Tutorial: Make a Straight Forward Sandbox w/ Doors


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Geek Baby loves to play in sandboxes.  We’ve taken her to a few local  and not-as-local parks and she’s had a blast.  When she visited the beach for the first time, she didn’t want to leave!  She had a bucket in one hand and a shovel in the other and she had the time of her life filling and unfilling that bucket.  We knew we wanted to make her a sandbox.  That being said, we didn’t want to reinvent the wheel, so we searched around for existing tutorials that contained the ‘bones’ of what we wanted to make.  We found this awesome How To from Modern Parents, Messy Kids and then put our own spin on it.

First off, let me dispel some myths. 

  • Any task that requires cutting wood, power tools and math can seem, well, overwhelming.  That being said, you can typically find a tutorial or how to that will give you a straight forward, step-by-step approach.  Don’t be afraid to mess up.  If you cut the wood to the wrong measurements, either change your final measurements OR get a new piece of wood!  If you’ve never used a power tool before, talk to someone at your local hardware store and they will be more than happy to walk through the motions with you.  Most important, though, is to not be afraid to try.  If you feel this is too big of a task for you alone, ask for help.  When I decided Geek Baby needed a sandbox, we made it happen, even though we’d never fabricated anything like this before.  And, just in case we were in over our heads, we had my grandpa there to assist and make sure no one lost a finger.

What you’ll need:

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These are the materials we purchased.  We bought everything at Lowe’s.

  1. Four (4) 12″ x 6′ pieces of wood  (We bought two 12″ by 12′ and cut them in half.)
  2. Four (4)  4″ x 4″ x2′ pieces of wood (We bought a 4″ by 4″ by 8′ and cut it into four pieces.)
  3. Two (2) 3′ 1.5″ x 6′ pieces of plywood (We bought an 8′ x 10′ piece of 1/2″ thick plywood to have some left over for seats.)
  4. Six (6) 2″ x 2″ x 6′ pieces of wood.  (We bought two bundles of them, which were located near the plywood)
  5. Four (4) corner pieces of plywood, 12″ wide (optional)
  6. Two (2) long pieces of L-shaped molding (optional – to cover the rough edge of the corner seats)
  7. Forty (40) or so 3″ Wood Screws
  8. Twenty (2) or so 1″ Wood Screws
  9. Twenty-four (24) 1/2″ Wood Screws
  10. Wood Glue (to stabilize and attach the wood pieces together.)
  11. One (1) Roll of Landscaping Fabric (a semi-permeable barrier)
  12. Thirty-five (35) bags of 50lb play sand
  13. Exterior Latex Paint, Latex Paint brushes
  14. Water Sealant Wood Stain, Oil Paint brushes (optional, but recommended)
  15. Two (2) Door Handles
  16. Four (4) Large Entry Door Hinges (must fit 2″ x 2″ wood)
  17. 18oz Container of Cinnamon (optional, but recommended)

These are the tools we used.  We also purchased these tools at Lowe’s and Home Depot, although not recently.

  1. Power drill
  2. Circular saw
  3. Jigsaw
  4. Small hand saw or hacksaw
  5. Sledgehammer
  6. Shovel or post hole digger
  7. Staple gun
  8. Saw horses
  9. Rake (optional)

Have a little one who loves to play in the sand?  Are you a work-at-home parent without the extra time to make a trip to a local park?  Want to entice your kids to play outside more?  This is a great, straight forward family DIY project!

First Step — Clear the Land:  Figure out where you are going to place your sandbox and clear out that land.  We knew we wanted to make a 6′ square, but also had to account for the doors opening and closing.  Once you’ve cleared the land, you can use your shovel or post hole digger to dig the 4 holes needed at each corner for your 4″ x 4″ pieces of wood.  These are your support beams and are super important for the stability of your sandbox.

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Second Step (Optional) — Cut the Wood: If you had most of your wood pieces cut at your hardware store, which I recommend, than you can start building your structure right away.  Otherwise, cut all your wood pieces to spec first using the tools mentioned.  To cut the wood to size, you’ll want to get your saw horses and circular saw ready.

Third Step (Optional) — Stain the Wood:  Stain all the wood with water sealant wood stain, unless the wood is going to be painted with exterior latex paint.  You don’t need to double up.  I coated all the exposed pieces of wood with water sealant wood stain to ensure it will last long enough to be used for many more years to come!  Make sure you use an oil paint brush for this job.

