Adding a new playset to your backyard is undoubtedly exciting for the kids. They can play or swing on it to their heart’s content in the safety of your backyard. However, you first need to be sure you have enough space to put together play equipment or a swing set. If you don’t have the right environment or space, it can become more of a hazard than a fun play area.
You will need to consider a few requirements before investing in a playset, such as the amount of flat space you have available and any obstructions that may limit what you build. Take a look to see if your yard meets the essential requirements to install a playset or swing set for your kids.
Space to Set Up the Playset
In order to install a proper playset, you need a good amount of space for it. The first thing you will need to do is measure the dimensions of your backyard. You will need enough room to install a playset where it will not interfere with other objects or obstruct walkways. You want to make sure the set you choose will fit in the space you have, whether it is in the front yard or backyard.
Most playsets come with a square footage requirement called a “footprint” to help you gauge how much room you will need for it. On top of the playset’s footprint, be sure to account for additional space to give kids room to run around. In order to buy the appropriate set, it is vital to know how much room you have in the backyard to set it up safely.
Not only will you need space to install the playset itself, but there must be ample space around the set for kids to run around it. Different sets have different requirements as well. For example, if you are installing a swing set, it is recommended that you give extra room for kids to swing back and forth safely without hurting others or themselves.
Make sure that the set is also in an unobstructed area so you can easily supervise your children as they play.
Room for Running Around
One of the rules of thumb in installing a playset is having enough room on all sides of it so kids can run around the structure freely. Generally, make sure you have at least a few feet in every direction from the playset. However, depending on the type of set you want to install, there are different space recommendations.
For a swing set, make sure there is additional space so kids won’t get accidentally hurt by the person swinging. The space requirement for swings depends upon the height of the crossbeam of the swing. The recommendation is to have space equal to twice the arc of the swings backwards and forwards.
Slides will also need additional space, at least 36 inches for landing, and an additional few feet on top of that for kids to move around the play area safely. If you don’t have ample room for slides or swings, a playset or clubhouse with climbing walls or a deck can still be a lot of fun for kids.
Flat and Stable Surface
One of the most crucial requirements for a playset is a flat and stable surface. This is far and away the most common issue that professional installers encounter. The level ground makes the playset safe and sturdy. If the open space in your yard is sloped, you can easily make it a flat surface using a shovel, some stakes and twine, and a carpenter’s level. Grass, concrete, or asphalt can all work as flat surfaces as long as the set can be installed firmly with no movement while kids play on it and the proper groundcover.
If there is any slope in the area where you want to install the playset, you need to level the ground to ensure the equipment doesn’t tip over.
To level the surface, first mark the perimeter of the area where you want to install the equipment and place a wooden stake in each corner. Connect the stakes with twine to outline the area, then use a carpenter’s level to ensure the strings are perfectly straight, adjusting as necessary. Starting from the highest point, remove dirt and grass with a shovel until it is at an even level.
Additionally, cover the surface around the playset with soft material to prevent children from getting hurt while they play. Surfaces like grass or concrete are excellent to give a playset stability, but they do not adequately absorb the shock of a fall. Wood chips, sand, shredded tires, or engineered wood fiber can help cushion a child’s fall and prevent serious injuries. To maintain and contain the ground material, you’ll probably want to install typical garden edging.
Depending on the height of the playset deck, the protective ground material should be at least 9 inches to 12 inches deep. Tested surface mats can also provide great protection if they are the same height or taller than the play equipment. You can dig the sod a little deeper to make room for protective material.
Free of Obstructions
It is important to install a playset on a flat surface with enough room, but the space needs to be free of obstructions. Obstacles can make it difficult or prevent you from installing a playset. They can also make the space more dangerous for children to play around.
Common yard obstacles that can make play more difficult are trees, roots, rocks, and shrubs. Fences, decks, or sheds can also be obstructions to the space around the play equipment. You may need to clear out these barriers or choose a different area with more room to build the playset.
While your child plays, you want to be sure you can see them on the equipment clearly. Any obstructions can prevent you from noticing if your child needs help or when a potential accident happens. Ensure the play equipment is also a good distance away from any hazards, such as wires, creeks or ponds, sudden drop-offs or ravines, and utility poles.
For swing sets specifically, the space above it needs to be kept clear. Tall trees may provide some shade for your child if they hang over the play area. However, low branches can be dangerous if they are not trimmed properly. Drooping branches can also be a temptation for your child to try and grab or swing from it.
Placing the set underneath a tree can also mar the equipment in the long run with tree sap, bird droppings, or twigs. However, if tree branches are high enough or are far out of reach, they can provide adequate shade for your children to play under and protect them from the harsh sun.
Putting together your own playset in the backyard is a really rewarding experience. It’s a fun DIY project, and it will bring a lot of joy to your kids when they get to play on the finished product. However, it is important to prepare your yard for installation and to create enough space for it.
The ground needs to be flat and sturdy so the equipment will not fall or shake while your child uses it. Clear out any potential obstructions to the installation process to make it as easy as possible for yourself. Different playsets have different requirements, so make sure you check the footprint of the set you buy and see if your yard space is adequate to meet the recommendations.
For more tips on the playset setup process, read our extensive guide on how to buy a playset.