DIY Dad Quoted £3,800 For Kids’ Playhouse Builds A Better One For £800
- Rich Saunders, 40, didn't want to spend thousands on a playhouse for his daughter, so built his own with the help of online tutorials
- The luxury playhouse features real slate roof tiles, its own guttering, a cosy split-level sleeping nook, soft carpet, heating and electricity
- Pretty playhouse is a hit on social media, with 6k likes and 1,200 comments on Facebook
As a child, having your own playhouse to escape to is a dream come true – especially if it has a split-level design with a cosy sleeping nook, heating, a luxury carpet and a TV on the wall.
This is exactly what Rich Saunders, 40, from Dorset, created for his two-year-old daughter. He built the playhouse from scratch in approximately 40 hours spread over evenings and weekends with the help of online tutorials. What's more, he saved an impressive £3,000 in the process.
“My wife Sophie had a playhouse built for her as a child and wanted our daughter to have the same experience, so that was the drive behind it,” says Rich, who works in digital forensics.
“We were quoted £3,800 by a tradesman to build one, however that was just for a bare shell. Plus, it wasn’t as tall as the one I ended up making,” he told money-saving community LatestDeals.co.uk. “We simply couldn’t afford to spend that much on it.”
Rich started thinking about the possibility of making his own version, bringing his passion for DIY to the fore.
“I do have an insatiable itch to constantly be doing something,” he says. “I love DIY of any kind, whether it’s working on the car or gardening, but my favourite pastime is building stuff.
“When we moved into our house two years ago I built myself a shed, so I thought that constructing a playhouse wouldn’t be too different.
“I started working out where I wanted it to go and drew up some very rough plans. I knew in the back of my head that these would go out of the window when I started building, however, as that’s how my brain works.”
As a starting point, Rich picked up some 3 x 2m timbers from B&Q for the shell.
“I’m not a tradesman, so I was forced to go down the normal route of acquiring these materials. It’s more expensive than a tradesman would be able to get them for, but I didn’t have a choice there,” he says.
“I started by working out how big I wanted the playhouse to be so that it didn’t take up too much of our quite small garden. I marked out an area and removed the grass and topsoil on the plot where I wanted it to go. Next, I mixed some sand and cement and made a base using reclaimed patio slabs.
“This dictated the size of the frame I was able to build, which was 2.4m wide by 1.8m deep and just under 2m in height.”
Rich found constructing the shell relatively easy, although factoring in the door and windows took some quick thinking.
“I worked out the size of the window and doors by scaling down how big the doors and windows are on a normal-sized house,” he says. “The timber around these areas was cut bespoke, as I wasn’t following any specific plans or instructions.”
Rich also turned to online tutorials to help him construct the rafters.
“I watched countless YouTube videos on how to construct a roof and which materials to use to make it waterproof,” he says. “This included figuring out what kind of protective coating needed to be applied to ensure it wouldn’t rot within the next couple of years.”
To give the playhouse a luxury look, Rich added shatterproof glass windows and real slate roof tiles.
“I sourced the slate tiles from Gumtree for £20, which was an absolute bargain,” he reveals. “The windows were more of a challenge. With safety in mind, I used normal glass instead of Perspex, but as I knew children would be playing in it, I did some online research and found a company who could supply clear laminated sheets that I could add to both sides of the glass. This means that if the glass were to break, there would be no splinters and the whole pane of glass would stay intact.”
Structure finished, Rich gave the playhouse a lick of paint in a country cottage style shade of green with white for the doors and windows. The playhouse even has its own guttering and two pretty window boxes.
“I was really proud of the finished look of the house,” says Rich. “I love the colour, and the grey slate roof makes the white door and windows stand out. But for me, the fun really began when I could set about creating a dream environment inside.
“I added an upstairs nook that she could climb up to with friends. It’s possible that she may like to camp out there and even sleepover when she’s a bit older.
“I finished the house towards the end of the summer, and it was okay to play out there at that time of the year. However, the evenings start to get colder from September so I knew that I would want an electricity supply to provide some heating.
“A friend of mine, who is an electrician, kindly and professionally installed a couple of plug sockets so that we could use a plug-in heater. He also popped in a couple of lights, which meant she could carry on playing even when it was dark outside. The TV inside was a Gumtree special.”
The final finishing touch was a fluffy carpet, which was from an off-cut found on Gumtree.
“I was keen to include it so the playhouse had a luxury feel and could be used all-year-round, even on those cold winter days,” he says.
“I budgeted around £500 for the project initially, although this was a figure plucked from thin air,” he says. “It ended up costing me £800 in total.”
Going a bit over budget was more than worth it for the end result.
“My daughter is absolutely in love with her little house,” he says. “Even when the weather is miserable outside we can go there, pop the heating on and feel like we are away somewhere magical.
“I always knew I wanted the playhouse to be cute, which was my wife’s desire, but in my head I also wanted it to be a place she could also learn while having fun with the both of us, as well as her friends.
"As she grows older, I think she will come to realise how special it is and I can see her having years of fun out there with her friends, and maybe one day a brother or sister.
“I’m so happy with positive feedback I have received about the project. I posted some details about it in two Facebook groups I’m in and got a total of 6k likes and 1,200 comments all praising the work. It was a crazy positive reaction, which was so lovely.”
Rich puts his great result down to a childhood experience that inspired him.
“I have never had any kind of training for this kind of thing,” he says. “In fact, I spend my days office bound, which is probably why I have an insatiable urge to get outside and do something with my hands.
“When I was 10, my family had a loft conversion built completely out of timber and my uncle played a huge part in the build. I was completely fascinated with what he could achieve with just some links of wood so I guess that’s where my love for this kind of thing originated.
“My advice to other people would be: don’t be put off. There are so many tutorials online that show you how to achieve different projects. I would never have been able to afford to have somebody build me one or supply something like this.
"The reward you get from doing it yourself in the evenings and at weekends, and seeing your child’s face when it’s all finished is a feeling that money can’t buy. Plus, you’ll know it has been built with love.”
Tom Church, Co-Founder of LatestDeals.co.uk comments: “Rich’s playhouse is the stuff that dreams are made of and a brilliant gift from dad to daughter.
“If the shop-bought or professionally made versions are out of your budget, it's well worth investigating the DIY route.
“Always seek professional advice when it comes to added extras, such as an electricity supply, to ensure the safety aspect is well covered.”
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