constructively get that destructive appetite out of the system, look no further than the Strapping Steamroller play-set. By their very nature, steamrollers are designed to make anything they go over totally and completely two dimensional. This one is special because the two rollers can be crawled through as well! Along with the cab, you'll also find head lights and exhaust stacks to add to the realism. A pretty easy build as well, cooking up this machine for that little guy is sure to be a blast! Be sure to check out all of our construction vehicle designs while you're at it!
# 9: Huey Helicopter Play-set
Part of the Air & Space play-set collection, the Huey Helicopter play-set was made to be a real crowd pleaser! Covering over 50 square feet of play space, this wooden Huey is just a plain cool concept. Includes everything a helicopter should have, such as a tail rotor, landing gear, engine and a mean attitude, minus the huge ding to your wallet. Allow that special little guy to really engage that imagination and soar away!
# 8: Farm Tractor Play-set
Out in the country, tractors are as common as taxisin the city. It would only make sense that a young man would be getting their first tractor at some point. Enter the Farm Tractor play-set. Coming in two parts, with the tractor being in the front and the trailer in the back, this build has proven to be quite popular! The tractor stands at 8 ½ feet tall and features two levels with a front and rear entrance below and a rear and side entrance up top. The trailer is also quite versatile and comes with a bench and small ship ladder for a sweet side exit. Also throw in some cool details like two 4' wheels, light bar and exhaust stack for even more of a cool factor. It won't just be country boys who'll get a kick out of this plan!
# 7: First Rescue Fire Truck Play-set
There are few guys I know who didn't think fire trucks were the cat's pajamas when they were little. Even now, with all the cool new electronics and pipes and hoses, they have a real steam punk theme going on. Either way, a well crafted fire truck play-set is a must on this list, and the First Rescue Fire Truck fulfills that need nicely. This baby really has it all when it comes to details. Sports two levels so kids can run along the extension ladder up top, as well as two front sears, six wheels, lights, mirrors and a water cannon! All wrapped up in a 16' long, 130 square foot package. Almost as good as the real thing!
# 6: Rippin' Rocket ship Play-set
It's not rocket science, but don't tell that to the kid. The Rippin Rocket ship is a 3 level, 20' tall epic play-set that is sure to set the bar quite high when it comes to backyard playtime! Inside, you'll find two trap doors leading to the 2nd and 3rd levels, as well as a 2nd floor slide escape that's sure to com in handy in case of meeting an unfriendly E.T.'s tractor beam. Four fins not only add style, but also help stabilize the ship as well. Hopefully this rocket ship will hold the little guy over for the day we're all flying one of these things in the mean time. Artificial gravity not included.
# 5: Big Rig Play-set
Long hauls, short hauls, no hauls, it doesn't really matter. Whether you got a big payload that's on a tight deadline or your broken down at the truck stop, you can rest assured that you'll have the biggest and meanest truck on the road. The Big Rig play-set really puts you child's woodworking project into high gear! A two part plan, the first pertains to the wicket cool tractor trailer, which comes with two seats, duel air intakes, exhaust stacks, six wheels and an engine compartment that you can crawl into and escape out the front, under the grill. A few steps toward the back, and you'll enter the two level trailer with an inside and outside ladder to get to the top, as well as a place for a fireman's pole and slide. All at a total of 200 square feet, this is one ultimate, truck lover's play-set project!
# 4: Edward Thatch Pirate Ship
# 3: Mega Mech Play-set
This was a wild concept that I just had to make a reality. Being a little geeky, I thought the idea of giant robots duking it out was what future people would be doing for kicks because, robots, fighting, is totally awesome. Evidently that idea is still buried deep in my cerebrum and apparently propagated itself into what is before you here. If you have a bit a nerd streak and some carpentry experience under your belt, you would be the coolest dad, hands down, if you were to complete this thing. A proof of concept, the Mega Mech play-set is custom made to rule any backyard.
# 2: Little Willie Tank Play-set
In today's age of being politically correct, a tank themed play-set is a complete non sequitur, something that is looked down upon and despised. To that I say, pish posh, let the boys be boys and have some fun! The Little Willie design is based upon the old WWI tanks and is a magnificent weapon of extreme playtime. Features two levels with trap door access and treads that you can actually crawl through! Let's just say you won't be need a class C license when this thing shows up in the backyard.
# 1: Monster Truck Play-set
For anyone boy that has grown up with a sister, you'll discover early on that their tastes in toys, activities and entertainment can be slightly disproportionate to yours. While you are racing and crashing your matchbox collection, she'll take those same cars and make them have a pleasant conversation and possible tea party. Or while you're playing war with your G.I. Joe, she'll make them try on Barbie's dresses. I certainly played my part in incommensurate play time as well. I couldn't tell you the number of times I caused an abrupt and devastating earthquake upon my sister's doll house when playing the part of the sober husband doll lost it's luster.
