Monday, May 11, 2009

How to Build a Sandbox with Seats

All wood sandbox plans

After a year with the plastic turtle sandbox, it was time for an upgrade. My son is now 3 and the time has come to make a real sandbox. There are of course many sandbox plans online, and mine follows one of those plans (Bob Vila's simple sandbox and deluxe sandbox), but here I'm going to give you my real-life step-by-step build, with ALL the gritty details often left out of those shorter how-to articles. So yes, it is long and has many steps for a sandbox, but I prefer to leave nothing out, for those that are actually about to build a sandbox.

If you don't want to make something so elaborate, you can simply nail some old boards together and fill it with sand. Done! I tend to make things much more involved... Still this is a very easy sandbox to make.


Here's the finished sandbox. This gives you a good idea of what a 6 by 8 foot sandbox (inner box dimensions only, does not include seat overhang) looks like with a 3 year old in it for size. There's a 1 year old brother getting sandbox ready soon, so knowing they don't like to share, I figured we'd need a big sandbox. Note: You can click on all photos to enlarge them.

Total sand weight is 3,000 pounds! Sand will be your biggest expense in the project, so keep that in mind when determining your sandbox size. This is a 6 x 8 foot sandbox with 2 x 12 Hem/Fir boards, not pressure treated. The sand in the box is 8" deep.

Step 1. Drink some wine and make a mock up with paint stirrers!

I enjoy upfront planning, so hey why design your box with feather light boards rather than figuring out your design with heavy boards. Maybe you only want seats on one side, or two sides? Maybe you want multiple levels, or an extra box on one end for toys?

At one point I was thinking about making truck garages on the insides, and double walls that would house things like a solar panel powered radio, and pvc pluming for a water feature! I also was trying to figure out a cover that converts to a shade! This mock-up helped me reel-in my imagination and stick with the basics... Add-ons can come later. lol.

Step 2: Find a good location, and decide on the size

For location, you'll want: to be able to see the kids from inside you house, some shade and not directly under a tree (too much falling debris and cutting down into the roots, for the box excavation, can be hard on you, and the tree). For size you'll want upwards of 4 x 4 feet. I used some old pvc pipe to play with design variations and to help me imagine the size in the back yard. I also stuck a stick in the middle to observe how much sun that area received throughout the day.

Keep in mind this plan has seats that eat into the box area a bit. If you make it too small, it could look like this, nice work, but perhaps too small for the big toys kids seem to have these days.

Here's the Plan for this Wood Sandbox


Step 3: Wood and hardware for the sandbox

My sandbox plan uses all 2x12s and one 4x4 for the corners. Basically I'm building a box (2 8ft pieces and 2 6ft pieces), and seats on top of that (2 8ft pieces to be cut down for the 6ft sides, and 2 10ft pieces to be cut down for the 8ft sides). The seats are longer than the box sides, because I'll be cutting 45s where the seats meet each other.

Here's the lumber you'll need:
BOX:
2x12s 8ft (2 needed @ $13.83 each) Have the home store cut 2 16ft pieces in half.
2x12s 6ft (2 needed @ $10.37 each) Have the home store cut 1 12ft pieces in half.
4x4 8ft (1 needed @ $8.91) You'll cut this into 4 11.25" pieces.

SEATS:
2x12s 8ft (2 needed @ $13.83 each) Have the home store cut 1 16ft piece in half
2x12s 10ft (2 needed @ ~$15.00 each) Have the home store cut 2 12ft pieces down 2 feet

(When I went they didn't have 6, 8 or 10 foot pieces in 2x12s, thus the in store cutting, and I also couldn't transport long pieces)

Total for Lumber: ~$115.00 (no sales tax in our state)

Be picky about your wood. If you tell them it's for a sandbox, they give you the first piece out of the bin. But we want a square box, so no twists, cupping, warping, etc. They'll grumble a bit, but stick to your guns, take pride in your work, even if it's "just a sandbox".

Also be ready for them to steer you towards the pressure treated wood. Tell 'em you want pine or similar (Hemlock/Fir is what I got). Most outdoor, and ground based wood structures call for pressure treated wood, but for a sandbox, your kids will be in it, and you'll be working with it, and by the time your kids have out grown it, it will still be in fine shape. No pressure treated, chemical laden wood needed. By the way, some people turn these into raised flower beds after the kids lose interest.


You'll also want to make sure you can get the lumber home. My lumber did fit in one loaded Rav4. I did though have the wood cut at home store before transport. They'll do this for free, and it will save you some cuts at home.

Here's the hardware you'll need:

6" metal straps for under seat corners (4 needed @ $1.68 each)
5" long, 3/8" diameter, galvanized hex bolts (16 needed @ $1.53 each)
3/8" galvanized hex nuts (16 needed, 1 pack of 25 @ $4.78)
3/8" galvanized washers (32 needed, 2 packs of 25 @ $4.79 each)
3" exterior deck screws (a bunch needed, 1 box @ $8.69)
1 1/4" exterior deck screws (a bunch needed, 1 box @ $8.69)
Total for hardware: ~$63.00 (no sales tax in our state)

Total for wood and hardware: $178.00 (I'll have to double check this as I swear my bill was about $150.00
So perhaps that sounds like a lot for a sandbox, but keep in mind that if you look online you'll spend a lot more for a lot less in quality and size:

Here are some examples of sandboxes online:
$30-$70: Plastic turtle (this thing is tinny and can only fit one truck and some legs)
$679.99: 8x4 foot sandbox (smaller than my 8x6 box)
$99.99: 4x4 foot sandbox (with cover $164.98)

Step 4: Building the sandbox base

Go ahead and mock it up. Here's basically what we are building, but the seats will be cut to meet at 45s and the 4x4 in the front there will be bolted in each corner.


Cut the 4x4 into 4 pieces, each 11.25" long. Remember 2x12s are not really 12" wide, they are only 11.25" wide. Yeah, that's that nominal wood size vs. actual wood size thing... "Nominal" is what they are commonly called, like a 2x4, but the "actual size" of a 2x4 is 1.5"x3.5" for example. These 4x4 pieces will be bolted into the corners.


Here's the basic idea looking down on a corner. You can see that the 5" long bolt isn't long enough to go through the boards. That's why we are going to countersink them. And yes, 2" plus 4" inches equals 6", so why is the 5" bolt just as wide... It's that nominal vs. actual dimension thing again... See how the "4x4 is only 3.5" wide, and the 2" board is really only 1.5" wide...


Okay, so we take our 11.25" section and mark it down the middle of 2 sides and then measure 3" in from the ends on one side, and 2 inches in from the ends on the other side. The holes for the bolts will be offset so the bolts don't hit each other.


Start by drilling the countersink hole with a 1 1/8" spade bit, then drill all the way through with a 1/2 bit into a junk piece of board below. This old bit (above) was dull so I ended up running out to get a new 1/2" straight "speed bit", so much faster, and didn't kill the battery on my cordless drill.


Here's what you should end up with. I just guessed on the countersink depth. Make sure you are consistent with what sides of the box get the holes at 3" vs. 2", so that the finished sandbox has bolts that aligned.


I worked in my uneven driveway, so I used a few cedar shakes I had as shims to level the boards. Also I used a carpenter's square to be sure the boards were at right angles. You can put the square on top like in the photo, or nest it against the outside of the boards to check for square.


Maybe there is a better way to hold the boards in place, but I used a small adjustable clamp to hold the boards square and level, while I used the 1/2" bit to drill through the holes in the 4x4s and through the boards.


Install the bolts (heads on the outside), nuts and washers (washers on the inside and outside). The bolts are flush with the lumber which is why we countersunk them. No need for little hands to get scratched up on protruding bolts.


