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All kids seem to like making dens, whether under furniture or trees, in little crooks or corners, with blankets or chairs - wherever and however they can. Our four year-old, Leo, is especially into "building", having watched us construct our own home from the day he was born. He is constantly making pens and shelters for his toys, or caves for him and his brother. So this year for Christmas, we decided to make the boys their own Fun Fort.

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The Fun Fort cost a little under $200 and took three days to make (one to cut, one to assemble, one to paint). It's a two-story play house with a bedroom (where we put a mattress) and shelves on the bottom, and a playroom and desk on the top, although the design can be adjusted to fit your particular needs. And don't be scared by the length of these instructions – they are a lot more complicated to read than they are to do!

Leo got to help with almost every step of construction, excluding the use of power tools (we're not brave enough for that yet). He loved being a part of making it, and he and Nicky now spend a large portion of their time in it. Leo sleeps in the bedroom, has asked many times if he and Nicky can eat in there, and is a little upset that we didn't include a bathroom. The best part of this gift is that the whole family can take part in the process, as quality family time is the best holiday gift there is.

The cost was more than we would have normally spent on a Christmas gift, but it was worth every cent, and will give them years of enjoyment. Not to mention the peace and quiet the parents get when the kids are so entertained!

Materials

  • 6 pieces of 8ft long 1"x1" lumber (preferably with rounded corners)

    2lbs of 1 1/4" wood screws

    Wood glue

    6 sheets (8ft x 4ft) of 3/8" plywood (see note below)

    Paint

We used 3/8" plywood, and it works just fine, especially with a couple of supports across the floor of the second story. However, before we put it together, it tended to bow, which made marking it with a chalk-line a little harder. 1/2" would be stouter and would bow less. If you would rather use 1/2", you will have to change some of the measurements of this design, as follows:

Wherever you see 3/8", replace with 1/2".

Wherever you see 5/8", replace with 1/2".

Wherever you see 1/4", round down to the nearest even inch.

Even inches remain as they are.

Tools

  • Marker

    Tape Measure

    Chalkline

    Jigsaw

    Circular Saw

    Dremel if you have one, for the windows

    Cordless Drill

Step by Step

Plywood

plywood

Plywood1
Plywood2
Plywood3
Plywood4
Plywood6
Plywood5

Using the tape measure, marker and chalkline, mark the plywood according to the diagrams (click to each thumbnail to see the full picture). The individual pieces are labeled as follows:

A - Floor

Starting in left-hand corner, measure 7 ft. Then measure 2 ft down. Turn 90º to the right, and measure another 2 ft. Make a turn 90º to the left for 1 ft. Turn 90º to the right for 5ft. Turn 90º to the right for 3ft, back to your starting point.

B - Bedroom

B1 – Front, with door and stairs – 60" x 35 1/4"

B2 – Left-hand end, with window - 35 1/4" x 35 1/4"

B3 – Back, no openings - 60" x 35 1/4"

B4 – Small end on right that connects to shelving unit – 12" x 35 1/4"

B5 – Ceiling (or floor to the playroom) – 60" x 36"

P – Playroom

P1 – Back, no openings – 36" x 35 5/8"

P2 – Left-hand end, with window – 35 1/4" x 35 5/8"

P3 – Front, with window – 36" x 35 5/8"

P4 – Ceiling – 36" x 36"

P5 – Piece that connects playhouse to desk part of shelving unit – 18" x 36"

(If you don't mind getting an extra piece of plywood, it would be better to join P1 and P5, so it's one piece of 54" x 36")

S – Shelving Unit

S1 – Shelf front – 24" x 71 5/8"

S2 – Right-hand end – 23 1/4" x 71 5/8"

S3i – Half of back piece – 12" x 71 5/8"

S3ii – Half of back piece – 12" x 71 5/8"

(If you don't mind getting an extra piece of plywood, you can join S3i and S3ii, so it's one piece of 24" x 71 5/8")

S4, S5, S6, S7 – Shelves – 23 5/8" x 23 1/4"

S8 – Half shelf above the desk – 12" x 23 1/4"

Cutting

    

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  1. 1.Using the jigsaw, cut the pieces of plywood. You will have some leftover pieces, which you can either use for a different project, or make some extra shelves around the unit.
  2. Using a circular or hand saw, cut the 1" x 1" lumber as follows (please note that these measurements are based on the fact that the lumber is exactly 1" thick. If yours is more or less, adjust accordingly):

    Rails: 18" long

             11" long

    Supports: 2 x 35 1/4"

                   4 x 34 1/4"

    Chunks: 100 x 3" chunks

   

Openings

You can make the door, windows and stairs any size and shape you want, but for a general idea of dimensions, this is what we did.

Door

  1. Take B1 and place it, inside down, on a flat surface.
  2. With any thin strip of scrap plywood that you cut off in the previous step (about an inch or so wide), drill two holes along its length 13" apart. Place a nail through one hole and into the plywood, roughly 18" from the left-hand edge of B1 and 17" up from the bottom edge. This is the center of your door. Place a pencil through the other hole and draw your hole. Drill a large hole on the inside edge of the line to start your jigsaw cut. Cut out the circle using a jigsaw.

