Introduction: Pallet Sand Pit - DIY in 2 Hours From 2 Pallets!

About: Black sheep engineer, Chartered, and very silly. Currently living in the UK. I have been fortunate to have lived, studied and worked in Hong Kong, Norway and California. I believe physical models help people…

Chances are you may have a pallet or some scrap wood kicking-around the yard - this can make an awesome Sand Pit for kids. This took about 2 hours, with paint drying overnight. And has relatively few steps, but although obvious to some, I've included a few tips and tricks I found along the way...

Because of COVID, I have been trying to make some of the things from Nursery for my 4 year old son. As much as we don't lavish toys, I think sand is one of those universal play-things which seems to be be simple, but also rather special in its potential to create, imagine and of course smash! So, I think it's worth the effort to make a Sand Pit. I have not been disappointed - with near constant use for weeks!

There are a lot of 'Pallet Projects' out there, but often they can be a bit questionable in terms of effort - as you need a massive workshop to be able to de-nail, cut, plane, sand, screw, clean, etc. This project is not like that. It really can be done with a Saw and a Drill/Driver. It took 2 hours to make all in. Granted I'm experienced as an Engineer/Designer - but this is really relatively simple.

One 'Secret' is to use a particular part of the pallet - the 'full beam', rather than planks, to make the Walls of the sandpit. The other trick is to use something called Barn Paint. I had some scrap / left over from another project, and this stuff is great as it is kinda gluey - so 'sticks down' most of the rough splinters. So no need to do lots of sanding.

Hope you like this guide, and are inspired to make it yourself. It really need not be 'exactly' as I made it, but I've tried to explain the fundamentals of what makes it good and strong.


Pallets - Free - but do check out safety (look for IPPC - HT stamp):

Drills / Driver: LINK with some advice on how to use them.

Plastic Bags / Membrane:

Circular Saw: (though a hand saw will do tbh).

Optional: Barn Paint (aka Multi Surface Paint):

Other tools: Hammer, Screws, Safety Gloves, Glasses, etc.

Sand is a bit dependent on your circumstances, but is available on Amazon or at Hardware Stores - I got mine for £3/10kg bag at Homebase (just before Lockdown), in the UK. It's more online, but delivers. You probably only need 3-4 bags.

Step 1: Pallet Hacking

So I'm not gonna pass off this Instructables as if I 'invented' how to dismantle a Pallet. There are LOADS of videos out there - so choose whatever works for you. I found this one helpful to not only use some techniques, but also get a feel for where the 'weaknesses' are to exploit.

With that said, I think I tended towards a lesser-known (??) technique, and that was from my time using rivets - when you mess up a pop-rivet, you need to 'drill out' the 'head'. I considered doing this with nails, and found that I could do it quite easily - meaning the plant just lifts off with a donk of a hammer! Of course it requires some confidence in your drill skills, but it means I could just hammer off the plants with no splitting.

Step 2: Making the Walls

I created two 'sets' of walls as shown (See diagram also).

I used 900x600mm sections (outer measurements), but I alternated the 'overlap' so that, like brickwork, so the ends overlapped (so the full-edge ones on one side, are the inner-edge ones on the other). Hope this makes sense. Look at the final picture if unsure.

Step 3: Join Together

You can simply drill big ol' screws through these, but it's quite deep. So I'd suggest 'pocketing' the hole for the Screw to make it easier. I drilled down 1/2 of the thickness of the wood. As you can see, I added some blue masking tape as a guide not to drill too deep. If you look at the corners, you'll see these holes as reference. I found 10 seemed ample, and probably less are fine.

If you don't fancy this, you can of course use metal brackets, or even just put posts in the corners, and screw through into those, but I think this looks nicer.

Step 4: Optional: Matting

I really don't think this is essential, but I did have some left over 'weed barrier' / 'ground sheet' from making Pallet Beds a while ago. This will allow the sand to 'breathe', by allowing water to drain through. If you don't add this, some sand will fall through the cracks in the pallet boards, but of course you can lay down fabric, plastic sheet, or anything else.

Staple Gun in place. (You can use a household stapler to hold in place if you don't have a staple gun - it does not matter, as the screws will hold it soon after anyway).

Step 5: Lay the Base Boards

I was intending to do this bit myself, but my son insisted! Sceptical at first, I was quite impressed that my son was able to lift these boards, so I included them as a sort of 'proof' that kids can surprise you as to what they can do!

I did get lucky that the number of boards fit perfectly. But you can cut down a board laterally, to ensure fit.If you use a sheet/membrane it's actually fine to have a few gaps, but of course if you don't, then fit them close as possible to avoid sand pouring through!

Step 6: Screw in Place

On a roll, I let kiddo have a go with the Screw Driver. I would not say that you should 'throw your kid in the deep end', as of course tools can be dangerous. I've started with safer things - like using a mini screwdriver, so I can assess his strength and accuracy, as well as maturity to be trusted. I hope this video is useful for any parents, but please be the final judge as to whether this is safe for your family.

Step 7: Optional: Smooth Edges

I found the wood to be pretty good and not needing any major sanding, but I think it makes sense to round the edges, if you can. You can do this with either a plane or a sander (or even a knife), but it really is probably fine without. I didn't bother with the rest of the wood, as the Paint takes care of most of the roughness.

Step 8: Paint!

So I'm not going to call this 'anti splinter' paint, but the MSP really does a terrific job - and - is water based, so is safe for kids to use, with supervision (and I suggest gloves!). Leave to dry - while you make a lid.

Step 9: Make a Lid

In the same way I made the base, using the planks, I screwed these together to 2 planks in the other direction. The trick is to ensure you *inset* the cross-planks to fit inside the inner rim of the sand pit walls.

I had some left over 'rubble sacks' from removing building waste, and I stapled gunned two of these to the lid to keep rain off. But if you have compost bags, these would also work just fine. It's going to be covered with sand, so it's not aesthetically critical.

Step 10: Paint the Lid!

I used a woodstain for this, as it is cheaper than Barn Paint, and realistically my son is not lifting the lid, so no real risk of splinters. So it just reduces rot / deterioration.

I had learned that my son's hair was long enough to get in the paint, so hence the 'washer-woman headscarf'. Worked a treat! I do suggest kid's goggles if you can get them, as splashes in the eyes would surely be painful.

Step 11: Fill Up

I found I needed only 3 bags of sand, but had a 4th for good measure (and because you lose some over time!), so this was £3/10kg bag. I would recommend getting 'Play Sand' as it is cleaned sand, not builder's sand.

As you can probably see my son is busy loading this up. I dunno about you, but I'm inclined to get him to do as much physical labour as possible, as firstly he takes more ownership of the final thing, and secondly he sleep really deeply ;o)

Step 12: Playtime!

This has been such fun during what are otherwise rather limiting circumstances, and so I hope you enjoy making and playing in this this as much as we have!

Depending on which country you're in, I've been out on my allotted 'daily walk', and spotted quite a few pallets in the streets by chance. Always the way - like busses! But it seems at the time of writing that DIY stores are opening and delivering to homes, so take your choice on 'up-cycling' vs 'speed'.

Thanks for voting if you like this. Appreciate the support ;o)

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