How to Build a Shed or Cubby House

Cubby -House

How to build a shed or cubby house – your own backyard retreat.

Build a space where your imagination can run riot – that’s a cubby house for kids and shed for grownups.

If you have kids, you'll know just how important it is for them to have their own space. A place where they can escape, make believe and daydream. Their bedroom provides all the creature comforts, but who wants to be stuck inside on a beautiful day? There's no better way to burn up some of that energy and inspire their imagination than with a cool cubby house.

Of course, big people need space too. Aussie blokes and their sheds - now there's a relationship made in heaven! Not just somewhere to store the mower, garden tools and tins of paint, but a calm place, full of useful items. A great weekend antidote to workday pressures.

Many of the issues encountered when building a cubby house also apply to building a shed. Both structures can impact on your neighbours and the environment, which is why it is important to seek approval from your local council. Rules and regulations vary, but you don't want to invest your time and money in something that could end in tears and further expense after complaints from the neighbours.

Like any building project, do all your planning in advance. A shed needs to be built for its primary function: garden shed, workshop, studio or garage – all have different features so be clear about what you need in your shed plans.

When building a cubby house, choose something age-appropriate. There are three main types of structure: the traditional which is like a house, the fort which is raised off the ground and the activity centre, which is a fort with additional equipment like scramble nets. A 2.5 metre high activity centre with scramble nets and slides could injure a two-year-old, while a one room traditional cubby house could draw sneers and snickering from your ten year old G.I Joe. Do your research and discuss it with the family before you start. That way you can negotiate a structure that will be loved, and used by your family for years.

Building a cubby house or shed in a good location can ensure it is integrated into your home like a new friend. Consider the size of your backyard and choose something that fits, but doesn't dominate at the expense of free space. A cubby house should be a comfortable distance from the house, but still in full view of the authorities (parents, that is!). Try to build your shed or cubby house in a spot where there's some shade, though unless you love clearing away rotting leaf litter avoid deciduous trees. Hoisting a shade sail may be just the ticket during the heat of summer.

Cubby houses and sheds should be a reasonable distance away from the boundary of your property. Most councils require formal building approval if it's closer than 900mm to a boundary or over 2.4m high. If your children can peer over the fence at a sunbathing neighbour, or wood chips from your lathe fly over the fence, then you're too close for comfort. Avoid drama by checking regulations and seeking approval before building starts.

Once you've identified the type of structure you want and where it will live, decide if you have the skill, time and motivation for a DIY job, or if it makes more sense to purchase something prefabricated.

Simple cubby house plans and shed plans are available at hardware stores, in magazines and online if you're up for the challenge of building from scratch. If you go this way, it's important to remember that many timbers are treated with toxic chemicals to protect them from the elements and deter insects. Make sure you choose kid friendly, non-toxic timber for cubby houses. Carefully sand rough edges to prevent nasty splinters, then when finished, paint, oil or varnish thoroughly with an appropriate product.

If that all sounds too scary, you can still get DIY satisfaction from the many shed kits and cubby house kits available, where all your building materials are supplied pre-cut and ready to go. Want to go easier still? Then opt for a pre-fabricated structure where each panel comes complete and can be assembled in under an hour (just like a big ginger bread house).

Whichever way you go, love and maintain your cubby house or shed. In return you'll have years of loyal service, fun and games.

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