Stairs

  1. On a piece of paper or cardboard, draw a rectangle 4" tall and 10" wide. Then round off the corners, so that both ends of the rectangle are circular looking. Cut out this shape.
  2. Place the shape on B1, so that its bottom is 4" up from the bottom of the plywood and its right-hand edge is 2" from the right edge of the plywood. Draw the shape onto the plywood.
  3. Move the shape up, so that there is a gap of 4" in between this and the previous step. Its right-hand edge should also be 2" from the right edge of the plywood.
  4. Repeat until you have four steps drawn out, then cut them out with a jigsaw.
  5. Take each step that you cut out and glue it to the inside and beneath each step. Screw from both the inside and outside for added strength. This acts not only as reinforcement for the steps, but also makes it more comfortable to climb.

Windows

We put windows in B2, P2 and P3. We used a Dremel tool to cut out two 1 ft diameter circles in each panel. The centers of these circles were 10" from the top and 10" in from both side edges of the plywood.

   

Floor

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  1. Place the floor piece, inside facing up, on a level surface.
  2. Pop a chalkline 3/8" in from the edge all the way around the perimeter. All the chunks of wood you are about to screw will go inside this chalkline.
  3. Starting with the back, 7 ft long edge, make a mark at 12", 36", 60" and 72" from the left. Center 3" chunks of 1" x 1" wood over these marks. Also place a chunk in each corner. Glue and screw these 6 chunks. (through the plywood first, then into the chunks).
  4. Glue and screw two chunks into the right-hand, 2 ft long edge. One chunk should go in the middle of the line, the other in the corner that doesn't already have a chunk.
  5. Glue and screw two chunks into the front 2 ft long edge. One chunk should go in the middle of the line, the other in the corner that doesn't already have a chunk.
  6. Glue and screw two chunks into the right-hand 1 ft long edge. One chunk should go in the top corner, the other in the other corner. Both of these chunks (which are 3" x 1") must have the 3" edge running along this line.
  7. For the front, 5 ft long edge, make a mark at 12", 24" and 36" from the left. Center chunks over these marks and screw them in.
  8. Glue and screw three chunks into the left-hand, 3 ft long edge – one in the corner, one at 12" and one at 24".
  9. Take this floor piece into the room where the Fun Fort will live.

A note on screwing these chunks: we did not pre-drill, because we're lazy, and some of them split and had to be replaced. If you're conscientious, you should pre-drill all the chunks once they are glued in place!

   

Shelves

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  1. You can make this part of the Fun Fort anywhere, hence why we are starting with it. But be warned that, unless your doors are comfortably more than 3 ft wide, you will need to make the rest inside the room the Fun Fort will live.
  2. Place S1, inside facing up, on a level surface.
  3. Draw lines horizontally at 11 3/4", 23 1/2", 35 1/4", 59 1/4" and 66" from the bottom. Note that the line at 66" is where the half shelf will go and so only needs to be 12" from the left-hand edge and not all the way across.
  4. Pop a chalkline 3/8" from the left-hand edge.
  5. Glue and screw two 3" chunks of 1" x 1" lumber underneath each line. One should be flush with the right-hand edge and the other should go up to the 3/8" chalkline. In the case of the half-shelf, put the right-hand chunk flush with the end of the 12" line.
  6. Place S3i and S3ii side by side, inside facing up, on a level surface. These two pieces will be joined together to make the back wall of the shelving unit.
  7. Draw lines horizontally at 11 3/4", 23 1/2", 35 1/4", 59 1/4" and 66" from the bottom. Note that the line at 66" is where the half shelf will go and so only needs to be 12" from the right-hand edge and not all the way across.
  8. Pop a chalkline 3/8" from the right-hand edge.
  9. Glue and screw three 3" chunks of 1" x 1" lumber underneath each line. One should go up to the 3/8" chalkline, one should join the two panels together (so be half on each panel), and the other should hang over the left-hand edge (these will join to the rest of the unit later). In the case of the half-shelf, put the left-hand chunk flush with the end of the 12" line.
  10. With the S3 panel still on the floor, place S2 at right angles to it. S2 will sit on top of S3, butted up against the chunks along the 3/8" chalkline.
  11. Screw the two panels together by screwing through S2 into the chunks of wood.
  12. Now attach S1 in a similar way, with S2 going inside S1 and S3.
  13. Starting at the bottom one, screw the shelves (S4, S5, S6, S7 and the half shelf S8) down on the chunks of wood.
  14. Take the shelving unit into the room and put it on top of the floor piece on the right. Screw the base of the unit into the chunks of wood of the floor. The unit should be square and level. If it isn't, you will have to pull or push it when you connect it to the bedroom part.

