Five years ago my wife and I bought a great house with a small yard in downtown Madison, Wisconsin. Our firstborn, Sam, was about six months old when I started designing his sandbox. He was born in July so this gave me the winter to get it down on paper.
Building the sandbox itself was easy…
As you can see in the photos, the sandbox was originally a planter bed with violet ground cover growing in it. I excavated the soil down to about 14 inches, framed the box with 2″ x 12″ (treated) boards and lined the bottom with two layers of soil cloth. I installed a step at one end and a removable partition at the other (stacked 2 x 4s held in with 2 x 4 channel).
At this time I had no concept of a cover for this sandbox — all I knew was I wanted it to be flush with the grade and rigid. So with that limited foresight I left a 1 inch relief between the outer 6″ x 6″ ties and the 2″ x 12″. For anyone else interested in this style cover, the box doesn’t need to be at a grade like ours. You just need to frame it out so there is a “shelf” for the cover to rest on.
I designed several covers before I settled on the one we installed. The main problem with all of them were the hinges. I knew I wanted the cover to “roll” open but couldn’t come up with a cost-effective way to hinge that many pieces of wood together. Then, one day, I had an “a-ha” moment. I’m a firefighter, and while I was rolling up some hose after a training exercise, it hit me: I could use an old fire hose to hinge the sandbox cover boards together.
I simply took 5/4 treated decking lumber and ran it through a router on both ends. I then used outdoor screws and stainless dome washers to attach the hose to the boards. I’m not going to lie to you: it took me forever to screw this cover together.
As I mentioned, I had installed a partition to have the option of opening the sandbox up to its full length, but I soon realized that the space leftover would be a great place for storage. I just built a toy box cover of the same material and used one section of hose for the door hinge. I didn’t want the toys to be sitting directly on the ground, so I ran a 1″ x 1″ board along the bottom and across the back, then screwed in a cedar floor with 1/4 inch spacing so sand and water could fall through.
The rest is history. We now have a sandbox that my now three-year-old son Sam and his eighteen-month-old sister Sadie use almost everyday. When they aren’t using it as a sandbox it transforms back into usable space that can be played upon.
The nice thing is that at 6’1″ and 215 pounds I can stand on or walk across any part of the cover — it’s completely functional even when the kids aren’t using it.