The kids’ playhouse

From a very early age, I have been obsessed with building small spaces. I turned couch cushions into forts, cardboard appliance boxes into bunkers and tunnels and built a small subdivision of treehouses on our property in New Hampshire. I scrounged materials from wherever I could find them.

This, combined with my rather modest building skills, has made me a huge fan of sheds. They’re easy and simple to build. They don’t cost much and often you can get away with slipping in some free material you’ve found on Craigslist.

But you can only build so many sheds before the neighbors start complaining, so this spring, when our granddaughter turned 3 (and her brother 1) I decided the time was right to build them a playhouse.

I did some research online and was amazed at what was out there — for a mere $6,000, you too can have a miniaturized reproduction colonial, complete with double-hung windows and vinyl siding.

Setting my sights (and budget) considerably lower, I came up with a 4′ x 8′ house that incorporates a 2′ porch. I prefabbed the walls in my basement workshop using 2 x 3 studs and 3/8″ T-111 siding.

(Only after I completed the walls did it dawn on me to check whether they’d fit through the substandard-sized entrance to the basement. They did, but just barely).

I was particularly excited about the project, because it would allow me to use up a lot of scrap wood and plywood that had accumulated in the basement. Not only was it going to be easy, but it was going to be cheap!

Then Sue got involved. A box with a roof wouldn’t do. It had to have windows. And you can’t have windows without shutters. Or trim. Or flowerboxes. Or paint. Jeesh, what’s next, wiring, plumbing and an inspection from the code enforcement officer? I never had any of this in my treehouses.

But in the end, it turned out mighty fine. I followed Sue’s directives on the trim work and she did all the color choice and painting — which took longer than the actual construction.

We got all the pieces in the back of my truck (just barely, which I pointed out to Sue, justified my decision to replace my wee-little Ranger with the Tundra) and hauled them down to the kids place in Connecticut. It took Sam and myself about six hours to assemble the walls, put the roof in place, install the trim and plant the flowers (well, Sue did that).

And given that my “plans” consisted of some very rough sketches and I never pre-assembled the structure before hauling it down, the assembly went remarkably well. I only had to use the sawzall once to make some “adjustments”.