Introduction: Build a Model Cardboard House

In this project we will be building a model house out of cardboard! Having a visual representation or model of structures can make it a lot easier for people to understand your design. This project is particularly for students in grades 9-12 - at the high school level students should already have a lot of experience in recognizing different structures, but we want to look at these structures in greater depth. One aspect of this is having students design structures and make models of them, which is what we will focus on in this project.

The plan here is to use a common/ easily-available object as a sort of pre-fabricated structure and then build off of it. In particular this project uses a tissue box, which we can imagine as a shed or popular tiny home or other structure, and then we will alter that structure to give it a new intended use: a larger inhabitable space.

This project works with STL #20 which states that "students will develop an understanding of and be able to select and use construction technologies."

We will look specifically at benchmarks M and N:

M. Structures require maintenance, alteration, or renovation periodically to improve them or to alter their intended use.

N. Structures can include pre-fabricated materials.

Learning Objectives:

- Learn the importance of alterations and renovations in construction, and why they might be necessary

- Utilize tools to produce a visual model of a structure

Step 1: Gathering Materials

For this project you will need:

- Tissue box
- Scrap cardboard/ cardboard boxes
- Printer paper
- Liquid glue & glue sticks
- Ruler
- X-Acto knife
- Pen
- Pencil
- Scissors

Cost Estimation:





X-Acto knife.........$3.67

Step 2: Sketching & Planning

The tissue box being utilized is 4-3/8" x 4-3/8" x 5", so we want to try and keep this scale when building our house. I have designed a two-story house that will almost triple the width of our "pre-fabricated structure" (the tissue box) and meet the requirements of a larger inhabitable space. The sketch above gives elevation views of each side of the house (front, right, back, and left) as well as measurements of walls lengths and planned location of windows and doors.

Step 3: Measuring Out the Pieces

Once we have the plan of what we want the house to look like and how big it will be, we can start transferring that information to the cardboard. Use a ruler to measure out the correct dimensions for each piece, and use a pencil to mark those dimension lines.

We will have 8 pieces for the base of the house:
- One 11-7/8” x 11-1/2”
- One 6” x 11-1/2”
- One 8-1/4” x 10-1/2”
- One 5-3/4” x 10-1/2”
- One 1-1/2” x 10-1/2”
- One 4-3/8” x 5-1/2”
- Two 3-1/8” x 6-1/2”

Use the scissors to cut out each of these pieces, and optionally use the X-Acto knife to trim off any jagged edges. As you cut out each piece it is a good idea to write the dimensions of them on their backs so that they can be easily found later on.

(Our roof pieces will be measured and cut out in a later step.)

Step 4: Cut Out Space for the Roof

Several of our pieces will need to be cut at an angle to make room for the slope of the roof we are going to construct. Start with the 6” x 11-1/2” piece - mark at the top of the piece where the midpoint is, which should be at 3”. We will draw a horizontal line an inch (1”) down from the top of the piece, and the draw a diagonal line on either side from the midpoint down to the endpoints of that line. Then cut off the two triangles made in each corner.

This same process will be repeated for 3 other pieces.

On the 11-7/8” x 11-1/2” piece, first mark a point six inches (6”) from the left edge to represent the opposite wall of the piece we just cut. Since these two wall segments should be equal, use the same 3” midpoint mark and draw two diagonal lines down to the endpoints. The one inch (1”) line down from the top will be cut off as well, from the six inch mark to the other side of the piece. This is shown in the third image above.

The other two pieces have the same dimensions - the midpoint will be half of 3-1/8", so mark at 1-9/16" and cut the diagonal so it reaches your one inch (1") mark.

Step 5: Assembling the Pieces

Once we have our 8 pieces cut out we can start to assemble them and glue them together. We will look at our design plan to make sure we have them connected in the correct layout. For assembly, put glue along the edges of the pieces and hold them together until the glue starts to get a bit tacky. Connect the tissue box to the back wall in this step, applying a layer of glue on one side of the box and aligning it with the edge of the wall.

Step 6: Making a Base

To make our house construction sturdy, we will add a base beneath the whole structure. Begin by taking a large sheet of cardboard and placing the house base on top of it. Using a pencil, trace an outline of the house about an inch out from the walls. Once you have your outline you can cut out the shape and then add glue to the bottoms of the walls and stick them to the base.

Step 7: Measuring Out the Roof

We will create a simple gable roof that utilizes 4 separate pieces. To get a new texture for roof shingles we can remove the top layer of cardboard, thus revealing the ridges in-between the layers. Flip the ridges over so that we can mark our measurements along the smooth side.

Two pieces will be made for the 6" wall, and two pieces will be made for the 4-3/8" wall (on top of the tissue box). The former will have the dimensions of 3-1/2" x 8-1/2" - having them equal slightly over 6" will allow for an eave, which is an overhang of the roof over the wall face. Glue these along the diagonal cuts we made earlier.

The latter two pieces will have the dimensions of 2-1/4" x 9", also creating an eave. We also have to account for the diagonal created by our roof pieces we've already glued in place. Since this is the case, we will start at one corner and draw a 4-1/8" diagonal line as shown in the above picture. We will cut this triangle off and repeat the process, albeit opposite, on the remaining piece. Then just glue these down.

Step 8: Making Doors and Windows


Our design has 4 doors - one on our "original" building (the tissue box), one on the second floor above the tissue box, one on the right side of the house, and a final door in the back. Each of these will be 1-3/4" x 4-1/8", except for our second floor door. Since this one will be a double sliding door it will be a bit wider, specifically 2-1/2" x 4-1/8". Once these are cut out you may use a marker or pen to draw details - I added a frame and door handles.


This design also has a lot of windows, coming in at 23 - two sizes of double-hung windows, fixed windows for next to the doors on the front of the house, and rounded windows for under the roof.

The smaller double-hung windows (with the 2x2 grid design) are dimensioned as 1-1/2" x 1-1/2" and there will be 15 of these. The larger double-hung windows (with 3 panels) are dimensioned as 2-1/2" x 1-1/2" and we will have 3 of these. There's a total of 5 fixed windows, dimensioned as 1" x 2-1/2", and 2 rounded windows that have a diameter of 1" each. The same marker or pen may be used to draw the frame as well as the panes of glass.

Step 9: Making a Balcony & Attaching Elements

Cut out a piece of cardboard that is 1" x 6-1/4" - this will act as our balcony railing. An inch (1") in on either side, use the X-Acto knife to create a vertical slice, but do not go all the way through. These will be our folding lines - from here simply glue to the top of the tissue box and the front wall.

At this point we can also attach our doors and windows! Reference the initial plan and the photos above so that there are 10 windows in the front, 4 windows on the left side, 4 windows on the right side, and 6 windows in the back. Make sure to keep them level, and have a bit of space in-between the levels so that it looks like a two-story house.

Step 10: Finish!