Here's my finished box. I noticed that my box wasn't square. Measure from corner to corner, diagonally for both diagonals. The measurement should be the same, if it's square. If you look closely at the nearest corner, I screwed-up. That long front board, should be in front of the shorter side board. I had to redo that corner. It's really easy to make this mistake, so check twice before you drill and bolt!

Step 5: Building the sandbox seats

Okay, sorry, but I got in a hurry to finish this before the babysitter came back with the guys, and I forgot to take some photos. Basically I measured and marked the seat boards for cutting by resting them on top, and marking them where they meet the inside corners of the 4x4s.

I cut the 45 on my miter saw (I had to flip the board over to cut through all the way, as my 10" blade doesn't slide or cut through 12" boards at a 45. For all of these cuts, by the way, you could use a circular saw.

Next I took a single 3" deck screw (no pre-drilling required) and lined up the inside corner of my seat board directly over the inside corner of the 4x4, and drove a single screw to hold the seat in place. I did the same on the other end of the seat, and worked my way around all of the seats in that way.

You'll see that my boards did not line up exactly, but that can be fixed later, and I'll take the "hey it's just a sandbox" excuse at this point. Cheat it, and you can make it work by adjusting the boards.


Before adding the seats, I took apart the box and reassembled it near the final location (too heavy to move assembled). I then used blocks/shims to elevate and level the sandbox (going to stain all wood, including the bottom edge of the box, and I wanted it level before adding the seats).


As straight as the boards seemed to be, they still didn't meet well, as they all have there own slight bends and twists. So I took some 3" deck screws, and while squeezing the boards together, I screw gunned them into alignment.


Here's the result of that effort. Don't put them in too close to the corners, or you'll split the wood.


In addition to the screws above, I also put these 6" plates under the seat corners. The screw heads aren't flush with the plate, but nothing felt sharp to the touch for the kiddies. By the way, I have to thank Hans at my local Home Depot, who was nothing short of excellent. He helped me get all the right hardware needed for this project, based on a detailed plan that I brought along. He also was the one that suggested the 6" plates and the corner screws shown above.

In addition Hans suggested that I use 3" screws for attaching the seats, as he pointed out that you want 1.5" to be in the 2x12 below. I even invited Hans home with me to complete the build, and I think he would have taken me up on it, had duty not have called to help others. So my hats off to Hans (from the Netherlands) and Home Depot for a great hire. Thanks Hans!

Another thing I bounced off of Hans was what I've heard about checking the growth rings in the ends of the boards. As wood ages, it cups, and it cups inwards towards what would have been the center of the tree. As our seats age, we want them to cup downwards and not up. If they cup upwards water will sit there, promoting rot. Hans had a good way to remember which way the rings in the ends of boards should go. He said, "you never want your wood smiling at you". Thanks Hans.

Just as a time check, the above purchasing, transporting and building took me a day with a few breaks here and there.

Step 6: Completing the seats, sanding, and wood filler

Next I'm going to screw the seats down with the 3" deck screw, but wait, how will I know where to put in the screws if I can't see the board below. Well I measured in from the under side of the seat to the box board...


Then I transferred that measurement to the top side.


Knowing that 2" thick boards are really 1.5" think (that nominal vs. actual thing again), I made another mark. Measure twice, you can see I had too here. I measured and marked both ends of each seat board.


Next thing I did was snap a chalk line down the length of the seat boards between the marks.


Now that I have my center line marked right over the box boards (assuming the box boards aren't warped), I drilled in a 3" deck screw every 10" or so, seating them below the surface, to fill in with wood filler later. This thing is bomb proof! The seats are so sturdy that I can walk around all parts of the seats with no movement at all.


I then filled the cracks, screw heads, knot holes, and mistake holes with Minwax stainable exterior wood filler. I think the filler over the screw heads will stay put. I don't have high expectations for the corner gaps, but we'll see. I'm thinking they will crack in a few months, as this stuff always seems to shrink even though it says it doesn't, but perhaps it's better than nothing.


Next I used 60 grit sand paper on a 6" orbital sander to remove excess wood filler, and to round off all sharp corners and to knock down any sharp edges. I also sanded the seats at the 45s so that they met each other perfectly. Then I sanded every surface to prepare the wood for staining. Stain and paint like a freshly roughed up surface to adhere to.


And the final step before sanding... I used a leaf blower to blow off all dust and debris.

Step 7: Staining the sandbox

I had the tarp nearby as the rain was on and off, but I still managed to stain the whole thing in about 15 minutes. I used BEHR deck stain in their semi-transparent "Redwood" color. Goes on very quickly. Ideally one would get the cut ends of all lumber too, as that is where moisture enters the wood and causes rot and warping, but hey, it's just a sandbox...

Break for the day, What follows is from the next weekend. The rains came and so did the wife and kids.

Step 8: Getting the Sandbox into position

I marked off the spot for the box and then cut the sod up into squares with a spade and removed about 3 inches down.


After removing the sod, I leveled the ground with a level on top of a 2x4 to make it longer, and I used a metal rake to smooth/move dirt. I stole some gravel from my barn drainage project and added it just were the box perimeter would sit. I needed it to help level the pit, as one side near the rock wall, had compacted stone/stone dust that I couldn't dig through, so to build up the other end, I added the gravel, which I also think will help a bit with drainage and rot, as the boards will be sitting on the rock and not directly on soil.


Next comes the landscaping fabric. I overlapped two pieces by 4". You want your sand to drain and landscaping fabric will allow water to pass through into the ground, where as plastic will not. It also keeps soil, worms, weeds and other nasties from getting into your sand. This stuff comes in rolls from home stores, nurseries, and landscaping supply places.


Okay next step, you guessed it, 2 strong people are needed to move the sandbox into position. I'm going to wrap the landscape fabric up the sides about 2 inches and staple gun it in place, then trim off the excess. I've not done that yet. Then I'll backfill some dirt around the base of the box so that you don't see the fabric and staples. Many other sandbox plans online show the fabric being attached to the inside walls of the box. I don't know which way is better. I decided to go outside with it, as it seemed easier to deal with attaching and I liked the idea of the fabric barrier being sealed down around the box by the weight of the box. Perhaps someone can weigh-in as to why it's better to attach it to the inside, as I admit that seems to be the standard.


And now the part many have been waiting for. What kind of sandbox sand and how much sand! Well I spent quite a few hours researching this, as there is much debate about "what is the best sandbox sand" not only for quality, but also for safety. In the end, I rented the Home Depot rental truck and got 60 bags of their play sand, which I was able to drive right next to the sandbox, which made it easy to dump in. No wheelbarrowing needed, which would have been the case had I ordered a delivery of bulk sand from a landscaping company. That's a huge plus when you are talking about 3,000 pounds of sand and a hill down to the box from the driveway.


I was lucky enough to have Clark, a local college student, helping with a few projects this day. I cut the bags and threw them down, while he emptied them. Amazing how much sand is needed. Would you believe it takes 60, 50 pound bags? I have to say the sand was beautiful. It's just like our beach sand here in Northern New England. Silky smooth, light colored, and, well, lets just say I'm planning on getting my beach towel out with a cooler soon.


And here we have the end result. I can't keep this guy out of the sandbox. He loves it, and so do I. Make no mistake, the surround seating wasn't for him, it was for me. I didn't want a sandbox with tiny corner seats. I can lie down on the seats if I like.

My son and I spent the first evening lying in the sandbox looking up at the sky, which I had not done in some time. We saw clouds moving very quickly as a front was coming in. The sky was dramatic and fun to watch. We saw 3 planes very high up, leaving contrails, and I'm not sure how the Master Card ads go, but I have to say this story ends the same way, "time spent with your kid, when both of you are sharing a beautiful moment.... Priceless"


Ah yes, pure bliss.


