View Full Version : what to put underneith a wooden swingset or playstructure?

07-06-2004, 10:50 PM
Can you built a pit with something like railroad ties and then fill it with mulch or wood chips? Or does it need to be grass underneith? Also do the wooden swingsets and playstructures need to be anchored to the ground the way the metal swingsets do? We have no yard and my son is in love with climbing. I take him to the playground every night but it would be nice to have something here that he could play with when he wanted to. I am thinking of building something in the driveway (we have a big driveway and only use half of it anyway!). Has anyone done this? Any ideas?


07-07-2004, 03:30 PM
My Dh just built a swing set about two months ago. It's a cedar set that was on display at Sam's Club. It's pretty big and the price was right. We are very happy with it thus far. We decided not to put anything underneath and haven't found that the area has turned to mud at all. But that simply is because my girls are still so young. One of my local playgrounds has mulch and my oldest is always full of dirt and dust when she's done playing there. I find it annoying so that's why I didn't want anything under it. My DH also constantly seeds the yard (has been doing so for years now about once a month) to keep the ground clover out so our grass is pretty thick.

As far as securing it, our lawn is far from level. He had to put planks beneath the stairs, alongside the main clubhouse tower, and the other structural end for support. Even though this set weights a ton (800 lbs I believe),the ground was uneven enough that it could be cause for worry, so he planked the uneven parts, which don't interfere at all with the set. He then drove Cedar stakes into the ground right beside the main structural beams. The stakes where then screwed into the main beams so you can't even tell they are there at all.

Not sure if a set is possible in a driveway. I would think it has to be competely level if you were to get a big set. The big sets tend to very expensive and also quite complicated to set up and move. My neighbor has a $10K Rainbow set (no kidding) and had to pay $1K to have it broken down and moved to their new house. It's that heavy and big. Our set is large but at least transportable, not that we ever intend to move!

07-07-2004, 04:16 PM
A friend of mine has a Rainbow swing set (I had NO idea they could go for 10K!) and did what you describe in terms of a pit with railroad ties and then she filled it with pea gravel. I don't know if they did this themselves or paid the rainbow people. Her kids LOVE it, and mine did too when we played there.

07-07-2004, 09:04 PM
Actually the pit idea with sand, pea gravel, or mulch is better than plain grass (you get softer landings). You do have to anchor any set to the ground.

Jen in Okinawa
Mom to Noelle (2 2/3)
Architect in a previous life!

07-07-2004, 09:37 PM
We created a similar "pit" with our Rainbow and use mulch in it, but with a great deal of depth. Rainbow also sells mulch that is made of recycled tires but it is very expensive.

07-12-2004, 01:44 AM
I can't answer most of your questions but will say that I did research online before designing my son's play area. What I found was many sites that said that grass should never be under areas in which a child could fall (swings, climbers, slides, etc.) because it is too hard of a surface for such falls (sorry I can't give you the links--my computer with the bookmarks is broken down right now). Instead, they recommended using either sand, mulch, or pea gravel.

I have heard in many places that sand attracts cats and can easily blow out of the play area, so we didn't choose sand. I also read that mulch can attract spiders, so we ended up choosing pea gravel. We just completed the play area two days ago, so I can't report on how well the pea gravel works at cushioning falls. Yesterday, though, my 14-month-old put some of the pea gravel in his mouth (he's going through a phase of putting everything in his mouth right now) so I'm a little worried about him playing there unless I watch him VERY closely.

The sites that addressed safety issues actually gave rules of thumb to follow regarding how many inches deep the pea gravel or mulch should be according to how high the fall could be from a slide, etc. Another surface that they highly recommended was a type of mulch made from rubber bits, but the cost was too high for us to use that.

Good luck with your project!

07-24-2004, 10:07 PM
I am thinking of a fort with stairs or a ladder to climb and a slide but no swings. Hopefully we will have enough room for that.

Anne, I also have a boy named Ethan (born 10/03) and would love to see some pictures of your Ethan's new play area.