Family DIY

Kids + Baby

Family DIY

How to Build a Swing Set

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BLACK+DECKER B+D Contributor 120 Projects

If you want to design and build a backyard playground that meets your needs, but you don’t want to start from scratch, a good option is to buy a precut playground kit. Most home centers and a number of Internet suppliers sell do-it-yourself playground packages containing parts and hardware to make a complete play area. Some of the kits include all of the wood, while others include a list of lumber that you must buy with the set. Dozens of different designs are available, from a basic swingset and slide to elaborate, multilevel play areas with numerous extra features. Most manufacturers design their systems so that optional features can be easily added on. Most playground systems are designed to be installed with poured concrete footings, but in some cases you may be able to get by with simply anchoring the posts. If you choose not to pour footings, it’s even more important for the ground underneath the tower and swingset to be very level. To level and smooth the playground area and to stop grass and weeds from growing through it, cut out the sod in the play area, or at least in the area where the structures go, before you begin building. Some playground kits include all the necessary drill bits and drivers. If your kit doesn’t, you’ll need a standard selection of spade bits and drill bits, as well as countersink bits for #6 and #8 screws. You’ll also need a magnetized Phillips head driver for your drill. Note: The instructions in the following project are intended as a general guide for installing a playground kit that includes precut lumber. The type of playground you purchase may use different materials and techniques than shown here.

Assembling the Swing Set + Playground

  1. Playground 1

    Prepare the installation area. Use strings and stakes to outline the area and then cut out the sod in the play area (buy or rent a sod cutter if you wish to replant the sod elsewhere in your yard). Level the ground. Where possible, level the ground using the lowest spot as a starting point and excavating high areas to that point. Add landscape fabric.

  2. Playground 2

    Towers are the principal structural elements in any playground kit. They support slides and other accessories. Generally, they are comprised of fairly simple frames and beams. For the kit shown here, assemble the framework of the tower one side at a time, and then join the sides together on top of flat pieces of 2 × 6 or 2 × 8. Use the drilling template included in the kit as a guide for driving countersunk screws. Locate screws carefully—metal brackets that cover the screwheads are often added later, so the screws have to be positioned carefully. Raise the tower.

  3. Playground 3

    Screw the brackets to the tower frame corners, making sure that the bolt hole on the long side of the bracket lines up with the centers of the 2 × 4s behind it. Using the large holes in the brackets as guides, drill holes for the bolts. To avoid splintering the back sides, stop drilling as soon as the bit starts to poke through the back, then finish drilling from the other side. Check to make sure everything is still square, and then install and tighten the bolts.

  4. Playground 4

    Install the center joists that connect the platform frames, fastening them with countersunk 21⁄2" deck screws. Make certain all screwheads are fully seated beneath the wood surface,

  5. Playground 5

    Install the deckboards with 11⁄2" deck screws driven into countersunk pilot holes, starting with the 2 outside pieces. Try to make sure the ends of the deck boards are aligned during installation—clamping a stop block or spacer block to the deck-board support will help align your workpieces. The drainage gaps between the deck boards must be less than 1⁄4".

  6. Playground 6

    Extend the tower walls to the full height with additional 2 × 4 pieces. Use the drill guide or template (if provided with your kit) to ensure regular alignment of all screws.

  7. Playground 7

    Install the outer framework of 2 × 4s to support the roof of the playground structure, using corner brackets provided by the kit manufacturer.

  8. Playground 8

    Add additional framing to strengthen the sides of the tower. The framing on the right will help support the swingset and the climbing bar and climbing wall; the 2 × 4s on the left are used to support the slide.

  9. Playground 9

    Install the bottom railings and the top back and side railings for the tower structure. Clamp a straight piece of wood on top of (or underneath) the railing at the 1" point to create the setback and to make installation easier. Cut spacers to make the gap even, but check the gap before screwing in the last few boards, just in case, and adjust if necessary.

  10. Playground 10

    Attach railings, siding, and trim. Install the front railing first, using a 3⁄16" spacer. Then, add the trim pieces. This step is easier if you tilt the structure backwards to the ground—but don’t try this without a helper.

  11. Playground 11

    Install the rest of the roof frame. Use clamps to hold pieces in position before attaching them. Check the center vertical pieces with a carpenter’s level to make sure they are plumb.

  12. Playground 12

    Playground 12 inset

    The swing structure shown here is supported by a pair of angled posts in an A-frame configuration on the end farther from the tower, and a single angled leg on the tower end. Fasten the 3 legs of the swingset together (they are made with doubled 2 × 4s), and then bolt on the triangular bracket for each leg. Construct the assembly by bolting the triangular brackets together and then screwing on the crosspiece. Add the small brackets to the inside of the crosspiece, with the short legs against the crosspiece (inset). Trim the leg bottoms so they will lie flat on the ground.

  13. Playground 13

    Screw the 2 × 6 beam pieces to the brackets, making sure the legs are exactly parallel and square to the beam. Drill the 3⁄8" holes for the bolts using the brackets as a guide. Then screw the second layer of 2 × 6s to the first with 21⁄2" screws.

  14. Playground 14

    First, turn the swing assembly over and place it on sawhorses. Drill guide holes and fasten the sides together with bolts. Drill guide holes for the swing hangers and lag screws and install them so that the moving hanger swings perpendicular to the beam.

  15. Playground 15

    Lift the swingset into place and fasten it to the tower with a bolt through the swing beam and a 2 × 4 crosspiece near the base fastened with metal angles and bolts.

  16. Playground 16

    Attach the climbing wall supports to the tower frame with the provided brackets. The ends of the supports are angle-cut at the top and the bottom. Attach the top and bottom crossboards to the outer supports and then center the middle support board and attach it by driving deck screws through the crossboards and into the support.

  17. Playground 17

    Add the remaining crossboards in the climbing wall, working down from the top and making sure the boards are fitted tightly together.

  18. Playground 18

    The climbing bars function as a ladder that is mounted to the tower on the side opposite from the climbing wall. Assemble the climbing bar standards with four triangular metal brackets included with the kit. The stops on the sides of the brackets that contact the standard will set the correct angle for the standards if the boards are tight against the stops.

  19. Playground 19

    Attach the climbing bars to the standards, making sure the standards are parallel and oriented correctly. Use 11⁄4" panhead screws to attach the bars at 12" intervals on the bottom leg and at 103⁄4" intervals along the top (or as directed by the instructions for your kit).

  20. Playground 20

    Playground 20 inset

    First, dig holes into the play surface at the correct locations for the legs of the climbing bar standards. Set the legs into the 2"-deep holes (inset), and then fasten the top ends of the standards to the tower with brackets and lag screws.Playground 20 inset

  21. Playground 21

    Anchor all sides of the swingset, along with the climbing bar and climbing wall, using screw-in anchors (see page 48). If the anchors don’t work properly in your soil type, dig a 2-ft.-deep posthole, fill it with concrete, and set the anchor in that. Bolt the anchor to the structure with 3⁄8 × 11⁄2" lag screws.

  22. Playground 22

    Playground 22B

    First, position the slide (top photo) and then attach it to the tower at the top with fasteners as provided (or recommended) by the manufacturer. Then, bolt the slide at the base to a screw-in anchor. Tip: Attach the bottom of the slide to a 4 × 4 spacer and then attach the spacer to a screw-in anchor (bottom photo). This provides a solid footing for the slide while raising it so the bottom is not completely covered by groundcover or mulch.

  23. Playground 23

    Add other accessories, including swings, the roof, and the climbing rope. You’ll need to drill access holes for the climbing rope in the climbing wall. Add approved groundcover