Introduction: Building a Cottage Style Dog House

About: Build instead of buy....most of the time.

We have three awesome, obedient, and spoiled dogs (four dogs now). And over the years they have all had a mix of indoor life and outdoor life. In the beginning they were all outside dogs. After my wife and I got married we spent three years in an apartment. This past July things changed again as we purchased our first house together. This means a lot of really great things in life including our dogs getting to run around and play in a fenced in back yard all day. We have never seen our dogs as happy as they are being able to have free run of a yard. So that leads me to this week’s project. They had a 12′ square covered porch to take shelter from the rain and sun but they didn’t have a dog house. Time to make a dog house.

I didn’t want just any old boring traditional dog house. I wanted to add a little personal touch to it and design something that would somewhat match the theme of our house. Our house has an inviting front porch with tan vinyl siding and green shutters. I designed the dog house to have a front porch of it’s own and similar colors of our house. While the front porch is pretty much a cosmetic touch our smallest dog does use it as a porch now that the dog house is completed which is pretty cute.

I also made a step by step, highly detailed set of plans for this particular dog house. The first step was to cut the plywood. Three sheets of 3/4” plywood were to be used for the actual structure of the dog house. My table saw setup is plenty capable of cutting full sheets of plywood but I still prefer to break them down with a circular saw first.

Step 1: Process Materials

Because there really aren’t too many cuts to make on the plywood I cut all of my final dimensions with the circular saw. To cut the roof lines in the front and back panels I used my circular saw again with the aid of a straight edge referenced against a 12” speed square that was clamped to my work surface. This worked really well.

The only panels I ended up cutting on my table saw were the side panels. This was just to establish the 45 degree bevel on the top of the sides to match the roof line.

Step 2: Beginning Assembly

I used cheap BC grade pine plywood so my materials were a little less than perfect. Before attaching the back panel I clamped and screwed down a scrap piece of dimensional lumber to the bottom to straighten out the bow. You can see in this picture that both the dimensional lumber and the plywood have a bow to them. After the back panel was secured I removed the piece of dimensional lumber.

And the back panel was attached with glue and brads. A LOT of brads. I got a little trigger happy with brad nails in this project but that’s OK. Extra brads won’t hurt anything.

Step 3: Attaching the Sides

After the back panel both sides are installed. Again, glue and brads. I shot 3 or 4 full strips of 1-1/4” brad nails in this project.

The front panel goes on the same way. I waited until after the box was built to cut the door opening. It would probably have been easier to cut the door before installing the front.

Step 4: Attaching the Roof

To give the roof panels a solid foundation I added a ridge beam with glue and brads. This is just a piece of 2×2 sized material.

Both roof panels are glued and nailed on as well. One roof panel is 3/4” longer than the other due to the overlap at the ridge.

Step 5: Cutting the Door

Like I said, it would have been easier to cut the door before installing the front. I didn’t really have good leverage like this to hold the jigsaw firmly so it jumped around a bit more than normal. I predrilled pilot holes for the jigsaw to start it’s cut.

Step 6: Paint

Knowing that I couldn’t complete the project in one day (or two for that matter) I tried to time it so that I could end my work day with painting. That way I wouldn’t be wasting any time waiting for the paint to dry during the day. The entire assembly got a coat of primer before installing the trim. I didn’t put any paint on most of the exposed plywood edges that would get trim glued on later.

Step 7: Trim

Every bit of the trim for this dog house was made from regular pine 2x4s. I took the 2x4s and made 2x2s first. From there I could make 3/4” x 3/4” rabbets in most all of the pieces to fit over the plywood edges. The 5/8” square stock that resulted from the rabbet was also used for other ares such as the porch railing.

And here’s the first piece of trim going on. This not only caps the plywood edges but it gives it a bolder look that I really like.

Step 8: Trim (continued)

For the ridge pieces a half lap was cut on the bottom end of the trim to cover the previously installed trim pieces and a miter was cut at the top to join with the adjacent trim board at the ridge. That may sound complicated but it was incredibly easy to do with a miter saw and a bandsaw.

With the rest of the trim boards installed on the roof it starts to really look clean and bold. Yes, more brad nails and glue.

Step 9: Making Shingles

There are many, many roofing options out there for you to choose if you make a dog house. I’ve always been in love with the look of wood shingles so that’s the route I took. What species of wood to choose is pretty much a toss up as well. Because the roof has a decent slope to it most all of the water will wick away pretty well. Cedar is the first choice that many people will think of right off the bat but after pricing out the materials it was way over budget for me. It’s probably a regional thing but I couldn’t find a decent price even when I thought about using cedar fence pickets. I ended up using Southern Yellow Pine (SYP). SYP is actually a really dense wood that has a high resin content and was only one third the cost of cedar. I used 1×6 boards cut to 9” lengths. Each 9” length was then resawn along the diagonal to yield two triangular shingles.

