Rustic DIY Sandbox for Under $25

Finished at last! I’m absolutely beat after this weekend, but it was worth it! On Friday I cut the barn wood ties G and I got for the DIY sandbox we wanted to make for the boys. I used a reciprocating saw for the first time and it made me feel so accomplished! Saturday we got the ties in position, the lining down, and the sand put in.

Cheap Rustic DIY Sandbox |
The boys were excited to have their own balance beams – for the moment.

The best part? The sand was free! I found someone giving away the sand in their own in-ground sandbox to make room for more grass in their yard. FB marketplace wins again!

I packed our car with every empty bin and box I could find and took R and Little K with me. The couple was very generous and helped me fill my buckets and boxes, and the boys loved using their little garden shovels to help as well.

Cheap Rustic DIY Sandbox |
The barn wood ties measured, cut, and placed.

Admittedly it was hard to pull the boys away once we were finished since there was still sand leftover to play with, but I think bringing your kids along on things like this is so beneficial. Kids need to see their parents work for what they want, and I think kids need to help where they can. A lesson in hard work is always a good thing.

Once home I poked some holes in the lining of the sandbox and R helped me unload the sand – 1/3 a bucket at a time since 7-months-prego here isn’t supposed to be lifting heavy things 😬. After three trips R decided there was enough sand to play in and left the rest for me to haul. Ha! At least he helped out a little, right?

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Ties with the plastic sheeting tucked underneath. Not sure why the boys thought laying on it was the natural thing to do 🤷🏼‍♀️

G was nursing a headache, so while he put Little K down for a nap I slowly, but surely, emptied our car of sand and filled up the sandbox. The finished product looks great! My sore back testifies that sand is deceptively heavy, but I’m so glad our project is almost done! All that’s left is securing the barn wood ties to each other with some metal brackets, just to be sure they don’t get knocked out of place since we didn’t dig a trench for them to rest in.

Cheap Rustic DIY Sandbox |
Filling up the box 1/3 of a bucket at a time.

My DIY Sandbox Process

1. Find border material – I used barn wood ties, but other cheap materials I’ve found locally on yard sale sites include pallet wood, bricks, cinder blocks, and large rocks.

2. Cut border pieces to size, if necessary – I used a reciprocating saw to cut my barn wood ties at approximately 5’ long. Since they’re pretty weathered I just used the best parts of each log and just rolled with the imperfections. This wasn’t a perfectionist project.

3. Put down lining material (optional) – we decided to put down a barrier since our sandbox was going on top of the grass. You could use plastic sheeting, yard cloth, cardboard boxes, etc. Just make sure you have drainage options.

4. Arrange border materials on top of liner, if using – we didn’t attach the liner to our wood pieces because we figured the weight of the logs would be enough. We will use some corner brackets to secure the logs to each other so nothing rolls.

5. Fill with sand – I had two square plastic storage containers, a cleaning bucket, an empty 5-gallon bucket, and two big cardboard boxes that I filled little by little with sand. Wherever you get your sand from, move it safely! It’s heavy!

6. Cover – we have an unused tarp that came with a different purchase on FB Marketplace that we use to cover the sandbox when it’s not being used. This way the sand stays clean from leaves, sticks, and any feline friend that may be looking for a new litter box 😳.

Do-It-Yourself Sandbox Cost Breakdown

I am so pleased with how this project panned out. And looking back at the cost, I think it was absolutely worth the gas and manual labor. Here’s what the materials cost me:

  • Barn wood ties – found on FB Marketplace for $5 each from a rancher trying to get rid of them. There was some gas cost to pick them up as well. Total: $20
  • Plastic lining – I bought a 100-pound (literally) role of plastic sheeting for $10 on FB Marketplace for an earlier project, so we decided to use some leftovers of that for the lining. Total: <$1 for the amount used
  • Sand – free! Just the cost of gas.
  • Brackets – $3 from Home Depot

Honesty time. I realize that I got lucky in finding my materials for as cheap as I did. However, I think patience can work wonders when it comes to DIY projects. I have found free wood on FB Marketplace that I could’ve used instead of barn wood ties. I’ve also found people selling bags of sand that could’ve been an option. I got all my tools off local yard sale sites. If you don’t have a specific timeline in mind, you’ll be surprised how much you can save by just waiting and watching.

When have you saved money by being patient? What backyard projects do you have in the works? I’d love to hear about them!

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