Wednesday, January 22, 2020

There Was a Little House. . . .

Laurel and I have both taken a long blog break, mine longer than hers. But we plan to be back with a vengence because we have missed it. It stirs our creative juices, and, more importantly, it keeps us connected to each other in a special way.

Before I fell off the earth, I had started working on a children's garden and playhouse for our back yard. (I blogged about it clear back in spring of 2018.) Over the next few weeks, I'll update you on the progress and share what I learned from the experience--what worked and what didn't.

My yard growing up was a childhood paradise, a half acre of house, lawn and flowerbeds, and another half acre in back of orchard and trees--and a brick playhouse that my Dad and older brother built for me. I knew I couldn't replicate that sense of space and freedom in our much smaller city lot, but I did hope to carve out child-friendly, creative spaces for our grandchildren. That space centers around this playhouse--a much smaller and simpler version of the one that my Dad created for me:

I found the free building plans for this house at a site I use often for my DIY creations. Because the site has everything else you need to know, I'll just share the things I learned and the adaptations I made to make it more weather proof; the Ana White house was made for indoor use.

Although I wanted my structure to be sturdy, I didn't necessarily want it to be permanent, so I chose not to lay a cement foundation. Instead, I bought a prefab section of cedar fencing that was about two feet wider and longer than the house. Cedar was more expensive than pine, but I knew that it would weather better. If I had built it myself, I would have made it a about two feet longer to give the house a larger side porch area. As it is, it has a narrow back porch that is shaded by an overhanging part of the roof and a small side porch. It gave me enough room to add a little bistro table that can be served through the back window:

But choosing a pre-made foundation made sense; it was both less expensive and much easier since I was constructing the house by myself. I did add some extra bracing to the underside to strengthen it, and I attached boards to the front, back, and sides for strength and aesthetics.

To keep the platform off the potentially wet ground, I rested each corner on bricks. Since the ground slopes away from the house, I used smaller bricks in the front and cinderblocks in the back where the slope is greater.

I put the frame together on my porch because of a very rainy spring and then moved it to the platform to put up the walls. The biggest challenge was keeping everything square. Fortunately, wood is very forgiving, and when I had to, I just shaved a little off to make things fit.

In a way, it was a good thing that there was a lot of rain. It slowed the process down, and because of that, it quickly became clear that nails from my handy nail gun were not going to be sufficient to hold it together. As the tongue and groove planks became heavy with rain, they began to sag and pull away from the frame. So I went back and added screws to every board. It made all the difference, and I would recommend screws from the very beginning.

The plans call for a plywood roof, but plywood does not hold up well in wet weather. So my wise husband looked for and found a lighter and more durable solution online at Home Depot. We ended up using a Suntuf polycarbonate clear roofing panel that we cut to fit and then screwed into place. It keeps out rain and blocks harmful UV rays while letting in light. The entire roof is a skylight.

I painted the house, both inside and out, with two coats of clear polyurethane and painted the front trim with oil-based, green paint. (You can see from the pictures of the back porch that the wood is already beginning to weather a bit, but I'm okay with that.) Then I had the fun job of furnishing and decorating the interior. I found (or made) all the child-size furniture at thrift store bargains:

And the exterior--a thrift store rocker for the porch, solar lights from Amazon, and a genuine mailbox from the hardware store:

Welcome Home!