The Arbor Swing set

You know those large swing set/slide/clubhouse/sandbox/jungle gym systems that allow a kid to have a whole park in the comfort of their own backyard? We were given a wonderful gift from my husband's parents (my daughter's granny and poppy) that they wanted our little one to have a swing set/ slide combo for her second birthday (coming up in August). I was really impressed with this offer (as those are a rather large investment).

We have a city-run and maintained park just two blocks from our house with a plethora of slides, but no swings (it must be a thing as we have been hard-pressed to find a park with swings - I would guess because of liability (like the long-gone teeter-totter)) so I was really excited about the prospect of having a swing in our backyard.

We ran into just a few issues (some physical, others personal). The first physical issue was our yard's landscaping. We have an extremely hilly backyard- which meant the area for this swing set is very limited. Not only did the footprint of this swing set need to be small, but it also couldn't be too tall (we have a phone line under our oak tree on one side of the yard, and a power line on the other. This meant that after searching the only swing sets that would fit in our yard were the little cheap metal ones.

The designer in me personally hoped to be able to find something a bit more aesthetically pleasing than the metal swing sets, the mom in me was hoped for something more sturdy/safer and the frugal part of me wanted something that would be useful well past my daughter's swinging years.

Here's what I came up with- I would design a swingset that would be able to convert into a porch swing holder in the future. It would be an arbor-style for the beauty as well. So I read all over the internet regarding building techniques/fastners/wood types, swing set safety and such; drew up a sketch of what I wanted; went to the hardware store with my father-in-law to purchase all the pieces; and came home and began cutting, drilling and bolting items together to create the set. Then I went back to the hardware store to exchange items that I discovered didn't work for my design and get ones that would.

I wanted to finish (from buying the pieces, to digging and pouring concrete footings, to hanging the swings) in one weekend- and that was a tall order. My husband and I were finally checking the swings at 10:17pm (with some worklights on). It was a good thing we finished because it poured rain the next day and that would have made my project very delayed and swampy.

Here's what my daughter got!

I kind of love it :) I also look forward to bragging to my daughter that I built it myself as I rock on a porch swing attached to it several years from now.


Ivy Clad said...

Looks great! I'm glad to see that someone else has tried this. I've been wanting to do this in my backyard so that the swing set would blend with the landscape a little better. I would like to plant climbing vines on one.


weieroriginal said...

Thanks! It would be lovely with some climbing vines. I may try that next spring.
I would recommend using 6x6's instead of 4x4's as this won't be as sturdy as I would have hoped for when she's much bigger, but it is exactly what I was looking for.

Lorrie said...

Any chance I could get a list of building materials? I love this great job

weieroriginal said...

Sure Lorrie!

All wood will be Cedar (it is naturally rot and insect resistant so it is worth the extra cost) also, if you get a sliver, it's safer.

I would suggest using 6x6" posts as they would be a bit more substancial than the 4x4s I - the ones here were 10ft long (the height of the arbor is 7.5 ft off the ground, so you will be burying 2.5 ft of post). You need 4 of those.

Then you need 2 4x4 x 12 ft (cut both into be cut into 2- 3 ft sections - your preference). You'll use 4 of the sections on the top between the cross beams and 4 on the side posts for bracing. so make sure you have at least 9 even sized pieces.

Additionally you will need 2 2x10 inch (the picture shows 2x6s, but they should definitely be bigger so they cover those top cross beams as I had to follow up with an additional board to make it nice and sturdy).

Ok, now hardware. You will need carriage bolts 8 that are as long as a 4x4 and the 6x6 to go through both). Then 8 carriage bolts that are thick enough to go though 6x6 and the 2x10 (do two on each side (on opposite sides of that top cross beam)). You will also need the nuts and washers for all of those.

then you will need 10 large wood screws (I forget what the correct name of these are. They should be at least 5 inches long (and they have a hex wrench head on the side you see) (the other side will screw into the top cross beams).

Then, once you have all that done, all you will need is the brackets that attach through the top beams for the swings. (the ones I used go through the beam and have a washer and nut that attach on the top of the beam.

you will also need some fast drying concrete for inside the post holes as well as some gravel in the bottom for drainage.

that should do it...of course you want swings too.

Hope that helps! Good luck to you!

Lorrie said...

Thank you so much, hoping that the weather in WI starts to dry and warm up so this project can get one!

Anonymous said...

We just finished this and it looks great, we double the size so we have 4 swings. Thanks for such a great idea!

Cook Family Journal said...

Do you know the final dimensions

weieroriginal said...

The one in the picture ended up being 7 feet wide, 2 feet deep, and 8 feet tall (there is an additional 3 feet of buried footings in there as well).

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

Did you build the top with materials lying on the ground and then erect vertically to install in the in-ground holes? Or did you install posts in the ground first and just build from there? I have completed a project like this before and we had such a difficult time getting everything level. Any tips on order of construction?

weieroriginal said...

I had built mine on the ground squared it up, measured it upside down and then dug the holes. I then used a few additional 4x4s and some string to level the gravel at the correct depths within the hole ( since the ground is obviously not level in the pictures). I did this because I didn't own a saw that would allow me to trim the tops of the 4x4s and getting them the correct height and carrying pieces up to tighten up top seemed too challenging with just a footstool...
It also helped that I only had to worry about getting it level in one direction as the top was squared when it went in the holes.
Now if I were doing it now I would be using 6x6s for the legs and just based on the additional weight. I would probably do the same thing by digging the holes at the correct depth after pre-drilling everything, but then assemble after putting the individual legs use the string between to make sure the top is level with each other and then I would then put in the support beams on the sides. Then pour the quick concrete material (using temporary supports to keep them level) and then use my ladder to put up the center after it dries.
If I had more people though, might still preassemble and do it my original way and just use more people to turn it over.