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Build a Sandbox

Keep your children engaged in simple, clean fun for hours by building them a sandbox. All you need is a little space, a weekend and some basic carpentry skills.

Completed sandbox with toys.

Planning Your Sandbox

The location of the sandbox is often determined by where you have space available. The eight-foot by eight-foot frame we're building takes up 64 square feet. You may be pleased to have less yard to mow, but if you can't spare the space, work with a smaller sandbox in the area that you have. The plans below can easily be re-sized to fit your space.

Sun or shade? Remember that a sandbox in full sun means the youngsters are exposed to UV rays. On the other hand, placement directly under a tree requires cutting tree roots when digging. At best this is a difficult task. It could also damage or kill the tree. Look for a spot that receives some shade from the house or from nearby trees. For safety's sake, locate the sandbox where you can keep an eye on the youngsters while they're playing.

When planning the size, make room for dump trucks, sand buckets and the neighbors' kids. Remember that you're going to have to put sand in it — perhaps a lot of sand. The example we're using requires 32 cubic feet of sand (about 64 fifty-pound bags). If this sounds like too much, you can easily reduce the dimensions. The bracing and corner assembly construction will be the same regardless of the length and width.

Which Material to Use?

Cedar is referenced in the materials list above, but not available everywhere. There are other suitable products you can use. Since sandboxes often will only be used a few years, you can use hardwood or softwood boards. Treated lumber is also an option, just make sure it's safe for use around humans, pets, plants and vegetables.  

Good to Know

When planning a location, remember your sandbox probably won't be a permanent fixture. When the kids outgrow it, convert the area back to lawn or a make a new flower bed.

Preparing the Site

Sandbox parts.

When you've decided on site and size, measure, mark and prepare the area.

Step 1

Use mason string and stakes to mark the layout of the sandbox.

Step 2

Cut out the shape with a shovel and remove the sod. You can use it to cover any bare spots in your yard.

Step 3

Dig out the soil. You'll want the bottom edge of the sandbox slightly below the surface to help keep the walls in place. Level the cleared area if necessary.

Step 4

Put down a layer of landscape fabric (not plastic) to allow drainage and prevent weeds and grass from popping up through the sand.

Cutting and Assembling the Pieces

To minimize cuts, we're building our sandbox from 8-foot lumber. Cedar is waterproof, attractive and approved for ground contact. To get the depth we need (about 11 inches), the 1 x 6 boards (which are actually 5-1/2 inches wide) require joining.

Step 1

Square and cut four of the 1 x 6 boards to 8-foot lengths.


Wear a dust mask and eye protection when cutting or sanding lumber.

Step 2

Use construction adhesive to edge glue two pairs of 8-foot boards. Clamp and allow the adhesive to cure according to the manufacturer's instructions. The glued 8-foot boards are sides A and C of the sandbox.

Step 3

Cut eight 10-inch pieces from one of the 1 x 3 boards. These are the inside supports.

Step 4

Use 1-1/4-inch deck screws to secure one inside support at each end of each glued 8-foot. board. The 10-inch 1-by boards should be on the inside face, flush with the ends of the 8-foot boards.

Step 5

Square and cut four of the 1-by boards to 7-foot, 9-inch lengths.

Step 6

Use construction adhesive to edge glue two pairs of 7-foot, 9-inch boards. Clamp and allow the adhesive to cure according to the manufacturer's instructions. The glued 7-foot, 9-inch boards are sides B and D of the sandbox.

Step 7

Secure one inside support at each end of each glued 7-foot, 9-inch board (see Step 4).

Step 8

Cut the remaining 1-by boards into 20-inch lengths. You should have twelve 20-inch 1 x 3s.

Step 9

Cut one end of each 20-inch 1 x 3 to a point. The 20-inch 1-bys will serve as stakes for the sides of the sandbox.

Step 10

Finish all of the pieces with an extrior stain.

Final Assembly of Your Sandbox

Assembled corner of the sandbox.

Step 1

Stand one of the 8-foot side-pieces on edge and butt the end of one of the 7-foot, 9-inch pieces to the inside support on the 8-foot piece. Drive 3-inch deck screws through the 8-inch piece into the 7-foot, 9-inch piece. Do the same on opposite end of the 8-foot piece. Remember to keep the inside supports facing the inside of the sandbox.

Step 2

Attach the second 8-foot piece to the 7-foot, 9-inch piece the same way as the first and square the sandbox. Secure the two halves together to complete the box.

Step 3

Drive three stakes into the ground along the outside of each side of the sandbox. Position the first stake centered on the side-piece. Position the other two stakes two feet to the left and right of the first. Drive each stake so its top is flush with the top edge of the side-piece.

Step 4

Drive 1-1/4-inch deck screws through the stakes into the side-pieces. The stakes help reinforce the sides of the sandbox and keep it square.

Step 5

Sand lightly if needed to prevent splinters.

Bringing in the Sand

You'll need to know the volume of the box before buying sand.

Length x Width x Height = Volume

Example: For our box, 8 x 8 x 1= 64

The volume of the sandbox is therefore 64 cubic feet. Prepackaged, bagged sand is available. Usually called play sand, it's most likely washed river sand, which is smoother and cleaner than builder's sand. A fifty-pound bag is about one half of a cubic foot, so 64 bags should fill it about halfway. Leave room in the box for toy dump trucks, buckets, shovels and the kids. You can always buy a few more bags of sand to add if needed.

Covering the Sandbox

It's advisable to cover the sandbox when it's not in use. Cats are especially fond of sandboxes. Covers also keep moisture out while reducing leaves and other debris that make their way into the sand. The perfect homemade sandbox cover is perhaps yet to be invented, but here are some options:

  • Plastic tarps are quick, inexpensive covers; however, they will blow off unless attached by snaps, bungee cords or rope. Tarps may also fill with water after a rain. Try putting a five-gallon bucket upside down in the middle of the sandbox. The peak will allow water to drain off of the tarp and keep it from sagging.
  • Lattice is an inexpensive alternative, available in wood or plastic. While it might keep the cats out, it won't keep out water and may break if stepped on.
  • Metal screen, hardware cloth or chicken wire can be attached to a wooden frame. This cover keeps debris out but won't keep out water.
  • Sheets of exterior grade plywood can be cut to fit and laid on top of the frame. Attach the plywood to the frame with hinges if you prefer.

Finished Project

Finished sandbox.

Here is the completed sandbox. An alternate version in the main image above has two boards added for seating.