My kids had outgrown the old 4′ x 4′ sandbox that hides under our playset. It’s only 4 inches deep, and bark is constantly pouring over the sides and into the sand. Since our 2 year-old spends hours in the sand each day, we decided it was time for an upgrade– and a new type of adventure. After seeing a really cool sandbox at my neighbor’s house, I made some measurements and went to work. The sandbox was easy, fairly cheap, and the end product is really cool.
The great thing about the design for this sandbox is that the lid also serves as a bench. So when the sandbox is closed, it is closed tightly. The old sandbox had a heavy, unwieldy lid that we eventually stopped using, turning our sandbox into an occasional litter box– even though we don’t have cats. When you open the lid on the new sandbox, it folds back into a bench on either side, sturdy enough for Mom and Dad to sit on. Here are complete instructions for building the sandbox of your dreams:
Tools you’ll need:
A “chop” saw or miter saw
A power drill with 1/8″ bit and Phillips head bit
Wood you’ll need:
11: 2×6 boards that are 10 feet long
4: 2×6 boards that are 8 feet long
4: 2×4 boards that are 8 feet long (see comments below. I was able to use some scraps I had laying around)
Hardware you’ll need:
4: 4 inch T-hinges (pictured below)
4: 11 inch regular hinges (pictured below)
125 (or so): 2.5 inch wood screws
20 (or so): 1 inch wood screws if your hinges don’t come with screws
1-2: gallons of Deckover or other exterior wood paint
If you want to make sure you get the right parts, I’ve put an Amazon link where you can check out or order the parts at the end of this entry.
Total time I spent on the project including painting, cutting, and assembly: 8 hours
Total cost: about $200
Step 1: Cutting
The cutting on this project is simple, but if you don’t have a miter saw (what I call a chop saw), most hardware stores will make cuts for you for a small fee.
Take all 11 of your 10 foot 2×6’s and cut them in half with the miter saw giving you 22 2×6 that are 5 feet long. This is the width of the sandbox. Leave the four 8 footers alone, that’s the length of the box.
You can cut two of the 2×4’s at the same time with the saw. This assures the pieces are the same length and saves you some cuts, so carefully stack two 2×4’s on the saw and cut the following:
4 lengths of 30 inches (so measure 30″, chop, repeat, should give you 4 from the stacked boards). You’ll use these to support the back of the bench.
4 lengths of 14.5 inches (so measure 14.5″, chop, repeat should give you 4). You’ll use these as “armrests” on the bench.
Using the third 2×4, cut four 11 inch pieces. You’ll use these as corner supports.
(Optional): I wanted my armrests to be beveled on the outside end rather than squared off. I measured 1 inch from the bottom of the 2×4 and one inch from the end. Then I drew a line to connect the marks. Then I used the saw to cut along the line. You can see the bevel in the picture.
Step 2: Painting
My least favorite part of any project is painting. Here are a few tips: Lay plastic on the garage floor and set up small scraps to lay the wood on. I tried both rolling and brushing with a 3 inch brush, and I like the rolling better. The deckover I used dried fast, so I could (gently) flip and paint boards after about 20 minutes. Paint all sides, ends, etc. and let them dry for 2 days.
Step 3: Assembling the box
For this step you’ll need 4 of the 5 foot lengths, all 4 of the 8 foot lengths, the 11 inch 2x4s, and some 2.5 inch screws. On a flat surface, stand up one of the 8 foot lengths on it’s edge. Place one of the 5 foot lengths at the end so that your screw will go through the five foot length into the end of the 8 foot length. Drill two guide holes with the 1/8 inch bit. (If you don’t, you’ll run the risk of splitting the end board as you are working very near the end). Then use 2 screws to secure the boards. Repeat this process on each of the corners until you have built the bottom level of the box. Remember: screws go through the 5 footer into the ends of the 8 footer.
Now you’ll repeat the steps by assembling the second layer of the box on top of the first. Don’t worry too much about it lining up perfectly yet. You can even build level 2 on flat ground and lift it on top of level one at the end.
