Installing a Playset? Here’s Everything You Need to Know


Installing a playset in your backyard is not the easiest thing you’ll ever do. But it’s also not the hardest. Most backyard playsets contain all of the hardware you need as well as detailed instructions on proper assembly. 

On average, it takes two adults 8-12 hours to set up a playset. Of course, the bigger and more elaborate the set, the longer it’ll take. Properly preparing the ground in your backyard, however, can be more complicated than setting up the playset!

Luckily, we’ll tell you everything you need to know, including preparing the ground for the playset, what kind of safety material you should use, different types of ground anchoring, and what to expect from the most popular playset brands out there.


Required Tools

For this job, you’ll need a few common tools. These may vary depending on what your particular set calls for, but you rarely need any uncommon tools that aren’t included with your playset. 

  • Shovel
  • Tape Measure
  • Carpenter’s Level
  • Twine Or String (100+ Feet)
  • Ground Stakes (4 or more)
  • Ground Anchors (If not included)
  • Wheelbarrow or Other Container for Mixing Concrete (If anchoring with concrete)
  • Concrete Ground Anchors (If anchoring with concrete)
  • Common Socket/Wrench Set

Choose A Place For Your Playset

The first thing you’ll want to do is choose an appropriate area to build your playset. There are several factors you need to consider for this, many of which are important for the safety of those children who will be playing on the set. 

If you already have your set on hand, you can look at the manual to find the set’s dimensions. You’ll need this information to choose a good spot. 

Plan A For 6’ Safety Perimeter

You’ll want to make sure there’s not only enough room for the set in the spot you pick, but also for a six-foot safety perimeter on all sides. This means that the area around the set is free from branches, structures, utility poles, sheds, or anything else that a child could injure him or herself on.

Plan For A Swing Set Safety Zone

Most playsets come with a built-in swing set. If yours does as well, you’ll want to measure the proper safety perimeter both in front of and behind the swing set area. To do this, simply determine how high off the ground the swing set’s top beam will be when installed. Multiply this number by 2, and that’s how far your safety perimeter should be in front of and behind the swing set. So if your swing set’s beam height is 7’, you should have 14’ of clearance and safety material on both sides of the set. 

Place The Swingset For Maximum Safety and Minimum Hassle

For maximum safety, you should be able to see the swingset clearly from several windows in the house. Being able to keep an eye on the kids while they’re playing will put the mind at ease.

For minimum hassle, make sure to avoid placing the set on top of any underground plumbing, wires, or sprinkler heads. You should also consider where the sun will be shining most of the day. If you don’t have a shade tree or awning to place the set under, it’s best to install the set with any slides or other heat-prone features facing north to limit their time in the sun. Hot slides can burn skin!

Prepare The Ground For Playset Installation

Now that you have the spot chosen, it’s time to prepare the ground for installation. You should have an idea of how deep you’re going to want your safety material around the set. Most materials have a recommended depth of 12” for maximum efficacy, unless you’re using rubber mats, artificial turf, or pour-in rubber. How deep you dig into your yard also depends on whether or not you’re going to use some sort of playground border to keep the material inside the playground footprint. 

Mark Off The Perimeter

Once you determine the proper depth, you can mark off the entire perimeter with stakes and string. You’ll want to make sure the string is level all the way around using a carpenter’s level.

Dig And Level

Once your string is level and at the same height all the way around, it’s time to get digging! You’ll want to start at the highest point first and check your depth periodically. 

You can determine how deep your hole is by measuring from the string down to the bottom. You’ll want to do this on all sides to ensure a level surface for your playset. The idea is to get the ground level within 3-inches. Once again, you can use a carpenter’s level in various places around the hole to make sure it’s level. 

YouTube video

Install Your Playset

When you have your ground level to within 3-inches and it has been dug to the proper depth, you can install your playset! In this section we’ll break down average time requirements, tools needed, how many people you need, and how to anchor your set. 

How Long Does It Take To Install A Playset?

Installation varies from set to set. Wood sets tend to take a little longer to install than metal sets, but it’s all relative. Most playsets take anywhere from 6-8 hours to install. 

However, there are some playsets on the market that take upwards of 20+ hours to install. Every playset should come with general guidelines in terms of how long their playset takes to assemble. Most of the time, playsets can be assembled DIY style but don’t hesitate to reach out to a professional if the task is too overwhelming. Most of the time a handyman can tackle this job pretty easily, for a fee, of course.

How Many People Does It Take To Install A Playset?

Most playsets recommend at least two adults for assembly and installation. While a single adult may be able to put together most of a playset, chances are they’ll need help at some point on the way. We don’t recommend attempting to install a set with less than the recommended number of people. You could risk injury, void the warranty, or damage the set. 

A little planning can ensure that you get your playset installed in a timely manner and with relative ease. When in doubt, call for backup.

How Much Does It Cost To Have A Playset Installed?

Paying someone to install your playset is a viable option. Costs vary depending on the type of playset, size, materials used, and whether your yard needs to be leveled/cleared or not. Generally, you can expect to pay somewhere between $350 and $650. This does not include the cost of the playset itself. The average cost for backyard playset installation is around $475.