I just happened to find a photo of my old sandbox. I loved it. Just goes to show that a pile of sand will entertain just as well. Here I had set up a construction site. They, we, I, am working on the foundation for some building to come. I remember staging this for a photo. Somethings never change. lol

How Much Sand do You Need for a Sandbox?
To calculate volume, it's Length x Width x Height.
Length is 8' for this box, width is 6' and I filled this box with 8" inches of sand. We have to convert the 8" to feet, because in the end we want to know the cubic feet of volume needed. So you divide 8" x 12" (one foot), which is .66 feet.

So 8' x 6' x .66' = 31.68 cubic feet (let's round that to 32 cubic feet)

Play sand comes in 50lb bags, and each bag is roughly half a cubic foot each. So 32 bags would fill the box 4", and twice that many bags (64) would fill it to 8". I only got 60 bags because the weight limit on the home depot rental truck is 3,000 lbs. 60 x 50 = 3,000.

If you plan to order sandbox sand in bulk and have it delivered, you'll need to order it in "yards" which is really cubic yards. To get cubic yards you divide your cubic feet needed by 27, and then round up to the next cubic yard.

32 cubic feet / 27 = 1.19 cubic yards

I think they only deliver in whole yards, so you'll need 2 yards (with lots left over), or settle for 1 yard. The delivery charge depends on your distance from the sand dealer.

What I paid for Sandbox Sand
The bags were $2.49 that day, so 60 x 2.49 = $150 (plus $20.00 for the truck) = $170

Total Cost of Project
$178.00 Materials
$170.00 Sand
$348.00 Total for this plan

Sandbox Sand Quality and Safety (I'm not an expert!)
It seems that the fine, dusty particles in sand can be inhaled, not ideal for young ones, and that sand dust contains silica (or sand is silica not sure), and that in California the play sand bags have to have a cancer warning on the bag. California seems to have more stringent warnings like this for many things. Our play sand bags did not have this warning, but I'm sure it's the same stuff. Studies have shown that in occupations where a worker is exposed to sand dust on a daily basis and for years (like sandblasters I suppose) that there have been links back to the sand dust for lung cancer and other lung problems. After writing this blog I found a link to the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for Quikqete Play Sand. Seems there are quite a few lung related issues, but these can been kept in check by 1. Keeping the sandbox outside, and 2. Keeping the sand moist and dust free prior to play.

After hours of research I couldn't find a concrete answer to the dangers of sand in a sandbox for kids. I did find forums of concerned parents, and much discussion ranging from people returning there unopened bags to Walmart and planning to start a riot with the Walmart management. I also found a few that claim the warnings are way over blown as kids aren't exposed all day long for years. And I found others that suggested parents ought not to worry so much and if they were worried about sand they ought never to go to the beach either.

I found one final article that summed it up best. Basically it said that the reason there are no definitive answers to the effects on kids is that it has and continues to be impossible to research with scientific accuracy, as there aren't any good test subjects. Worker (like sandblasters) are easier to research (They worked for X years, around X amount of dust and X amount of them have lung cancer that is from this occupational hazard). Imagine trying to study that in kids. Where would you start? My kid was in the sand box a bunch of times here and there back 10 years ago and now he/she has lung cancer... It's just too unscientific to track.

So like lots of things in life I think you have to do your own research, and then make your own decision based on your own risk assessment. For me personally I sent hours and hours in my sandbox as a kid and I'm still kicking. I even called 3 landscape supply companies and basically gave me mixed messages and seemed to be unaware of any issues. They do offer various grades of sands and you can ask them what's best for sandboxes. I suspect they won't give you a good answer. I also called a local sand quarry, they also seemed to unaware of any issues, and pointed me towards landscape supply companies to get a bulk deliver... A bit cover up? I don't think so. I think they truly don't know much about it. As sandboxes are not a big business for them, and they aren't doctors they are sand providers.

I got the stuff in the bag, vs. a bulk deliver (which would have been cheaper) because I could rent the home depot truck and drop it right into the box, and because the bags are called "Play Sand" and the bulk places couldn't accurately tell me what was good for play sand. I can tell you the sand was very dusty prior to the first rain. After that it has been more or less too damp to produce any dust at all. We are in a New England Spring so it rains a lot. Perhaps in arid climates or mid-summer it will be dusty again? I can always water it down if I wanted too.

Pea stone has been suggested as another option instead of sand. We well had a pea stone gravel patio (that we removed in favor of flagstone) and I can tell you it hurt my feet to walk on. I wouldn't want my kids playing in pea stone. Digging in that would hurt little fingers. And then I'm sure they would eventually stick the rocks up their noses! Maybe? lol

Okay, enough said. I add some links to articles later.
Berkeley Parents Network: Sand and Sandboxes--discussion about safe play sand

There's a company that makes "Safe Play Sand" but I'm not linking to them as I think they are bogus. First the price, $60 shipped per bag (I used 64, 50lb bags, that would be $3,840 for the sand). Yes, it's heavy and that's the reason the price is so high. I just think you are out of your mind if you buy this stuff. Second, and here I'll have to give a link to them. Take a look at this page. So on the left there are Google ads (fine for bloggers, and other personal sites, not okay for a commercial site a professional commercial site). And then see how they are trying to make more money with their Amazon Ads? Blinking Ads no-less. I just can't believe that a decent company that is genuinely concerned with your kids heath, would also pull out every additional web trick to make more money. Seems like a half-baked company to me. And I'm thinking their product is too. Lots of scare tactics on there too... This is all just my opinion, and they can weigh in if they like.

Can You Make Sand Castles with Home Depot Play Sand?

I never gave it much thought, but some parents are after sand that can be moldable, and apparently have gotten sand before that isn't. I've never heard of such a thing, but anyway, I just ran out back and did a test of our Home Depot sand (it's actually Quikete Play Sand). I've create all moldable forms for a complete test! LOL. Here you see a castle from a pal mold, a hand crafted castle complete with moat and tunnel, and a sand cake (someone was saying their daughters couldn't make them in their sand). Is this a sand cake? I have no idea! But there you have it. Very moldable. Of course I should have started by saying the sand was wet from a slight overnight rain. If you don't have rain, you have a hose.

More to come about covers, and cats! But that's all I can write for right now--Peter


Resources:
Bob Vila: How to Build a Simple Sandbox
Bob Vila: How to Build a Deluxe Sandbox
FamilyCorner: Building a Basic Backyard Sandbox
HandymanUSA: Building a Sandbox
Eric Stromer: Build Your Own Backyard Beach Sandbox


My Standard Disclaimer: This is what I did. This does not mean this is the best way, the right way, to building code, or even safe for your needs. So you are on your own with your project. I make no promises about the information presented here. I'm just a do-it-yourselfer, not a professional at all, sharing my story. So if something goes wrong with your project, you are on your own. Good luck, and have fun!

All content and photos, copyright 2009, Dover Projects.
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133 comments:

  1. very cool I am going to do it this summer so thank.

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  2. whan did you do this? and is it all still good ?

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  3. Good question, as there have been some weathering issues already. I built this May 1, 2009 or so, and a month or so later:

    - The wood filler as disappeared from between the seats at the 45s. I thought this would happened, but not this fast. It's only noticable by me though.

    - The woof filler over the screw heads has bulged up a bit, so perhaps it better not to fill them flush with the seats. Perhaps the wood has shrunk a bit as it's drying?

    - The seat boards have a very slight upward cupping, which I'm surprised about, as I thought I installed them to cup downwards.

    All in all though, these things are only noticable by me. To everyone else it still looks perfect. And the guy(s) love it!

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  4. Excellent article! Thanks for taking the time to show all of your steps and planning thoughts. I'm building a sandbox for my son tomorrow.. we'll see how it goes!!

