We spent about 3 weekends building this DIY Indoor Playhouse in our basement playroom. The whole family had tons of fun constructing and decorating it, and the kids (and the neighbor’s kids) are having a blast playing in it. The details of the build are below, including free plans in SketchUp that you can download for some inspiration of your own.
When we moved into our new house 3 years ago, we were excited that there was a spare room in the basement that we could set up as a dedicated playroom for the kids. No more toys all over the living room and maybe even a bit of peace and quite for us while they played downstairs. Unfortunately that’s not quite how things played out. Admittedly we did a pretty crummy job at decorating the space with just a few decals on the walls and some bins for the toys. The kids hardly ever used the room and when they did it was just to get a toy and bring it upstairs … defeating the purpose!
One rainy day the kids were going stir crazy so for fun I decided to inflate a bouncy house inside the playroom.
While probably not up to code, the kids had an absolute blast, and it occurred to be how much fun it would be to have something more permanent in there for them to play with.
I started looking at outdoor play sets but they were all too tall for the room. I was also looking at indoor commercial grade play grounds that you sometimes see in malls, but they were all too big and prohibitively expensive. Of course, as an avid DIYer, it didn’t take me long to decide I could build something myself that would be better suited for the space, customized for what I wanted and a lot cheaper. I also found this amazing indoor basement playground on Ana-White.com that gave me all the inspiration I needed to get started.
Honestly, the longest part of this process was getting the plans to a point that I was happy. I used SketchUp, which made it really easy to visualize and make sure the dimensions were accurate (the free plans are attached below). I liked the idea of having monkey bars, so I wanted at least 2 structures. I wanted it to fill most of the room so it would feel almost like an enclosed town, but at the same time had to work around a fuse box and a closet. I finally settled on the design below. Its all based on 8′ 2x4s and 4×8 sheets of plywood. I was lucky that the ceiling was 8’2″ tall which helped to minimize the number of cuts on the studs and sheets.
The first to ‘buildings’ went up pretty quickly. I used the 8′ boards vertically instead of horizontally because i wanted to make sure the second floor walls were strong. If you look closely you’ll see I had to notch one of the 2×4 to fit around the crown molding above the door. I used 3 inch screws for all the framing, mostly because I don’t own a framing nail gun, but also so that I could take it apart if necessary. I didn’t follow a traditional approach to framing the end walls. Instead I just toe nailed cross pieces in. This reduced the number of 2x4s I had to buy and meant I didn’t have to make as many notches in the plywood floor. In hindsight though, it was a pain to ‘toe nail’ using screws. If I were to do it again, I’d probably use a Kreg jig, or borrow a framing nail gun.
The plywood flooring went in really quickly with a finish nailer. I notched around the 2x4s using a jig saw. As you can see, as soon as the flooring was in, the kids were already playing in it.
Here you can see the second structure framed out. This one is 4×4 because of space. There’s a 1’6″ trap door in both buildings with a built in ladder to climb between both floors. I also added plywood to the back wall of the 4×4 structure because it wasn’t as sturdy and the plywood really stiffened it up.
After both structures were framed, I added in the monkey bars. I built these using 2x6s and 1″ dowels spaced a foot apart. It works fine, but if I were to do this again, i’d probably buy metal bars instead of wooden dowels. The wood is a bit rough on the kids’ hands. You can buy individual metal bars specifically designed for monkey bars, so if you’re going to do this, i’d suggest you consider that option.
The next step was to add the decorative paneling and the rails. Originally I was thinking I’d use all plywood, and would have to paint it, but I found this stuff at Home Depot and it worked out great. I used 3 different faux finishes, brick, stone and cedar, to really make it look like 3 different buildings. These panels are just 1/4″ hardboard, but they actually add a lot of stiffness to the structure and helped square things up. I used 1 1/4″ staples to attach them to the studs. The door and window holes were cut in using a jig saw. The doors are 3′ x 1’4″ and the window are 1’8″ X 1’4″. Instead of boxing it all in with walls, i added some ‘balconies’ in a few different spots. This kept the feel a bit more open plus added more visual interest. The rails and spindles are stock pieces from Home Depot designed for outdoor decks.
Next up was to trim out the doors, windows and corners. The boards I used for the trim were pre-finished 1×3 MDF boards. For the frames around the windows and doors were , I used a Kreg jig and attached them to the panels using construction adhesive and staples from behind. I added 8′ boards to the corners for aesthetics, but also to re-enforce the panels. I also added a couple faux roof line peaks for decoration, that were angled at about 30 degrees. These were a bit of a pain to make, but they really add a nice finishing touch. I also added a rope ladder as another way up to the second floor.
Last step, and probably the most fun for the kids, was to decorate the space. We installed soft foam tiles on all the floors. We found some really fun road shaped tiles that we integrated into the solid colors. I had some old LED Christmas lights that were the wrong color for our holiday decorations, so we hung them up in the playhouse. I added a little toy elevator too, using clothes line pulleys and a bucket.
And that’s it! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
Here’s the free plans. The ZIP file contains the full SketchUp file. The PDF is a printout of all the views of the SketchUp.