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A Base for your New Wooden Playhouse

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Decisions

One of the most important decisions you will need to make once you have chosen your new wooden playhouse is what type of base to provide for it to stand on.

Up to a point, the type of base you choose will depend on the size of the playhouse you have purchased. Smaller, more basic wooden playhouses may not need a purpose built base and may sit quite happily on a patch of grass or an already slabbed, concreted or tarmacadamed area in your garden. However, in the case of all but the very smallest models we would recommend that a proper base be provided.

The provision of a base has the key advantage of ensuring the stability of the playhouse. Apart from the obvious safety concerns, an unstable playhouse is unlikely to be fully wind and watertight leading to damage to the building and any items stored in it. This is because the walls, roof and floor may well line up incorrectly, leading to water ingress. Gaps in the structure can also be traps for little fingers and serious injury can occur.

In addition to stability, a proper base can reduce unwanted growth beneath the playhouse where it is sited on grass or bare ground.

Choices

Having decided, then, to provide a base for your wooden playhouse, the next step is to choose what type of base will be suitable.

Paving Slabs

Probably the cheapest and simplest base to provide is one which comprises paving slabs laid on a cement base.

Suitable slabs can be purchased from a building supplies merchant or from a DIY store such as B&Q. You should choose slabs with a smooth surface and the largest dimensions you can handle safely. Enough slabs will be required for a base slightly larger than the overall size of the playhouse - a couple of inches should be sufficient.

The slabs will need to be laid on a sand/cement base for stability. For this, use a mix of cement and sharp sand in a ratio of one part cement to eight parts sharp sand. Take care to use sharp sand and not building sand, as this will give the stronger foundation.

Laying the slabs is a fairly straightforward job. First choose the location of your wooden playhouse (you will probably have done this already). Then dig out the soil to a depth of two to three inches. Ideally you are looking for the thickness of your paving slabs plus 1.5 to 2 inches for the cement base below. The surface of the slabs should be level with or slightly higher than the surrounding ground. You don't want them any lower than this otherwise the playhouse may sit in a puddle of water in wet weather!

Once the soil has been dug out, level the bottom of the hole. You don't have to be too precise with this but you should make sure it's roughly level. Use a rake or something similar. Then make up the sand/cement mix and fill the hole to a level that will allow the surface of your slabs to sit slightly proud of the surrounding ground. The sand should be damp when you make up the mix - you will probably find it comes out of the bag like that - and there's no need to add any more water.

The next step is to lay the slabs level on the sand/cement mix. Begin from the centre of the hole and use a spirit level to make sure each slab is level. Tap each slab gently to bed it level in the cement base, using a rubber mallet if you have one or a piece of soft wood, taking care not to damage the slab in the process.

Once you have laid all the slabs in this way the base is ready to use. Before doing so brush any dirt or debris off the surface of the slabs and give them a light spray with water. This will make sure they provide a clean, stable surface for your wooden playhouse and the moisture will aid the curing of the cement sub-base.

Concrete

A concrete slab base i.e. a single slab of concrete, is usually more expensive and complicated to lay than a base consisting of paving slabs and it's probably more than is required for smaller wooden playhouses. For larger buildings though it's certainly worth considering.

f you are buying one of the more substantial two storey wooden playhouses it might be worth asking a local builder, or possibly your supplier to quote a price for a concrete base. If however you intend to lay your own concrete slab base you will need a number of tools and materials to enable you to do so. You should read the rest of this section in full to get a good idea of what is involved and the tools required.

A concrete base needs to be laid to a depth of at least three inches on top of the same depth of compacted hardcore. Gravel is a good material to use for this purpose.or you could use sand and gravel ballast such as supplied by B&Q.  Whatever you use you will need to make sure it is properly compacted to provide a stable foundation for the concrete. You will also need to construct a wooden frame with interior dimensions equal to the size of the concrete base you require. The base should be an inch or two larger than the overall dimensions of the wooden playhouse. The concrete is laid within this frame which holds it in position until set. The frame can be removed after this.

The first step is to dig a hole for the foundation, approximately six inches deep. The hole will need to be large enough in area to accommodate the concrete base plus the size of the wooden frame you have made. Once you have done this, level the bottom of the floor with a rake or similar implement and lay the layer of hardcore material, ensuring compaction. Then place the wooden frame in the hole making sure that it is absolutely level and square. Measure it diagonally to make sure of this last point.

Then mix the concrete. For this we would recommend the use of a cement mixer (which you should be able to hire for the day if you don't have access to one) or you could just use a wheelbarrow and shovel. The concrete should comprise one part cement to five parts ballast. For ballast the best idea is to use a ready prepared sand and gravel mix such as that supplied by B&Q.  Add water in small amounts until the concrete mix has an even consistency which is no longer crumbly. Take care not to add too much water so that the mixture becomes runny as this will seriously reduce the strength of the base.

Once the correct consistency is obtained add the concrete mix to the wooden frame so that it sits just proud of the top. Then use a large straight piece of wood to level concrete by moving it over the surface.

Clean up your tools and equipment and any spillages straight away. Then make sure that the concrete has set thoroughly before erecting you wooden playhouse on the base. The drying time will depend on conditions but you should allow a few days. It's best to lay concrete in slightly damp conditions. If it dries too quickly it can lose strength and may crack. If the weather is, or turns very hot and dry when the concrete is laid it's a good idea to give it a light spray of water from time to time as it sets.

A concrete base properly laid will provide a secure and stable base for the life of your wooden playhouse.

A Pre Formed Base

A number of suppliers can provide a pre-formed base for your wooden playhouse and it is aways worth checking whether this is available as an option at the time of purchase.

Although a pre-formed base will most likely be more expensive than a single concrete slab or paving slab base there are advantages in ease of laying, drainage efficiency and weed control which, depending on your priorities, may outweigh the cost. Pre-formed bases are available in a variety of materials, including wood, plastic and recycled materials and in a number of designs. We've listed some of the more popular and widely available pre-formed bases below.  Check them out then make your choice.





taylors ecobase small image
A modular base grid showing good qualities of strength, support and flexibility - 100% recycled plastic

click here for more details and prices of the Taylor's Ecobase Wooden Playhouse Base


Remember - a suitable base is important for the stability, safety and longevity of your new wooden playhouse

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