While there certainly are exceptions, boys and girls have differing tastes in quite a variety of ideas and tastes. Here at Paulsplayhouses.com, we try not just to meet, but surpass the needs of any child when it comes to playtime. While all our playhouse designs can be enjoyed by any child, some are certainly more catered toward the princess and dress up type of young ladies. The ten plans below are all handpicked from a list of almost 100 blueprints, and are sure to put a smile on any girl's face. Enjoy, and build something amazing!
Don't forget to check out the top 10 list of Boy's play-set plans as well!
# 5: King Author's Castle
The next step up from the Indoor Castle, King Author's Castle plan looks like it came right out of your child's favorite fairytale. This two level fort features a trap door, battlements, rock climbing wall and defense tower encase of an big brother invasion. Also, in the event that more space is needed, there are three other larger castle designs that can also be downloaded to insure a mighty victory against any foe or sibling!
# 4: Chesapeake Lighthouse
If you and your daughter are looking for something genuinely unique, than look no further than the Chesapeake Lighthouse plan. The big brother to the little lighthouse, here you'll find a more challenging build, but also one that is quite timeless and certainly memorable. Features three levels with the peak of the room reaching 18 feet off the ground. An excellent view from the top is guaranteed! 140 total square feet also allows other siblings and friends to enjoy the vista at the same time. Positively a momentous venture for the whole family.
# 3: Simple Suburbia
One of our most favorite concepts, the Simple Suburbia plan isn't very big or overly complex, but it's just perspiring with charter and it's quaint appearance is full of charm. A small front dormer and rear bay window setup are a few of the cool details you'll receive in this package. A choice pick when the yard area and budget aren't as grand as the good feelings you're striving for. Great for those even with a smaller lot, it's a real winner in our books! Expect big grins all around with this one.
# 1: The Wishful Wendy
Propped up on a skirted deck, the Wishful Wendy has two levels, with a U shaped, wrap around porch on the 1st floor and a front, overhanging balcony on the 2nd. A picket railing in combination with a hip roof and wavy fascia molding add to the artistry. At 280 square feet, it isn't the largest plan we offer, but it is a great compromise between having a more manageable project and still having enough space for young family and friends to feel quite welcome inside as well. Without doubt, the Wishful Wendy is the most ideal girl's playhouse out there.
Bonus: Play Furniture Plan
For most properties, an island platform to support their playhouse isn't necessary, as most sheds and playhouses are built on near level terrain. A few cinder blocks or layer of gravel is enough to flatten out the grade.
However, if you're planning on building on a steep grade or just want an elevated deck for your kid's house, a island deck is the ticket. The steps below are for a 12' x 12', but the same principles can be applied to any sized deck. A PDF plan of the below steps can also be downloaded.
Tools & Lumber that will be needed:
Drill &/or Impact Driver
Jig Saw (optional)
Miter Saw (optional)
Chalk Line (optional)
( 25 ) 5/4” x 6” x 12'
( 6 ) 2” x 4” x 12'
( 6 ) 2” x 6” x 12'
( 12 ) 2” x 8” x 12'
( 2 ) 2” x 10” x 16'
Posts & Balusters
( 10 ) 4” x 4” x 8'
( 72 ) 2” x 2” x 36”
Constructing the Island Platform
Step 1: Digging holes
Four holes will need to be dug. No matter the angle of the grade, the center of the holes should always match the bird's eye view of the left illustration. Check what the frost line is in your area and dig down accordingly. The holes should be approximately 12” in diameter.
Step 2: Installing the Posts
Unless you have a severe ground slope or want your platform to be higher, an 8' 4x4 should be adequate for a single post. Place each 4x4 in the four holes and plumb them with a level and two furring strips.
After the post has been secured, fill the remainder of the hole with concrete, as depicted in the left illustration. Repeat this four all four holes, as shown below.
Step 3: Notching the posts
After the concrete has dried, the notches for the beams can be made in the posts. Use a water level to mark the bottom of where the notch will begin for all four of the posts. Once all four of the posts have been marked, make the 1 ½” by 9 ½” notch in each post as depicted in the left illustration.
Step 4: Beams
From (2) 2x10x16s, cut two 13' pieces. Install these pieces to the posts as depicted below. Be sure to have matching cross measurements to maintain squareness.
Step 5: Joists
From (12) 2x8x12s, cut ten 11' 9” pieces and two at 12'. Assemble these pieces together as depicted in the left illustration. Maintain a 16” on center joist layout. Be sure to have matching cross measurements to maintain squareness.
Step 6: Decking
From (25) 12' decking boards, cover the joists as depicted in the below illustration. Space the decking boards apart by ¼”.
Step 7: Entry Ladder
From (1) 2x6x12, build the ladder shown below. Note that the ladder stringers will need to be shortened or lengthened depending on the final height of your deck.
Step 8: Railing Posts
From (6) 4x4x8s, cut twelve of the piece shown in the left illustration. Install these twelve posts to the platform as depicted below.
Step 9: Rails
From (6) 2x4x12s, cut and install the six pieces as shown in the left and below illustrations.
Step 10: Balusters