Pretty in Pink Playhouse

If you’re looking for playhouse inspiration and want to break the pitch felted roof tradition then you’ve come to the right place. This playhouse build cost me around £200 in materials. It’s built to last and call me biased but it’s a real crowd pleaser!
The Gatehouse has a pretty small garden, but since we have the roof terrace as our adult zone, this space is most definitely the girls’ territory!
 That said, there’s no reason why gardens have to be unkempt and scattered with bikes and scooters just because you have young children.  You can still have a really aesthetically pleasing outdoor space even with a playhouse- you just have to ensure the playhouse rocks! Simple!

As with all of my projects I sought inspiration on Pinterest and didn’t have to look too far before stumbling across some really cool designs- many of which were really similar to my vision.
When it comes to DIY I like to consider myself a 21st Century woman. I’m a bit of a jack of all trades and I’m not afraid to pick up a power tool. I can also be a little too independent for my own good and like to look upon my end results knowing I achieved them single handedly. However, there’s no place for pride when safety is concerned, especially when your clients are children.
This was a two person job and if there’s ever a man to go belt and braces on a structural build to ensure safety first; it’s my Dad. His favourite phrase during this build was ‘That ain’t going anywhere’ and I can say with confidence that he’s right- it’s not! Good job because I will never tire of it even when the kids have!
Ok so here’s a few things to consider before you start your build:

Cost: This build came in at around £200.
£45 of which was spent on sheet metal for the slide and £60 on 3 corrugated galvanised metal sheets and fixings for the roof. The rest went on timber. Bear in mind I have used a fair amount of timber left over from previous builds and the cladding is all free pallet. So if you’re buying all of your wood and you choose to clad in another material such as shiplap it’s going to cost you a fair bit more.  That said- if you have plenty of timber lying around then I guess you’re off to a winning start! We had a few lengths of 4x2’’ but the rest I had to buy along with the 4 posts; this came in at around £100 total.

You will also need to decide if you want to work with treated or untreated timber. The difference in short: Treated can be left unpainted but is more pricey whereas untreated will cost you less but needs to be painted to protect the timber.  If you choose pallet to clad your playhouse, it most likely won’t be treated.
Safety: This playhouse is built on a raised platform and therefore small children are vulnerable to falls- please ensure you have suitable safety mats in place when the playhouse is in use and never leave a small child unsupervised.

Level Playing Feild:Strong, level foundations are essential a successful build. For best results build your playhouse on top of decking or a similar flat surface and ensure that this foundation is level! This is really important if you want a straightforward build. I’ll add at this point that our decking isn’t level and so we ran into problems but I’ll also explain how we got around them!
Measurements: For the most part I haven’t stated exact measurements for this built because I think they’ll more than likely hinder than help. Unless your foundation is ‘level’ to the exact same degree as mine the measurements will be out anyway.  You’re far better to decide upon your own width and height of the playhouse and follow through with your own measurements rather than produce a carbon copy of my build.
If you DO require the exact measurements I used then drop me a line via CONTACT . Similarly if I’ve used terminology you’re uncertain of, or you’d like me to explain in more detail then please just ask. I’ve tried to keep it as simple as possible because I know I have a tendency to waffle!
The best tip I’ve ever picked up is ‘measure twice, cut once.’ It will save you time, money and frustration! Trust me on this one!

I’ve included some very ropey 2D images to help guide you through some of the key stages of the build- yes I am fully aware that they’re pretty pants and I won’t be winning any prizes for 3d modelling anytime soon but hopefully they will provide better detail and clarity where the photos cannot.

OK- Let’s get building!

