As our daughters are growing up, we wanted a sheltered place for them to play in and escape from us, their parents. Possibly a pretty pink Wendy playhouse? Being a creative and DIY “hands on” kind of guy, I’d be building something unique from the ground up - I didn’t build a Wendy playhouse, I went all out and creating something not many kids have. I built them a Hobbit Adventure like no other.
This particular personal family project begin back in October 2016, when my partner, Georgina, and I talked about buying our daughters a “girly” Wendy playhouse for them to play and store their toys in. I initially agreed and became quite fond of the idea, but having Scottish in my blood, I started to become against the idea. It was the idea of buying something I knew I could build. I also thought most playhouses on the market were rather boring, they were basically all very similar to one another.
In the end, we both agreed that I’d build our daughters a playhouse. I yearn for letting my creative juices flow while having fun - let’s build a Hobbit Hole Playhouse!
Around September 2016, the build started. The structure would have to withstand earth being placed on top, people walking over it and damp surroundings. Because I planned on building an REAL miniature “semi-under ground” Hobbit Hole. Not a Hobbit styled garden shed.
I used an old 7’ish metre 10mm RSJ steel beam for the main structural framework, this was perfect as it was strong, durable and workable. Cutting this down the middle then created 2 equal T-section steel lengths, to then be aligned and welded together to create 2 trapezoid shaped frames. I then used another smaller 10mm RSJ steel beam to fix between the top sections of the trapezoids. I then strapped the frame up and lifted into were we wanted it, allowing me to mark on the grass which area would be excavated and how deep.
Once we were happy with the placement and depth, I moved the structure to start excavation a large hole 600mm deep. I also installed a number of 8”x2” treated wooden lengths to the structure, enabling an easy base for when I start constructing the walls. After I was happy with the framework and structure knowing it was strong enough and safe enough, I moved onto the interior.
Naturally, being a Hobbit Hole the interior needed to look and feel natural. I nipped to Wickes to pick up some Plywood and made a start on the interior. The sides and rear walls of the Hobbit Hole would be be covered in earth, so these were fitted inside and outside with 18mm chipboard. The front side wouldn’t have any earth weight against it, so 9mm Plywood was used. The roofs exterior, like the sides and rear, had 18mm chipboard. For the roofs interior, I decided to make this a lighting feature and create a ‘Star Ceiling’ effect. Instead of using a traditional optic fibre lighting system to create the desired effect, instead I used the cheaper and tougher option of white LED Christmas lights. I first intended to have the stars scattered, but due to the structure and limitation of the lights and avoiding the wastage of valuable light, since it was going to be quite a dark space, I decided to lay them out in a ‘zig-zag’ and use every available bulb. After approval from our eldest daughter, Ellie, I continued to mark every lights placement with a black dot and drilled a 4mm hole through the Plywood to home the lights, finally fixing with a glue gun.
Now that the ‘Star Ceiling’ was built, tested and installed, it was time to lift the Hobbit Hole one last time and drop it into its final resting place.
The hole was lined with 1mm plastic as damp proofing, with the structure then placed inside of that, I continued to wrap the whole structure in the same plastic, excluding the front wall. I then used sections from an old chopped up glass fibre pond to help add extra strength and seal the top. Sealing the floor, I used concrete. Thankfully, when it came to filling the base and exteriors outer edges with roughly 200mm of concrete, we had my partners nephew, George, staying who saved a lot of heat, sweat and red faces - good man!
While the concrete we laid it in the morning was left to set and harden, during the afternoon, George and I decided to dig and run armoured cable into the Hobbit Hole. Throughout the week, I moved onto building and installing a Hobbit style door, sealed the exposed Plywood with liquid damp proofing and finally started to pile earth around the rear and sides. To control the lighting and ensure there were no exposed switches for the children, I tucked all the electrical components and connections away in a secure wall box, fitted with a LightwaveRF inline relay. This meant we could control the lighting by remote or through our smartphones.
Moving on, now that the concrete had set and safe enough to climb inside, it was time to decorate and create a feature wall. I decided on creating a feature wall which involved log slices, so I set-up the cradle and fired the McCulloch chainsaw into life. Cutting each slice of already seasoned wood at approximately the same thickness. In total, cut roughly 2 large buckets to have enough to completely cover the rear wall.
Before the slices were placed onto the wall, I ensured any dust was brushed off. I got myself 3 tubes of 'Sticks Like' shit and started slapping them onto the rear wall in a random like pattern. I continued through and finished the feature wall, as well as covering the external liquid damp proofing with artificial grass, and found an old vintage light to hang outside the front which I filled with the remaining 'Star Ceiling’ LED lights. I was very VERY happy with how this turned out and how the whole thing was looking, admittedly, I was defiantly more excited at this point than our daughters were.
The Interior was now complete and working, it was damp proofed and grass was slowly but surely starting to growing on the roof and up the sides. Things were working out great! I now needed to cover the exposed blue plastic wrap around the front, doing so with an old corrugated roofing sheet. Cut to size and overlapped, secured with concrete, expandable foam and pop rivets - and finally finished off with a lick of brown paint to help blend in and look natural. I also created 2 log retaining walls to help hold back the earth, held together by large pins that are put through every log and then into the ground.
Thoughts on the final outcome
Fast forward over 6 months, I’m happy with how things look and worked out. This wasn’t a step-by-step planned projects, it was merely a "make it up as you go along" kind of project with no deadlines, which was nice. Projects like this give you the opportunity to chop and change ideas as you go, but can also allow you to forget to do things that you should of done - but lucky for me I hadn’t… I think?
The grass hasn’t fully grown yet and is still a tad patchy, but it will grow in time. My partner has recently planted strawberries and scattered coloured wild flower seeds, so next year things should look even better. This is the type of project that looks better and more natural as time goes on, when nature tries to take over again. What do you think?