Anchor Your Playset

Many playsets include ground anchors or recommend a certain type of anchor for added safety. If your set is free-standing and doesn’t include ground anchors, it’s a good idea to purchase and install some, anyway.

Not only do anchors keep the playset from tipping over during overly-rowdy play sessions, but they also keep it in place during heavy winds. Plus, anchors can help to ensure that your playset lasts many years by providing a solid foundation and limiting wear and tear.

Be sure to anchor your playset to the ground before you install any ground cover material or weed barriers, as it will be more difficult to do afterward.

You don’t need to worry about pouring concrete to anchor most free-standing playsets. Usually, these kinds of sets are heavy enough to resist tipping. But, ground anchors will give you peace of mind and a little more protection.

There are a few different types of ground anchors available. The most common types used, and the easiest to install, are those that simply screw into the ground. Below are two sets of ground anchors that are easy to install and are budget friendly. For the price, why not buy them for the extra peace of mind they provide?

Note: Drilling extra holes in your playset may void the warranty. Be sure to read over your warranty information before making any changes to the playset. 

Using Concrete to Anchor Your Swing Set

If you have an A-frame swing set, without other features, you may want to consider using concrete to anchor the legs in the ground, especially if it’s rated for older children.

You’ll want to mark exactly where the legs of your swing set will be going when installed. To do this, have your swing set assembled and in place where you want it to go. Place a mark next to each leg with some spray paint, being careful to mark as closely and accurately as possible. 

You’ll want to dig holes at each of the marked areas. Do this by moving the swing set out of the way and digging holes approximately 12” deep and 8” in diameter. 

After your holes are dug, place your swing set legs back in the hole to make sure everything lines up properly. Then check to make sure its level. This can be done by placing a carpenters level on top of the main swing beam. If everything checks out, its time to add some concrete. If its not level, add dirt to the holes as needed to get it there.

Mix And Pour Concrete

For most 4-post swing sets, a 50lb bag of concrete per hole should be enough. Once you have the concrete mixed to the consistency advised on the directions, you can pour it into each hole, filling them to within 1 inch of the top of the hole.

If the concrete doesn’t come to within 1″ of the top, thats completely fine. We’ll use the excess dirt we accumulated while digging to fill everything back in. Just be sure not to overfill the holes. You dont want concrete sitting on top of the surface. Its really an eye sore and a safety hazard for your kids.

Now that you’ve got your swing set in place and the concrete has been poured, its time to wait. Its advisable that you wait at least 24 hours to let the concrete fully cure. Once it has, use your excess dirt to fill in the remaining portions of the hole.

Install Weed Barrier And Drainage Strips

Now that your playset or swing set is assembled and anchored, it’s time to apply a weed barrier and drainage strips.

Weed Barrier

To prevent weeds and other unwanted plants from growing in your playground area, your best bet is geotextile fabric. It also does well to keep your surface material from becoming contaminated with dirt and mud. You can find this at your local hardware store or online. You may even have some lying around from previous landscaping projects. Position the weed barrier around your playset, covering the bare ground which will soon be covered with the surface material of your choice. 

Strip Drains

If you’re worried about the playground flooding when it rains, strip drains are a great option. You can place them under or over your geotextile fabric, positioning them so the water will flow toward the borders of the playground area. You will need a slight grade for drain strips to work properly. 

Most playground surface materials provide good drainage down to the soil. But, for backyards that receive regular, heavy rain and tend to pool with water, a little more work may need to go into installing a drainage system for your playground.

Install Your Playground Surface Material

The last installation step for your backyard swing set or playset is to choose and install the appropriate surface material. There are many to choose from, and all of them have pros and cons. Most playground injuries occur as a result of a fall to the ground. So, choosing the proper material can help prevent this from happening to your kids. 

Here is a list of common playground surface materials:

  • Bare Earth
  • Grass
  • Sand
  • Pea Gravel
  • Mulch or Wood Chips
  • Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF)
  • Rubber Mulch
  • Poured Rubber & Rubber Tiles
  • Artificial Grass or Turf

Neither bare ground nor grass is recommended because they tend to be harder than other options. 

Pea gravel is cost-effective but requires some upkeep and can be a choking hazard for children under 5 years of age. 

Engineered wood fiber is fast becoming a favorite for its shock-absorbing qualities, but it can blow away easily, mold when wet, and requires occasional replenishment. 

For a detailed article on playground surface material, check out our article Best Surface Materials For Outdoor Playgrounds.

Unleash The Kids!

Once you have your playground surface material in place, you can let the kids have at it! The right playset will bring them joy for years to come. And proper installation has a lot to do with that! You can sit back, relax, and watch the kids have a ball.

I hope this article has been helpful and that you now know everything you need in order to have a successful playset installation. Feel free to check out the rest of the site for more articles just like this one! Thanks for reading!

Justin

Justin Childress is the creator of Sunshineandplay.com. He is also a devoted husband and father of his 1 year old son Gabriel. Justin enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, of course, contributing to Sunshineandplay.com.

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