How to Build a Backyard Playhouse


In deciding how to build a backyard playhouse, two things you need to consider in the design are keeping a clear view of the child at all times when he or she is inside, and sturdiness. Children have lots of time to work on dismantling play structures. Here's a frontier log cabin-style house that will endure.

Things You'll Need

  • 65 landscape timbers, 8 feet
  • Sander and coarse sandpaper
  • Wood filler
  • Drill
  • Drill bits, 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch
  • 5 half-inch all-thread rods, 7 feet long
  • 2 half inch all-thread rods 2 feet long
  • 18 half-inch washers and nuts
  • Circular saw
  • Two sheets water-resistant marine plywood
  • 1 box of galvanized screws, 3-inch
  • 40 nails, 6-inch
  • Hammer
  • Socket wrench and 1/2 inch deep sockets
  • Hacksaw or reciprocating saw with metal cutting blade

Assembling the Log Playhouse

  • Drill half-inch holes through the narrow ends of 36 timbers, four inches from the ends. Sand all logs and fill holes or splintered areas with wood filler. Lay two timbers on the ground six and one-half feet apart to start your stack. Insert the four seven-foot, all-thread rods through the end holes and attach bolts to the bottom with the rods sticking straight up.

  • Lay two timbers cross ways threading the rods through the end holes. There will be a gap between each row. This allows you to see what's going on in the playhouse. Measure three feet from the inside edge of the second row of timbers along one of the bottom timbers and drill a hole vertically through it. Insert the fifth long rod for a door frame and bolt it on the bottom.

  • Cut six inches off a predrilled timber. This will include the predrilled hole. Slip the cut-off piece over the threaded rod on the end where you want a door. Turn it to face perpendicular to the log it's sitting on top of. Measure from the rod to the opposite end of the bottom log. Add two inches and cut the rest of the log off at that length. Cut another six-inch spacer log from the scrap piece and thread it over the door frame rod you just installed. Drill a half-inch hole two inches from the fresh cut short timber and thread it over the corner rod and the door frame rod. Cut seven more timbers just like the first one for the door frame side of the structure.

  • Lay five undrilled timbers spaced evenly parallel between the two second row timbers for the floor. You will have to lift the door-side timber you just installed to push them under. Nail them in place and cut your plywood panels to fit the inside of the playhouse floor. Screw them on top of the timbers so you'll have a solid floor. Install the other third row timber on the back wall and start stacking.

  • Criss-cross the timbers threading them down over the vertical rods. Thread the shorter timbers you cut on the door side using the six-inch spacer timbers to space the logs. Stop about two feet above the floor. Here you will create a window on the back wall.

  • Cut two feet from the center of the next four back row logs for a window. Cut six-inch spacer logs from the scrap to separate them and define the window frame. Drill new holes two inches from the edge of the spacers. Insert the two foot long all-thread rods through holes so they run vertically along either side of the window frame and then cut back wall logs. Thread the shortened logs onto the corner rods and the window rods with spacers between each rank. Work up another two feet of so, then cap the window with a single solid log. Recess the top holes where the window frame logs stick up and cut off any excess rod. Cap the door frame the same way.

  • Finish criss-crossing the logs till you get to the next-to-the-last row from the top of the rods. Lay the remaining logs side by side to make a roof. Nail down the roof logs with six-inch nails. Recess the end holes on last two "cap" logs and lay them cross-ways over the roof logs. Recess the end holes and bolt down the cap logs.

  • To create shelves or seats, simply push boards through the gaps in the sides and screw them in place with long screws.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use only recently manufactured landscape timbers. Some older types use toxic chemicals to pressure treat. Later manufacture timbers use non-toxic chemicals. If you can find untreated timbers, spray them down when you are finished with a non-toxic water seal every couple of years.
  • Pour a 4 inches of pea gravel or sand all around the playhouse. The kids will climb on it, so provide a surface that will cushion a fall.
  • Every month or to rake the gravel back where the kids have worn it thin and reduced the fall protection.

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  • Photo Credit timbers image by Andrii Oleksiienko from
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