You will need 4 robust posts to form the 4 corners of your playhouse. I used 4x3’’ at 8 foot lengths (to be cut to length at a later stage)
Lay 2 of these posts out on a flat surface side by side a few feet apart and lay a 4x2’’ length across so that it overhangs as shown below; the overhang will form your balcony. I will refer to these joists hereafter as ‘balcony joists.’ Screw in place at your chosen height. I fixed this joist at 26’’ from the bottom so that once the playhouse flooring is laid the floor height will be 3ft above ground level, but adjust to suit. You will need to repeat this step so you have 2.
N.B. The bottom rail you can see in this picture was a temporary fix to help keep the frame square- to be perfectly honest it really wasn't necessary so feel free to ignore it!
The next step is to stand your 2 sides up ensuring that the horizontal balcony joists are on the inside and the vertical posts are on the outside - you’ll need a few pairs of hands here!
 You’re now going to brace them together with 2, 4x2” cut to your desired playhouse width (one for the front and one for the back.) Screw them to the main posts directly underneath the balcony joists as shown in the diagram. Your frame should now be free standing! Phew!
Next you’ll need to add another 2 balcony joists spaced evenly apart as shown in the picture. These joists will allow you to lay your floor but will also help strengthen the structure. Fix noggings in between these joists- this will allow you to screw upward later which will be required when fixing the studwork walls.
At this point you’ll actually begin to lay the flooring and you’ll fix studwork to it after- it means less scribing around posts so makes life easier!
I used 2’’ thick boards to lay my flooring and continued with this material through to the balcony- the boards do need to be this depth to allow the slide to butt up neatly and securely when you get to that stage.

You WILL need to scribe the floor around the 4 outside posts as shown in the picture but thereafter it’s pretty plain sailing. We fixed the boards using large round head nails because I think they look much nicer than screw heads but it’s down to personal choice. It’s also worth mentioning here that we used a kind of horizontal plumb-line with nails and string to ensure all the boards finished at the same point and we were left with clean, straight sides.

Once your floor is in you now have a sturdy platform to stand on to complete the rest of the build and this is going to make life SO much easier.

Next you need to decide on the full height of your playhouse. You are now going to brace the top of the posts with 4x2’’ joists to this chosen height.

We first fixed these joists to the sides and then the front and back. When fixing the sides it’s important to ensure you create a fall so when you fix the roofing rain will run off the back. If it’s level water will pool and cause all sorts of problems! Just fix the side rails slightly higher at the front than the back. Also make sure these joists are inside the main posts as before and ensure they are cut to length so that when you add the upright studwork they finish flush- you might want to read ahead here for clarification!
You can now cut the tops off your posts.
Next up you can begin to fix the studwork which will allow you to clad the playhouse. Again we used 4x2’’ and fixed to the OUTSIDE of the top horizontal rails. At the base we were able to screw up into the 4x2’’ joists from underneath the floor to secure the vertical joists.

The final structural step is to brace the roof using three final 4x2’’ joists which will sit inside the horizontal joists as shown in the picture- one in the middle and one at either end. This will not only further strengthen the whole structure but will also allow you a surface to screw into when you come to fix the roof.
The space between the first 2 joists on the side will form your entrance. You’ll want to fix a 4x2’’ nogging here to form the top of your doorway at your chosen height.

And it's cladding time, baby! Now the real fun can begin! You’ll really start to see the playhouse take shape from this point.
First use pallet to line your doorway. To get a really neat finish allow this lining to overhang the joists by the same thickness as your cladding material- that way when you come to clad the sides it will butt up to it and look really professional!
Then you can start cladding the sides- keep measuring each length as you go and try to mix up different lengths of wood from different pallets to get a lovely mixture of grains and colours.
You can cut in your circular window and slide opening after each side is clad or do them both after you’ve clad all 4 sides.
This is where I went catastrophically WRONG!
 I decided I’d loosely fit the cladding, then mark out my circle and then remove the boards to cut them individually before re-fixing them properly. No…just no!

It was a disaster- among the many problems I faced for which I won’t bore you with the finer details- the cuts didn’t line up and I was worlds apart from a perfect circle. It was just a total mess!

