You’ve got some entertaining to do, and some unused space in a side yard. This looks like a job for bocce ball. This classic, Italian game has simple rules from the horseshoes/shuffleboard family, and can be enjoyed by people of all ages and levels of competitive intensity. (It can also be played with a beverage in one hand.)
The traditional court is made of packed earth, topped with a layer of crushed seashells. Not exactly accessible to the average homeowner. Even substituting sand and decomposed granite is going to set you back some coin, and take truckloads of material.
Faced with the task of building a bocce ball court on a budget, we kicked our problem solving into gear and came up with a $300 solution you can do yourself for less than a third of what you’d spend with traditional materials.
Step 1 – Frame the Court
A traditional court is about 10 feet wide and 60 feet long. Given the constraints of the space at hand, we opted for a half sized court. To frame it in, we used 8-foot railroad ties. In this case, taking advantage of a fence, we only had to cover one side and one end, but it would be easy to frame in the rest if you need to.
We got 4 ties and cut one in half with a chainsaw. They were set end to end, with one short piece laid across the open end to close it off. Their sheer weight will hold them in place, but for added security we strapped them together with brackets and galvanized nails.
Step 2 – Level the Base
In this situation, the ground was mostly brick, with an open space along the fence line for planting. We raked out the planter and leveled the soil to 1 inch below the brick. Here’s where the first application of our packed earth substitute came in. We filled in the gap with 1-inch foam insulation, cut to size.
Then we lay down the first sheets of foam in the court. They’re 4 feet x 8 feet, so they had the same dimensions as the space framed out by the ties and fence. They’re also light, so it was easy to lay down the first layer, test it with the level and then lift and shim it with strips of foam until it was just right. It’s important to get this layer level. Any inconsistencies will be magnified as more layers are added.
Teddy knows how important the level is
Step 3 – Add the Middle Layers
Add more sheets of foam insulation, staggering the joints with the layer below. Just as with the railroad ties, one space will be filled with a half sheet. Make sure this doesn’t line up with the half sheet in the layer below.
Secure each joint with heavy duty duct tape. Bring the level up to about 2 inches below the top of the railroad ties.
Step 4 – Attach the Playing Surface
The last layer of foam insulation needs to be covered with indoor/outdoor carpet or artificial turf to create a smooth, continuous playing surface. You can get the turf cut to size when you buy it at the home center. It needs to be a foot longer and wider than the court, to create an overlap on the underside.
Lay the turf out, face side down, and set the sheets of foam on top. Secure the foam at the joints with duct tape. Now fold the turf over the foam, keeping it tight and even on both sides, and tape and staple it in place. Trim the turf at the corners to keep them smooth. The hardest part about this is keeping the turf tight and wrinkle free. You need more than one set of hands to hold everything in place and then secure it.
Step 5 – Install the Top Layer
The other layers were set in place sheet by sheet, but the top is all one piece, making it a giant sail, or a wing. It isn’t heavy at all, but it’s best to again have help to maneuver it into place. Set the top layer into the frame and let it settle.
Now, to keep everything just so, bump the outside of the frame at a joint in the railroad ties with a sledgehammer. You don’t need too much force. All you’re trying to do is pinch the layers of sheets and hold them tight in place. If you over do it, they’ll buckle, so take it easy.
Step 6 – Bocce!
At last, open up your bocce ball set and get a game going.