DIY Basement Indoor Playground with Monkey Bars

Submitted by Ana White on Tue, 03/03/2015 - 21:17
Difficulty
Intermediate
| Print this plan

Build a basement indoor playground with monkey bars. Playhouses can be used as beds or bunk beds. Free plans by Ana-White.com

Last Christmas, we were really in a predicament.

Our precious daughter turned 8 on December 15th.  And with our huge extended family, she received so many presents for her birthday, we were out of Christmas gift ideas.  As the number of days to Christmas morning got less and less, we got more and more stressed.  We couldn't give her nothing, yet she needed nothing.  

Nothing you can buy at the store, that is.

Our little girl loves to climb and hang and swing, and comes home regularly with peeling blisters on her hands from hanging on the school monkey bars.  We've had to change outfits before school because the pretty dress doesn't cut it on the monkey bars.  So at the last minute, on December 20th, just five days until Christmas morning, we began working on an indoor playground.

I had never built such a thing, and couldn't find many examples online.  So - I can't believe I'm admitting this - we sorta winged this one.  We just bought a stack of 2x4s, and started cutting (or not cutting - I tried to use full length 8 foot boards as much as possible), and screwing plywood to it.

The easiest way we thought to build a structure strong enough to support monkey bars in the middle would be to build two playhouses, and then connect them together.  Then when our son is old enough to care, he'll have his own side.

We worked whenever we could, whenever we could find ways to get her out of the house (it was by now Christmas vacation).  Sometimes we worked after bedtime (forgive the sweats I'm in please in the video), other times Grandma came over and babysat.  It took us a good three days to build, with much of the time spent gathering materials and planning and building as we went.  If you follow my plans below, it will be much easier.

And this is what we came up with!

I've built alot of things - much bigger things, more expensive things, more refined things - but this one is the greatest of all -

Simply because this one makes this little girl so happy. 

It's 2x4s.  Scrap wood.  Plywood.  

And it's pure joy for our daughter.  Its squeals of laughter and hours of quiet imaginitve play.  Its a fair amount of hollering and screaming when all the kids come to play.  But there are no adult words to describe how much our little daughter loves this indoor playground with monkey bars.  

We meant to paint the wood.  We meant to decorate and accessorize.  

But we can't get the kids off of it long enough to put any more work into it.  And that's okay.

The children have made it their own in their own suprising ways too.  I would never have thought the bridge (with secret tunnel underneath) would become a stage, and I would watch the most wonderful plays acted out on it.

The children have converted one of the downstairs areas into a school, complete with all my totes turned upside down into desks and a principal's office under the bridge.

But her favorite thing of all is the monkey bars.  She's always hanging on them, or begging us to watch her new "tricks".  

I'm so thankful for the tools I have, the knowledge and experience I've learned through building, a husband willing to work with me on a big project, and to be able to give this kind of happiness to my children.  

We put together a video as best we could under the rushed circumstances and limited working hours, hoping that the video might help you build your own playhouse or indoor playground.  Check it out!

And if you do build this for your children, please share!  We'd all love to see how yours turns out too!

XO Ana + Family

 

Dimensions
Minimum dimensions is 8 feet x 15 feet x 8 feet tall (can work with 8 foot ceilings but we had 9 foot ceilings). The room we placed it in is 15x21 feet.

Preparation

Shopping List

2x4s (we started with 24 and added a few more)
1x4s (we started with 10)
1x6s (we started with 18 - plywood can also be used for decking/floors and may be cheaper)
2x8s (we used 2-16 footers and 4 - 8 footers) - For greater spans you may need a 2x10 or 2x12 or to cross brace
For the little peaked roofs, you'll need 6 1x3s
1/2" thick plywood (we used six total sheets)
We screwed everything together with 2" and 3" self tapping screws with torque heads (saved a ton of work to not have to predrill)
We used 1" pipe (can also use 1" hardwood dowels) for the monkey bars, spaced 12" apart

Cut List

Recommend cutting to fit

Tools
Tape Measure
Speed Square
Pencil
Hammer
Safety Glasses
Hearing Protection
Kreg Jig
Drill
Circular Saw
Jigsaw
Miter Saw
Power Sander
Drill Bit Set
General Instructions

Please read through the entire plan and all comments before beginning this project. It is also advisable to review the Getting Started Section. Take all necessary precautions to build safely and smartly. Work on a clean level surface, free of imperfections or debris. Always use straight boards. Check for square after each step. Always predrill holes before attaching with screws. Use glue with finish nails for a stronger hold. Wipe excess glue off bare wood for stained projects, as dried glue will not take stain. Be safe, have fun, and ask for help if you need it. Good luck!

Instructions

Step 1

Since our walls are nine feet tall, we just took eight foot long 2x4s and screwed an 8 foot long 2x8 to the top and an 8 foot long 2x4 near the center (see diagram) with 3" wood screws - no cutting required. We made four of these. If you have eight foot ceilings, you can make all the legs stud length (92-5/8") and avoid cutting. One precaution is to check the length of your boards - sometimes they can be off, especially if they are not studs.

