Instructables

2-Story Cardboard Clubhouse

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With a young and active child at home, it's challenging to keep her busy and entertained.

While we have a nice park not too far away, it's still a trip in the car just to get there. The backyard is somewhat bare, although it's starting now to fill up with DIY playground equipment, such as the 5-Gallon Bucket Swing and Soda Bottle Sprinkler.

While I was busy working on another project, I realized how much cardboard "waste" I was going to have. Rather than drop it off at the recycling center, why not make it into a fort or clubhouse or something else fun for the Little Girl? Anything that could keep her entertained for a while would also make The Wife much happier as well.

So, instead of just "throwing away" a bunch of cardboard, I turned it into an opportunity for some family fun and DIY backyard good times!

By the time I was done, this really became three projects in one - the two-story clubhouse, the cardboard tube ladder, and even a cardboard slide!

So come along. Let's build the Cardboard Clubhouse!
 
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Step 1: Tools and Materials

To build the clubhouse, you'll need lots of cardboard and a few tools!

Materials:
  • Two or more large cardboard boxes, such as appliances come in, extra thick cardboard is good.
  • Roof material - more cardboard or salvaged/recycled specialty material
  • Zip Ties - I like the 8" black ones, and I always buy an extra bag whenever I see them on sale.
  • Short Drywall or Wood Screws
  • Long Drywall or Wood Screws
  • 2x4 lumber to frame the slide
  • Wood glue, School glue, or Hot glue and gun

Tools:
  • A good sharp knife - razor, pocket knife, or kitchen steak knife
  • Small Hand-saw (such as a drywall saw)
  • Side-cutter (for clipping zip-ties)
  • Cordless Drill and bits (5/16" and 3/4")
  • (Optional) Cordless Reciprocating saw
  • Circular Saw (for wood framing)
I found that this cardboard was so thick, it made sense just to go straight to power-tools. For example, I couldn't punch a hole in the cardboard with an awl. It was much easier simply to use a cordless drill to drill a hole instead.

To cut the cardboard, a steak knife works fine. A drywall saw worked very well. A cordless "Sawzall" type saw worked great, although noisier than the other options. My best pocket-knife worked best for straight cuts. A razor blade utility knife will NOT work as well as you think - the cardboard is just too thick.

Start thinking of the cardboard more like wood or drywall and you'll get a better sense of how to cut and build with it.

Also, remember how powerful glue can be. I only used glue on the ladder in this project, but wood glue can be amazingly powerful when used on strong cardboard. Consider gluing layers of cardboard anywhere you need extra strength. Triangles and arches can hold up nearly anything.

Project Cost: ZERO!
It didn't cost me a cent. The entire project was made from left-over cardboard, a few wood scraps, and fasteners I already had. When the clubhouse falls apart or isn't fun anymore, it will just be recycled.
rrkrose2 years ago
Really cool but the roof kind of makes it look like a port a potty. LOL. Still looks super fun!
bennelson (author)  rrkrose2 years ago
Ha ha. Yes, but it smells MUCH nicer!
I am sure it does! Great work!
With busy little minds, the next project is for her to paint it! Since the whole clubhouse is upcycled, there's no way to mess up -- it can only get better and better.
lime3D2 years ago
When I was a kid, my mom and I build a Kool-aid stand out of a refridgerator box. Now that I think about it, it was shaped sort of like a port-a-john, but with a large window and counter.

Because, as you said, cardboard is not water-proof, we painted the whole thing with oil-based enamel paint. We kept it in the garage when not in use, and wheeled it out to the sidewalk to sell Kool-aid in the summer. I enjoyed it for years!
heathbar642 years ago
SWEET!!!
Forget the child, I want this!
A skylight...awesome!
This is really cool. But i live in MA, and even if it didn't rain, the humidity would kill this project in a day or two. :)
I love this! This is what I always wanted as a kid. I remember having a fridge box for a few weeks once and only wanting more fridge boxes. :P