DIY Sandbox Fort: Customizing a Backyard Playset

What kid doesn't love the sandbox? Frankly, anything that keeps my kids quiet and occupied outside for thirty minutes is worth its weight in gold. We have owned a Little Tikes turtle sandbox since Elizabeth was a baby. I pulled it out of a neighbor's trash pile - I have no shame when it comes to perfectly good plastic toys thrown in the trash. Just ask Amy. I scored a Little Tikes plastic picnic table for her kids out of a trash pile last week!

The problem came after we did our renovation and the only place we could put the turtle was on the patio. If you leave it on the grass, it kills the grass and we didn't have enough room in our mulched area. I started thinking about alternative locations and then after we got our playset, the new location became obvious - under the fort. You can see the area in question in this picture from last December.

That area is impossible to mow and needs to be cut with the trimmer. It was really frustrating for Handy Hubby who is the chief maintenance engineer around here.

This project has been on our list for about a month so we had a lot of discussion about what to make the ledge and lid out of. In case you didn't know, you really should cover your sandbox when you aren't using it so that cats and other rodents don't use it as a litter box. We considered a piece of lattice but then decided that something solid that the kids could walk and play on when it's closed would be the best. Also, I wanted to be able to control when the kids play in the sandbox and the heavy lid allows me that control. While watching the progress on our neighbor's garage, I saw the piece of our old privacy fence laying next to the construction site - bingo! Nice piece of cedar fencing in very good condition including cedar 2x4s and 1x4 fence slats. Best part - FREE!

We started by digging out the sod under the fort. I wish I took more pictures of the process but it was really pretty simple (so says the one not building). We dug down about 6" of dirt leaving room to leave room for about 8" of sand. Jim then added a small ledge along three sides of the sandbox so the kids (or adults) can sit there while they dig in the sand.

We then laid down some landscaping fabric - 2 layers going in opposite directions. Jim stapled the edges under the ledge and used landscaping fabric pins (which we had on hand) to hold it down in the middle. You can see the fabric and the ledges in the picture below.

Handy Hubby with the peanut gallery looking on.

The cover is hinged with 2 giant stainless steel hinges which Jim had in the basement for some reason. No idea where they came from but we were happy to find them!

Then we filled the sandbox with twelve 50 lb bags of sand. Hubby originally purchased sand at Home Depot which is called High Desert Sand or something like that. Do NOT buy this sand - it is powdery and impossible to get brush off. Horrible for play sand although it is one of the listed uses on the bag. Yuck. Of Since they didn't have any other sand at the Depot, we made a side trip to Lowes on Saturday. Of course, Hubby threw out his back lugging the Home Depot sand (which we still need to return), so guess who had to load the other sand... Anyway, Lowes trips are an adventure because the nearest one is 25 minutes away and the bigger/better one is closer to 30 minutes away. We went to the bigger one which happens to be next to a Chick-fil-A and we happened to be there at lunch time. (note: for all of you southerners, Chick-fil-A is not on every street corner around here so it is kind of a treat) Long story short, I loaded twelve 50 lb bags of sand onto the cart, into the car, and then into the sandbox. Work-out complete for Saturday.

The verdict...


We could probably use another bag of sand but we'll let the sand settle for a few weeks before we add more.  But it's a great project. For some reason I forgot to take a picture of the sandbox with the lid closed so I'll have to show that to you in a separate post.

Any backyard projects this weekend?


  1. That's awesome! I'm sure the kids will love it for years to come! I garbage pick now all the time, much to my husband's dismay. But geez-how can you pass up free!?! We garbage picked this fence for the garden & still have some left for another project of mine.

  2. that is awesome! we have a sandbox in our back yard that began life as a horseshoe pit.. seriously when we move din there were two horse shoe pits. gross.

  3. What a great weekend project! Definitely brought back memories of the sandboxes and various play structures my dad built for us over the years--I loved watching him and helping him too, guess that's where my love of DIY comes from :)

  4. How cool is that?!?!?!? We used to always play under the tower of our swingset, so that would be a perfect addition!!!!

  5. Looks great. And, yes, she is super good at finding random stuff on the street! Our picnic table it great, although yet to be power washed. That's how we roll!

  6. What a cute idea, I love the sandbox. I'm sure the kids are having a blast.

  7. that is a lot of sand to lug! good mom!

    i always wanted my own sand box...

  8. You can see the current state of our backyard at my blog! Crazy mess!! Our sandbox is currently surrounded by large trenches that threaten to take out the children. LOL That said, it still entertains the kids!

  9. I like the hidden sand box :) very cool idea


  10. The lid is such a great idea - I remember that the open sandbox used to be a popular stomping ground for animals back when we had one. Great project! Cutie pie kids!

  11. I love the sandbox and love your Chick-Fil-A comment almost as much! I hate that Lowe's is so much farther than the Depot, though we have been known to hit the one on Rt. 1 just to be able to also hit the Hot Light at Krispy Kreme.

  12. Very creative! And a tip for getting sand off - baby powder! Sprinkle and lightly rub and sand just falls off. Of course, do this outside!

  13. Great idea,There's no doubt about it, kids love sand. Digging, burying, sifting, pouring, shaping, smoothing, and shoveling! Building a sandbox is actually easy enough that the kids can be quite involved in the process. This is an ideal project for Dad and the kids. A Backyard Sandbox can bring forth hours of fair weather entertainment for your kids.

  14. I’m still really excited about this idea, too; it is great to see it rendered! Congratulations on taking the first steps by getting the kids access to the below deck space. If I can help with the building in any way (or in distracting the kids while building is underway), please let me know. Also, if you want to fill in that new hole in the yard, I’ve still got lots of excess dirt that you are welcome to.


I love comments! Please tell me what you think, but keep things friendly. If you are looking for a reply, please check out this tip here - http://hisugarplum.blogspot.com/2012/02/heres-bloggy-tip-for-you.html