   

Bedroom

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  1. Place B3, inside facing up, on a level surface.
  2. Pop a chalkline 3/8" from the left-hand edge.
  3. Glue and screw 3 chunks along this edge at 12" from the bottom, then at 24" and the final one flush with the top.
  4. Make a mark along the top and bottom at 24" and 45 1/4" from the left. Pop a chalk line between the top and bottom at each of these marks. Center one of the 34 1/4" pieces of lumber over each of these lines, flush with the bottom and 1" down from the top. Glue and screw them in.
  5. Center chunks, flush with the top, at 12", 36" and 52" from the left. Glue and screw them in.
  6. Place B2, inside facing up, on a level surface.
  7. Center a chunk over 12" and 24" from the left, flush with the top. Glue and screw.
  8. Place B1, inside facing up, on a level surface (the stairs will be on the left).
  9. Pop a chalkline 3/8" from the left-hand edge.
  10. Place a 34 1/4" piece of lumber on the inside of the chalkline, to the left of the stairs. It should be flush with the top, 1" up from the bottom.
  11. Make a mark along the top and bottom at 45 1/4" from the right. Pop a chalk line between these marks. Center one of the 34 1/4" pieces of lumber over this line, flush with the bottom and 1" down from the top. Glue and screw it in.
  12. Center chunks, flush with the top, at 12", 36" and 52" from the right. Glue and screw them in.
  13. Make a mark along the top at 24" from the right. Center a chunk over this mark, but drop it down 1" instead of having it flush with the top.
  14. Stand B3 up on top of the floor piece along the back. Screw it into the chunks of the floor piece and into the chunks of the shelving unit.
  15. Stand B2 up on top of the floor piece (next to, but inside B3). Screw it into the chunks of the floor piece and into the chunks of the side of B3.
  16. Stand B1 up on top of the floor piece (next to, but outside B2). Screw it into the chunks of the floor piece and screw B2 into its side chunks.
  17. Stand B4 up on top of the floor piece (next to, but inside B1). Screw it into the chunks of the floor piece and into the chunks of the side of B1.
  18. Place a couple of chunks on the outside of the unit to connect B4 to the shelving unit. Place them in between shelves, so that the shelf chunks don't interfere when you screw.
  19. Place a 35 1/4" piece of lumber on top of the upright supports at 24" and 45 1/4" from left. Screw each of them down.
  20. Place B5 on top of the bedroom walls and screw it down to the chunks.

Playroom

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  1. Place P1, inside facing up, on a level surface.
  2. Screw chunks, flush with the top, at 12" and 24" from the left.
  3. Pop a chalkline 3/8" from the left-hand edge.
  4. Screw chunks at 12" and 24" from the bottom. Then put one flush with the bottom and one flush with the top.
  5. Screw chunks, flush with the bottom, at 12" and 24" from the left.
  6. Screw chunks on the right-hand edge, with half the chunk on P1 and half hanging over the edge, flush with the top and bottom and at 12" and 24" from the bottom.
  7. Place P5 on the floor, to the right of P1. Screw it to the chunks overhanging P1's right-hand edge.
  8. Place P2, inside facing up, on a level surface.
  9. Screw chunks flush with the top and with the bottom at 12" and 24" from the left.
  10. Place P3, inside facing up, on a level surface.
  11. Screw chunks, flush with the bottom, at 12", 24" and one flush with the left-hand edge.
  12. Pop a chalkline 3/8" in from the right-hand edge.
  13. Screw chunks inside the chalkline, one flush with the bottom, one flush with the top, one at 12" and 24" from the bottom.
  14. Screw chunks, flush with the top, at 12", 24" and one flush with the left-hand edge.
  15. Stand the P1 and P5 panel up on top of the bedroom roof, along the back. Screw P5 to the shelving unit. The playroom does not go all the way to the edge of the bedroom, but rather leaves a 6" shelf.
  16. Get inside the bedroom and screw through the ceiling into the chunks at the bottom of P1/P5. You will probably have to measure and mark the ceiling to know where the chunks are.
  17. Stand P2 up on top of the bedroom roof, inside P1.
  18. From the inside of the bedroom, screw through the ceiling into the chunks at the bottom of P2.
  19. Screw P2 into the side chunks of P1.
  20. Stand P3 up on top of the bedroom roof, outside P2.
  21. From the inside of the bedroom, screw through the ceiling into the chunks at the bottom of P3.
  22. Screw P2 into the side chunks of P3.
  23. Place P4 up on top of the playroom's walls. Screw it down to the chunks at the top of the walls.
  24. Place the 18" piece of 1" x 1" lumber on the front edge of the bedroom's roof, above the stairs, and screw it in place. This acts as a railing and something to grab on to when climbing the stairs.
  25. Place the 11" piece of 1" x 1" lumber in between the 18" railing and the shelving unit. Screw it in place.

Paint

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  1. Sand everything really well – all splinters from screws, any sharp edges and around the door, windows and steps.
  2. Sweep out the unit and then, with a damp-ish cloth, wipe all the surfaces clean.
  3. Paint your Fun Fort whatever colors and patterns you want. A word of warning, learned from experience – if your toddler is helping you paint, make sure they are wearing old or no clothes!

Once the paint is dry, your can move your kids and their toys in. We added a foam mattress in the bedroom, and the boys soon filled all the shelves with their favorite toys. Enjoy your new FunFort!

   

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