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  5. Thanks Rob. Let us know how it goes!--Peter

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  6. any update about cats having the biggest litter box in the 'hood? :)

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  7. LOL, not yet. We have a cat and there are a few neighborhood cats... So I need to get on a good solution. The ideal lid would meet the follow criteria:

    1. Let sun/air through
    2. Let rain through
    3. Withstand the weight of kids on top
    4. Be light enough to remove/put back easily
    5. Possibly be flexible to accommodate tall trucks, cranes
    6. And of course cat, dog, and other animal proof.

    It's a tall order. But that's what I'm planning when I get to it. If you have a good solution, let me know. Thanks--Peter

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  8. How is your sand box holding up? i am thinking of buiding on in a week or so. probably be 8x8 feet. you get a 4x8 lattice panels at home depot that should work well as a cover.

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  9. So far it's holding up very nicely, aside from the very minor things I commented on, on June 5th (above), there have been any other issues. Still have not made a cover, but interesting our cat and the neighbors cats have not taken to it. Perhaps there are too many colorful plastic toys in there for their liking.

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  10. My sandbox turned out great! Thanks so much for the help. I am trying to make a sandbox reel cover. I have seen them online. Any suggestions?

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  11. Please add a blog connect to this regarding the sandbox reel cover. That is the one we like.

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  12. Peter.. My husband made this sandbox at the end of June for our almost 3 year old. It was a success! Thank you for excellent instructions. We have not solved the cover issue either. We currently use a tarp weighted down in the corners and sides with scrap wood. Not the best but no cats have visited so far.
    Our 10 month old loves it too!

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  13. You made a great box! I'm looking to put in a box for a small public park and have been thinking of using Trex or some other man made board with a plan like yours.
    As for covers, our 8'x16' sandbox at the town's big park has no cover and in 6 years of playing there with my kids I've never seen any scat.

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  14. Here's an update after about 4 months of use: I still don't have a cover, and to my surprise (even after ever article, neighbor and friend has made the comment that I've just made a huge litter box) we have not had any issues from cats or other animals. We have a cat who does use my horse shoe pits for litter boxes, but she has not used the sandbox. Not sure why. Perhaps the horse shoe pits are her place of choice. We also have 2 neighborhood cats that frequent our property and they also have ignored the sandbox. There are no trees for falling debris above it as well, so at this point I'm not going to make a cover. I also don't cover it with a tarp. I want it to breath and get sun. We do leave all the toys in the box, so perhaps the cats don't like the colorful trucks, balls, boats and what have you in there!

    Trex might work well. I've never used the stuff myself, but it sounds like it would make it quit bomb proof. Not sure if they make Trex in wide planks. Also wonder if it's too bendy for the seats.

    My seat boards have curved upwards slightly, when I thought they would curve downward with time. It's just slight though, so no biggy at this point anyway. Based on this early weathering I'm wondering how many years the box will be good for. I wonder a bit if I should have used pressure treated. Only time will give me that answer. We are heading into our (hate to say it) winter sooner, rather than later, so we'll see how it takes to a very harsh New Hampshire winter...

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  15. Hey, it's Rob checking in after waaaaay too long away from the site.
    I ended up completing the sandbox in two days (I thought I could do it on a Saturday, but it took most of Sunday too.) The sandbox looks great, and my two year old loves it! He plays in it every day, and it's been almost three months since I put it together. He got a big kick out of the Home Depot truck I rented, too.
    Thanks again for the excellent plans!!

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  16. Hey Rob! Just like every project I start, it seems to take about 3 times as long as I predict (or more). I too thought I could build this in a day, but it was a full weekend and then another day later on to get the sand. Home improvement shows on TV always make it seem like projects will only take a few hours (they never show us the team of people behind the scenes fixing the problems that come up unexpectedly. Yes there is a team.). Wish I had that team of people. Also the other home improvement articles on the web tend to be "Step 1, Step 2.... and your done, with no hitches or glitches". I'm not an expert. I just an average Joe trying things mostly for the first time. My article are longer (maybe too long, lol), as my articles (I hope) show what I really experienced, complete with mistakes, unforeseen problems, research done to actually do the project, etc.

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  17. I like your idea of building a sandbox. I'll try to do it next week-end. Hope I can get it done within 2 days. I have not decided on the cover as yet. Will let you know how it turned out. Thanks for the online info.

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  18. I saw on one website to use lattice for a great cover for sandboxes. It lets the sun/air through and cats out.

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  19. Thanks for documenting this, i am going to build this for my son.

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  20. Here is a link that suggests using shade cloth and PVC piping for a cover. Have you found any good alternatives?? Thanks!

    http://www.michaelholigan.com/Departments/TVShow/seg_tscript.asp?ts_id=6747&text_type=S&text_page=1

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  21. I love ittttt:):)

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  22. Nice post. What type of stain did you use, any concerns about it having any toxins? How did your sandbox look after the winter and recent rain here in NH.

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  23. Very nice project. Took me about 4 hours, start to finish. Very sturdy and simple design. Thank you for posting.

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  24. Great sandbox. I am going to build one this weekend for my grandson. Wanted to confirm the seat overhang. Looks like 6" on the outside and 4" on the inside. Is this correct?
    Thank you.

    Barry

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  25. The seats boards are 11" wide, the outside overhang is 7.25", the inside overhang is 2.5". If you line up the seat boards so the inside corners meet at the corners of the 4x4s, you'll get the right overhang. See the Diagram above for how the seats come together.

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    Replies
    1. if you are meeting at the inside corner of the 4x4 and the 4X4 is 3.5 inches wide, wouldn't the inside overhang also be 3.5 inches

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  26. Catching up on my responses... Apologies for the delay. I've not made a cover and don't think I need one at this point. For whatever reason our cat doesn't use the sandbox, and no other animals have to my knowledge anyway.

    As far as the stain, I had not thought about possible toxin in it. But I can say that after a long New England Winter, heavy Spring rains this year, and kid use, the stain has come off in some areas. Must post pictures. That said, it has a nice used/warn look, not ragged, but more natural and less like something out of a McDonald's playland... I like it, but I may add a splash of stain this summer to keep it in good condition.

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  27. this is the one we have been looking for. Your instructions are amazing. We have 2 boys 2 and 3, and are sooo looking forward to watching my husband build this. thank you.....really.

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  28. My guys, 2 and 4, had little interest in the build or the final product, that is until there was sand in it. Hard to blame them! :)

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  29. Just curious, is there an advantage to using bolts vs wood screws. Seems like the screws would be a lot easier.

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  30. They might be easier, but there's nothing better than over engineering!!

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  31. Hey Peter. Thanks for the plans. As I searched the many sandbox plans online I really liked your design the best. A few quick things. I did use three inch deck screws for my build mostly becuase of cost, so it will be interesting to see how they last. I figured if I have any problems I can alway drill holes and put bolts in later. Also I centered my seat boards on the box frame mostly because I don't follow directions well. That left like a 4 7/8 overhang on both sides. Also, If anyone has a truck you can buy sand in bulk. We have a place that I got 3400 lbs for $67.00. By the way that is max load for me and then some hehe. I have a 3/4 ton dodge truck. The sand is called cement sand and has to be clean. I've had several people tell me it's better than the play sand. Anyway thanks again for taking the time to post. What did we do before we could consult the internet for ideas :)

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  32. I gotta say Peter, you set the bar pretty high. Great build.

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  33. Thanks Mike and anonymous!

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  34. NEW!!! DOVER PROJECTS ON FACEBOOK! Join in with your DIY spirit! Click on the BIG blue box for "Facebook, Dover Projects" in the right column above! See you there!--Peter

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  35. Great design. It helped me to make a beautiful sandbox that has received numerous compliments. I used a 5'x5' design using 2x10 lumbar.

