Pirate Ship Playhouse / Treehouse / Fort / Swingset / in Trouble With Wife




Introduction: Pirate Ship Playhouse / Treehouse / Fort / Swingset / in Trouble With Wife

I started a job in a new town, to help with the transition I promised my sons that I would build them a pirate playhouse. I told my wife I would build a 5 foot platform with a ladder and slide. Things escalated quickly....

Step 1: Mapping It Out

First step map out where you plan to build, ask the wife if its far enough out of sight of her stuff.

Step 2: Subfloor

In hindsight I would not recommend 24 inch centers with a 5/4 board diagonally. Although this is strong enough for kinds to jump on, it bounces a bit for a grown adult.

Step 3: Add the Top Deck

This is were I started to get in trouble, I could have stopped here with the 5 foot platform as promised, hey why stop now? The hull of the boat is angled out 1 foot on either side, 6 feet across at the bottom, 8 feet across at the top.

Up until this point I was paying full price for lumber from a big box store. I would not recommend this going forward. the price to this point was rather steep.

If you have a discount lumber store in your area where you can pick up boards in bulk go that route. Otherwise another hidden gem from big box stores..... culled lumber lots. Culled lumber lots are scratched and dented boards discounted up to 75% off.

Step 4: Skinning the Sides

Originally I was going to use plywood for the sides and paint board lengths to look like planks. Thanks to a Culled lumber lot I picked up 20 foot long 2x6's and the plywood idea went away. In hindsight thin plywood then the 2x6's would have been a better idea as the wood was warped making the seal between the boards problematic as I continue to battle months later.

Step 5: What to Do With Odd Shapes? SPIRAL STAIRCASE!

Step 6: Make Use of Every Board You Can Find

Step 7: Add the Swingset and Start Figuring Out Slides

Step 8: Platforms

The 7 foot spiral slide I picked up off of craigslist for $150 was by far a better choice than buying a brand new one from the big box store at $700. Upon initial placement I found that I needed a platform off the back of the boat. I had also originally planned to have a small pocket door into the back of the ship.

After attaching main slide I discovered the drop-off was around 1.5 feet from the ground, at this point in time my kids are 4 and 2 years old. After some choice words and intriguing names my wife called me, I decided to remedy the situation with what I called the "Kid Catcher". In hid-site this was a great idea, I had not thought about going down head first down the slide and if you weigh only 30 pounds you can get some speed. I added rubber impact mats to the railings after initial tests.
I also added a full size all weather door, I love free stuff on craigslist.

Step 9: Placement Is Everything

I had originally planned the slide to be on the left of the gangplank. The left is also the same side as the swings...... who would swing and try to hit another kid in the head as they go down the slide? A redesign was in order.

After our neighbors kids helped discover the flaws on the swingset proximity to the slide fiasco I began to work on filling in the rest of the ship.

Step 10: Helpers Are Awesome.

Step 11: Miss Tint Paint

Paint is expensive, Big box stores usually have a mixed tint paint section on returned paint. If you are lucky you can pick up a gallon of mystery color for 5 bucks. In this case I picked up around 10 gallons of outdoor grade paint of various brands. Only one can was a dud, it was actually full of water and the store never checked and sold it to me anyway. I figured I was only out 5 bucks so who cared.

Step 12: Plan Ahead for Rain

I originally thought I would just seal the ship with deck paint, this is a bad idea if you use untreated boards as your floor as they will expand and shrink with the temperature. The deck paint did stick to the boards, it did not however keep the seal between the boards intact.

Step 13: Expanding Foam

Remember to take breaks, building this boat took several months spending a few hours a week after work weather permitting.

Expanding foam is your friend if you have cracks between boards that flex. Also if you have a window outlet near you pick up what you can cheap! I picked up the 2 rectangular and 3 square Anderson windows, two of witch I turned into doors for $25 a piece. I also decided I needed a roof.

Step 14: Hidden Entrance

The secret entrance had a cover added to help with the rain.

Roof is finished

Step 15: Paint

After 4 months of miss matched paint and my wife continually telling me how much of an eyesore it was I finally was motivated to put a matching color on the boat. Mud started to be an issue and mulch is expensive and astro turf was out the question at the time. Craigslist luckily listed a free supply of sawdust from a local mill, after all mulch is shredded wood, sawdust is shredded wood, what could go wrong?

Step 16: Add a Crew

At this point the ship had been wondering, a steering wheel was added.

Step 17: Rigging

After 300 feet of rope and some help, the main deck was woven in place forming a jungle gym style environment. Notice the entrance to the spiral slide in the back has a head breaker bar to help entice kids to go down feet first.

Step 18: Fore Deck

Added the ladder to the fore deck after my youngest son turned 3. He is finally old enough to climb up and down without any issues.

Step 19: And We Have the Current State

The ship is surrounded by astorturf carpet to help keep down mowing and mud. A sandbox is located under the gang plank which also creates shade for my red headed minions. The inside of the ship is a storehouse for outdoor toys and has a 8 foot long bunk inside down the middle so they can camp out when they are older. The ship is probably 98% sealed, it does not leak in the rain and future addons should offer better comfort and play options as I continually evolve this boat.

This boat was made without a single nail, every board and window is fastened with screws.

Tools used

Impact driver

Chop Saw

Chain Saw



Allot of Sailor Slang

Price invested to date, somewhere around $2500 to $3000

More items are available to view on my website: www.Ammonsadventure.com



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    18 Discussions

    Pretty awesome!!

    Wow. You've ruined my day.

    Last summer, I build a pirate ship playhouse, and was pretty proud of it, now I see what you created. Here's an album of our pirate ship -- https://imgur.com/a/K6voP

    But seriously, great job. Your ship is awesome.

    7 replies

    What I think is brilliant in your design that I neglected to do, was to utilize the space under the main deck.

    You made the main deck high enough so that the lower deck is a complete, enclosed playroom. I screwed that one up. I have an unusable space under the main deck.

    Plus, by being so high, you have a great gangplank and all of those slides.

    Overall, a great job.

    The back of the ship has a full size door leading into a 6'x6'x8' long section leading into the birth area that is 50"x6'x8' long. I added a 36" wide shelf the 8' length to use a bunk for the kids, currently its my lumber storage shelf until they get older.

    Any chance you post some photos of the interior of the ship? The berthing area and such?

    Do you have more detailed plans or drawings?

    I'm thinking up plans of how can I put in a sub floor, raise the main deck and create an actual playhouse like you did.

    That is genius.

    As a former sailor in the Coast Guard, I must correct you. It's called a "berthing" area, not "birthing" area. Two very different activities. :)

    LOL. I actually built a poop deck on my pirate ship playhouse, and I tried to call it that, but the kids thought it was hilarious. Now we, incorrectly, call it the quarterdeck.

    Thank you all for your comments, I'll keep adding pictures as the inside progresses and rocky shoals (rock climbing walls) are added to the other side of the ship.

    very cool! Your great job helped me to decid, that I will build build a pirate boat too. regards from Austria/Europe

    Fantastic job!

    Amazing!! Reminds me of the playground at Polliwog park in Manhattan beach CA circa 1986

    Great fort idea and build!

    so awesome! what a fun project. I can't imagine why your wife would have been frustrated... I mean, you did draw out the full plans for her right at the beginning, right?

    Now I know why my child hood was sad and boring!

    I....I....I..... I love it!!!! This would have completed my childhood for sure!!! This truly is a work of art!!

    This is so cool! I love how you started off saying that things escalated quickly. That's not a bad thing!