Introduction: Rustic DIY Play House

In the present time of COVID, many family's are spending more and more time at home and in isolation. What better time to tackle a fun build project such as a playhouse for your kids! This is my take on a rustic DIY Trapper Cabin playhouse built with all recycled and salvaged materials. Use this instructable as a rough guideline to build your own backyard playhouse using materials readily available in your area. Look for materials in your local forest, beach, alley, dump, trash pile, garbage can, or backyard scrap heap! Also, a great resource for scrap wood, old windows, and used roofing are construction site discard piles or your neighbour's home renovation dump pile. You'd be surprised at what people are happy to give away for free as opposed dumping. Get creative with your materials list.

Step 1: Materials

  • Scrap lumber and wood, the more you have the better
  • Old windows, panes of glass, lexan, or acrylic
  • Old roofing, tin roofing, old shingles (more or less in tact), old cedar shakes,
  • Used siding, if you can find lots of tin roofing, this also makes great siding as does cedar shakes
  • Logs if you have access from them, I used logs for the general structure but dimensional lumber works just as well.
  • Scrap pieces of OSB or plywood for the walls
  • Nails, screws, scraps of rebar
  • Tools: Skill saw or handsaw, hammer, measuring tape, square, level, drill, jig saw, chainsaw, safety glasses, ear protection, cut off disc or hack saw.
  • Hardware: Nails, screws, rebar wood glue!!
  • Cinder blocks, rocks, or wooden blocks for the base

For this build I have a beach close by with lots of beach logs and old washed up dimensional lumber. I salvaged two truck loads of wood for this build. Old gnarly branches and roots make great handles for doors and porch railings. I salvaged some old tin roofing from my home old roof and found some old single panel windows in the dump. I pulled out some broken and mismatched used cedar shakes in my wood shed kindling pile for siding. For scrap wood, I gathered what I could find both on the beach and from construction waste, in total I used [12] 2x4x8ft, or equivalent pieces. For the safety of your tenant, ensure all screws and nails are removed and hide all sharp edges of the tin roofing!

Step 2: Building the Foundation, Base,

The foundation

Having a good solid base to build on goes a long way. Find a nice level spot to build your base and place your vertical beams. You can use rocks, cinder blocks or even old rail road ties with creosote on them (great for resisting rot!) to support your base. For this build I used four old cinder blocks and cut notches in the logs to sit flat on top. Once I had two logs started for the base, I inserted two log cross members to add rigidity and nailed on some plywood for an interior floor. For the exterior front deck, I used old dimensional lumber. Once the base was constructed I slid old shingles between the logs and cinder blocks as needed, to make the base more or less level.

Building the playhouse structure

While I used logs to build the frame, one can easily use 2x4's and standard stick framing. For this build I used four upright logs (4 1/2 ft) followed by two horizontal logs (9 ft) and two upper vertical posts (2 1/2 ft) to support the ridge post (9 ft). The dimensions of the cabin are 9 ft long by 6 ft wide. The ridgepole is 6 1/2 feet above the front deck.

Securing the logs together

A good method of securing the logs together is to drill a 3/8' hole through the two logs then hammer an 8" piece of rebar into the hole to act as a pin. This method is much cheaper then lag bolts, is easy to located scrap rebar, and holds firm.

Step 3: Roof and Framing in Walls


Once you have the basic structure built its time to start filling in the walls. I had a pile of old used 2x4's that I spent a morning de-nailing that were perfect for this application. For simplicity's sake, I screwed the windows into place (top of the log) first and then framed around them. As this is a play house and not built to code, I used what ever scrap wood I had lying around. The walls were sheeted with scrap plywood and OSB board. Once the walls were framed and sheeted, I trimmed the windows with scrap wood flooring and then nailed on cedar shakes using roofing nails. For a more general idea on framing take a look at this instructable here.

For the roof, 2x4's were screwed from the upper beam onto the ridge pole on 3 foot centres as the tin roofing are 3 foot panels. I fastened the roof to the 2x4's using gasketed roofing screws. The ridge cap is built out of a 1 foot piece of tin roofing, bent over the top of the roof and fastened with roofing screws. Some hand split cedar shake boards capped of the end fascia above the deck, hiding the sharp tin roofing.

Visit from the client and building inspector

The building inspector made a surprise visit. I bribed him with a stick and off he went... Client also came for inspection, I explained to her that she needed to have proper safety gear to be on site. She retorted with something along the lines of "my house, my rules" but I couldn't be sure of exactly what was said however I think she approves.

Step 4: Finishing Touches


The door is made out of salvaged cedar tongue and groove screwed onto a scrap piece of OSB. I cut a hole in the door for the window and screwed a flat piece of lexan on the reverse side. The handle is a salvaged piece of driftwood levelled on a belt sander. I wood glued this to the door and used 3 1/3" screws from the backside to secure it. The hinges were salvaged off one of the old windows, a little WD40 magic and they are good as new.


The railings are made from beach wood, lots of wood glue and screws to keep them firm. Added a dinner bell, lantern and some deer antlers above the door, porch broom a must.


Once the walls are up and the roof is on, I installed the master kitchen, bedroom and wood burning stove. A small bed, play kitchen and some shelving for treasures are all that's required, imaginations fills in the rest.

Wood stove

What would a trapper cabin be without a wood stove. The stove itself does works but is not plumbed in through the roof at this time, for now LED candles give the right effect.

Step 5: Final Product

My daughter loves her little trapper cabin as does the dog, they play in it all the time! This was a super fun build, nothing is square nor level and is as rustic as can be but her imagination overlooks these facts. On move in day, a friend of mine tested the porch acoustics. Hope this build give you inspiration for your project, and give your children years of enjoyment! Happy building.

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