Finished living room pup tents

DIY Living Room Pup Tents: Part One

Last week (probably via Pinterest) Maherly came across this awesome example of a DIY a-frame pup tent -- perfect for impromptu forts or VIP movie nights. The end product looks pretty cool, and while my attempt doesn't stray too far from the original, there were some gaps in the post's detail that left me with a few questions. So I decided to take a crack at making a couple and documenting it here. Be sure to check out the original post; none of this would have happened without it!

This post is Part One: I'll prep the material and finish the wood. In Part Two I'll assemble the frame and attach the sheet.

Finished living room pup tents

Building the Frame

Cut to Length

I started with medium-grade 1″x3″ pine. No need to go top-shelf, but since they'll be exposed in the room I stayed out of the bargain bin. I ripped two 8′ boards down to four at 48″ long (Fig.1).

image of lumber
Fig. 1: Two (2) 1″x3″s, clamped, cut to 48″

Drill for the Crossbar

The ¾″ PVC crossbar I chose has an outside diameter of ⅞″, so I drilled a ⅞″ hole through two boards at a time. The center of the hole is 2½″ from the end of the board, on center. Aside from a nice cosmetic detail, it's important to offset the crossbar a few inches from the end of the boards, rather than close to the top. The overall assembly will be a bit stronger, but more importantly, twin sheets aren't exactly 96″ long (despite the measurements on the label). The extra few inches will ensure your sheet will fit over the whole assembly (and not be too short).

image of a hole drilled through pine
Fig. 2: Drill a ⅞″ hole for the ¾″ crossbar.

Route the Edges

Our kids are still pretty small, and sharp corners aren't going to do us any favors, here. So I departed from the original design by routing all the edges with a ¼″ roundover bit (Fig. 3). As evidenced by the pic, my router and I are still coming to terms with each other, but nothing a little sanding won't fix. If you don't have a router or prefer the look of clean lines, I'd recommend moving on to a healthy sanding.

image of routed board
Fig. 3: Route all edges with a ¼" roundover bit.

Sand, Then Sand Again

To get a nice finished look and clean up any router trails, I sanded everything in two phases: a first pass with a medium-grit (100) paper (Fig. 4), and a second finishing pass with a fine-grit (180). The result is super-smooth -- splinters, be damned!

image of sanded wood
Fig.4: The frame routed (left) and sanded (right).

Prepare for Finish

The original design left the wood unfinished (I think), but I decided to finish the frame with a stain/poly all-in-one. You could paint the wood, but the natural opening and closing of the tent might hasten the paint toward rubbing off. To prep the lumber for stain, wipe it clean with a damp cloth (Fig. 5).

Image of lumber and rag
Fig. 5: Wipe down the boards with a damp cloth

Apply the Stain

I chose a Minwax stain/poly all-in-one (Fig. 6) in Bombay Mahogany Gloss (a deep, reddish-brown), and applied it with cheesecloth.

image of lumber, pre-stain
Fig. 6: Choose a good quality stain/poly all-in-one to save time.


The boards are a manageable 4′ long, so it didn't take much time to apply two good coats (Fig. 7).

image of stained wood
Fig. 7: Apply at least two quality coats of stain.

Cut the Stringers and PVC

The frame gets strength and support from the stringers -- pieces of lumber running the depth of the tent that serve double-duty by keeping the sheets tight. I chose a depth of 4½′ for our tent -- slightly shorter than the originals. A shorter base (in this case) will strengthen the frame, and using 1″x3″ stock means some savings on the wallet. I have enough lumber for two tents, so I clamped four boards and chopped them to 52″ long (Fig. 8).

image of clamped lumber
Fig. 8: Clamp four (4) 1″x3″s and cut to 52″.

The PVC joist ties the frame together and holds the sheet up. For a depth of 54″, cut the PVC to at least 54½″ to allow some overhang for the end caps (Fig. 9).

image of PVC and coping saw
Fig. 9: Cut the PVC to 54½″, or slightly longer than the depth of your tent.

Finish With Spray Poly

To finish the exposed pieces of the frame you could add another couple coats of stain/poly, but I cut right to the chase with a spray-able polyurethane. Following the directions on the can, I added two coats of polyurethane to the frame, giving it a nice gloss and protecting it from crayons and markers (Fig. 10).

Image of lumber getting sprayed with polyurethane.
Fig. 10: Apply spray-able polyurethane to the frame.


And that wraps up part one! Let everything dry, and come back later this week to put it all together!

5 thoughts on “DIY Living Room Pup Tents: Part One

  1. Great writeup!

    You might want to fix your links on other pages as they lead to a 404: Page Not Found. :-(
    “” needs the “/2012/04” removed (did some housekeeping, did we?). So people can find the first part of your DIY…

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