Introduction: Build an Extra Large Dog House (or Playhouse) From 100% Salvage and Scrap Materials

About: I'm a life-hacking reuse junkie who loves to create, even if all I'm making is a mess. I love hammers and rocks and history and hand planes. I hugged trees before it was cool but can still operate a chainsaw. …

My dog Barli, a neurotic German Shorthaired Pointer, was the absolute bane of my existence for the first few years we were together.

But then something happened. I don't know if it happened over the course of a single day or two miserable years, but Barli became my best friend. He's got his big ol fat stupid head in my lap right now. Helping, of course.

So I built him a doghouse. And he loves it. He wanted to start napping in there before I was even done framing.

All materials used in this build were salvaged from our remodel or otherwise scavenged from someone else’s project leftovers. All of them. Every stick of wood and every drop of paint. How else would a doghouse end up with oak trim?

Keeping in mind the length of this -ible and my own sanity, I will not be providing in-depth construction details at each step. Instead, I'm going to provide the site prep info followed by the outline of the build and assume you have a basic understanding of carpentry tools, joining, and safety. That said, your questions are always welcome and I'm happy to provide additional information when possible.

Step 1: Tools & Materials Roundup


  • Foundation – concrete piers on gravel
  • Floor frame – oversized pallet (of the heavy duty variety)
  • Subfloor – plywood
  • plate, studs, top plate- fir 2x4s
  • Rafters – I used fir 2x6s because I had a ton available, but 2x4s would be more than sufficient
  • Collar ties and ridge – fir 1×6 (I doubt collar ties are really necessary, I used them because I didn’t want a ceiling but still wanted to use the space under the rafters for storage if needed… considerations of an admitted wood hoarder whose stash gets out of hand from time to time)
  • Sheathing – 7/16″ OSB
  • Building wrap – Raindrop by GreenGuard
  • Roof underlayment – #30 felt paper
  • Siding – fiber cement lap siding and shakes (both in my arsenal were Certainteed products)
  • Roofing – cedar shingles (formerly known as the siding on my house)
  • Insulation – mostly r-13 bat
  • Interior and exterior trim – oak flooring
  • Interior walls – wood paneling
  • Flooring – tile on Hardie (for his dining area) and laminate on foam underlayment (for his bedroom)
  • Fasteners – a boatload of 8(2-1/2″), 10(3″), and 16 penny (3-1/2″) nails for the framing; 2″ 12-gauge nails for the siding, 1-1/2″ (medium crown) staples for the cedar, and other odds and ends screws and finish nails throughout
  • Other – 2′ vinyl window, paint, rocks, 2×10 (steps), cast concrete birdbath and dog bed (instructables for another day, perhaps), flowers


  • Safety glasses
  • Work gloves
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Hammer
  • Utility knife
  • Squares: T, roofers, speedy
  • Levels: 4′, torpedo, string
  • Cordless drill
  • Saws- I used a circular saw, miter saw, table saw, tile saw, and hand saw. Really, you could do it all with a circular saw or hand saw. If they’re available to you, the others just make it a little easier/quicker. Please don't ever let a silly little thing like not having a zillion different saws keep you from making stuff.
  • Air compressor along with a pneumatic stapler, framing nailer, and finish nailers (I prefer to hand nail all framing, but for ease of installation of siding, shingles, and trim, you can’t beat nail guns. They’re a luxury, but one I’m unashamed to indulge in. I’m guessing build time would have been 2-3x longer without)
  • Shovel, rake, tamp (site prep)

Step 2: Site Prep & Foundation

To keep the pain of site prep to a minimum, you should choose a site that is somewhat level, free from any standing water, and without boulders, dense roots, or other obstructions. I'm a glutton for punishment, so the site I chose was none of these things.

Clear the construction area (the doghouse footprint plus clearance around it so you have room to work- 3' is good, but the more clearance the better). If you have chosen an uneven or sloped site, get your shovel and get busy (within 6″ or so of level is good for now). Place 4 stakes in the ground where you want the four corners of your dog house.

Remove grass and dirt inside the staked area at a depth of 2" (if you are on level solid ground surrounded by grass and such) to 4" (if your surroundings are a little on the dynamic side). Fill the hole you just dug with pea gravel. Compact with a hand tamper. Add gravel and tamp until the compacted gravel is nearly even with the ground.

Place the pier blocks on top of the gravel. Check for level and use a hammer or mallet to level the blocks.

Step 3: Build a Floor

Ordinarily at this juncture, we would attach beams, followed by rim joists, followed by floor joists, followed by blocking.

But I just happen to have a very large, very stout pallet I've been saving for just such an occasion.

Attach to piers, nail down plywood subfloor, and move along.

Step 4: Let Your Creative Carpenter Loose

Okay. Tired from all that horrible site prep and foundation work? Don't blame you. That part really sucks. From here on out is a breeze. Promise.

I started building the doghouse on kind of a whim, so no model, no plans. Just a pile of half rotted, tore up lumber and house guts. We were siding our old (new to us) house, and with every course of shingles we tore off the exterior, there was a surprise. The bad kind. Ever build a house from the outside in? That's basically what we did... one stud, joist, or section of sill plate at a time.While we were living there. I'm way off track here, but the moral of the story is I had a mountain of debris in my driveway, no money to rent a dumpster, and not a stitch of patience left for the siding job from hell. So I took the weekend off from remodeling, separated wood from the debris, pulled about a zillion nails out of 2x4s and shingles, cut the bad sections out, and managed to come up with enough miscellaneous material to build the doghouse.

I drew it all out with a free online CAD program post build, just to give you a better idea of the steps and deconstructed phases. It can be found in their 3D Warehouse, downloaded, and modified for your pleasure.

The best plan I can give is just a little friendly advise… during the remainder of your build, think outside the doghouse. It’s the only way to really do more with less. I also encourage you to be creative, safe, and awesome (like you always are). Above all, have fun.

Overall dims of my build are about 6' square. Dogs usually like cozier accommodations, but my dog refuses to enter a regular doghouse, so that's what I came up with.

Step 5: Why Do They Call It Finish Work?

They call it finish work, but there's really no end.

Insulate. Finish the walls. Trim it out. Put in some windows. Add a bed. Put in some premium oak flooring. Weatherize. Decorate. I did. I also wired mine for electricity, because my dog demands these things from me.

That's it. Nice work! You did a fabulous job building your dog house (as if there were ever any doubt). Again, holler if you get stuck or need help.

Oh, and keep making (and sharing) awesome stuff!

Please note: I don't know how building code reads in your area, but hard wiring a doghouse is likely not on the list of permissible things you can do without a permit. I'm sure they've got their reasons (general safety, fire prevention, you know... stuff like that). Whether I got one or not is irrelevant, and frankly, none of your business unless you're my neighbor. So pipe down hall monitors.

Outdoor Structures Contest

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Outdoor Structures Contest

Reclaimed Wood Contest 2016

Participated in the
Reclaimed Wood Contest 2016

Dog Challenge 2016

Participated in the
Dog Challenge 2016