A wooden playhouse is a key component of Mission: Backyard Adventure! Kids of all ages enjoy an outdoor space of their own to play in, decorate and make their own. Given that younger kids grow into older kids, you’ll want something that will stand the test of time. A decent size playhouse can become a cool teenage retreat with just a little decoration.
In general, a cheap wooden playhouse might last a season or two, whilst a good wooden playhouse will last around 10+ years. This depends on the quality of the wood, the design, how exposed to the elements it is, and how well it is maintained.
A quick search will bring up a bewildering variety of playhouses, as well as a wide range of prices. Let’s delve deeper into how long each type will last, as well as the characteristics that show you are looking at a good, long-lasting playhouse.
How long do wooden playhouses last?
Good quality playhouses will last for many years, whilst super flimsy ones might survive only a summer or two of boisterous kids.
I’m going to assume that you’re looking for a long-lasting playhouse, so you need to know what clues to look for.
First, the design of the playhouse. Any element designed to touch the ground needs to be resistant to rot. If there is an internal wooden floor, it should be on bearers, rather than just joists, so that it is well lifted off the dirt. The roof should be pitched so that rain will run off easily.
Second, the quality of the wood is important. It should be either pressure-treated wood that is dip-treated against insects, or cedar. Cedar is insect- and rot-resistant, but can warp over time.
Ideally, the wood overlaps or interlocks, making the walls weathertight. The windows might be open, but if window coverings are fitted, they should be good Perspex or safety glass. Under no circumstance should it be regular window glass.
Third, the construction. The more affordable playhouses are single wall construction with flimsy corner framing. However, there are premium playhouses with stud walls and insulation. If the playhouse you are looking at is a single wall, try for one that has reinforced corners between adjoining walls.
Good wooden playhouses will come with a 10-year guarantee, but will often last for decades.
Construct the wood playhouse to have longevity
I asked my friendly carpenter, Dave, for advice about how to construct the wood playhouse for longevity. His answers overlapped a good deal with my builder mate’s comments on How to Keep a Playhouse From Getting Damp.
Dave said (and I’m paraphrasing only a little):
- Ensure the ground has good drainage and is level. Drainage is about 3-4” of gravel. It’s super important to get it level before you put anything on it. If it’s not level, the forces will quickly warp the walls and windows
- Make a clear 3’ zone around the playhouse. This will give you enough room to help with construction. It will also help with maintenance, so you can easily clear out any nature critters or leaf litter.
- Look for cladding that overlaps well, like a tongue and groove style, and forms a watertight building
- Be sure to look for wood with minimal splintering. Whilst not directly related to how long the playhouse will last, it will influence how much your kids want to play in it.
- As you put it together, pre-drill all screw holes to stop wood from splitting
- Before you let the kids loose, paint all over, including any posts that touch the ground with a wood preserver.
- Use a metal roof or shingles rather than felt or asphalt on the roof
Be sure to maintain the playhouse to extend its life
In order to extend the life of the playhouse as long as possible, a little maintenance will go a long way. You want to protect against anything, such as water or insects, that might get into the wood and start it rotting.
First, wipe it down inside and out regularly. If it is just surface dust, you can just use even a wood floor cleaner. Just apply it on a sponge or rag, and wipe along the grain of the wood. If it’s something a bit more serious, such as crayon, try dishwashing liquid or just warm water to start with. If that doesn’t work, you can try mayonnaise (really!) or baking soda.
Second, keep insects away. The choice of wood materials such as cedar or pressure-treated wood will probably keep most bugs away. You want to block insects so that they won’t burrow into or eat the wood. This will hurt the structural integrity of the playhouse.
Third, apply a wood preserver annually. Ideally, you’ll wipe the playhouse down, and then apply the wood preserver. You can put it both inside and out. This will help the wood fight off any dampness and stop the wood from rotting.
Finally, try to help the playhouse dry out well in between rain and snow. It’s important that it doesn’t stay damp for long. Whilst it’s unlikely to rot if you’ve applied the wood preserver, it can grow mold which is damaging to your kids health.
How much do long lasting wooden playhouses cost?
- A good quality wooden playhouse might cost between $300-$5,000 depending on size, although some can cost a lot more.
- A small single room ground level playhouse typically costs between $300-$600. This lower end of the range involves you pre-drilling the holes, and assembling the playhouse yourself.
- There are cheaper playhouses (that is, less than $100), but they will be flimsy. Look for well framed walls, snug doors and windows.
- A tower playhouse with a swingset or slide attached typically costs between $1,000-$3,000. Again, the lower end of the range is more associated with DIY assembly, and the wood is likely to be spruce rather than cedar. Spruce is less rot resistant that cedar.
- A top of the range playhouse might cost around $5,000. For this, you will get the holes pre-drilled, as well as an enormous structure. The room(s) will be bigger, probably with an internal loft, and perhaps with playset swings or a climbing wall beside it.
- As mentioned at the start of the article, it is important to have a good length guarantee or warranty. I’d like to see at least ten or ideally ten years in order to feel confident with the playhouse.
I hope this has helped you understand how long a playhouse will last. Go Forth Kids, and create your own Mission: Backyard Adventure!