I wanted to build something my daughter could enjoy outside for many years to come, and I have a problem with all the out of the box playground sets from the big box stores. I decided to create a climbing wall and incorporate a tree house that she could play on as a beginning climber to an advanced boulderer.
Before I got started, I had done quite a bit of research on what items I needed to get this project off the ground. I also checked the local zoning regulations to make sure I did not have to permit any construction. The next step was location, obviously, I wanted something quite large for the back yard. We chose (wife told me where it would go) an empty spot which would allow for us to keep a close eye on our daughter as she learned how to climb.
Now that I had a location and the all important "go ahead" from my superior, it was time to work out a plan and create my material list.
Obligatory Warning Statement
If you chose to undertake a project like this, you will be working with many different power tools and potentially dangerous situations. Make sure that you have read the manuals and understand the operation of all tools that you might use. You need to make sure to wear all appropriate PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) while working on any project on the job or around the house, this includes, and is not limited to, steel toe shoes, gloves, eye protection, hardhat, dust mask, fall protection, and hearing protection. Check with local authorities regarding zoning, know before you dig, permitting requirements, etc. You should have a general understanding of construction and engineering techniques to ensure your safety during and after a build is completed.
This is only to show you how I built this project and should not be used as anything more than inspiration for your own projects.
Step 1: Planning, Materials, Tools, Equipment
So given the "go ahead," I quickly began working through a few designs. I had multiple platforms in mind with all sorts of wall space, but I decided to go with a simpler design that would grow with my daughter's abilities. Once I had the design in mind, I sketched it out on paper. I know, paper is old school, but that's how I learned to work through a project, plus it's hard to take the laptop/tablet out in the field later if it is raining. I have since, created a Google Sketchup of the design to work with and create additional designs.
3- 8" 16' Dock Pilings
74- 2"x6"x10' #1 Pressure Treated Pine
8- 2"x4"x10' #1 Pressure Treated Pine
2- 2"x4"x12' #1 Pressure Treated Pine
4- 3/4"x14" Galvanized Carriage Bolt
8- 3/4"x1-1/2" Galvanized Fender Washer
4- 3/4" Galvanized Nuts
1- 25lb box 3" Deck Screws
Bouldering Chips and Hand Holds
Circular Saw, Compound Miter Saw, Screw Gun, Drill, Chain Saw, Vibratory Multi-Tool, Come-Along, Angle Grinder, Clamps, Auger/Post Hole Shovel, Level, Carpenter's Square
Steel Toe Shoes, Gloves, Safety Glasses, Dust Mask, Rope, Chain, Fall Protection
Step 2: Layout
I began with an existing piling anchored in the ground from building my deck a few years prior. From that point, I measured where the other three pilings would be installed and marked the ground with spray paint. I used the existing concrete deck as a reference point to keep everything fairly square. Once I had the points marked on the ground, I then checked them for square and made the final marks on the ground where I would dig the holes.
Step 3: Augering, Digging, Adjusting, Piling Installation
Once I had the location for the holes marked, I called for some help. The auger is a two person, gas powered, hole digging device that saves enormous amounts of time when one is digging holes. It operates similar to a giant drill, however the two operators need to pull the unit out of the hole it is digging to make sure that it doesn't act as a giant screw and pull itself into the ground.
We only had to dig three holes, and the auger made quick work of the majority of the job. The pilings, however, were bigger than the screw on the auger, so the post hole shovel was required to shape the holes. As I knocked dirt off the sides of the holes, I then needed the post hole shovel to scoop out the widened hole. I wanted to have the pilings sit approximately three feet down in the dirt (no frost heave in Florida).
Once the holes were ready, we placed a piece of cardboard on top of the hole. This makes installation of the pilings much easier by allowing the piling to slide in and not gouge the sides of the hole. As the pilings were stood up, I did not pack dirt in around them until I had leveled and squared them up.
Step 4: Joist and Side Wall Installation
The walls and joists are constructed of 2x6 material only.
This part of the construction was the most difficult part, but a few tricks did make it easier. The first part was figuring out exactly where on the piling to drill the holes for the carriage bolts, and getting the joists to then hang level and even from those points. To make it a little easier, I pre-drilled the holes on the joists while they were on the ground, and then drilled the hole on the first piling. I then attached the two boards loosely to the piling with the carriage bolt and then leveled them on the adjoining piling. I temporarily screwed them to the piling so I could then drill that piling and bolt the side. I simply repeated the same process for the other side.
For the side wall construction, I wanted the walls to butt up against the bottom edge of the joists, so I began installing from the top. Because the pilings were already set at an even distance, I needed to cut 20 boards to 45". Each board was then installed with 2 3" deck screws on each side. I left approximately 10" open above the ground.
Once the walls were installed on both sides, I rounded the ends of the boards.
Step 5: Slanted Wall and Platform
I wanted to create an even slope so my daughter could learn the basics of climbing. I started with a 2"x4"x12' board on the front edge of one of the side walls. I anchored it temporarily and tilted it back to an angle that looked pretty good. From there I anchored it permanently and measured its placement. At the top of the angled wall, I created a platform that would lead to a trap door in the floor of the top structure.
Step 6: Deck and Rails
At the top of the platform I wanted to create a space large enough to play and possibly camp out on clear nights. I decided on a 10'x10' deck with posts in the corners to allow for railing to go up. The joists were set on 24" centers, and the deck boards were screwed in with a nail's width spacing. I cut an opening in the center of the floor 24"x24". I boxed it in with an additional 2"x6" wrapping the interior of the opening. I cut a few 2"x6"s to 23 7/8" and screwed them together to make a trap door. I also drilled two holes in the door so it could be opened from the top, and nothing would be sticking up on the deck. The rails were set with a toe board set 1" above the deck, an intermediate 2"x6" board was set at approximately 22" from the deck, and a top rail set at 37" from the deck.
Step 7: Finished!
I had a small playhouse already, and with a little help, I was able to lift it to the deck prior to the rails being finished. I then secured it to the deck by screwing it down. My daughter loves climbing on the wall and playing up in the play house. The trap door is a little heavy, so I need to make some sort of hinge and counterweight to make it easier for her to lift. I think I will remove the house on top to make room so we can camp up top when the weather is nice. Thank you for viewing.