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  36. Peter,

    This is a great plan for a sand box. I just dug out my pit for my sand box project. My little guy is 16 mos. now and I can't keep him from digging in the dirt. I'm going with a 5' x 8' plan, but will follow your awesome instructions. Thank you for the detail. Question, I live in Washington State, it rains... alot.... What have you done for a cover?

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  37. Thank you so much for this detailed sand box plan. My 2 year old loves playing outside with his trucks and I know that he and my 1 year old will have a blast in their new sandbox.

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  38. Hey all, when you have photos, put them on the Dover Projects facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dover-Projects/124309237581769

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  39. Peter,

    Thanks built this last week and my 4 year old was playing in it all day 5 minutes after I put the sand in it. I got sand from NEW mason sand, very easy.

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  40. My oldest is 4.5 now and he's really into it this summer. Would love to see photos of all of the sandboxes! If you do Facebook, here's where I'm putting weekly fun updates these days. www.facebook.com/DoverProjects

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  41. I was looking for a sandbox for my children but was not happy with how small all the sandboxes in the stores are. So I decided to do some searching and came across yours and my husband and I are almost done building it! I love the whole seat bench idea and cant wait to get it finished! on the 45s angles we have decided to put a square board (2x12) on each corner to make them alittle more sturdy and not have to worry about wood filler! other than that the only problem we have is trying to figure out a good cover! Thank you for sharing your project!

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  42. my husband built this sandbox over the weekend and my kids love it! i also have a turtle and have been wanting a bigger sandbox for years but just finally did it this weekend. my kids have been in it since we put the sand in. my husband is finishing it up now. thanks!

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  43. Making the Cover: Cut four pieces of PVC pipe to the dimensions of your box and use elbow joints to form a frame for the cover. Take shade cloth and cut it to fit within the frame. Take some clasps and attach them every six inches on the edge of the shade cloth. Stretch the shade cloth to the piping and tie it with non-biodegradable ties to provide a nice, taut covering.
    Attach the cover to the box with two clamps that are used to attach conduit to walls. On one side of the structure, screw the clamps over a side of the pipe. This creates a hinge
    so the child can flip it on and off with ease. If you can find a way to prop the cover up over the sandbox, it can serve the dual purpose of providing shade for your child as he plays on hot summer days.

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  44. Love the cover suggestion. Meets all the requirements except kids walking on it, but I don't think they would after you remind them a few times not to. Have you done this project? Sounds like you have. Thanks!--Peter

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  45. Just wanted to post and say thanks for the plans! I adapted them a couple of weeks ago and built a wonderful 5'x7' sandbox for the kiddies. LOVE the benches. They give a really nice finished look and are so very comfortable for the big kids among us. Also, my son immediately decided that the overhang was really a cave area. Awesome. While I wouldn't recommend 5x7 for those looking to minimize cuts or maximize materials, it works really well for our needs and in our space (and they're really pleasing proportions). Also, many thanks for suggesting we simply use untreated wood and stain it. I wasn't liking the idea of pressure treated and was having a hard time finding affordable naturally rot-resistant stuff. Anyway... thanks again and keep on building (and posting)!

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  46. My husband loved your idea for a sandbox. We ended up building a 6 foot by 6 foot one. Our daughter is 14 months and loved is.

    We not only have a cat problem in our neighbor hood but we also have a dog that eats everything in site. So my husband build a cover out of 1x6s and plywood. He build 2 separate peices that also convert into a ramp on 2 sides for our daughter to walk up into the box. It's only covered at night and while we aren't home. But so far so good! I have pictures if you are interested.

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  47. All, I would love, and so would others, to see your sandboxes! A great place to post them and to see other peoples projects is in the Dover Projects Facebook page. Please don't be shy and post your sandboxes or other projects. Here's the link, see you there (click the "Like" button there to be able to upload photos or make comments)! http://www.facebook.com/DoverProjects

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  48. Well I can see that isn't a live link, but you can copy and paste it to go there, or click on the "Find Us on Facebook" link in the Facebook box in the right hand column... over here >>>>

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  49. Wow! This is just what I've been looking for to improve on the tiny turtle sandbox that I bought for the grandchildren.

    Questions: 1. How do you keep the spiders, ants and other crawly things out of the sand box especially since it only sits on a tarp on the ground?

    2. Would it be better if we put a "wooden floor" on the sand box? The floor or bottom would then keep the sand up off of the ground and maybe keep some of the crawling critters out.

    Thanks so very much for the plans for this beautiful sandbox. If grandpa doesn't want to make it, I think I can do it with the great step by step plans you presented here.

    Thanks!! Mary Ruth aka Grandma :)

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  50. Hi Mary Ruth,

    My sandbox sits on landscaping fabric. This is special material that allows rain to pass threw, but keeps the sand from migrating down into the dirt below, and so far, has keep all the crawly things from entering from below.

    All the best with your sandbox!--Peter

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  51. Well done Peter - Love the concept and thorough job covering it all.

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  52. Thank you so much for the sandbox design and specific instructions. My 2 boys LOVE it (ages 5 & 3), we did an 8X8 and are just using a tarp held down by rocks to solve the litter box issue. We bought bulk "washed sand" at the sand/gravel place, works great. Everything else was purchased at Home Depot or Lowes for about $100. These days you can buy the hardware in bulk so you can buy exactly what you need. We are in Olympia, WA so will see how it holds up with our rainy climate.

    Much better than the $200 4X4 style from Costco!!! Thank you

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  53. Man,

    I have been searching the internet for weeks trying to find....well...exactly what you did. I can not wait to build this. I think I will switch to pressure treated wood. Other than that I am going to follow what you suggested to a "T". I am going to do the cover as well. Your "build" is the standard that everyone should look up to. I'll shoot you some pictures when I am done. EXCELLENT JOB. I wish you had some advertisements on your site. I'd click them just to make you some money.

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  54. William, glad you found it and thanks for the kinda feedback!--Peter

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  55. Peter, thanks so much for this page. I built the sandbox for my two little ones and they love it. I stained it to match our swingset and I couldn't be happier. For a cover, Home Depot sells a 9X9 tarp with a cinch cord that works fairly well for about $10. I put a beach ball under the middle to dome it so water runs off. Here's a picture of the final installation.

    Chris

    http://www.chrisandtammy.us/sandbox5.JPG

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  56. Chris that looks awesome. Love the whole play area with the curved border and the wood chips. Thanks for the pic!

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  57. Very nice post! the sandpit looks profesional done as well might have to try this for my own kids ;)

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  58. Hi Peter my name is Michael, I'm planning on building a sandbox for my boyscout eagle project for a day care and I hope to use your plans. Are there any suggestions you could give me?

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  59. Hey -

    These are the most thorough and clear notes I found on the web! THANK YOU!

    I'm not a handy guy, but I was able to build this exact sandbox in two weekends with my dad. It looks awesome, my son loves it, and it provided me with some much needed quality time with my old man.

    TIPS FOR OTHER PEOPLE:
    Staining: I stained all of the pieces before I assembled the frame. This was to make sure I got the "inside" edges of the boards as well as the tops and sides.

    Cover: I put my wife's exercise ball in the middle of the box and then spread over a tarp with a few hand clamps. The triangular tarp keeps the water off the top, the clamps are easy enough for my wife to remove, and the ball finally gets some use.

    Patrik - Needham, MA

    Go Wildcats!!

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  60. Thanks lots for taking the time to write this out. I just stumbled upon it tonight and plan on building to your exact spec. Now I just wish you'd write a similar DIY for building a decent storage shed/carport! ;)

    -Ken

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  61. I used your plans to build a sandbox for my son. You can see how it turned out here: http://www.ourfamilyunit.com/2010/03/19/new-improved-sandbox/

    I made some adjustments...
    1) I only used deck screws since they were cheaper.
    2) I didn't put a bottom on it since I put the box on concrete

    A friendly tip to anyone else making this. If you buy your lumber from Home Depot, you may want to let it dry out in your garage for a week or two before building it. My wood was moist to the touch and after I built it the corners cracked in as the wood "shrunk".

