I am going to start planning a play system to build for my son this
summer. I have looked at some home centers and online and have found
quite a few kits that come with the hardware and plans. I am leaning
towards going this route and then modifying it to get it just the way
we want. I was just hoping to get some input from people who have built
their own on some of the following points:
- What kit/plans did you use, and how was it to build. How is the
- Did you use a kit or build from scratch?
- What did you sue for lumber material and what prep did you do on it?
- What modifications did you make?
- How long did it take, and how does that correspond to the time you
- Are the kits a good buy, or can you piecemeal the parts you need for
- General observations and advice you could provide.
- MOST IMPORTANT : What activities on the system do your kids like and
use the most? Or, what do they wish you would have added?
And if you would like to share some pics of what you have built that
would be super. I am looking forward to this project. Thanks for any
information you folks can provide. I look forward to the discussion.
I did the exact thing that you are thinking about. My neighbor lent me
his plans so I built from scratch and bought the accessories, lumber,
etc. separately. In the end I save a good amount of money. I forget
the name of the kit plans, but it's the one from home depot.
The plans were very good for the list of parts and lumber. They have
the exact measurements, etc. Made cutting and fitting the whole thing
together very easy. So, in my mind the plans were indispensable just
I used treated lumber and built it all over one weekend. I expected it
would take longer - maybe over two weekends. Not nearly as difficult
as I thought it might be. The set is nothing spectacular. Just a fort
like structure with three swings, o-rings, a horizontal ladder about 7
feet up and a climbing rope. It has two entrances to the fort
structure and I modified the ladder system a bit to make it more like a
stair system to get in and out. Also added my own hand rails for the
ladders made from regular cast iron plumbing pipe. Beats those
plastinc thingies that are sold with the kits.
The part the kids like the most is the fort. If I did it over again I
would have made it a bit bigger so more kids can fit up there. Sorry,
don't have any pics on hand, but you can do this without the kit. I
would recommend getting your hands on some plans. Good luck.
Me too. I've been looking at kits/plans for over a year and am going
to do ours without either, partly because the home center stuff is
way overpriced, and party because I want a custom design that's about
2/3 tree house and 1/3 swingset. There are several sellers on Ebay
("playsetsplus" is one)that have what appears to be much better
hardware than Home Depot at fairly reasonable "buy it now" (i.e.
I'm going to design ours partly into a large silver maple, and then
connected to two white pine trees I recently cut off about 6-8' from
the ground. I expect we'll be moving in 3-5 years and am not worried
about the stumps rotting before then. I'm using treated pine for all
the framing and cedar for the play surfaces; it will all be finished
with a fairly neutral tone that will make it the wood look more
This structure will have a low deck about 2' from the ground with an
L-shaped bench on two sides. Steps will lead up into a 4x6' platform
fort about five feet up; our existing sandbox will sit underneath.
There will be a "rock wall" for climbing access from the opposite
side of this fort, and a slide perpendicular to that. This fort will
wrap about 50% around the maple, and there will be a ladder to a
third area, another fort with a higher peaked roof above that, with
the floor at about 7.5'. This one will have a trapdoor and rope
ladder for access, and rests partially on a beam that will be
supported by one pine stump.The beam on the higher fort will continue
out into the yard to an A-frame that supports two swings and a pair
So, we'll end up with two swings (commercial grade for adult use),
rings, 5' rock wall with a dozen holds, slide, rope ladder, bench
area, a 4x6" open platform with railing, and a second 4x4 fort with a
roof and shuttered windows. And the sandbox.
All the hardware for this will run about $250, including the slide;
got a nice rope ladder from Ikea for $12 last week in fact. I haven't
yet made up a cut list from my sketches so am not sure about lumber.
That will depend in part on how much I end up doing in cedar vs. PT
There are a lot of good books out there on designing play equipment
and tree houses. I got about a dozen from the library last winter and
just took the ideas I was most attracted to from each. When you look
at the cost of things like Rainbow sets-- which run $1000-$8,000+ --I
figure I can build something unique to our location for about 10% the
I built one from a 'kit' the kit was really just plans and some hardware.
