Buy or build – build or buy? And why a playhouse at all?
When it comes to picking an outdoor garden building for kids, it’s easy to get overwhelmed with options. And sure, we think that they provide the ideal place for children to let their imaginations run wild.
But perhaps you’re not sold on the idea yet. That’s why, in this post, we’re going to cover all things playhouses.
We’ll have a look at whether to build or buy a playhouse and how to do it. All of that and more, after the jump. But before we start, let’s look at some:
- Playhouses encourage creative thinking and social skills during play
- Playhouse tend to be built from wood or plastic
- You can: build, buy, or BillyOh your playhouse
- Playhouse types include: single and double-storey, tower, and log cabin
But the term ‘playhouse’ doesn’t always mean just one thing.
Different Types of Playhouse
We all know what comes to mind when we think ‘classic playhouse’ – an American Gothic-style playhouse. Right?
Ok, maybe not. But the point is, there are a million and one different ways to build and decorate a playhouse. Some popular classics include:
- Tent and teepee playhouses
- Fort playhouse
- Tower playhouse (with/out ladder or slide)
Heck, if you’ve got some time and patience, you could even learn how to grow a child’s playhouse. By creating a willow or sunflower den, you could save yourself the price of a playhouse.
Although, you might be waiting for quite a while!
Why Buy a Playhouse?
Instead, you could always check out these playhouse plans for a bit of inspiration. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves a bit.
All these quirky (and some kooky!) ideas sure sound amazing. But, chances are, you’re probably looking for something a bit simpler. So let’s start simple.
The first step is to decide on what material you want to use for your playhouse.
Playhouses tend to come in either wood or plastic (as metal can be hazardous). Plastic might fade in the sun but will be easier to move. Whereas, wood has a more rustic feel to it that we think looks better. Wooden playhouses are also easier to customise.
If you want to turn your playhouse into a saloon or a fort, we suggest opting for wood. Either way, by simply getting them outside a playhouse can help your children to:
- Be healthy and active (and build their immune system)
- Have their own space
- Improve coordination, social skills, and even sleep quality
- Have an all-weather play area
- Instil confidence and responsibility
So, hopefully, that’s put to bed any questions you have as to ‘why should I buy a playhouse’?
Playhouses can act as a garden building that is dedicated to playing and that children can use year-round. A playhouse can be customised and worked on as a project to boost creativity, thought development, and even social skills.
Building a Playhouse
If you’ve settled on getting an outdoor playhouse, then the next step is to decide whether to build or buy one.
How much does it cost to build a playhouse?
This one’s a bit tricky. Some people will say that you can build a playhouse for around $350 (about £250). And that’s for a small, single-storey playhouse for young (i.e. small) children.
Other people will say that building a wooden play house will only cost £150. That’s if you already work on a building site where you’re able to salvage materials. The point is, there’s no one answer.
What works for you will depend on things like:
- Materials required
- Quality of materials
- Proposed size of play house
- Existing tools or tool hire inc: level, Stanley knife, tape measure, set square, hammer, circular saw, jigsaw, reciprocating saw, drill, and a straight edge
- Factoring in the cost of your time
So if at this stage you’re thinking that you probably don’t have the tools or the know-how to build your own wooden playhouse – that’s fine.
You can always skip ahead to the section on buying a playhouse. There, you’ll also find an option where you get the best of both worlds.
For now, let’s crack on with – how do you make a homemade playhouse?
Courtesy of Rogue Engineer
Playhouse Plans and Building Instructions
If you’re building a flat-pack wooden playhouse, the assembly process will generally be:
- Remove travel blocks from timber panels
- Lay everything flat
- Screw in door hinge/s
- Lay playhouse floor on your base
- Mark the centres of your joints as a drilling guide
- Screw in playhouse floor
- Starting with the back, hold the upright panels in place and screw them together
(Top tip: Make sure to countersink screw holes so you won’t rip out or split the timber!)
- Square your playhouse off
- Fix your roof trusses and nail or screw in roof panels
- Felt and shingle the roof
Now, bear in mind that that’s a whistlestop tour of building a pre-fab children’s playhouse. If you want those steps explained in more detail, check out this step-by-step guide.
And if you’re still wondering whether or not to build your own kids playhouse, perhaps this next section will help you decide.
Now we’re going to look at the steps you’d need to take to build a children’s playhouse from scratch.
At this stage, you’ll need to figure out whether you’re making a plastic or a wooden playhouse. You could even make a kids playhouse frame with Pvc pipe.
Once you’ve settled on what to use in your children’s playhouse, you’ll need to pick up tools and materials. At the very least you’re going to need some assorted nails and screws. You might even want to pick up some plexiglass for windows.
Bear in mind, you’ll have to consider transport costs and whether or not you have a truck, van, or utility vehicle capable of carrying your base materials.
For the sake of this guide, we’ll assume you’re looking to build a wooden children’s playhouse.
Once you’ve got all your timber (for the sake of ease), you’ll need to store it whilst you pick a site. You can check out another post we wrote if you want to know how to level the ground.
Just remember, like with a shed, to:
- Leave space around your playhouse base (say, 1ft. extra on each edge)
- Not pick a site in a gully or with excess groundwater
- Build somewhere visible from your house (if children will be playing unsupervised)
- Make sure the site is accessible through any side passages or gates
Then you can set about levelling your playhouse site. You should start by raking away debris and rocks. If the ground is soft enough you can even give it a rough level with a landscaping rake.
