Backyard playground setup?
September 17, 2008 2:21 PM   Subscribe

What do I need to know to set up a backyard playground?

I am setting up a playground like this one. It will be used by 20-30 kids weekly. Any tips or tricks, especially with the set-up?

Also, what is the best ground cover for the price? Sand, mulch, artificial mulch? Do I need to create a wooden border?

Do I need to stain and seal annually?

Any suggestions or tips would be much appreciated!
posted by roaring beast to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
The ground cover should be deep and impact absorbing. Tree companies can provide woodchip for cheap or free. Lots of it, and add more annually. Talk to the playground maintenance folks at a school district. You want it to be very safe.
posted by theora55 at 3:19 PM on September 17, 2008

Do I need to stain and seal annually?
That should be covered in the maintenance manuals/procedures for the playground kit that you are purchasing.
posted by mmascolino at 3:21 PM on September 17, 2008

No sand, unless you want your playground to be the neighborhood kitty box.

The playgrounds around my neighborhood use some kind of recycled product (I want to say old, cleaned tires?) made into pellets. Seems to work very well, but I don't know if it would be cost-prohibitive if you're not doing a whole park district's worth of playgrounds.
posted by SuperSquirrel at 3:28 PM on September 17, 2008

Remember that you either need to properly level the ground before you install the play structure onto it, or you will need to adjust the play structure afterwards, by adding shims to make it level. Obviously you can't add shims to adjust to differences of more than a couple of inches, so check out your proposed site thoroughly beforehand.
posted by Joh at 4:41 PM on September 17, 2008

When my dad set up my playset as a kid, we dug holes for the support posts and reinforced them with concrete. The playground you linked to looks pretty stable, but something you may want to consider...
posted by gnutron at 5:06 PM on September 17, 2008

It will take forever. Take whatever time estimate the manufacturer says and double or triple it. Be prepared to have to re-drill holes that don't align but study and follow the instructions in great detail. And get some help.
posted by Xhris at 5:54 PM on September 17, 2008

I don't know what it would cost you in your area, but....What I would call pea gravel is a fantastic ground solution. I discovered this while accidentally flying off a swing while visiting the area that my mom lives. This Lion's Club playground was completely covered with small, white, round gravel. I flew through the air, and over rotated, causing me to land on all fours, in shorts. I'm about 6'3" and 270lbs. I should have REALLY hurt myself, but instead had a number of tiny scratches, and that was IT.

When we put a small cedar play structure in our back yard, I sourced some pea gravel in my area. It wasn't cheap, but man, what great stuff to fall into.
posted by Richat at 6:00 PM on September 17, 2008 [2 favorites]

Oh yeah, totally seconding what Xhris says about help. Help is pretty much needed for something like that. I didn't have too much trouble with having to re-drill, but I was really surprised overall at the scope of a "kit"; there was lots more work than I expected.
posted by Richat at 6:03 PM on September 17, 2008

If you're making a sandpit you wanna have a cover over it at night. Kitties and stuff will befoul it otherwise...
posted by mu~ha~ha~ha~har at 6:35 AM on September 18, 2008

Check out the size of the bolts that you'll be using, and make sure that you have lots of extra (cheap) socket sets with that size (usually 13MM, if I remember from the playgrounds I've put together). Garage sales are a great way to source these- you just need to make sure you have enough to go around, as ratchets are going to be your primary construction tool.

Also, try to get extra T-nuts and washers for that size bolts- they always seem to go missing. Extra bolts and extra drills are pretty useful- I'd get both wired and battery drills- battery for when you're on top of the monkey bars, upside down, trying to get the last damn mismatched hole to fit, and wired for when you need to get through something substantial. A couple of spade bits (1/4, 1/2, and 3/4) can be the fastest way to make a big hole in the material.

I'd also suggest having a couple of 2x4s and a circular saw around as well- pressure treated is bad for kiddos, but you may be able to get something innocuous. I've found that a lot of the kits that I've played with needed a little improvisational bracing here or there to be solid.
posted by jenkinsEar at 6:54 AM on September 18, 2008

Also, what is the best ground cover for the price?

A friend just did a lot of research on this, for a preschool she runs. She went with cedar "play chips." Yes, you should do a wooden frame around the chips, to help keep them where they are. You need a surprisingly thick layer -- she put in 8", I think, but I presume it's a local regulation.
posted by The corpse in the library at 9:01 AM on September 18, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for the great advice. I will check out some of the different options for groundcover. I will have a bunch of people helping with setup, but it's good to know it might take longer than expected.
posted by roaring beast at 11:17 AM on September 18, 2008

Response by poster: Wow, it ended up taking about twice as long as the instructions said (even though we had about 4 people, however, we did make some mistakes which added time) and about four trips to the hardware store. One part came damaged and one bag of screws was missing. I think next time I would seriously consider paying for installation.
posted by roaring beast at 4:42 PM on September 22, 2008

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