    Thanks for the plans again!

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  62. Awesome comments! Sorry for the slow reply.—Peter

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  63. Cool! getting ready to build one of these for my son and was just looking for ideas on what others have done. One thing I wanted to comment on about the boards cupping. I think Hans has the saying backwards. I've built dozens of picnic tables and have always made sure that the end grain is smiling at me so that the boards will cup downward. thanks for the ideas!

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  64. This is fantastic, thanks so much for putting this plan together! I am copying you by building a sandbox 12 inches deep but only filling it with 8 inches of sand. But our sandbox is only going to be 4' x 6', not quite as epic as yours but it will get the job done. I was gonna do 4 x 4 but that's still too small for two kids. Also, I did not see the need to use 4" x 4" posts for the corners - instead I just used 3 inch wood screws to attach the sides together which works great.

    I looked all over for sand and ended up buying the Quikrete Premium Playsand which they sell at both Toys R Us and Home Depot, and looks like the same stuff you bought in 50 lb bags.

    Thanks again, fantastic work on this!

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  65. Anonymous. Awesome! Post photos of your sandbox build over on the Facebook page if you do Facebook. Daily conversations over there. http://www.Facebook.com/DoverProjects --Peter

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  66. These instructions are SO VERY helpful. Thanks for taking the time to post this. The weather is getting nice, our boys (age 2 and 3) can't wait for Daddy to build this in the spring. They have been talking about it for a while now, even more so now that the snow is melting.
    Thanks again :)

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  67. Anonymous, glad to hear it! I must do an update photo as ours is "weathering" but hey, that's part of the charm, vs. something plastic??? :)

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  68. What a treat! To find such a detailed (and, beautiful!) explanation for building what looks to be a great sandbox! Thank you kindly for taking the time to write such clear instructions. I am a 48-year-old daddy (old daddy!) of a 2 1/2 year old whom I know will just love this! I only hope it goes as well for me as it appears to have gone for you. Once again, thank you for advice. Ted Shapiro, Chatham, Ontario, Canada

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  69. Anonymous, feel free to make your own modifications. I'm sure I over engineered it. Here's a video update (in Facebook with our little guy: http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=207092512648024&oid=124309237581769&comments

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  70. Hello,

    thanks for taking the time to write this "how to"

    for those of you having problems finding a cover...i found this...
    http://www.mightycovers.com/sandbox/3L-Custom-Sandbox-Covers.htm

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  71. Hi Peter,
    Thank you so much for sharing your knowledge. I am trying to build a gravel box (my 1yo does not care for sand, he wants rocks) and I love your project however I would like to get some input. I am going to set it in my backyard and the backyard has about a 25 degree angle, I mean it's not flat. I am thinking about making the box deeper on one side to offset the downhill??? What do you think? Ana

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  72. Ana, either that or dig the area out deeper on the uphill side, and set the box seat bottom flush with the ground there... less stone needed to fill it. Round stones are what you mean I think. Gravel sounds ouchy! :)

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  73. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  74. Peter
    What a great post. Planning on building it this weekend. A neighbor down the street from us got a huge tractor track and put sand inside of it. Until today, we were going to do the same thing. I can't wait to show it off to the neighbors.

    I know that you said things were looking OK with the weathering of the wood, however, if you could go back and do it again would you use Pressure Treated Lumber or add make any other changes?

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  75. Hi Peter,
    Thanks for the comments, that is exactly what I started doing today, digging the area out deeper on the uphill side. And yes, I am putting round stones, english is my second language... Thank you again. Ana

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  76. Here's a fix to the "cupping" on the benches. Because you have long sides with only rim screws holding the benches to the edges of the side boards, your only real support is at the corners with the corner plates.

    BUT...you cut the benches to have 45 degree angles. What that gives you is eight leftover triangles of "scrap" lumber. That material can easily be sourced to create eight brackets, two on each side, that will effectively cut down on the flexible length of your benches.

    Before mounting the benches, position each bracket flush with the top of the side board, and screw from the inside of the sandbox into the edge of the bracket (2 screws should do it, and you only need 2" screws for this part, as it's "additional" rather than structural support). When you mount the benches, throw two more screws into the bracket from the top.

    If there's any part of the bracket past the edge of the bench (i.e., a point sticking out), simply trim it flush with the edge of the bench and sand it. This will add extra support to the bench and considerably reduce cupping and warping along the length of your benches. And it uses your excess material, so there's no waste.

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  77. Thanks for some great plans!! My oldest (2 1/2) loves it, and my 5 month old couldn't stop staring... I'm sure he's excited to get in there!

    I built this last weekend in 1 day (plus another full day of dealing with the sand), only thanks to my very handy father-in-law helping me w/ the 45's on the benches (Home Cheap-o wood doesn't really come in straight lines). I wanted to minimize the amount of wood-filler, so I took a lot of time on the benches. Everything else was a breeze and I was able to do it on my own.

    Tried using some 4x8 vinyl lattice for the cover but it's not sturdy enough. Switched to a big blue tarp and some large rocks for the interim while I find something that can be sturdy and allow for rain to run off. Might try the exercise ball trick someone mentioned.

    A few things to note for other people trying this: 1) price of the lumber/hardware is a bit higher - about $80 more. 2) sand is NOT cheap in Fairfield County, CT - about $4 per 50lb bag (homedepotmoving.com - 10% off coupon helps). 3) Don't ask Home Depot to cut your 4x4, and re-measure your 2x12's when you get home - they don't get it exactly right and you might need to do some shaving, which is annoying when you've already bolted stuff together. 4) When drilling your 1 1/8" counter-sinks - make it more than deep enough to fit the washer and nut. This is also annoying to re-drill after you've clamped it all down and gotten it level. Otherwise the instructions are spot-on and definitely do-able for someone with minimal handy-skills.

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  78. Excellent plan and easy directions! My husband made this for our 3yo son. Took a little more than a day but he's a bit of a perfectionist. He used pressure treated lumbar for everything but the seats. We have cats so needed a lid - he built a frame out of 1x2 lumber and covered with lattice. It is a little heavy but I am able to remove and replace it without help. Our son loves it and we have received tons of compliments on it. Thanks

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  79. Awesome! Don't forget to upload your finished sandboxes to the dover projects facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/DoverProjects See you there just about every day!—Peter

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  80. Thanks for posting this plan! I am excited to show it to my husband so we can build it together for my almost 2 year old's birthday this summer. We have 2 girls who also love playing in sand, but like you and many others, I was disappointed by the size and cost of the hard plastic ones. I can't wait to get started on this. We'll post pictures on Facebook when finished.

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  81. What did you end up doing for the cover? At a preschool I used to work at, we had a cover made out of pvc pipe and a thick, sturdy mesh material. It was kinda heavy, but it did the trick!

    I'm hoping my husband and father can do this soon for my son!

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  82. Anonymous, still no cover to date. We've been lucky with no animals in there so far. Crossing our fingers..... :)

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  83. Loved the plans and we just returned from Lowe's after acquiring the wood and hardware. I ALMOST bought too much wood as your plan for the "Box" wood says "Have the home store cut 2 16ft pieces in half" when it's actually one. Yes, we need two between the box and seats but I had to make sure I was right. :)

    I'll be blogging the experience as we're getting started today and I'll be sure to link to your plans as I couldn't possibly do a "How-To" any better.

    Thanks!

