TUTORIAL: Backyard Sandbox

by Dana on July 6, 2008

One Saturday Casey announced, “we’re making a sandbox for the kids!”
Um. Okay.
We looked online for a simple tutorial but couldn’t find much. So we decided to sort of wing it and here’s what we came up with…
A simple Backyard Sandbox with colorful stripes, benches for sitting,
holes to trickle sand through, two spots for holding a beach umbrella,
and lots and lots of sand.
Oh yea, and two sand-happy kids (with red umbrella heads)
Have you ever wanted to make a sandbox for your kids? It’s really quite easy and similar to making a garden box. We’re no carpenters here. And if woodworking is your thing, you may have better tips on proper wood selection and concept design. But I’ll show you what we did using our basic home-improvement knowledge.

Here’s our diagram and info….
* The sandbox is a simple 6-foot by 7-foot rectangle.
* The bottom is made of wooden slats that interlock with each other.
* We used leftover wood to create seats/benches for the 4 corners (perfect for Mom and Dad).
* We added PVC pipe in two corners to accommodate a beach umbrella (shade in TX is a must).
* We spent about $150-$200 on supplies and sand. You can spend less if you buy cheaper wood for the flooring and less sand.
* You may choose to create a cover for the sandbox. We’ve never had a problem with stray cats in our neighborhood using it as a litter box but some people have mentioned this as an issue with their sandbox.
Let’s get Started!

* Choose a suitable place in your backyard for a sandbox. We went with a vacant corner of the yard that was flat, near the fence, and out of the way. We also dug out the grass to make sure the ground was very even.
* Decide on the design and dimensions for your box.
* Gather supplies from you local hardware store. We choose long 10 foot pieces of wood (about 1 and 1/2-2 inches thick). The leftover ends from the 10 foot pieces were used for the benches.

* Use a Saw to cut all 4 pieces of the sandbox frame to the proper lengths. You can use a handsaw, table saw, or Miter Saw (which is what we used). Always use safety goggles!
* Build the basic frame. This is very “Building-101″ here….just butt the 6 and 7 foot wood sides next to each other and either nail or screw them together (we used a power drill and screws). And look, you’ve got a frame!
* Attach the bottom of the Sandbox, with your frame/box upside down.
–NOTE: You don’t actually need a bottom on your sandbox but you risk more chance of the frame warping or pulling apart over time. And you may get weeds growing up inside of the box.
–However, if you do attach a floor, the trade off is that the floor may become weathered over time, since the floor often gets wet from rain and sprinklers and never fully gets a chance to dry in our humid climate. We decided that a floor was best and added more support to the frame.
So….

We used these wooden slats from Home Depot that interlock with each other. They’re more expensive than basic wood–and you could certainly use something else for the bottom of your box–but we’ve used them to create a floor in our attic and love how easy they are to connect! We used about 35 of them, cut them to the desired length, and started by screwing the first one to the bottom of the box. Then we connected the next one with the first and screwed that one down, and on and on till we created an entire base for our sandbox.
* With the frame and bottom built, let’s add benches! The benches are mainly for sitting and relaxing but they also add support to the box in each corner.
* Take the left over pieces of wood (from the frame) and mark/measure benches that will sit on top of the sandbox frame. Cut the benches with the miter saw and sand off the rough edges.

(If you’ve been following my blog for a while, here’s where the truth comes out. We actually started and finished this project last year but I insisted on sharing photos when the grass was green again–rather than the hibernating winter-brown. So there’s a little flashback of the kids…4 year-old Lucy and 2 year-old Owen).
* Drill a few holes in the bottom of the floor to allow for water drainage. The jury’s still out on whether this is necessary. But we think it’s working, allowing some of the sprinkler water to seep out (since our box sits out in the open yard).
And you have a sandbox that looks like this!
Note: our box is in the garage in this picture because rain was coming and we wanted to paint it with Thompson’s Water Seal before it got wet. In the long run, however, we decided that it the sealant wasn’t necessary. Paint alone is the best way to seal and protect wooden outdoor furniture.
One final touch on the frame….
* Add a short piece of PVC pipe in the corners to allow a beach umbrella to stand up and provide shade. This was Casey’s idea and I think it’s brilliant. We drilled a hole in the bottom of the sandbox to hold the pipe. And then it sits nice and snug between the bench and the corner of the frame. Place a beach umbrella right into the pipe and you have a shady spot to sit! If you have a larger beach umbrella than ours, you’ll need pipe with a wider diameter.
And now let’s get on with the really fun part….PAINTING.
** For general and detailed tips, please see my Painting 101 Post **

I knew I wanted stripes and colors that match the palette of our house. So I went with these Glidden shades, in Semi-gloss finish (from Home Depot):
For all of the white parts, I used my favorite Behr, Ultra Pure White, Satin finish, Exterior.
* First paint the inside walls of the sandbox with white paint.
* Prop the sandbox up on scrap pieces of wood to get the box off the ground for a clean paint job on the outside (don’t do this when painting the inside since you’ll need to stand inside the box).
* Paint the benches and outside of the box with white paint.
* Decide how many stripes you want and divide up the math so that each stripe is the same width.
* Use painters tape to tape off equal stripes, one at a time. Paint the bottom stripe color. Let it dry for 6-8 hours, then carefully peel off the tape. I’ve found that the tape comes off better if it doesn’t sit too long on the previously painted layer. This is why you want to do the stripes one at a time instead of taping off all at once.
Continue this process with all your colors (leaving white as your top stripe). And when you’re done, you have this! (You may need to touch up the paint here or there)
Finally, pour in the sand. You’ll need 20-30 bags of Play Sand to create good volume.
But any amount of sand is more than fun….especially when it gets wet–the perfect consistency for sandcastle building.
Enjoy your new backyard addition!

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{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Camila February 7, 2012 at 12:56 pm

Bravo!! Wonderful!!

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2 karin marie March 26, 2012 at 10:40 pm

I love this! I want to make one for my girls! I love the fun colors too! Great job Dana!

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3 Aneta Kudasik March 30, 2012 at 1:37 pm

WOW! We made a sandbox too, but I would have never thought to paint it! This is so pretty!!!
P.S I came across your website from the top 50 blogs on babble. Cute blog! Love it!

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4 Angie Gonzales May 17, 2012 at 12:27 pm

Love this sandbox!!! Did you make a cover for it as well? Or do you just use a tarp?

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5 CLEILA SPRATT June 6, 2012 at 10:25 am

I just want to say that your ideas and tutorials are AWESOME!!! I LOVE ALL YOUR IDEAS!! After yrs of waiting…waiting…and waiting some more, (lol) we were blessed with grandchildren this past yr!! A boy and a girl!! 4 months apart and surprize… we are expecting twin grandbabies in 2 months, a boy and a girl!! 4 grandbabies in 1 yr!!! So you know this spectacular sandbox is on my to do list for Papaw!! It is again, AWESOME!! I wonder how hard a top would be to make for it????…..hmmmmm… THANK YOU for all your ideas!

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6 Ang V. August 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm

Hey Dana! I LOVE your blog… have attemepted many of your clothing items. So a big thanx to you for sharing all this FUN! :)

Just curious how you found the paint on your sandbox has held up to the elements, children, lawnmower, etc. Ever since i seen this post i have wanted to make one… we are finally ready to tackle this project, but i am worried about upkeep. Whats your thoughts? Thanx again for such a great blog!

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7 JANIS REYNOLDS April 22, 2014 at 11:54 pm

Simply beautiful I believe I can make this one. Thank you for sharing*

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