Building a swing set type of playset is easier than you think. When comparing popular backyard playsets on the market, you’ll find that the ones in the stores are more expensive. They’re also made with lightweight materials and thin hardware. If you build your playset, you have more flexibility in selecting your materials, which may be sturdier than store-bought playsets.
If you’re wondering about Cedar, it is not as strong as pressure-treated wood. The latter has been treated with a copper compound wood preservative called ACQ. Be aware that it is corrosive, though. To counter the effects of corrosion, purchase stainless steel hardware. Select hot-dipped screws, galvanized nails, bolts, and fasteners that resist corrosion. Pins with an ACQ lumber usage rating is acceptable as well.
Tip: With a router, make a circular profile around the edges of every piece of wood for the playset.
Part Spacing Safety and Design
Purchase the non-wood parts such as plastic and metal items before you cut the wood. First, take a writing pad, pen, and tape measure. Visit one of the large hardware stores in your area. Inspect their playsets. Take measurements. Note the types of nuts and bolts used.
Here are some general safety guidelines for building playsets:
Top of railings:
- 29 inches for children age 1 1/2 to 5 years old
- 38 inches for children age 5 to 12 years old
Cover the area under the structure with sand or other material that will not easily compact.
Mandatory barriers for elevated platforms:
- Taller than 30 inches for children age 1 1/2 to 5 years old
- Taller than 48 inches for children age 5 to 12 years old
A 5 1/4″ diameter cylinder must not be able to pass through any opening under or inside the protective barrier.
Building the Playset
Constructing a playset is something almost anyone a few carpentry skills can do.
Tools and other items you’ll need are:
- Hand-held circular saw
- Drill and spade bits
- A level
- Carpenter’s square
- Mask for protecting face while sawing wood
Use concrete to fill holes to support the posts. Make holes between 42 to 48 inches deep so they won’t work loose. As an extra safety measure, use diagonal bracing to support the posts while you’re working.
To ensure the posts are level, install vertical support posts first. Later, trim the tops to even them up.
Use a random orbit sander using 80-grit abrasive, sand wood surfaces.
Make rounded edges on the wood for enhanced safety.
Tip: Skip the paint. It will peel later anyway. As the playset ages, the worn look will seem more appealing and natural-looking.
Building a playset is easy to do. Prepare in advance. Please take your time researching, designing, and constructing it. You’ll have a lot of fun. Decades later, the playset may still be standing when grandkids stop by to enjoy it.