The side of the box has the raw materials list. All of the scraps and
cutoffs barely filled a 5 gallon bucket. The kit is optimized to eliminate
waste and minimize the number of cuts. The plans were very good and it went
The one I build can be seen at
http://www.playstarinc.com/playsets/diy/champion/g-front.asp I think you
can get these kits at either the blue or orange store. I have seen them
online as well.
I built mine with PT southern yellow pine. I made no modifications.
The finished product was very nice. I built it in a day with one friend
If I were to do it again I would consider taking a router or sander to all
the edges of the wood before making any cuts. I didn't do this because I
wanted tight joints. In retrospect doing all the sanding first would have
Also - Most of the assembly is done with wood screws. I used Philips head
and a corded Milwaukee driver. It was OK.
What would be REALLY nice would be
square drive screws such as
and a cordless impact driver such as
Also - A miter saw with a stand is very useful. A handheld circ saw will do
the job but be slower.
If you have a miter saw I highly recommend a 'trac rac'
(For me a project is always a good excuse to get a new tool!)
As far as the activities - The kids, now 6 and 7 used them ALL. Personally I
liked the monkey rings best. They really help with building confidence and
One other thing - Your site is important. Make sure you put down a nice
thick layer of wood chips to cushion any falls. (Install after your set is
built. Grass is hard and is not recommended. I used black plastic edging to
contain the mulch. There will be guidelines with your kit. Don't use regular
mulch, its dirty. A local supplier had a 'Playground Mulch' which didn't get
dirt all over the kids. It was much coarser than a bedding mulch.
I cant speak highly enough about the kit I purchased. I could have designed
something myself or built from some generic plan. I'm sure if I went that
route I would have had a lot of waste and a lot more expense, plus I still
would have needed to buy most of the hardware anyway.
Let us know how it turns out and if I can answer any other questions.
Thanks for the replies! Sounds like I will want to go with one of these
kits, and maybe make some mods. It's nice to hear that your kids are
using all the activities and enjoying it. I'd hate to spend time and
money only to have the kids use 1/4 of the thing. Well, thats like most
toys I suppose :)
So for the Playstar system you build, could you estimate what your cost
was for the finished product?
I think the kit was one hundred something $$ and the lumber was $500 ish.
that was with PT pine. Redwood or cedar would be more. I bought the curved
slide which is extra and not in the box. I did not get the 'vertical
climber' or the 'climbing wall' options. The Champion kit did come with the
fake rocks which the kids loved to climb on.
Essentially I did the Champion Bronze option. The materials required are
listed here. http://www.playstarinc.com/playsets/diy/champion/b-material.asp
You can call around and get quotes on materials. The lumber yard I bought
from had free delivery for over $500. Downside to that is I didn't get to
hand pick the lumber pieces. Advantage was that I didn't need to schlep the
materials to my truck, load the truck, and then unload again at home.
BTW - I built this kit at my last house but have since moved. One
stipulation of the folks buying my old house was that the play set be
included. So, I would say, that the playset increased my homes sale-ability
I hope to build another one of these at my new home at some point. I may end
up doing a Champion again although the 'Super Star' plan looks kind of cool!
Feel free to e-mail me off board if you want to ask me specific questions -
brian at peppel dott com
I designed my own taking ideas from a couple of do-it-yourself books
and layouts culled from various on-line play-yard sellers. It has 3
swings, a 6'x6'x10" sandbox under a 6'x6' fort, and 10' monkey bars.
The fort has a climbing ramp leading up to it with a heavy rope to
climb/rappel with, a "fire pole" and slide.
I couldn't find any pre-packaged kit that had everything I wanted, and
didn't think the quality matched the prices. I used PT lumber for the
structural pieces and composite decking material for the fort floor
and the rim of the sand box.
For the swing chains I ended up selecting a fairly heavy rubber coated
chain from Lowes rather than the chains marketed as swing chains. The
chains are far heavier than needed but were cheaper than the "swing
chains" and I expect the coating to last longer than the plastic
tubing on the specialty chains.
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