If not, you can always think about:
We suggest following this step for all garden buildings - be it a shed or a kid’s playhouse. Building any outdoor building straight onto the ground isn’t advised!
You’ll end up with an uneven frame that puts pressure on your playhouse and maybe even causes damp and rot. So you’ll want to build a base. You can run string lines to check how level your ground is after step 2.
Or, you can always dig out the four corners of your proposed site and sink paving stones in builder’s sand. This will allow you to raise your corner’s up or lower them as necessary.
Once your shed site is level, you can figure out how to build a shed base. For a children’s playhouse, you should be fine with building a timber sub-floor. As there won’t be much weight in your playhouse, building a concrete slab might be overkill.
Just remember to raise your playhouse floor off the ground to avoid damp!
If you already chose to build using pre-assembled playhouse panels then you can skip this step.
If not, you’ll need to cut and build your:
- Then walls
You can leave your cut-outs (like doors and windows) until later if you want.
This stage will all depend on your playhouse site plan. But, if you’ve gotten this far and haven’t settled on the dimensions of your playhouse - check out these free playhouse plans.
Once you’ve got all your timber cut to size you can start framing. Start by attaching panels to your wall frames.
Top tip: It’s easier to do this on the ground. Just make sure you snap a chalk line on the panels where your studs are. This will make it easier to nail/screw into them from the outside.
Then you’ll need a hand to raise the walls and attach them with either:
- Corner blocks
- Corner braces
You’ll also need to fix them to your floor joists. At this point, check that your wooden playhouse is level and square. If need be, straighten your frame with a straight edge. Then check your levels again.
You might already have been measuring, cutting, and attaching trim as you go. If not (and if you’re even using any trim), make sure to screw it in before roofing.
Once you have your playhouse frame up, you can start trussing. After that, it’s simply a case of lining up and nailing or screwing in your roof panels along the trusses.
Lastly, you’ll need to attach your felt shingles. Start with the first line flush to the edge of your roof, then overlap each subsequent line slightly as you work up the apex or pent.
For more info, you can always check out our guide to cladding and trimming garden buildings.
And then you’re on ot step 7 - the fun part!
Now that you’ve got your wooden children’s playhouse constructed, you can get the kids involved. Go back to earlier in this guide when we gave you ideas for playhouse themes. Now you can turn your children’s playhouse into a saloon, or maybe a creepy Gothic church!
And if you need a little more help following steps 1-7, then check out this in-depth guide with plans to build a playhouse.
Either way, if you’ve got the tools and the experience, building a wooden playhouse can be a great achievement.
But for the rest of us kick-in-the-muds, there’s always the option of:
Buying a Playhouse
As much as we’d t all like to build a playhouse (or think it’s cheaper), you have to start by being honest with yourself.
Do you have all the tools that we listed earlier? Did terms like squaring and trussing put you off a bit? If so, that’s fine!
You can always buy a playhouse and feel like a top-notch builder. Simply opt for a children’s tongue-and-groove playhouse.
With pre-measured and cut tongue-and-groove panels you and a friend can build your wooden kid’s playhouse in no time. All you have to do is gather a few tools (maybe a mallet for a light tap or two) and a mate!
Then interlocking tongue and groove wooden panels mean you can be stood around admiring your handiwork in just a couple of hours. You can get a professional, customisable playhouse at a more competitive price point than buying and having one installed.
And the exact same preparation steps apply, whether you’re building or buying a kid’s playhouse. You’ll still need to think about your available space and budget and what features you’ll need.
For example, are your kids little monkeys who require multi-storey play options? If so, then a tower playhouse with a slide might suit them. The great thing about the BillyOh method of building a playhouse is that you can still customise it.
There are loads of options to choose from before you buy. And, a wooden playhouse has so much more character on offer than a plastic one. With a kid’s wooden playhouse you can still add to it and dress it up.
And if you want a nudge in the right direction, check out our very own expert’s guide to choosing a playhouse. You’ll find all the info you need to narrow down your selection.
Playhouses: Why Buy?
Building a playhouse can be a fantastic cost-saving option if you have access to raw materials like pallets and timber. With the internet bursting with free playhouse DIY plans, even intermediate carpenters can have a crack at building a playhouse.
But for the rest of us, hiring or buying jigsaws and trying to fish out a set square might be above our pay grade. So if you’re still set on buying the kid’s a playhouse for summer, you could always simply buy one and have it installed.
But there’s a third option – the best of both. A.k.a. the BillyOh option. With our tongue-and-groove wooden playhouse’s, you can find a price and model that suits your needs. Plus, you can feel like you’ve built something without breaking the bank (or your back!).
And if you’re looking at building a shed at the same time, download our free guide on How to Build your Shed.Shop Playhouses
In our BillyOh playhouses, we use reliable European-sourced timber. We recommend kiln-dried or pressure-treated wood for frames and plywood for roofing panels. For a more detailed look at playhouse building materials, go here.
You’ll still need a level, damp-proof base underneath a playhouse that raises it from ground moisture. Remember, if placing on a concrete slab, consider felting or covering it in astroturf as children will be running (and perhaps, falling!).
Some people with free time, tools, and materials say you can build a playhouse from as low as £200-300. Buying and having one installed will cost significantly more.
For reference, our BillyOh potting shed playhouse made from easy-to-assemble tongue-and-groove panels starts as low as £369.
Playhouses aren’t generally considered to be permanent structures no matter their height. So you shouldn’t need planning permission. However, as rules vary county-to-country, it’s worth checking and running it by neighbours.
Check out this resource for more information on planning permission UK.