Is it Cheaper to Buy or Build a Sandbox?


For some home projects, you can often find a better deal if you do it yourself, provided you have some basic DIY skills. But is that the case with sandboxes? In this blog post, we will explore whether or not it’s cheaper to build or buy a sandbox for your backyard. We will cover things like the cost of wood, the cost of making a cover, and how much time it will take for you to build your own DIY sandbox in comparison to buying one from a store.

If you already own all the tools required and you’re looking to make a basic, coverless sandbox, it’s cheaper to build one than to buy one. That said, if you want a sandbox with some style and a cover, you’re better off buying one. Either way, you can get a decent sandbox for under $200. 

How Much Does it Cost to Build a Sandbox?

The cost of building a sandbox is largely dependent on what you want the sandbox to look like. If you’re looking for a DIY project, and only need something simple–like a coverless box made out of wood with no fancy features–you can likely build it yourself without spending more than $100 in materials (if not less).

After all, a simple square of wood with sides that are about a foot high and 4 feet long will likely cost around $100 for cheaper boards like pine or poplar and around $150 for cedar. If you want something fancier, like a DIY sandbox with arches and a roof, then the cost will go up accordingly. 

Also, if you want something bigger, like a sandbox that’s about 8 feet long on each side, then you’ll have to buy more wood. 

All this to say that it depends on what you want. If you already have a saw, a drill, a shovel, and protective gear, you can make a sandbox for under $200, no problem. 

Since you’ll have to buy sand for both a DIY and a ready-made sandbox, I’m not including that in the price — yet. I’ll cover sand once we get the costs of building vs buying out of the way. 

DIY Sandbox Material List

Let’s say that you have the tools, but not the materials. Here’s some ballpark estimates of what it will cost. 

Here are the materials you’ll need for a basic, medium-sized sandbox: 

  • Wood – Cedar is more expensive but will last longer than softwoods. Determine the size of your sandbox to decide how much wood you need. Expect to spend $100 to $150 on decent, non-toxic wood. 
  • Screws – Wood screws to hold the sandbox together. Less than $10. 
  • Landscape Fabric – Ideal for keeping the dirt out of the sandbox by placing it across the bottom, under the sand. $20 to $30. 
  • Time – This isn’t a concern for many people because it’s a pretty fun and easy project. But if it’s a concern for you, then you can expect to spend anywhere from 4 to 8 hours building the sandbox, depending on the style and size. 

So, let’s say you’re going to do everything on the cheap. Here’s an example of what it might cost:

Wood – $125 

Screws – $6.00

Landscape Fabric – $20

Total = $151.00 (provided you already have all the tools required).

How Much Does it Cost to Buy a Sandbox?

Now let’s take a look at how much it costs to buy a sandbox. Again, this depends on the type and size of sandbox you want. But, for our purposes, we’ll take the average price of a 4-foot by 4-foot wooden sandbox with a cover. 

  • Sandbox – $150 for a sandbox with a cover. If you want a cover and a canopy to keep the sun off the kiddos, you could spend a bit more. Usually around the $160 to $180 range. 
Best Choice Products 47x47in Kids Large Wooden Sandbox for Backyard, Outdoor Play w/Cedar Wood, 2...
  • COMFORTABLE SEATING: Benches on opposite sides of the sandbox help keep moisture out and are made with backrests to keep kids comfortable and prevent falling backward as they play
  • SEATS CONVERT TO COVER: Designed with 2 benches that seat up to 4 children or 2 adults and easily fold down into a split cover to keep the sand clear of debris
  • CEDAR WOOD: Heat-treated cedar wood helps the sandbox remain sturdy and durable for a playtime solution that lasts through your child's younger years
  • BOTTOMLESS DESIGN W/ LINER: An included liner goes underneath the bottomless box to facilitate drainage, ventilation, and sand depth adjustment

Sand Prices

There’s a wide range of sand prices, depending on whether you want some that’s certified free of crystalline silica and tremolite, which are potentially dangerous. (For more on sand safety, check out my article here.

You can spend as little as $5 per bag up to $50 per bag. One 50-pound bag of sand will cover about half of one cubic foot. So let’s figure out how much this will cost. 

To determine how many cubic feet of sand you’ll need, multiply width, length, and depth in feet. So, for a 4’x4’x1′ sandbox, we’re looking at 16 cubic feet. But, we don’t actually need to fill the box all the way up. So let’s revise that, determining that we’ll fill it up halfway: 

4′ * 4′ * .5* = 8 cubic feet.

8 cubic feet will require 16 50-pound bags of sand. If we get them at $5 a pop, we’re looking at $80 for sand. 

So let’s look at the cost comparison for the two sandboxes. 

Total Cost of Sandboxes With Sand

  • Cost of DIY sandbox with sand – $231
  • Cost of a ready-made sandbox with sand – $230

Now remember that in our calculations for the DIY sandbox, we didn’t provide materials for a wooden cover, whereas the price of the ready-made sandbox includes a cover. 

That said, you can simply place a tarp over your DIY sandbox, or spend a little extra time and money to build a cover. Or you may not want a cover if you don’t think the sandbox will attract animals and insects

Keep in mind that these are only estimates, and you can easily go over or under whether you’re building or buying your sandbox.

For more on whether you should cover your sandbox, read this article

In Conclusion

If you want a sandbox with a cover, benches, and a canopy, you’re probably better off buying one ready-made. 

This well-rated sandbox is available for under $200 on Amazon. It comes with both a cover and a canopy. However, keep in mind that you’ll need to assemble most decent-sized sandboxes. 

Kids Sand Boxes with Canopy Sandboxes with Covers Foldable Bench Seats, Children Outdoor Wooden...
  • ★ NEW Design RETRACTABLE ROOF- UPGRADE the roof handle by using MUCH THICKER wood so it will not broken! Your kids will have a long period of sand time without the worry of sudden shower or ultraviolet ray. It keeps local cats out when the cover goes down.
  • ★ Easy to Clean & Detachable Canopy- It is easy to wash and secure with the hook and loop fastener affixed to the canopy frame.
  • ★ STURDY CONSTRUCTION- Dedicated T-shaped hinge ensure durability of the back rest. Hand grips make it easy to fold and unfold the benches. 2 benches for up to 4 children or 2 adults.
  • ★ Bottomless design- Facilitates drainage, ventilation and adjustment of the depth of the sand. FREE Sand screen is included is for the easy storage of sand.

If you’re looking for a basic square sandbox without a cover or any extras, you can make one in an afternoon. It could be a fun family project that gives everyone a sense of accomplishment. And there’s no price tag for those kinds of memories.

That said, it will probably cost you about the same as buying a sandbox would. 
So it really comes down to whether you want to spend the time building a sandbox, and whether it will be a fun project for you and your kid(s). If you simply want to get a sandbox so your kids can play in it, buying one is probably the better option.

Justin

Justin Childress is the creator of Sunshineandplay.com. He is also a devoted husband and father of his 1 year old son Gabriel. Justin enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, of course, contributing to Sunshineandplay.com.

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