When the 2 levels are stacked, place one of the 11 inch 2×4’s in each corner standing on end. These boards will secure the 2 layers together. I choose to alternate them as I went around clockwise. So in corner 1, the flat side of the 2×4 goes against the 5 footer; in corner 2 the flat side goes against the 8 footer; in corner 3 the flat side goes back against the other 5 footer, and in corner 4 the flat side goes against the other 8 footer (think rotational symmetry rather than mirror symmetry). I’m not sure this matters, so don’t get hung up on it– it certainly won’t show in the final product.
Drill guide holes from the outside of the box with the 1/8″ bit and add 4 screws in each flat side and 2 in each short side of the 2×4. It is always a good idea to NOT align the screws vertically as you can split the wood if you do. Once you’ve added six screws to every corner, your box should be very sturdy.
Step 4: Assembling the seats
To assemble the 2 seats, you need 6 of the remaining 5 footers and the 2 armrests. Lay the armrests nearly 5 feet apart with the top side down (this only matters if you beveled them). Place three of the 2x6s across them. Square the 2x6s so all the ends are even. Measure in 3 inches from each end and draw a light pencil line. Then carefully adjust the armrest underneath until the board is centered on the line. I measured in 1 inch from the “back” of the seat (the opposite of the beveled end) so the armrests would look uniform, but you could eyeball it and be fine. Finally use 6 of the 2.5 inch screws (2 on each board) to secure the armrest on each end. Place the screws slightly off each side of the line so they are not all in an exact line, which may split the wood. Repeat this process for both ends, and then for the second seat.
Step 5: Assembling the seat back
The seat back assembly is almost exactly like the seat assembly. Lay the two 2x4s about 18 inches apart. Then lay 3 of the 2x6s across them. Measure 21 inches from the end of the 2x6s and make a light pencil line. Line up the 2x4s centered on the line. Exactly 14 inches of 2×4 should extend below the 2x6s. Then attach the screws as described in Step 3.
Step 6: Attaching the seat to the back
First, lay the seat back with the long 2 by fours underneath exactly as they were at the end of Step 4. Then lay the seat on top of the 2x4s snugly against the other 2x6s with the armrests up. Make sure everything is aligned. If you beveled the armrests so there is a front, the front should go to the outside near the end of the 2x4s. Finally, lay the T-hinge with the square end on the seat and the triangular end on the back and attach with the screws provided (if no screws came with your hinge, use 1 inch screws). Make sure that the hinge is positioned so that the seat folds UP toward you and away from the 2x4s on the seat back. Repeat this step with the other seat and back.
Step 7: Finishing up
You’ll want to make sure your sandbox is level and clear the ground underneath. You may even want to put weed mat down. When the frame is set, lay out the top in the following order: 3 of the loose 2x6s, the seat bottom, and the seat back with the 2x4s up. Then mirror that with the seat back, the seat bottom, and the 3 loose boards. Because I put things together pretty tightly, mine fit with only about a half inch gap in the middle. You can overhang the loose boards on either end if it won’t fit. When you have everything laid out to your satisfaction, place the remaining 4 hinges. You should connect the seat bottom to the third board from each end of the sandbox. Attach the hinges with screws provided or 1 inch wood screws.
Finally, make one final arrangement of the pieces so they are squared and even. You should have 2 sets of 7 boards connected together with hinges, and 2 boards on each end. You only have a few screws left. Now, using the 1/8th inch bit, pre drill the final holes. There should be 24 of them. I did one board at a time since things could be bumped, so I’d drill guide holes, switch bits and attach a board, and then switch and drill more guide holes. I also started with the third board that is attached to the hinge and worked toward the end of the sandbox.
The lid is pretty heavy on the sandbox, so I also wanted to add some sturdy handles. My friend attached a rope for a handle, but I like steel handles better. To open the sandbox, I step on the end and pull the handles up and toward me until the seat is in reclining position.
The very last step is to attach the handles. I placed them very near the bottom of the 2x4s (bottom meaning the end that will sit on the ground). The lid of the sandbox is too heavy for a child to open, but with the handles in this position, my wife can step on the end of the sandbox and pull the handles up and toward her to open it.
Products used in this post: