I endured three of my pregnancies in a home with a very limited backyard. We had a large deck for entertaining, but the patch of grass to the right of the deck was about the size of my big toe. This was fine for the first pregnancy, of course, because the only person that needed entertaining during those 9 long months was myself. And since sleeping was my pastime of choice, I didn’t think much about the lack of grassy area in our yard. As soon as I was waylaid by morning sickness with my second child, it occurred to me just how inconvenient it was to not have a safe, fenced-in play space to send my 2 year old. By the time I was pregnant with my third baby, I was seriously irritated. Irritated that they hadn’t found a cure for morning sickness yet. Irritated that on some days, I only had enough energy to lay on the couch and toss goldfish crackers at my kids for lunch. And very irritated that while I was trying to grow an entire human being from scratch, I didn’t have a proper place to send my babies to play when I didn’t have the strength to walk them to the park. Which is why- when we moved into our new home a little over a year ago, the thing I appreciated the most about it was the big back yard with its fort and swing-set. My kids (and nieces and nephews, and neighbor kids) couldn’t get enough of the climbing wall, clubhouse, and sandbox. So why, you ask, did we feel the need to rip this thing down? Well- on a particularly warm day in March, my husband was doing a few things in the backyard when he realized the fort appeared to be leaning to one side. So he gave it a little nudge to see how much give it had, and it shifted about a foot. He pushed a tiny bit harder, and the whole play-set groaned like an exhausted waitress after she’d been on her feet all day.
I immediately demanded that the entire structure come down. I couldn’t bare the thought of a child getting buried under a massive pile of wood. Even more, the exhausted-mother-of-3 part of me felt a little empathetic toward the tired play-set. Like me, maybe it needed a vacation after years of standing as a fortress to so many kids. Our initial intention was to take it apart and make the necessary improvements and put it back together. I was standing in my daughter’s second story room looking out the window as my husband disassembled the fort, when suddenly, I was struck with the idea to re-purpose the haggard old wood and transform it all into a traditional playhouse. I’m pretty sure my husband could see the giddiness in my expression, because it was that moment when he realized his weekends had become very busy. We began drawing up the plans that day.
We did our best to repurpose as much of the old wood as possible. We used the rails of the existing fort to make the garden fence, and old lumber from the second floor to build the windows, trim, and casing. To do this, a lot of time was spent cutting each piece to size and sanding. The rest of the house was built using 2 x 4 construction on a pressure treated base, which was set on cinder blocks that were leveled into the ground. The house has a 3/4 inch sub-floor, OSV sheeting for the roof and 3D asphalt shingles. We recycled and restored a velux skylight to allow more natural light to shine in. All the windows and the door are handmade with standard 3 inch hinges, which were customized to use a ball catch. We have a GFI in our garage for the electrical, and then we used direct bury UF cable in a 12 inch trench to meet code. We used a 20 A circuit and 12-2 with ground to wire the inside. Thankfully we have a neighbor and good friend that is a professional electrition, and we was so kind in offering his help and knowledge. Don’t you just love wonderful people? Because really, what’s a house without light? For the interior we used 1/2 inch drywall and fiberglass insulation, and knock-down texture right out of the can. The kids were so helpful along the way, and Trenton was good to pass his carpentry knowledge on to them. I had fun searching thrift stores and garage sales for items to fix up and decorate with. This house truly was a labor of love- as friends stepped up and offered help, supplies, and even flowers to contribute to the garden. We made some new friends through the process, which is the ultimate perk of taking on a project like this. I hope we live here long enough for our grandbabies to play in it.
This miniature version of our home truly does set the sweetest backdrop for a fun childhood, and I feel warmth in my heart each time I see my babies playing in something we all worked so hard together to create.
Janet Schlosser- Forgetthefinishline.blogspot.com