DIY Playground #2: ‘PlayHive’ Playhouse by thoughtbarn

Austin, Texas based design studio thoughtbarn constructed an artful playhouse based on a beehive for a wildfire benefit in their city.  Their unique construction, which children can not only play in but also climb around on both inside and out, requires only 2x4s, a drill and a chopsaw (and some patience, but don’t all good things?)  And now full plans are available for download to Playscapes readers!

Licensed once again by a Creative Commons non-commercial attribution, so do please give credit and don’t attempt to make money off this, amazing as it is.  To help you on your way, there are additional photos of construction and installation at the thoughtbarn blog and the thoughtbarn flickr page.

Once again, all I ask is that you send me pics of your very own Playhives, and leave thank-yous for the great folks at thoughtbarn.  Think of the Playhive combined with the terrain and planting suggestions from space2place.…amazing.  Go out and make a playscape!



21 Responses to “DIY Playground #2: ‘PlayHive’ Playhouse by thoughtbarn”

  1. Mike Kurtz said:

    Love the Bee Hive. It looks like length wood for each layer is adjustable. Once you have a cut plan you can use the the compound miter saw to do repettive cuts. The question I have is there a cut plan for this project?

    February 27, 2015 at 10:37 pm

  2. Sarah said:

    Hi Levana,

    Some of us from Playscapes built a PlayHive and while we haven’t had it long I think it will be very durable. It uses a lot of wood and the structure itself has a lot of redundant parts so even if one (or a couple) pieces fail you still have a sturdy structure. With backyard use (vs. a playground with constant activity) I expect it last 15+ years. Using cedar, stainless steel screws and pre-drilling holes (so you don’t crack the wood) will cost you more but also give you the most longevity.

    Good luck & Send us a pic if you do build one!


    July 26, 2014 at 1:33 pm

  3. Levana said:

    Those if you who have already constructed your play hive how has it stood up to the elements? Have you had any problems with bug infestations or bugs like spiders making it their home? We Love this idea but we don’t want to sink a whole lot of money into a project that won’t last…

    July 13, 2014 at 7:34 am

  4. Levana said:

    Those of you that have built their hives, how is it now a couple years later?? I LOVE this idea but I worry about it standing up to the elements in our yard and I worry about bug infestation….did any if you have problems with water damage down the road or say spider/bugs making it their home too?? How do you preserve a structure like this??

    July 13, 2014 at 7:19 am

  5. Paige Johnson said:

    I’m not sure but we’re trying to start some construction support over on facebook:

    Maybe the group there will have some input! Do please send or post feedback and photos of your own playhive!

    May 12, 2014 at 12:27 pm

  6. Zack said:

    Has anyone built one using composite or plastic lumber? Would still use wood for 2×12 inside elements. We are building one for a neighborhood play area and I am thinking of the maintenance issues. Composite lumber seems to have a good track record.

    May 12, 2014 at 12:10 pm

  7. sarah said:

    Question for anyone who has made one —

    Once you have the pieces cut, roughly how long did it take to assemble (and how many people)?


    January 26, 2014 at 11:10 am

  8. Paige Johnson said:

    Hi Tammy,
    I just tried the link (from the sidebar of the blog) and it seems to be working fine…maybe just try again!

    July 06, 2013 at 7:07 pm

  9. Tammy said:

    Hi I have been trying to download plans but it seems it is no longer available? Help please — I love this idea!

    July 05, 2013 at 10:57 pm

  10. arcady said:

    Hi Gabriel,
    Send photos to me at the email on the blog; I'm hoping to do a round up of all those who have made them for an upcoming posts!

    June 19, 2012 at 7:37 pm

  11. Gabriel said:

    Chris, the plans say 3″ screws, but 2 1/2″ works out okay.

    June 19, 2012 at 4:31 pm

  12. Gabriel said:

    How do I upload a photo? This thing is so rad. I found that the steps were a little crowded when climbing up the inside, so around row 29 I just started going straight up, like a beaker/reactor, and ending up with a cool turret/look-out on top. I also built a curved piece from the 2×12 to go over the doorway and support the structure in front better. Thanks so much for sharing!

    June 19, 2012 at 4:30 pm

  13. Chris Melella said:

    for those that have started completed this – did you use 2″ screws or 2 1/2 for joining the 2x4s together? the plans say 2″, but that seems small to join 2 2x4s? thanks!

    June 03, 2012 at 3:05 am

  14. Dirtius Wifius said:

    I'm so excited to get started on this, although I'm thinking of doing it a little bit bigger and making it around the base of our cherry tree. I've always wanted to have a playhouse up in the tree but this would be a great transition. If we finish it up I'll of course send pics. Thanks for the plans and for your whole blog!

    May 22, 2012 at 10:12 pm

  15. Nick said:

    I am almost done with the play hive and the kids already love it! Up to level 38, only have the 7″ pieces left. I sent some pictures to your email address.

    May 16, 2012 at 2:54 pm

  16. arcady said:

    Do please send photos Nick! Yours may be the first one to be finished…I'd love to post it.

    May 08, 2012 at 2:49 pm

  17. Nick said:

    I am in the midst of building one now…decided to use pressure treated wood and deck screws, ordered 50 2×4's and some 2×12's from lowes and they even delivered for a small fee. It is so easy once you get started, if you have a router with a router table, it is even easier, just zip all the pieces through it. My kids have already started playing on it and I am only on the 16th level. For my kids, this is so much better than those expensive play sets.

    May 08, 2012 at 12:05 pm

  18. Mpouls said:

    I love this hive and the other ideas featured here-plants for play etc. I am trying to adapt some of these ideas for our deck as we are city dwellers without a yard but want our kids to have a natural play experience too! Any ideas?
    ps the anti-robot thing took me 4 tries and I am human and 35- it is really fuzzy I hope no one over the age of 50 or needing glasses tries to comment!

    April 20, 2012 at 5:34 pm

  19. arcady said:

    Nope, you can't charge for something based on this PlayHive plan. It belongs to thoughtbarn.

    March 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm

  20. istockhouseplans said:

    I've seen this idea done before as an art installment and was going to build a larger adult size one. I like the outside steps.

    Make no money off of it? Which part, the idea or the published plans? I've thought offering to build hives for others but are you saying I can't charge for it now?

    March 20, 2012 at 7:46 pm

  21. Perfect Harmony said:

    Wow, wow, wow!!! I love, love, love the hive. Add that to my wish list!!!

    March 20, 2012 at 2:34 am

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