Sandboxes bring back memories of long summer days of building and burying and learning through play. Playing in sand helps to develop motor skills and hand-eye co-ordination. Every small child loves to spend time in a sandbox so why not build your own. With a sandbox placed in the right spot in your garden, your children will have hours of fun in the sun.
The wood that you choose for your sandbox must be strong, durable and weather resistant. Dense wood is best as you do not want the wood to chip or splinter. Splintered or chipped wood could injure a child.
We have gathered the information that will assist you in making the correct choices when it comes to choosing the best wood for your sandbox. We explain how to make the box, liner and cover and we offer you some tips on maintaining the sandbox for good health durability.
Table of Contents
The Best Wood To Use For Making Your Sandbox
Heartwood, also known as duramen, is the dense dead wood found in the deepest part of the trunk of a tree. It is hard and durable and is resistant to decay. When making a sandbox that will be open to the elements ensure that the wood that you purchase is heartwood. It is easily recognizable as it is darker, richer color than the softer sapwood that surrounds it.
Available timber will differ, depending on where you are situated so visit your local sawmill when making the choice of what timber to use for your sandbox. Most sawmills employ trained personnel who can help you to choose the most suitable wood for your purposes.
Ipe ironwood, white oak and osage orange are all types of timber that will withstand rot and moisture. They are also hard and durable and will not easily chip or splinter. Black locust is another really good choice. It is very hard so the screw holes must be pre-drilled but it will last a long time if well looked after.
Redwood, cedar and cypress are among the most durable timbers that you can find. They are also resistant to termites.
Although durable, cypress is not the most water resistant of the three types of wood. It also tends to lose its shape, warping if it gets wet. Since you won’t want to move the sandbox every time you expect rain, cypress is probably not the best timber for the job.
Redwood is a softer timber and is prone to splintering so it also takes a backseat in the choice you should make.
Cedar is one of the most popular timbers used in the manufacture of sandboxes. It is not as expensive as the other two durable timbers. It is a hardwood so it resists splintering and, unlike cypress, it can withstand moisture.
The only downside to cedar is that it is not the strongest timber you can find. You can, however, overcome this shortfall by making braces for the corners of the box, giving it strength.
Wood That Should Not Be Used For A Sandbox
One of the choices that you will have to make when buying wood for your sandbox is whether to buy treated or untreated wood. Treated wood is steeped in chemicals and since you plan to use it for a child’s play area you should carefully consider the chemicals to which it has been exposed. Some of the chemicals that are used to treat wood are very toxic and should not be used.
If you decided to go the untreated route you should ensure that you buy a sturdy wood that is rot and water resistant. Painting or varnishing the wood will help to protect it from the elements.
Cover That Sandbox
Your sandbox must be kept covered whenever it is not in use. This will ensure that it remains clean and sterile for longer. It will also ensure that the sand remains dry. Animal droppings and plant matter can accumulate in the sand and this can, in turn, create a health hazard for your children.
The cover must have the same attributes as the sandbox. It must be durable, weather resistant and it must not rot or absorb moisture. This means that you can make the cover with the same type of wood that you chose for the box. Alternatively, you can select plastics or tarpaulin. The cover that you make should completely cover the box.
Covers are also available at hardware or toy stores and online. The quality of the available covers is generally good.
Plywood is a relatively cheap option for making a cover. It is easy to obtain, and it is environmentally friendly. It will however warp and rot when it gets wet and the moisture will destroy it over time.
A plastic tarp is a good option. It is lighter than plywood making it easier for you to cover and uncover the sandbox. It is also quick and easy to cut the tarp to a size that fits the sandbox. If fitted correctly a tarp will keep the sand in the box perfectly dry.
Place something in the centre of the sandbox so that you can steeple the tarp and all the excess water will run off. Plastic tarps are easy to find and relatively inexpensive. You can use Velcro to attach the tarp to the top of the sandbox to keep it covered.
One last note if the sand in the sandbox becomes wet at any time give it time to dry before you cover it up. Water left in the box will become smelly and create a health hazard.
How To Build a Sandbox
Here are our plans for building a Sandbox
- Choose Location
Carefully choose the spot where you want to place the sandbox. It should be in the line of sight. A level area is advisable. An area that gets sunshine and a little shade are best.
- Gather your supplies
You will need: Wood, Landscaping fabric (optional), Brass wood screws, Primer and paint or oil stain, Play Sand, A circular or jig saw, Drill and bits.
- Determine Measurement
Determine the size of your sandbox and then subtract the width of the timber to calculate the length of each piece of timber. You will need three pieces of timber for each side of the sandbox.
- Outline the Shape of the Sandbox
Arrange the wood into the shape of the sandbox, butt jointing each of the logs. Let the natural curve of the wood face inwards. Use the screws most appropriate to the wood that you have chosen and a power drill.
- Make the Sandbox Bottom
Your sandbox does not have to have a floor, but if you choose to forego the floor you run the risk of the frame warping and pulling apart over time. If you decide to go with the floor the job is easily accomplished using interlocking boards. Drill several drain holes into the base of the sandbox.
- Nail landscraping fabric if you’re not using a wooden floor.
If you have chosen not to make a wooden floor. Cut four ninety-degree triangles and fit one to each corner as a brace. Nail landscaping fabric to the base of the sandbox.
- Painting the outside of box
Prop the sandbox up to paint the outside walls with primer and non-toxic paint or varnish it and enjoy the rustic beauty of the wood.
- Painting the inside of the box
Place the sand box back on the ground and paint the inside walls in a similar fashion.
- Fill the box with sand
Fill the box with twenty to thirty bags of play sand. Make sure that the sand that you use is play grade sand. Other sand could contain fillers like clay which can stain the clothing. Play grade sand is also easier to keep clean and doesn’t form lumps. It has a low abrasion texture and is non-toxic.
The Best Finish For A Sandbox
Since your sandbox is intended for use by children care should be taken in choosing the finish for the sandbox. Ensure that any paints that you choose are non-toxic.
An oil-based stain is also a good choice as it lets the beauty of the wood show through, and it will blend beautifully into the surroundings. The oil in the stain will also offer the wood the required protection from the elements.
The Best Sandbox Liner
If you have chosen to forego the wooden base on you sandbox you will need a liner for the box.
Landscaping fabric is the best material for this purpose. Just make sure that it is not too tightly secured or you could find that the weight in the box could result in the liner breaking.
Whatever fabric you use, must allow the water to escape otherwise when the sand gets wet the water will remain in the box and can stagnate and become smelly.
This is why a plastic liner is not suitable.
How To Maintain Your Sandbox
It is important for the health of your children that your sandbox is regularly maintained.
Never allow animals to play in the sandbox.
Ensure that children who are not yet potty trained are wearing a diaper when they get into the sandbox. Diapers should be changed regularly to prevent leakage.
Do not allow children to eat in the sandbox. Food debris in the sand can result in bacteria and fungus and will attract animals and insects into the box.
How Often Should You Clean Your Sandbox?
How often you clean the sandbox will depend on how often it is used. Frequently used sandboxes should be cleaned at least once a week. Use a rake or litter box scoop to search through the sand looking for lumps or foreign objects.
Replace the sand every year!
If you notice splinters in the wood, sand it down before the splinters cause injury
With basic routine maintenance such as a regular lick of paint, your sandbox should look good for years, keeping your children busy and teaching them new skills.
Have you made a sandbox recently? Send a picture to firstname.lastname@example.org and we might showcase your creation!