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How to Make a Shanty House

Updated February 21, 2017

"Shanty house" is the name given to any type of makeshift small shelter that serves as a home for those unfortunate enough not to have better options.Though real shanty houses are built from whatever materials are available, prop shanty houses, often needed for stage plays based in the Great Depression era, look their best if built from recognisable recycled items. Proper sturdy construction of the inner frame combined with messy-looking, slapdash outer layers, will give you a shanty house that looks appropriately dishevelled but will stand up to use and movement.

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  1. Make the foundation frame for the house. Nail or screw together four of the six-foot boards to make a square, laying two of the boards over the other two, touching at the ends with two parallel, opposite sides on top and two parallel, opposite sides on the bottom. Drive in the screws from the top, then flip the square frame over.

  2. Build the frame for the walls. Attach the 2-by-4 boards on end to the four corners of the bottom frame.

  3. Attach bracing boards to secure the structure of the wall frame. Angle the short boards so they connect the bottom frame pieces to the side frame pieces. Attach with screws.

  4. Finish the frame with the roof. Attach the remaining 1-by-4 boards to the top of the shelter, copying the frame shape of the bottom four.

  5. Attach cardboard to the walls and roof using a staple gun. For the best look, use pieces of cardboard too small to cover an entire side and need to be attached together, patchwork style, using pieces not large enough to cover the entire sides of the shelter. If you have a large piece of cardboard with text or a logo on it, place this in a prominent position on the front side of the building. Leave a space of at least three feet wide uncovered from top to bottom on the side you designate to be the front of the house; this will become the doorway.

  6. Make a fabric door by stapling a large piece of non-stretchy fabric over the door frame, attaching it at the top and letting it hang down over the empty space.

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Things You'll Need

  • Eight 1-by-4 foot boards, six feet long
  • Four 2-by-4 foot boards, six feet long
  • Eight 2-by-4 foot boards, two feet long
  • Three inch screws
  • Electric screw gun
  • Staple gun
  • Scrap cardboard
  • Scrap fabric

About the Author

Lauren Vork has been a writer for 20 years, writing both fiction and nonfiction. Her work has appeared in "The Lovelorn" online magazine and thecvstore.net. Vork holds a bachelor's degree in music performance from St. Olaf College.

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