The Wild West Comes to the Backyard!

Is there any child who doesn’t like a fort or cubby house to play in? This western saloon would surely never go empty!

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Rustic Kids Fort

This fort was inspired by saloon style playhouses sold online. But instead of buying. the owners decided to build their own, and created a simple structural plan.

Recycled pine fence palings and cedar wood were used in this project which makes it nice and sturdy. It will last until little kids are too grown to play in it. The use of recycled materials also lessens the cost.

Working on free evenings and weekends, and with help from the kids, this project was finished in three and a half months. You too can build this together with your kids. It’s a great project to get them interested in planning  and building their own playhouse.

Materials:

Timber:

  • 3/4″ x 4’x8′ Plywood (for floor) and 1/2″ (for roof)
  • 2″x4″x8′ Pressure Treated Pine Studs (for framing)
  • 5/8″x5.5″x6′ Pressure Treated Pine Fence Boards (for siding)
  • 2″x2″x8′ Pine (for inside of ceiling)
  • 4″x4″ x 8′ Pressure Treated Pine Posts (for porch posts)
  • Rough Red Cedar Fence Boards (for trim around windows and door)
  • Smooth Cedar Board (for sign)

Roofing:

  • Black Felt Roofing Paper
  • Cedar Shingles
  • Roofing Nails

Other materials:

  • Concrete Deck Blocks
  • Ground Anchors, Bolts and Washers
  • Deck Screws – multiple sizes
  • Plexiglass
  • Western Decorations
  • Two Brackets used to hold 4×4 posts to porch (the type used in deck construction)

Tools:

  • Powered Miter Saw
  • Router, table and round-over bit
  • Circular or Table Saw
  • Cordless drill and bits
  • Electric Jigsaw
  • Measuring tape, chalkline, hammer, level, square, and other basic construction tools.
  • Wood burner
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Steps:

You are going to do a little digging – probably not deep enough to hit gold, but who knows for sure… This is a good time to teach your minor miners that digging into a power line is not just annoying to those who might lose service, it could be life threatening. Pick up the phone before you dig to have those sparky sidewinders marked.

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The floor is an 8’x8′ frame made from pressure treated pine that is covered with two sheets of 3/4″ plywood. Everything is screwed together.   A wood fort is an all-you-can-eat termite buffet, you ain’t gonna want part of the frame to touch the ground. We raised ours and made it level by digging holes for four concrete deck blocks initially, but much later discovered with the weight of the fort, we should have used six. We used a little sand in the base of the holes to help with leveling. As shown in our plans, make sure the front wall of the fort will line up with a floor joist.

TO ANCHOR OR NOT? The fort is a solid, heavy beast, but we live in Kansas and, you guessed it, it gets windy here. To keep Dorothy from blowing away to Oz, we secured the fort floor to the ground with four corkscrew anchors.

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Next, we framed the walls on a hard, smooth surface in the garage according to the plans. After the frames were completed, little hands grabbed one end and we skedaddled to the backyard, laid them on the ground, snapped this photo, then stole some horses.

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Make sure the posse is back outside for this step, because you’ll really need their help holding things still and true. This is a good time to teach them how a level works, and why being “square” is a good thing. Since you can’t stand there holding the walls up forever… screw the frames together and to the floor. Supervised, my 10 year-old was getting pretty good with the cordless drill by now.

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ROUTE TIL YOU DROP: The good news is that pine fence boards are not that expensive. The bad news is that fence boards laid in a row right next to each other look like… well, a fence! To give it a log cabin look, we used a router (mounted to a table) and a brand new round-over bit. We ran the boards through so the outside edges would be rounded off – the profile of the fence board will look like a letter “D” as in “Dodge City”.   When running fence boards across the router, you can count on generating enough nasty dust and wood shavings to make your garage floor look like a stable. This stuff, if inhaled, can make you sick. Be sure to wear a dust mask and safety goggles.

And be patient. This monotonous step took several sunsets to complete.

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We bandits attached the routed fence boards, cut to length, with screws.  Don’t use nails, when fence boards get wet, then dry, they’ll pop loose quicker than a buttoned shirt on Thanksgiving.

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We started with the bottom and worked our way up. We alternated the lengths of the boards at the corners, as pictured. Fence boards aren’t as straight as Tonto’s arrows, so count on having some gaps between the boards, and check ’em periodically with the level. Meanwhile, you can also frame your homestead’s roof and attach. A notch in the joists can help hold it square and in place.

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Next, we framed the porch cover, added a plywood roof, robbed a train and drank a shot of whiskey.

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The problem we saw with nailing shingles is the roofing nails need to be long enough to hold the shingles in high winds… but at the correct length the tips of the nails come through the plywood. To address this, after stapling the black felt roofing paper to the top of the roof, we struck chalk likes on the roof to mark where the nails would go, then transferred that measurement to the underside of the roof. We individually measured and cut 2×2 boards and screwed them to the joists. Now, we have protected the Sheriff from scraping her head on a nail.

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We stapled black felt roofing paper to the roof, and had our nail lines marked. We used cedar shingles for the roof, and created the effect shown here by alternating the width and position of the shingles.

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Your fort needs a name. Get the kids involved in picking a good one that any self-respecting, pistol-toting outlaw would be proud to call their own. Once my varmints picked a name, we found a font we liked and printed it on card stock, cut it out and traced it on a piece of cedar. Then, using a wood burning tool, I traced the edges and filled in the letters in a rustic pattern.

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While you are taking in the sweet fumes of burning cedar, demonstrate how to safely handle the hot wood burning tool, and if your kids are old enough, let them give it a shot. Finally, at high noon, quick draw that cordless drill out of your holster and pepper the sign with bullet holes. Next… hang him!

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To trim the door frames, I used rough cedar fence boards. For a little character, using a jigsaw, I cut a curvy line down the middle, going around any knots in the wood. These were nailed in place.  The saloon doors were created from scraps of the standard pine fence boards.

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The bell, lantern, antlers and other decorations you see are things we picked up at thrift stores while we were working on the project.

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We turned the antler tips so they touched the wall and fastened securely to make sure there is no possible way an antler can poke an unsuspecting bandit.

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We added plexiglass to the side windows which can be open and shut by sliding them along groves. Plexiglass keeps the water out, but scratches and does not age well.

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You don’t have to spend a lot of money for the kids to enjoy a playhouse. You just need to be resourceful and work with materials that are found around you. And with a bit of help from the kids  😉

If you’d like to view the plans for the DIY Kids Fort, you’ll find them here. Note that the above project varies from the roof plans shown.

Thanks to jhawkins14 for this great project.

 

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This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. My grandkids would be over the moon with such an outpost! Thanks for sharing.

  2. This is awesome! What lucky kids. Hope to one day build one for my son.

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