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Building a Backyard Sandbox

The joy of building a simple sandbox.

Background

We recently moved from San Francisco to Mill Valley so that our kids could grow up a bit closer to nature. With the recent stay-at-home orders in place, we had plenty of free weekend time for home projects. Plus, we could all use a little more play in our lives these days 🤗.

As a starting point, most sandboxes aren't very good looking. Most tend to break. So we took at little time to think about what makes a good sandbox and built one. Below is some of the thinking that went into it and a few pictures of the process.

Design Principles

I never thought I'd write design principles for a sandbox, but this was kinda fun.

Durable

Most sandboxes break after a year or so. By contrast, the structure should be
durable
enough to withstand two rambunctious boys and their friends. The last thing I want to do is make something that breaks a year from now. Hopefully it lives up to this principle but time will tell :)

Communal

One simple observations from years of watching my kids play in sandboxes is that size plays a key role in how kids play together, or don't.

If the structure is too small, kids don't convene and play together the sandbox. In contrast to small mail-order sandboxes, one example that I had in mind was the gravel pit area at the
. My kids love this area. It huge and draws kids into the communal experience of moving gravel in a striking and almost comedic way.

So the idea was to make the sandbox large enough to be
communal
for kids, but not too large that it didn't fit the context of the yard.

Contextual

One thing that always strikes me about plastic sandboxes in backyards is how they stand out from the nature around them. Often there are lots of trees and grass, and then, 💥 a giant piece of plastic.

So it was important to me that the structure fit with the
context
of the house and surrounding yard. In practice, this meant making it out of redwood and painting it the same color as the trim on our house.

Structural Details

Dimensions

Six foot by six foot square. Large enough to fit 2-3 small kids at one time.

Sand

A six foot by six foot sandbox requires 24 bags of 50 pound sand.

Adult Seating

3 inch rim provides a place for adults to sit on the side of the sandbox.

Materials


List of Materials
0
Item
Size
Quantity
1
Side boards (Redwood)
6 foot boards → 1 by 8 inch

Note: actual width is between 7.25 and 7.5 inches
10
2
Interior posts (Redwood)
15 inch posts → 4 by 4 inch
8
3
Top rim (Redwood)
Six foot boards → 1 by 3 inch

Note: you'll need to cut ~3 inches off of two of the boards
4
4
Outdoor wood screws
Box of 50 or 100
1
5
Wood filer putty
1 small tin
1
6
Outdoor primer
1 quart
1
7
Outdoor paint
1 quart
1
8
Sandbox sand
50 pound bag
24
There are no rows in this table

Process

Kal bringing home the wood to make his sandbox. Stoked.

IMG_1187.jpg


Build the simple square structure by affixing
@Side boards (Redwood)
to
@Interior posts (Redwood)
.

IMG_1193.jpg


Add
@Interior posts (Redwood)
to the middle to make it more durable and support the sitting rim.

IMG_1194.jpg


Adding the
@Top rim (Redwood)
so that adults can comfortably sit on the edge while kids play.

IMG_1195.jpg


Filling in the holes with
@Wood filer putty
from the screws that had been
.

IMG_1196.jpg


Painting the outside with an
@Outdoor primer
, intentionally leaving the inside to revel the redwood.

IMG_1215.jpg


Painting the outside with
@Outdoor paint
(Benjamin Moore Black Knight) to fit w/ trim paint on house.

IMG_1218.jpg


Kal helping me fill the sandbox with 24 bags of 50 pound
@Sandbox sand
.

IMG_1282.jpg


That's it. Here's Kal firing up his new sand toys in his new sandbox.

IMG_1296.jpg


Hope you have fun building yours and let me know if you have any questions!


Not pictured

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