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I'm building a sandbox for my three-year old. It will probably sit on the deck, so it needs some kind of bottom. Ideally, we should be able to move the sandbox around the deck. Is it necessary for water to drain out of the sandbox, or will the sand absorb enough water? What should I use for bottom?

Ideas:

  • Landscape fabric: allows water to drain through, but may not be strong enough to move.

  • Regular plywood: allows movement, but may rot and does not drain.

  • Redwood plywood: I don't know anything about, but I saw it at Home Depot, and it may be more resistant to rot.

  • Edit: Combination: plywood with a few drilled holes, covered by landscape fabric.

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5  
Your concern about draining suggests it will be uncovered. Does your neighborhood have cats? –  Rod Fitzsimmons Frey Jul 26 '10 at 15:43
    
@Rod, I was planning to cover it in order to keep cats and other animals out, but I thought quite a bit of rain water might still get through. What do you think? –  Vebjorn Ljosa Jul 26 '10 at 16:22
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My experience is that a lid will keep the rain out fine, but you absolutely will forget to cover it properly at least once (especially when your daughter is 4 and can open it herself), and then getting the water out is a huge headache. Drainage is a must. –  Rob Napier Jul 26 '10 at 19:20
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+1 for @Rob's statement - drainage is a must for sure. I just wanted to make sure you had thought of the delightful presents from neighbourhood pets. Because nobody told me. :) –  Rod Fitzsimmons Frey Jul 26 '10 at 19:32

4 Answers 4

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The sand will definitely not absorb/release enough water if it's ever open to the rain. If your box doesn't drain, you'll have a small pond (as we do if we ever forget to put the lid on).

Your landscape fabric idea sounds pretty good. I'd just build that on top of decking slats or something like Trex (which might be perfect for this). Some gaps between the slats will allow drainage. Look into what the decking material is treated with. I'm in the camp that believes that the fears of CCA pressure treated wood are overblown, but even I probably wouldn't use it in a sandbox for a three year old.

Keep in mind regarding sliding it around: Sand is heavy, especially when damp (100-130 pounds per cubic foot). We have a pretty small plastic sandbox in our yard and I can't move it without dumping the sand first (but then "small" to me is something that holds three boys :D and I'm sliding across grass). You might want to think about furniture glides if you can find something that will slide reasonably on your deck, or even castors. Those will require that your base be much more rigid of course.

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I don't think you can even get CCA treated wood anymore. Everything you buy now is ACQ which does not contain arsenic and is much "safer" than CCA (if CCA was every really that dangerous in the first place) –  Eric Petroelje Jul 26 '10 at 15:13

Since you are going to place it on a deck, move it around, want to keep water and cats out, I would just buy a plastic one with a lid. In my opinion its not worth the hassle. The wood alone will make it heavy and hard to move around, let alone with sand in it.

They are fairly cheap, we bought one a few weeks ago at a garage sale for $5. I know there is pride in doing it yourself, I wanted to build one too, but in the end, it may not be worth it.

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It would have to be small one, then. My daughter requested an octagonal sandbox (her favorite shape), so I thought I would make each edge ~22 in long. That would mean 500–700 lbs of sand. –  Vebjorn Ljosa Jul 27 '10 at 12:56

Just thinking off the top of my head maybe a wooden (cypress) frame, put a metal grid across the bottom (maybe some kind of galvanized grid) and brace it with some pieces of cypress. Then put the landscape fabric over the metal grid and then fill with sand.

I almost said go with a straight metal grid but the weight of sand and children would probably be too much so the pieces of cypress would brace across the metal grid. This way you'd get good drainage and the ability to move it around (if you put it on casters).

Not sure how resistant redwood plywood is to rot or if they make cypress plywood.

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I used a linoleum remnant for my kids and it lasted for 20 years. Now I can't find a remnant anywhere for my grand kids' sandbox. The linoleum worked great as it could still drain out the bottom and it kept the sand clean as they did not scrape up dirt when building their "roads" in the sand. I thought of putting outdoor remnant over the top of the sand as they could lift it and the cats and squirrels couldn't dig in it.

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