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  84. Thank you so much for the detailed plan. This was my very first time building something and it turned out great. We ordered a yd. and 1/4 of sand from our local landscaping store ($17 + $60 delivery). For a cover, I purchased a heavy-duty 6x8' tarp online that has grommets. I bought small bungee balls and will attach tarp at each of the 4 corners of the box with a bungee cord going over each corner. We'll see if that works.

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  85. I just posted a comment above, but here's a link to different types of tarps. I went with the 18oz. vinyl coated polyester in the green color. It's waterproof and high-tear resistant. You can also go with a mesh or canvas cover. Here's a link to their site: http://www.mytarp.com/vinyl-tarps-18-oz-6x8.aspx
    I should receive it this week, so I'll let you know how it goes attaching with small bungee balls on the corners.

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  86. Anonymous, great to hear this was your "first time building something and it turned out great"!—Peter

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  87. This is great! Thanks for sharing. My husband plans on using your design/suggestions this week to make our kids a sandbox. Adorable little boy by the way!

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  88. Like everyone else before me has stated, Thank you! The wife told me it was time to get rid of the cat poop filled green turtle sandbox, so I went out and built your sand box today, took me about 5 hours, tomorrow, will stain it and fill it with sand. My corners are awful, but oh well. And like you said, HD guy tried to talk me into pressure treated, I resisted. I only need it to last 3-4 years, I'll keep it covered. Thanks again for your great instructions!

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  89. Peter, thanks so much for the design. I just finished last weekend and finally got all the sand in today.

    My two cents: ToddB made a good point about making the countersink holes deep enough, but I discovered you have to be careful not to make them too deep or the nut will go too far down the bolt and the socket won't be able to reach it!

    Steve Baric's suggestion to use the scrap from the corners as supports for the seats was a great idea. Since I had a little more lumber left over, I made 2 more supports (3 on each long side and 2 on each short side).

    I made a cover using the anonymous poster's suggestion of a PVC frame with shade cloth (I substituted fiberglass screen, pieced together with grommets down the middle). It's light and easy to put on and take off.

    I decided to use pressure treated lumber, and I painted it with deck and floor paint I had left over from painting the deck (I want to make sure there's no rot!). Since I was painting, I used silicone instead of wood filler, thinking it would withstand the elements better.

    I didn't see any point in assembling it near the hole and then trying to carry this beast into the hole, so after I built the box on my deck, I disassembled it and reassembled it right in the hole, then added the seats.

    My costs (in Long Island): $89.82 + tax for lumber, $50.05 + tax for hardware, $7.65 + tax for silicone and sandpaper, $24.01 + tax for weedblock and staples, $190.72 + tax for sand, $19.00 + tax for truck rental to get the sand home and $59.82 + tax for PVC, screen and grommets for the cover. Grand total (with tax) = $479.98

    As far as time, it took me a lot longer than most people here (or at least what they cop to!). Someone claimed 4 hours start to finish? Maybe just to build the box, but it took me nearly a whole day to dig out the sod! Another whole afternoon sanding off all the rough corners/edges. Another two afternoons painting. Another afternoon just to get the sand and unload it in the driveway. The cover took me around 8 hours, between cutting the PVC, assembling, trimming and putting grommets all around it. My total time working on it was 7 days (although some of those days were only a few hours).

    Now let's hope he plays in it! Pictures of my sandbox are at http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.2127257868446.122500.1455915497&l=fefdf57deb

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  90. Cathy in Nova ScotiaJuly 1, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    Hi Peter,
    Just wanted to let you know we completed our version of your sandbox about a month ago and it turned out great!

    The only changes we made were to make it bigger, ours is 8' x 10' (3 kids, lots o' trucks), add an extra 4"x4" support on the long sides and use big decking screws instead of bolts.

    It took us a couple of hours to dig out the area (slightly sloped part of the backyard), about a day to cut and assemble (including myriad interruptions from the aforementioned kids) and another afternoon to wheelbarrow the 2 yards of sand from the driveway to the box.

    My husband and I had fun building it and the kids love it. Thanks so much for posting such great plans and photos!

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  91. I followed your instructions pretty closely, and was very pleased with the results. In fact, I used Home Depot for everything. At one point, I noted that the hardware laying on my workbench next to your printed instructions looked identical, down to the brand names. How odd.

    Home Depot has a deal that let me have their truck for free twice - once for the wood and once for the sand. When we brought home the sand, though, its 3,000 lb. weight was right at the edge of the truck limit, causing an really load alarm to go off for 10 minutes at 7am Sunday while we unloaded. Some neighbors are still not talking to us.

    I added a roll up cover on a short end using some tan shade fabric (6' wide x 30') that I already had on hand for a project that I never got to. Because I had constructed the box so that the short end width was minimized, the 6' fabric covers nicely with a couple of inches to spare on each side. I used two chunks of left over 2x12 extending from one short end to create a "pocket" under the seats, then used 1" PVC pipe to create a roller and crank for the fabric. When rolled up, the fabric is hidden under the seat. Because I had 30' available, I put it all on the roller. That way, it can be pulled out to make a shade cover by pulling it over some rope I have pulled across the area at about 7' high for that purpose. The kids can play in the shade. When the first 9' feet of the cover wears out, we will be able to just cut it off and have a new cover ready to go.

    When closed, the cover is held down with 9 elastic "bungy cords" at the perimeter, using easy-to-install plastic grommets that came with the fabric. Only takes about 2 minutes to open or close it, and it's safe from cats and birds. Who would have guessed, but the fabric is routinely covered with bird droppings, that would have wound up in the sand otherwise. Our 3-year-old granddaughter has already figured out how to open it on her own. When you roll it up, any debris on top falls to the ground next to the box.

    I didn't embed the sandbox in the ground, because digging in my yard literally requires a jackhammer, so I installed the liner inside the box.

    I'm really pleased with the result, and our grandkids love it, which also makes Grandma very happy. Thanks, Peter, for the plans.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Dan
      I was wondering if you have any pictures of your cover. It sounds like a good one.
      We are planning to build a sandbox this spring and will need a cover.
      Thank you
      Lani

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    2. I posted a photo on my facebook account:
      http://www.facebook.com/#!/photo.php?fbid=1890375941102&set=o.124309237581769&type=1&theater&notif_t=photo_comment

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  92. Wouldn't it be alot easier "borrowing"the sand from a beach ? i mean after you grade it (get out all the rocks,twigs,etc) Is it much different from "play-sand" from HD ? Just think of the cost savings .

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  93. Thanks Peter! Your detailing is so helpful, the best I've seen and I've been "researching" this project many a late evening! Can't wait to get started! Thanks also to the many people here that have shared their experiences, they really help!

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  94. Hey-
    I decicded to do a sanbox for my 3 year old daughter in the backyard. Pulled out flagstone from patio leaving a 4x5 space. Dug down 8" so that it is sunken into the ground; doesn't have to step up, but more or less down into it. Bought 2 pieces of 2x12x10' fir ($10 each and then got 2 sides out of each)to make the frame. Wouldn't do the pressure treated because of chemicals used. Used 4x4 cedar from the scrap bin at Home depot (.51 cents for a 6' piece). I did reseearch also on the sand. i agree - there's a lot more to worry about than random sand particles. Going to put two seats in to cover the 4x4 corners. FOR THE COVER - i am thinking of doing a board and batten style. Keeping it small and light so she could take care of it if needed, I'll do it so there's a left and right side,but space the boards out so rain and moisture can get in, but not big enough for creatures to get in. Do hinges, and rope handles. What do you think of that?

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  95. Carrie and Neal---skunks can get in a space as small as 4 inches…keep that in mind

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  96. Thanks for the plans Peter! I made a junior version as we have a tiny Boston yard. The 2 yr old loves it. It took a couple of days with the dad-in-law helping. Easy weekend project. Glad I went with a 5X5 as it was all the sand I wanted to haul.

