How to Build a Sandbox: Your Step-By-Step Guide

by Team HomeServe
Sandbox  Top view

Building a Sandbox at a Glance

  • Tools & Materials: Precut lumber, chalk or marking spray, tape measure, play sand, shovel, framing square, landscape fabric, construction adhesive, clamps, deck screws or brackets
  • Step 1: Make plans and measure
  • Step 2: Remove sod
  • Step 3: Measure for frame
  • Step 4: Dig hole for sandbox
  • Step 5: Attach frame pieces and secure
  • Step 6: Lay landscape fabric
  • Step 7: Add another frame level
  • Step 8: Secure fabric

Building a sandbox is a fun and relatively simple DIY project. The end result can provide endless hours of entertainment and imaginative play for your children. Plus, building a sandbox yourself gives you total design freedom.

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If you're looking to build a sandbox for your children to play in, follow this simple step-by-step guide.

Plan Your Project

Before you rush out and buy any materials, it's a good idea to make some careful plans. How big do you want the sandbox to be? Where will you put it?

Ideally, the sandbox should be somewhere that's partially shaded so your kids won't be uncomfortably hot while they're playing. Depending on how big your garden is, you may also want to make sure the box is within sight of a window so you can keep an eye on the kids from inside the house.

Another thing to consider is water runoff. This is particularly important if you live somewhere that sees a lot of rainfall. Placing the sandbox in an elevated area and at a slight slope helps keep the sand from becoming waterlogged.

In terms of size, an 8-foot by 8-foot sandbox should be suitable for two children. If you're expecting to have neighborhood kids visiting regularly, you may wish to make it slightly bigger. If space is an issue, you may want to opt for something smaller.

Gather Tools and Materials

To build a DIY sandbox, you will need:

  • Pre-cut lumber
  • Chalk or spray for marking the area
  • Tape measure
  • Play sand
  • Shovel
  • Framing square
  • Large sheet of landscape fabric
  • Construction adhesive
  • Clamps
  • Deck screws or brackets

Build the Sandbox: Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Draw up some sandbox plans so you know the size and shape that will fit your lawn. Then, measure and mark out the layout of the sandbox using chalk or marking spray.
  2. Using a shovel, cut out the area you want for the sandbox and remove the sod. Use a framing square to confirm the sandbox corners are square.
  3. Measure the length and width of the sandbox area. This helps you know what boards to buy. For example, if you want a sandbox that's 4 feet wide by 5 feet long, you would need 4-foot boards and 5-foot boards. Use boards that are high and thick enough to form a sandbox side, such as 2-inch by 6-inch boards or 4-inch by 4-inch timbers.
  4. Frame out what the sandbox will look like in terms of dimensions by laying the boards on the ground as you plan to assemble them. Then, dig a small depression in the ground within the sandbox. You want it to be around 6 inches deep.
  5. Complete the sandbox frame by squaring up the pieces in the hole and attaching them. You can use a variety of methods for this. One way is to use metal brackets to screw the pieces together. Another is to overlap other pieces of wood and use them as brackets. Lowe’s recommends using deck screws to attach the pieces. Whatever method you decide to use to tie your frame together depends on your aesthetic preferences and how long you want the sandbox to stay in place.
  6. Line your sandbox floor with landscape fabric. You don't want the sand to mix in with the dirt below, and a liner also discourages bugs and worms from making their way into the sandbox. You should add the liner for the sandbox before adding the second or third level of the frame. Cover the sandbox area with landscape fabric, ensuring that the fabric also covers your wood frame.
  7. Add another level of wood. Increase the height of the sandbox by adding another level of wood to the frame. The number of layers depends on how deep the sandbox will be and the width of the wood you’re using. In most cases, you’ll add two or three levels.
  8. Press the landscape fabric down all around the frame to ensure it's snug, then lay another piece of wood over the frame to secure it. After you lay and secure the final part of the frame, the sandbox structure is complete.

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Filling the Sandbox

To fill the sandbox with an appropriate amount of sand, you’ll need to know the area of the box. Multiply the length times the width to get that number. In the case of the 4-foot by 5-foot sandbox described above, the area would be 20 square feet.

Then, figure out how deep your sandbox is. If you stacked two sets of 4-inch by 4-inch timbers to make your sandbox frame, you have a sandbox that is about 8 inches deep. To completely fill your sandbox, you might want 8 inches of sand. Adjust the numbers if you don’t want your sandbox to be full to the top.

Next, you need to know the volume of the area you need to fill in. First, convert the depth to feet by dividing the number of inches you want by 12. In the example of an 8-inch depth, that would be 0.67 feet.

Multiply the square footage by that number. For example, if the sandbox was 20 square feet and you wanted 8 inches of depth:

20 x 0.67 = 13.4 cubic feet

According to Hunker, play sand typically comes in 50-pound bags. Those bags contain around half a cubic foot of sand each. So if you're buying sand to fill our example sandbox, you would need around 27 of these 50-pound bags.

Covering the Sandbox

It's a good idea to make a sandbox with a cover. There are a few ways of doing this. For a small sandbox, you could use a tarp or canvas. You may be able to stretch this over the box and secure it with bungee cords hooked around yard stakes.

For bigger sandboxes, a wooden lid may be a better option. One very simple option for a wooden frame is to take two old door frames and attach one on each side of the box using hinges. If you can't get doors that are the right size, you can make your own covers using the same cedar wood you used for your DIY sandbox.

Sandbox FAQs

Why Choose Cedar?

Cedar is a good choice for your sandbox because it is a child-friendly wood that is highly resistant to rot. This means even if you forget to cover the sandbox or the sand becomes waterlogged due to heavy rain, you won't have to worry about the frame rotting. Cedar is also resistant to insects.

Should You Stain Your Wood Sandbox?

Staining the wood helps make it last even longer by offering extra protection against the elements.

Will Water Pool in Your Sandbox?

Water may seep through sand and the landscape fabric under the sand. Landscape fabric is designed to allow water to pass through. If you're concerned about water pooling in your yard, consider installing a French drain. This is another relatively simple DIY project that can help stop your yard from becoming waterlogged, keeping your sandbox dry.