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Fourth Step — Paint the Doors: When choosing a paint for the sandbox doors, I think an exterior latex paint is your best bet. And, of course, you can get it in ANY color you want.  TARDIS blue, perhaps?  Command gold?  Geek Baby choose the color we used.  She seems to love teal!  I recommend a double coat of paint.  For the doors, we only bought a pint of exterior latex semi-gloss paint.  After two coats each, we still had paint left over.  Check out the photo below.  Geek Baby was supervising.

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Fifth Step — Build the Frame, Add the Beams: The four 12″ x 6′ pieces of wood need to be attached with the 3″ wood screws.  Once it is all lined up and level, you screw them together.  When that initial 6′ square frame in done, you use the 3″ screws to attach your support beams to the inside corner of your 6′ square frame.  I recommend moving the newly built 6′ square over to it’s final resting place, so to speak, so you can insert the support beams into their freshly dug holes prior to screwing them into place.  This is where the handy dandy sledgehammer comes into play!  Take a look at Geek Dad — he is the Superman of DIY projects!

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NOTE: If you want to add seats, this is where you would do it.  Take your triangles and glue them into place on top of the 4″ x 4″ support beams.  Use 3″ wood screws to add further support to these seats.  They will be tremendously stable.  They hold up my husband, who is over 200 pounds.

Sixth Step — The Barrier:  Next, roll out that semi-permeable barrier I mentioned in the things needed list.  We found the roll of landscaping fabric in the garden section of Lowe’s.  You have to buy the entire roll, but I’m sure you can find a use for the rest of it.  Or, freecycle it!

Get your staple gun and go to town!  You want to make sure it is VERY secure, so staple the fabric to the 6′ square frame…and then staple it a few more times for good measure.

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NOTE:  There are a few reasons this is important.  

  1. You want to keep weeds from growing in and through your sandbox.
  2. By purchasing this specific material, your sandbox will still be able to drain water, when it rains.

Seventh Step — Prep the Doors:  Once you’ve completed all of these other steps, you are ready to get the doors ready to be attached.  Take your 2″ x 2″ pieces of wood and make a frame that is the same size as the outer dimensions of your door.  You’ll use your 3″ wood screws for this.  Once your frame is complete, you’ll sit this down on a flat surface and put wood glue on the top of the frame.  You’ll then take your door piece and lay it on top of the frame, paint side up, using your 1″ wood screws to make sure it is tightly secured to the frame.  Repeat this process for the second door.  Between the wood glue and the screws, it should be more than secure!

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Eighth Step — Attach Doors:  Once your doors are complete, you can attach them to the sandbox.  Make sure you get large hinges that fit your 2″ x 2″ wood door frame.  You’ll use the 1/2″ wood screws for this part of the project.  Attach your handles, as well.  We attached the handles once the doors were attached, just to get an idea of where it would be best to place the handles, but you can attach them before, as well.


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Ninth Step — Fill with Sand:  Once your sandbox is complete, now comes the fun part – fill it with over 1500 pounds of sand! We bought the play sand available at Lowe’s and Home Depot.  It’s not outside with the garden and landscaping materials, but inside with the construction materials.  Be very cautious about how much of this sand you buy at one time.  Many vehicles have load limits.  This may take a few trips if you don’t have a heavy duty vehicle.

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NOTE: Add cinnamon to your sand to keep bugs away!  We added 18 ounces of cinnamon to our 1500+ pounds of sand and haven’t had any bug problems.  Make sure to mix in cinnamon well.  I recommend using a rake to even out the sand and mix in cinnamon.

Tenth Step — Add Geek Baby and Accessories:  You’ve finished this awesome DIY project, so now you get to reap the benefits — a super happy geek baby!

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And, you’re done!  The result is a beautifully functional sandbox for your geek baby and their friends.  We’ve been using this sandbox for over a month now and our little one adores it.  And, we love that we can close the doors!  As always, we recommend supervision while your little one is playing in their sandbox.  Also, if you add the seats, always check underneath the seats for spiders, scorpions, snakes, etc.  

If you have any question, leave them in the comments section.  And thanks for checking out my tutorial!



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