    I fashioned a cover based on a frame made with 1X3's sandwiching a lattice with extra landscaping fabric to keep out the leaves. I was going to hinge it to make it easier to carry but got lazy...its still light enough for my wife to remove. I tarp it for heavy heavy rains and/or hurricances.

    Thanks again!

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  97. Awesome post,thank you! I enjoyed you humor and honesty throughout! This goes in the to-do file for the springtime!

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  98. This is an awesome sandbox, planned on building a nigger one like this in the spring. THANKS for posting step by step. BTW...your a terrific dad for going the extra mile for your kids!!

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  99. Great Article! Thank You for sharing! I will be putting my hubby to work this weekend! :) Thanks again!

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  100. Great article! I'm in the middle of building a sandbox out of one of the garden boxes I'm no longer using--and this really helped.

    For me--the sand was by far the cheapest part. We have a few good local landscape supply company and the playground sand is $20/ton. Yes--I had to haul it from the front driveway to the backyard, but I'll take the savings. It was much cheaper than getting it by the bag from one of the big box companies, and the sand seems exactly the same.

    Thanks for the article!

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  101. Peter--

    What do you think about using Cedar instead of pine? I ask this because it will weather similar to some cedar outdoor furniture we have. I also have a large cedar fence enclosing a garden which is right next to where I plan on putting the sandbox.

    Regards,

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  102. Thanks Peter for the great design and for taking the trouble to document it all. I had so much fun building it with my son. I was in home depot getting my 2x12's cut and the guy next to me asked
    "putting in a new header are you ?"
    "no im making a sandbox" I smiled. The look of surprise on his face was priceless!
    My son and his friends love to play in there, I got the sand from home depot which worked out well.
    I get alot of compliments on it, and I love to sit out there with my sun in the afternoons with a cup of tea as the sun goes down. Heres my photos:

    http://photobucket.com/sandboxx

    thanks again Peter,

    Stuart

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  103. We built this yesterday! It turned out great and, thanks to your plans we (husband and I) didn't even get into a fight. It took about 5 hours, including the shopping at Home Depot. Now I have to stain it, line it and fill it!

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  104. Great plane, and step by step instrcutions. I built this while mom and the kids where a way, and it came out great. I stuck with your demensions as they where about perfect for what I was thinking of. I have a decent size back yard so why go small.
    I ended up buying the sand in bulk at a local gravel pit, having a truck payed off here as it only took two trips and total cost was $15.
    I will need to get a cover for it, as there are pests in the neighborhood, and I did plant it under tree. so the money i saved in sand will be blown in that. Any ideas?
    Check the link for my project pics.
    http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.3576750849999.2135585.1009935246&type=1&l=cef190b93c
    Tom

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  105. Your picture has been stolen/borrowed:
    http://www.playscapes.org/sandboxes/choosing-safe-sand-for-sandboxes/

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  106. Well…I have THE PERFECT COVER for this sandbox. We made the box last august and went out and bought a painters drop cloth. We cut it so it fits and hangs over the edges a few inches on all sides. I sewed ribbons about 4 inches long every 1 and 1/2 feet around 3 of the dangling edges. I tied 2 inch washers to each ribbon. this holds the drop cloth down in any heavy wind. Then on the last side I folded it back and sewed a long pocket for a pole to slide into. This way one person can cover and uncover it or 2 kids can easily uncover it together. This material has held up very well. I can untie the washers and easily throw it in the wash if needed. I also had a hard time growing grass on the one side so we placed indoor outdoor carpet there and the kids use it wipe the sand off the bottom of their feet alot. Hope this helps!

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  107. Thanks for the help and inspiration in sandbox building. I thought I'd share what I used for a cover: I took two pieces of vinyl lattice and cut and assembled them together with a connector piece in the middle. I then stapled clear restaurant grade vinyl sheeting to the assembled lattice piece. The result is a fairly lightweight cover which is also waterproof but lets the sunshine in. I may even hinge it to make life easier.

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  108. Thank you! Great post.

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  109. Great post I just added a rock climbing wall to an existing wood fort that has a sandbox in dire need of repair at the bottom. I plan on using some of your ideas to fix it thx! (After some time off this DIY stuff takes me a lot longer than I always think)

    Q: how has the land scraping fabric held up over time? Any weeds etc popping up?

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  110. Great explanation and pictures. thank you for sharing your expertise.

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  111. Wonderful write up! Will share this with many friends. Thanks for the great work!

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  112. http://www.mightycovers.com/sandbox/3L-Commercial95-Sandbox.htm

    I have been looking at this as a cover for our sandbox. I wonder if it works.

    I love the design of your sandbox, I hope I will be able to do an almost as nice job!

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  113. Very nice instructions Peter. Thank you very much. Matt

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  114. I framed up some "common board" and stapled gunned some heavy duty tarp to that for a removable cover...kind of like the top to a birthday gift like you see in the movies, where they don't unwrap it, the wrapped top just comes off! Props up for a sun shield too!

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  115. Thinking of building this for our 2-year old's birthday ... awesome plans and detailed descriptions ...
    any updates on warping on construction issues?

    Thanks!

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  116. just bought the lumber and fixin's today and started leveling. Thanks for a great post and materials list!

    Our 3 year old boy is pretty excited too!

    regards,

    Simonster

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  117. Thanks for the detailed plans. The little things like the straps make a difference and keeps the corners rock solid.
    I just finished a 6X6 version (all i could fit in our yard space) and the kids have been living in the sandbox dawn to dusk.
    The seats are not only comfortable for the grownups but serve as roads and racetracks around the sandbox.

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  118. Awesome job. Gonna be my next project for my boys

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  119. Great post, thanks! I just built it yesterday with my father... and my son watching closely. We had printed your instructions and carefully followed them. I used 2"x10" instead of 2"x12".

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  120. I don't typically post anything on written articles or projects but I'm extremely impressed with your details within the post and the pictures are absolutely wonderful. Your blog is a gift that keeps on giving. Keep it up. I'm surprised you simply used a blue tarp to keep the weather out. Are you still using that method today?

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  121. We bought 3 damaged aluminum sliding screen doors from Home Depot. They kept all the debris from our trees out and allowed the sand to dry out on nice days. When we though it was going to rain, we'd put a waterproof tarp down and then the doors on top to hold it in place. Doors are light enough for my 2 year old to take off. You have to ask workers for damaged doors. They are considerably discounted. Very happy with our tarp solution!

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  122. Oh, forgot to say thanks for the awesome instructions!! We built this last year and my 3 kids loved it! All the neighbor kids loved it too. We moved and the buyers requested it. We are building another this weekend. This time around we are staining it. 4 kids now. Staining each side a different color, each of their favorites. I think this will help keep them on their own "turf" and decrease the accidental baby godzilla events.

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  123. Still stuck on the wine and paint stirrers.

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  124. I'm going to use this cover:

    http://sandigz.com/The_Sahara.htm

    Just have to make the top a bit smaller.

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  125. Nice and simple idea using screws to make a sandbox. children just love to play around.

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  126. Hi
    I have been looking the World Wide Web for this information about regarding and I want to thank you for this post

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  127. Thanks so much for the plans. I am pretty much a novice at woodworking but enjoy small project like this. Turned out great, the kids love it!

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  129. You actually make it appear really easy together with your presentation however I in finding this topic (creating wooden sandbox) to be really something that I think I might by no means understand. It kind of feels too complex and extremely vast for me. I'm taking a look forward on your next post, I will attempt to get the hang of it!


    Nancy Davis
    What’s the deal with energy efficient vinyl windows? Are they really worth it?

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Please leave your questions or comments here. I love to get feedback. You can do so without an account or user names and passwords, etc. Just select "Anonymous" next to "comment as". Thanks!--Peter