Building a ball pit is not a difficult task provided you plan out all of the materials you will need beforehand.
At a bare minimum, you will need three things:
A material that holds the balls in the structure
Ball pit balls
Below, we'll go over the three aspects one by one.
Ball Pit Structure (hint: Use PVC pipe)
The first step in building a ball pit is determining what type of structure you want. There are three commonly used structures when
building a ball pit.
a wood enclosure with padding on the inside.
an inflatable kiddie pool
a pvc pipe structure
Pvc pipe is by far the best solution, as it surprisingly sturdy (even with adult weights)
while being relatively inexpensive. Additionally, it is the easiest to clean.
PVC pipe is widely available at a local hardware store. For this reason, the ball pit guide only documents building a ball pit with pvc pipe.
What diameter of PCV pipe should I buy for a ball pit?
In terms of the size the pipe, 1-inch PVC pipe is generally considered the best size. While it is light and inexpensive, it is also extremely
sturdy, even if you don't use any cross-section stabilization. Fittings for one inch PVC pipe are also
widely available which will help lower cost.
Fittings (aka PVC pipe connectors) are the connecting pieces that hold PVC together. In building a ball pit, there are three appropriate fittings:
If building a traditional ball pit with no cross-section stabilization, you will only need 8 corner fittings. The T-Shaped fittings
and Cross fittings are only useful if you intend to stabilize the ballpit. When you buy fittings, do not buy those that are threaded on the inside. The
threading is not necessary, and unless you have threaded pvc pipe, will not work. We've had great success with fittings from
DP's bargain Basement. Any given fitting will extend that dimension by about 1 inch, as the pipe tips don't quite touch within the fitting, so take this into account
when determining the overall length you want the ballpit to be.
Once you've got the general idea for what shape you want, the next step is determining what type of material you want to hold
The containing material
The next step is deciding what type of material you want to use to hold the balls. The most common options are:
A tarp (like that you'd put under a tent to keep dry when camping)
Fabric from a fabric store (stitched together)
Tyvek wrap (the wrap they put on the outside of houses under construction)
Of the above four options, we recommend the tarp, as it's again the most widely used and most practical. Tarps, specifically
those intended for outside use, can stand up to strong pokes, and are able to bear the weight of many ball pit balls without
stretching. Furthermore, they come with holes around the outside (see image below), which is perfect for using twist-ties to
bind it to the PVC pipe structure.
Mesh netting comes in
second place, though it's more fragile, and we're looking for a ball pit that can stand heavy use by adults. The downside of
using fabric from a fabric store is that you have to stitch it together yourself, and it can split fairly easily.
The upside is that you can find some really horribly designed fabrics for dirt cheap.
What Size Tarp should I buy for a ball pit?
The main concern is that the tarp is big enough to comfortably fit against the inner walls of the ball pit without being tight.
If the tarp is too small, it will tighten under the weight of the balls, and will be more likely to rip. For a 4.5x5.5x2.5 foot ballpit,
a 12'x 16' tarp was perfect. Specifically, it had extra slack that could be pulled over the top of the PVC frame, and then twist tied
to the bottom corners of the frame.
The Ball Pit balls
The single most expensive and critical thing about building a ball pit is your balls.
This is why we've dedicated an entire page to them.