And then each individual shingle was dipped into a gallon of oil based stain to not only give the color I was going for but also to seal the wood and offer a little more protection from the rain. The dimensions of the roof called for 8 rows of shingles per side with each row containing 10 shingles. That was 160 (plus a few extra) shingles to dip and brush. Cutting and staining the shingles was by far the most time consuming part of making this dog house but the end result is totally worth it.

Step 10: More Trim

While the stain was drying on the shingles I could work on the rest of the trim. First the perimeter of the base.

Followed by the vertical corner posts for the main body of the dog house. These get a 45 degree miter on the top to match the pitch of the roof.

I wanted to incorporate the column look of my own front porch with the front porch on this dog house but I couldn’t come up with anything that looked good with regular, plain vertical columns. So I thought of a way to still have the vertical posts but make it look a little more like an exposed beam construction. All four front posts are L shaped as well. This was to accept the porch railing later.

Step 11: Railing

At the top I use a simple series of straight lines with 2×2 beams. I’m very happy with the way it turned out. I glued and toe nailed everything together as well as a few nails through the roof surface.

To make the railing I used the 5/8” square stock waste cuts from cutting the rabbets earlier. One end of each rail assembly was mitered to fit into the inside corner nicely.

Step 12: Sealing and Priming

I caulked every seam there was before adding the railing so I had greater access to the base of the posts. Because I don’t want any cracks for water to get in and cause rot I used a good quality 50 year exterior paintable caulk.

With all of the trim installed and a coat of primer on I could roll on the main color of the dog house. Because this is exterior grade paint I also painted the roof panels. Even though the shingles will be installed over this it didn’t take much time to do and it added another layer of protection to the plywood structure.

Painting the plywood with a roller was easy. Painting all the edges of the trim was a pain in the butt. It wasn’t as much actual surface area but getting in every little corner and edge was time consuming.

After all of the surfaces were dry I installed the front porch. These were just nailed into the posts and into a starter baluster that I secured to the dog house before paint. I was really getting excited at this stage. I love it when a project starts to take shape.

Step 13: Shingling

The roof shingles went on much faster than they were made. I drew reference lines on the plywood to represent where the top of each shingle would be. To give the roof a little more character I staggered every other shingle 1-1/4” down from my reference line. Each shingle is secured with construction adhesive and three or four staples in the top three inches.

Any type of shingled roof requires the seams to be staggered so that if water does get into one of the vertical seams it will go on to a solid surface of the shingle below it and roll off as intended. This means that the front and back edges of the roof didn’t have a straight line of shingles overhanging. I marked out a rough line to give me a consistent 1-3/8” overhang and cut the off the extra freehand with a circular saw.

Step 14: Ridge Cap

Due to the thickness of the shingles the roof cap couldn’t be a 90 degree angle. The easiest way to get the correct angle is to clamp two pieces of wood together to match the roof pitch.

Then carefully reverse the clamping side of the angle and use this to set the blade angle on a table saw.

Each piece of the ridge cap receives the matching bevel. One board is ripped 3/4” less than the other due to the distance lost when overlapping the boards. After the ridge is glued and tacked together I stained it to match the shingles.

And while I had the stain out I touched up the newly exposed edges of the shingles where I cut the roof overhang to size.

To secure it I used three or four globs of construction adhesive. In case you are wondering, a “glob” is precisely 3.26 ounces more than a “little dab”.

Step 15: Attaching a Base

It’s not a good idea to simply set a wooden dog house on the ground due to rot reasons. To elevate it you could use bricks, pavers, or in my case 4×4 sleds. Each piece of 4×4 has a 45 degree cut on one end with a lag screw eye drilled and installed. This will allow a spot to hook to and drag the dog house around as needed.

This is another area where I learned it would have been better to do this step much sooner. Until this stage I had the dog house sitting on paint buckets. After lowering it onto the sleds there was only one way to attach them.

And that was to go inside and screw it down through the floor. I didn’t put any screws through the porch surface as I didn’t want any screw holes exposed to allow the possibility of rain collecting and accelerating rot. Of course I had to go inside to screw it down and after looking at this picture of me climbing out of it I’m oddly reminded of the scene in the movie Ace Ventura When Nature Calls when Ace climbs out of a Rhino’s….well…..lets just get back to the dog house.

Step 16: Moving Into Place

At that stage the dog house is completed. A few tow straps and manual labor and I was able to pull it to the back yard.

When I pulled it through the gate I think the dogs knew exactly what I was bringing them. I actually had to make them stay on the other side of the yard when I shot the exit scene of the video because they kept going in and out of it making too much noise for the video.

To give you a reference of size here’s a shot of me standing next to the dog house. I’m a whopping 5’6” tall so this dog house is actually on the large size. I’m blown away at how awesome this turned out and the fact that my dogs love it is icing on the cake.

For those who are interested in building this particular dog house I do have a detailed set of plans available.

Big and Small Contest

Participated in the
Big and Small Contest