As I’ve gotten older I have become less and less interested in celebrating birthdays. Not because I don’t like the idea of getting older, but simply because I just don’t need the fuss of everyone trying doing things or buy things that I might like. I try to do that for myself every day, so I guess everyday is my birthday. HaHa! The best gift I ever got was when my baby girl was born 4 days before my birthday. There is NO gift that could ever beat that so why try.
So instead I have focused all my birthday energy on my precious little girl. For her every birthday is new and exciting, and I want her to have the best day year after year. That is why this year I have decided to tackle my biggest DIY project to date. I built my daughter a playground for her birthday. It’s definitely a big gift for a 3 year old, but she is our one and only so she might be a little spoiled. Oh well!
We came to the decision on the playground for a couple of reasons. One, our daughter loves being outside more than anything else in the world, and we want to encourage that. Two, we thought this present will last for years and can even transition from playground into a hangout area for her as she gets older. Of course, I would love if she would just stay my little girl and never grow up and then it would just stay a playground forever. Wishful thinking of every parent I assume.
As I stated before, I have not always been a so-called handyman or DIY’er. I have never had a job doing construction or contractor work of any kind. So this project has to be the biggest thing I have ever attempted before…EVER. Fortunately, I think the end result turn out pretty well for a beginner.
Here is a picture trail of my first playground building experience.
Before I started construction, I decided to use concrete deck blocks for the legs instead of setting the post in holes with concrete. Even though we plan on having this structure in my backyard for a very long time there is always that possibility that we might change our minds down the road. If that ever happens I wanted to make it a little easier to excavate the post rather then killing myself digging concrete out of the ground.
Material used for deck:
- 2″ x 6″ pressure treated boards
- Simpson strong-tie Joist hanger 2″ x 6″
- 3/8″ x 4″ Hex Lag Screws
- 6″ x 8′ pressure treated decking board
- 2″ deck screws
I wanted to add a little interest to the deck so I framed the floor with the idea that I would lay the decking in an alternating pattern.
Now that the deck is done, its time to erect the framing for the walls. I designed the walls slightly shorter then the length of the playground. I did this so it would give the appearance of having sort of an indoor space with an attached deck, kind of like a small house for my small child. It will become more apparent as we continue to add to the playground in the future. My wife is going to sew some drapes so Daphne can have her own little hide away.
This is where I had to make some adjustments to my original design, but it was fairly easy to do so no big deal. I had to remove a piece of the deck to install an additional post. I needed the extra post to install the railing all the way across the front. I could have just mounted a smaller piece of 4″ x 4″ post to the deck frame, but I wanted make sure it was secure since it would be supporting my little girl. Plus, I decided that I could use that extra post under the playground and add a chalkboard later on. I want her to use the space under the playground as well.
The next step in this adventure, once the railing is complete, is painting. I have to admit, this is not my favorite part but it makes such a difference in the overall project. I wanted contrast between the railing and deck. To do this I painted the frame & rails white and the floor is stained with a cedar color.
Anybody that ever put a playground in the yard and just set in on top of the grass knows that mowing becomes 100x more difficult. So this wouldn’t happen to me, because I’m already not a huge fan of mowing, I laid down some mulch. Lucky it didn’t add any cost to the project which you know I love. The previous owner of the home had multiple areas sectioned off with steel landscape edging, so I just used this material to create an area around the playground. Also, we got free mulch from the city. That’s a double savings. We probably saved around $100 or more that way. A lot cities are giving away free mulch these days so check with yours and try to save money anywhere you can.
After the mulch was down and the painting was finally complete it was time to install the slide and stairs. Once again, I got the slide for free. How you ask? Craigslist of course. You know me. In our area there are people constantly giving away old playgrounds when their kids grow up. Some are real crappy, but sometimes they have bits and pieces you can use. In our case, the slide and the swing chain were the only good pieces we could keep, but it still saved us probably $200. So in all we have already saved $300 dollars from free material on this playground. We used some of that saved money to buy the material needed for the swing set. Such as:
- Playstar swing hangers
- Half bucket swing seat
- Easy 1-2-3 Swing set A-Frame bracket
Project complete…FOR NOW. There is still a lot of stuff we want to add to this, a roof, some seating, a few toys and trinkets. For right now I am hoping my daughter gets a ton of joy from her new playground and swing set. I guess building this playground was kind of my rite of passage, both as a father and a DIYer.
I hope this inspires you to get out and tackle a project a little larger than your mind thinks you can handle. For me, I know it’s not perfect, but I learned a lot along the way and I’m pretty proud of myself. AND, my daughter LOVES it. I don’t need any other recognition than that.
Come back to visit and see all the changes we plan to make to the playground in the future.