Play Structure

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Introduction: Play Structure

About: I try to make things

I designed and built this play structure for my kids. It's ~9' high to the top of the rails, and the deck is 6'6" x 4'.

Giving credit where it's due -> I relied heavily on the 10 part series How to Install and Flash a Deck Ledger, Start to Finish from the Fine Homebuilding YouTube channel throughout this project.

Step 1: Layout

I planned and tested the positioning of the structure for a couple of weeks. The yard has an aggressive slope into the back corner, so I decided cementing in posts would be the best way to go. Once we were about happy with where the structure would be built, it was time to break ground.

Step 2: Post Holes

Since I'm in Michigan I needed to dig down below the frost line (42") to avoid frost heaving. We rented a 12" post hole digger for the task. The soil had a lot of clay in it, so this turned out to be a large undertaking.

After we were happy with the holes, I poured 15lbs of Quick-crete around 8' 4x4s. I did my best using 2 levels, an extra set of hands, and the string frame to make sure they were plumb and square to each other.

Step 3: Deck Framing

I framed the deck with 2x6 construction lumber. Once it was square and level, I trimmed off any excess on posts and boards.

Step 4: Rail Posts

I added rail posts in a configuration to allow for a post in each corner, one on the opposite side of the two openings, and one in the middle of the long closed off stretch. Each of the posts was attached using decking screws and a configuration of blocking and structural screws common in deck building.

NOTE: The pictures don't capture all of the hardware used. Info on the techniques used can be found in this video.

Step 5: Decking and Slide

I used some pine deck boards with penny nails as spacers. I had to cut out notches for posts, but the structure is relatively square and level so it was pretty easy.

I found a used plastic slide from somebody locally. I'd encourage you to browse local marketplaces. There are a lot of old play sets around and the slides last forever. Since the structure is a bit higher than recommended for the slide, I ended up cutting a wedge to screw onto the deck where the slide attached.

Step 6: Finishing Railings

For the deck sides, I attached 1x10s to hide all the structural screws.

For the rail sides, I alternated 1x2 and 1x6 boards in a pattern I liked, and used spacer blocks to make sure the spacing between boards was even. I predrilled all of the holes to avoid splitting, and attached them to the rail posts.

For the rail tops I just used more of the pine decking, and used a circular saw to lop off the corners.

After everything was attached I went around with a belt sander and palm sander to round rough edges and scrub off any rough spots. I also filled all the screw holes and sanded them over as well just to make it look a bit nicer.

Step 7: Ladder

I watched a couple of YouTube videos for building ladders and came up with this design. Just a bunch of butt joints with supports. I didn't attach it to the structure because it leans in and is heavy enough not to cause concern. It also makes it easy to move for mowing.

Similar to the railings, I went all over the thing with a belt sander to take off all the rough edges and corners.

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    8 Comments

    0
    Karmudjun
    Karmudjun

    1 year ago

    Very nice TrestinB - your children are lucky. I grew up with a Telephone lineman as Dad of my friends, he had something similar with rope swings (no slide) on telephone poles probably all of 5 feet off the ground. I'm grinning just thinking about how high up we were playing on that tiny little platform. He took the poles up and flat roofed them for our Tennessee summer sun. I'm sure it is all gone by now; the neighbors likely thought that structure peeking out behind the house was an eyesore. But Dads really go for solid and use their resources! This is a very nice write up, you nailed all the requirements for something that will stay stable and relatively level during your children's active years. If this is your keeper house - it may last through your grandchildren's!

    I like the solid ladder - again such overkill, but you don't want a significant other terrified that the ladder gave way when one of your children or their friends decide to run down the ladder and slip in their exuberance. Don't ask me how I know that happens...just trust me. My wife thinks I build things so the kids can get hurt - but after the broken bones from climbing trees, I'd rather they fall from my play structures than climb a tree and swing on (and then off) a branch....I actually wish they wouldn't fall at all, too many hours at the local children's hospital. Still - your children are lucky, keep building for them and they will carry on the tradition!

    0
    TrestinB
    TrestinB

    Reply 1 year ago

    lol overkill was the name of the game. I had no idea what I was doing so I figured better to err on the side of overkill since kids would be all over it. Hope my kids will have memories like yours.

    0
    mtbike2
    mtbike2

    Reply 1 year ago

    My father built one overkill with a neighbor...still there for my children to use. (38 years later). I’m working on one now at my place to get the same memories.

    0
    mtbike2
    mtbike2

    1 year ago

    Nice write up. Think you made a typo. It appears that your side boards are 1x4 and 1x6 boards and not 2x2 and 2x6. nice play set for the kids.

    Also, to my knowledge which may be lacking, you could have gone without going to the frost line on your poles. The issue with ground heave is more when the structure is attached to your home. It is not uncommon for floating Porches to be built up north so they don’t have to worry about frost heave. Basically if you attach a deck to your house then you need to go to frost line. If your deck is left unattached and is technically free standing then you can get away with it....just as long as you account for lift during the winter to prevent trip hazards.

    But AGAIN. NICE WRITE UP and play set.

    0
    TrestinB
    TrestinB

    Reply 1 year ago

    Nice catch, updated. You're probably right about the frost heaving. Was very worried about it moving on me and being a disaster... so I may have over-engineered.

    0
    machainicman
    machainicman

    1 year ago

    wow, that's amazing! how much did it cost to make it?

    0
    TrestinB
    TrestinB

    Reply 1 year ago

    not exactly sure... many trips to the big box store. Probably a bit more than 300. Cheaper hardware and lumber could probably have shaved a bit off.

    0
    Oldbear
    Oldbear

    1 year ago

    I built something similar but included a sandbox underneath.