To avoid this set back just clad the whole playhouse first, or at least a side at a time, fully driving the nails home.
Next you will create a string compass by nailing a small panel pin into the pallet where you want the very centre of your window to be- don’t drive it all the way in. Tie one end of a length of string to the pin and the other end to a pencil at the desired radius. Keep the string really nice and taught as you draw your circle. Finally you can remove the pin.
You can now use a hole saw drill bit to cut a hole inside your drawn circle close to the edge of the boundary. This will allow you a starting point to work from with your Jigsaw. With a very steady hand you can now cut out your circle. You’ll notice from the pictures I’ve used a clamp mid- cutting- I’d advise you do the same- without it my boards were really flapping around and it made it difficult to cut neatly. At a later date I also added a tiling batten either side of the window which really helped hold everything firmly in place and gave so much needed rigidity.
Ok so now you have your circular openings cut you’ve a couple of options; fit the roof and then paint or vice versa.
I decided to paint first and I’d recommend you do the same for 2 reasons; light and space!
I painted the inside of the playhouse with Cuprinol Shades in ‘Sweet Pea’ but I really wanted the grain of the pallet to peep through so I watered it down to 4 parts paint 1 part water- it worked a treat and the colour looks so adorable!
Now for your roof! Corrugated sheet metal is perfect for this project- it’s cheap, lightweight and most importantly, if not obviously- waterproof! It does require a few pairs of hands to fix but it’s fairly straightforward. Drill straight through the sheets (punch first to stop the drill bit from sliding around) and line your fixings up with the joists beneath. Ensure your sheets overhang the boundary of the playhouse by at least 5 inches. You also need to ensure your dimensions allow for an overlap of your corrugated sheet. Standard sheets overlap by 60mm.

Next clad your balcony in the same material you’ve used for your flooring before building your ladders.
For the sides of the ladder I used 2 lengths of 4x2’’ measuring from the ground to the playhouse floor level. For the treads I opted for 20mm dowels cut to the desired width.  I cut 3 holes spaced evenly apart in both sides using a hole saw drill bit to ensure the dowels fit snugly. It’s important to ensure your drill bit penetrates the wood by the same distance for each hole; simply place a marker on your drill bit using tape or a chalk pen and take care not to push the drill beyond this point. You want to go about half way.
Next place wood glue into your holes and tap in the dowels with a hammer. Finally use a noggin at the base to hold the rails square. I also drilled through this noggin and into my decking to ensure the base of the ladders won’t move.
Okay- you’ve made it this far! The final stage is to build the slide- hurrah!
 This step is much simpler than it looks.
You’ll need a sheet of 200mm thick plywood. Marine ply will withstand harsh weather conditions but it is rather pricey- try to find an offcut to keep costs down.
  You’ll need to measure the height from the top of your balcony down to the point you want the slide to finish taking the angle into careful consideration. You’ll then cut your ply to this length and chosen width. Our slide is 15 inches wide.
I bought 2 600x1000mm galvanised steel sheets from Wickes for £20.79 each. You’ll need to cut them so they sit neatly on top of the plywood. NOTE: once cut the edges are VERY sharp so it’s really important to ensure the sheet metal sits just inside the ply and under no circumstances should it overhang it. The galvanised sheets cut really easily with a jigsaw.
I had to overlap my sheet metal which is fine to do but ensure the sheet that sits closest to the top of the slide overlaps the bottom sheet so rain doesn’t run underneath.
To fit the rails I used lengths of 2x2’’cut at angles at the top and bottom to ensure they are flush with the balcony edge and the ground. This takes some figuring out and unfortunately I can’t just tell you what angle you should cut them to because this depends on many factors such at the height of your balcony, the angle you want the slide etc. The way I figured it out was to position the ply where I wanted my slide to be and use a sliding bevel to set the angle.
You’ll also notice from the picture that my rails are about 20mm shorter than the ply at the top- this is important as it will allow you to fix the slide to the balcony.  
 So, to clarify- you basically sandwich the sheet metal between the rails and the plywood sheet. Refer to the picture.
Finally you need to fix your slide in place. You should find that since you cut your rails 20mm shorter than the plywood at the top of your slide, the ply sheet will slot underneath the balcony as shown in the diagram. You can then butt up a batten underneath and fix it to the balcony joist you fitted in the early stages of the build.

The slide will now be resting on this batten so it’s held nicely in place but for additional security I fixed two screws through side rails at the top of the slide directly into the balcony and in the words of my Dad- it ain’t going anywhere!
Thanks for persevering! I appreciate there are a LOT of steps to this build but as they say, ‘Rome wasn’t built in a day!’
I’m so happy with the end product- it’s worth every bead of sweat and I really hope your little clients love it as much as mine do!

Anything else you want to know about this playhouse build? Head over to my CONTACT section where you can post a question and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can!