So we purchased a swingset many years ago when our kids were much younger. They got a lot of enjoyment out of it for several years but recently it has started to look a little rough. As many parents probably know, one of the first things to deteriorate on these things is any type of fabric material that may serve for walls of a 'tree fort' area - as you can see in the 'before' pictures.
At this point, I didn't want to purchase a whole new swingset, but we also weren't quite ready to take the whole thing down since our 2 youngest do still play on it.
But, I was just sick of looking out at those torn and tattered walls (or what was left of them). So, I devised this cheap and easy solution to create simple walls of spaced lengths of PVC.
NOTE: This is merely an aesthetic pseudo-fix and in no way meant to assure the highest degree of safety. Although I suppose even the slightest barriers will be better than torn fabric that's been out in the weather for 5 or 6 years.
Step 1: Demolition
Recruit help to tear down the tattered remains of the fabric walls!
Step 2: Assess and Measure
The way these tree fort area walls are designed is that the material is stretched over an upper and lower rail.
So, you just need to measure the distance between these rails, determine how far apart you want to space them, figure out how many bars you'll need and calculate the total amount of PVC needed.
I figured I needed 32 ft worth so I just bought 3 10 ft lengths as I had some additional lying around from other projects.
Step 3: Materials
- Calculated amount of PVC pipe. I used 3/4 inch. In retrospect, I probably would have gone with 1 inch or a little larger, but this worked out ok enough.
- zip ties: 2 for each individual pipe you are attaching
- lengths of threaded metal dowels. I used these for the 2 longer sides to add some additional rigidity.
- cap nuts for the ends of the metal dowels
- paint (optional)
Step 4: Tools
- Drill / bit
- Dremel (or anything you can use to quickly sand down edges)
- PVC cutter (optional). You can cut the PVC with a saw, but these cutters make it soooo much easier
Step 5: Cut and Prepare PVC Lengths
Once you determine how many bars you will need and the length of each, get to measuring and cutting from your large lengths.
I measured and cut a single bar and then used it as a template to quickly mark and cut all the others.
Once they are cut, take a dremel with a sanding bit and smooth out the hard edges. When you make the cuts, the edges aren't exactly sharp as they are severe, so this rounding makes them a little more forgiving.
Step 6: Drill Some Holes
Zip tie holes:
Now we need to drill some holes so we can attach the bars to the rails using the zip ties.
Use a drill bit just bigger than the width of the zip ties and drill a hole about 1/2 inch from each end of the pipe. Make sure the holes on both ends are in the same direction.
For my situation, I had 4 small sections of wall that will only consist of 2 bars each. But for the two longer sides, it will be 7 bars.
In order to add some stability on those longer sides, I wanted to run a length of metal dowel through each one. They will help to encourage the bars to stay relatively straight, not to bunch up, etc.
So, for the bars on the two longer sides, I also drilled a hole in the center of the pipes at a 90 degree position from the holes drilled at either end. This will be where I thread through the dowels.
Note: In order to easily find the proper placement/direction of the middle hole, I temporarily inserted the dowels through the end holes so that the pipes were facing in the proper direction, and then drilled the center holes.
Step 7: Paint Em Up - If You Are So Inclined
I wanted these bars to match the color of the swingset frame, so I gave them a quick coat of spray paint.
In order to give them a complete coat in one shot, I just drove some 4 inch deck screws into a scrap piece of wood to hold them upright so I could paint all sides at once.
Step 8: Thread the Dowels
Take the pipes you are going to use for the long wall (I had 7 for each side) and thread the dowel through the center hole of each.
Note: this is NOT how I originally did it for the first wall. I actually hung/attached all of the pipes first, then tried to thread it through them all and it was much more difficult. The reason was because no matter how hard you try, you are unlikely to get all of the holes perfectly lined up, so threading it through once they were already in position was challenging, to say the least.
Step 9: Attach 'em
When attaching the pipes to the top and bottom rails, you want to do it so the 'buckle' of the zip tie is actually inside the pipe.
Insert the end of the zip tie through the hole from the inside of the pipe.
You then loop the zip tie around the rail and thread it through the other hole from the outside of the pipe. Then just feed it through the buckle until it is snug.
Note: This took some practice in holding the zip tie at the right angle to be able to feed it all the way through.
Not sure if I'm explaining all of that well, so please reference the pictures.
Step 10: Finish Up
Once you have them all attached to the upper and lower rails, space them out as needed. For the long walls, attach the cap nuts to either end of the dowels. Note that you may have to trim them down slightly depending on the needed length.
Full disclosure: once I cut one end of the dowel, I was not able to attach the end cap to the cut end because the thread was no longer true. In total hack fashion, I added a wing nut on one and a plastic cap on the other in order to cover any pointy edges.
And now I no longer need to look out at those torn and tattered walls and the kids seem to have a renewed interest in the area after this minor enhancement.
One concern I have that I thought of after I was done was that these empty pipes may be used by wasps or the like. So, I may consider using some type of filler material to close off the ends. We'll see.
Thanks for reading!