Step 2

So we made four of the wall frames (for two playhouses). We then took two of the wall frames and completely covered the outside in plywood. This will provide structure and also protect the walls inside the playhouse. All plywood is attached with 2" self tapping wood screws.

Step 3

For the remaining two walls, we attached half sheets of plywood. We cut our doors out later on, but you could do that now. Doors and windows were cut out with a jigsaw.

Step 4

The ladder piece is easy to add on - you can do it now or later on. It's nice to have the ladder rungs to keep these wall pieces from flopping around, but it's also nice to be able to put the rungs up in place so you can judge how far to space them. Use the long screws here.

Step 5

Step 6

For window and door trim, we Kreg Jigged frames first out of 1x3 boards, and then attached them from the inside to the plywood. You might need 1-1/2" or 1-3/4" screws to prevent the screws from poking through.

I recommend skipping to step 9 - putting the floor in - because once you tie the two playhouse together you won't be able to climb behind it and screw the floor framing down.

Step 7

Now to tie in the two playhouses. We spaced the playhouses a little off the wall and then tied them together with long 2x8s cut to fit and screwed on.

Step 8

Since we wanted monkey bars, we cut the monkey bar doorway header out and then attached another 2x8 to create a channel for the monkey bars. We then drilled 1" holes for the monkey bars, and spaced them 12" apart. You won't need a monkey bar super close to the playhouse - we could easily have gotten away without the first and last bars. Also to keep the monkey bars in place and not twist, we added a screw through the top of the wood into the top side of the pipe.

Step 9

For the floor framing, screw from the outsides the joists in place and also attach to the vertical wall studs. If you can't get behind the playhouse to attach the center one, you can also use a Kreg Jig.

Add the blocking pieces as well. Use the longer screws here.

Step 10

For the floors, screw down 1x4s between the 2x4s, and then fill in the rest with 1x6s. There will be about 3/8" gap in between the boards.

Step 11

For siding, we pulled scraps from our shop - everything from pine boards to plywood to cedar fence pickets. I had originally wanted to put the boards on crooked, like kids made the playhouse, but it just didn't work out that way. Maybe you'll do yours that way.

If you aren't flush against the back wall, you might want to add some boards back there too. Of course, we don't leave our baby unattended, ever, on this.

Step 12

For the bridge, we attached 2x4s between the two playhouses. If you are not putting plywood under the bridge or longer spans, you may need a wider width board to support the bridge (2x6 or 2x8). We also added a ladder rung for climbing up to the upper level and preventing kids from falling through at the end of the bridge.

Step 13

We then covered the top in 1x6 boards and the front in plywood. You could also use scrap boards vertically under the bridge.

Step 14

The little roofs added a ton of character and were easy to build. I built them on the ground and then screwed the entire thing up. It's just 30 degree angle and bevel cuts.

Step 15

The last step was the ladder and railing. I'm going to redo the ladder (too steep) so won't post those plans, but you can see how we built it and then added the railing. By the time you get to this step, this will be a piece of cake.

Finishing Instructions
Preparation Instructions
Fill all holes with wood filler and let dry. Apply additional coats of wood filler as needed. When wood filler is completely dry, sand the project in the direction of the wood grain with 120 grit sandpaper. Vacuum sanded project to remove sanding residue. Remove all sanding residue on work surfaces as well. Wipe project clean with damp cloth.

It is always recommended to apply a test coat on a hidden area or scrap piece to ensure color evenness and adhesion. Use primer or wood conditioner as needed.

Comments

dananryan

Wed, 03/04/2015 - 11:57

What a great gift. This playground provides so many options for healthy active playtime. There's no limit to a child's imagination in this kind of environment. Your house will be the coolest hangout for years to come. Bravo!

spiceylg

Wed, 03/04/2015 - 16:16

How cool is that?! That's awesome and yes, I can imagine yours is the house to be at! My goodness, your children are growing so fast!

snowflake2283

Tue, 06/02/2015 - 14:01

My dad and I are currently building these beds for my daughters. We have made a few modifications to the plan to fit the room and the decor. I can't wait to finish the project and post pictures! Thank you so much for this wonderful project plan!

snowflake2283

Wed, 06/17/2015 - 14:29

So my dad pre-cut and pre-assembled everything first. Then we took it apart, painted it and now we are reassembling in the room. We've had to make a few modifications to the plans as we began assembling the beds in the room. They were simply too big! Eek! So we made them a big narrower (by 3") and we are going to be taking off the end with the ladder. The kids will just have the bridge to use to get up to the top. We also won't be putting in the monkey bars as we have a celing fan in the middle of the room and we only have 8' ceilings. The kids are super excited for these beds though. I will post more as we progress. I am hoping to have most of it in and ready by this evening...stay tuned :)

suelove143

Wed, 03/02/2016 - 07:08

Where did you purchase the metal bars from for the monkey bars?  Also, do you have the plans for the stairs you built (or the new ones you mentioned building)? I'm in the process of building this and my kids are waiting patiently (more or LESS) to play on it!