Building a free standing swing set is not as difficult as one might think. With decent sets costing over $1,500, I decided to build one myself to my own specifications.
This project is lengthy, so I broke up the article into 3 parts:
- Part 1 – Overview / Design / Material list (You Are Here)
- Part 2 – Construction
- Part 3 – Installing Accessories
With my kids rapidly growing, I wanted to buy them a sage and sturdy play swing set. With most main beams weighing over 100 pounds, the last thing I want is a shoddy swing set with poor design.
I checked 6 or 7 dealers and found that most decent sets were priced well over the $1,500+ range, including sets made from metal, PVC and other materials. I found a really nice swing set made from red cedar (the same one that is pictured at the beginning of this article) but that was priced over $2,700!
Kids are amazingly talented pushing design limits to put themselves in to danger. To minimize the risk of injury:
- We should create a buffer zone that should be roughly twice the height of the swing. For example, if the height of the swing is 6 feet, the front buffer zone should be approximately 12 feet. Rear buffer zone should also be approximately 12 feet;
- The distance between seats should be 24 inches or greater (to avoid hitting each other while swinging);
- The distance between a seat and the nearest support structure should be be 30 inches or greater;
First of all, if you can afford it, go with red cedar. Red cedar is naturally resistant to rot and has minimal splinter risk, but it is super expensive (about 5 times the cost of a pressure-treated lumber where I live).
Second, with a $500 budget, I decided to use pressure treated (PT) lumber because it is inexpensive. I was not concerned with PT lumber because unlike the play gym, I didn’t expect kids to touch the frame of a swing set that often, if at all.
PT 4x4s come with sharp corner edges so to minimize the risk of getting splinters, I will need to round off the edges using a router.
Lastly, I originally intended to build a backyard play gym that was attached to the swing set. However, due to the size of my lot (100 x 385), I just could not make the configurations work without sacrificing features that my son and daughter wanted.
Instead, we decided to build and locate them separately. So my goals were to:
- Build a simple but rustic looking swing set that can take a beating;
- Handle up to 4 children, using 3 rides (third one being a Mega Rider Swing Seat that supports 2 kids)
I really liked the this swing set (pix below) I found at a local store but at $2700, it was just too expensive. Instead, I am going to try to create a slightly different version of it.
- Main Beam – This is the horizontal beam that will carry the bulk of the swinging weight. It needs to resist the vertical and angular forces as well as to provide torsional rigidity (i.e. twisting). I’ve elected to utilize a 4 x 6 x 12 ft long PT lumber (12 extra inches on either side so the effective span would be about 10 ft)
- Vertical + Horizontal Supports – Use 4 x 4 x 10 ft PT lumber with contiguous load-bearing beams, attached to a 30-degree triangular base for stability;
- Ground Support Braces – 2 x 6 PT to tie in vertical pieces
- Connectors – All connections will be made with galvanized bolts, washers and nuts from Simpson-Strong. The only exception is for the ground support braces which will be secured to the veritical and horizontal braces Simpson-Strong structural lag screws.
|Qty||Item||Where to Buy|
|1||4 x 6 x 12, Pressure Treated, SYP||Local Lumber Yard|
|9||4 x 4 x 10, Pressure Treated, SYP||Local Lumber Yard|
|2||2 x 6 x 8, Pressure Treated, SYP||Local Lumber Yard|
|4||1/2″ galvanized carriage bolts x 6.5″||Local Lumber Yard|
|4||1/2″ galvanized carriage bolts x 10″||Local Lumber Yard|
|8||1/2″ galvanized carriage bolts x 12″||Local Lumber Yard|
|16||1/2″ galvanized washers||Local Lumber Yard|
|16||1/2″ galvanized nuts||Local Lumber Yard|
|1 box||Simpson 1/4″ x 3″ structural screws||Link|
|1||Swing-N-Slide Extra-Duty Swing Seat (green)||Link|
|1 pair||Swing-N-Slide – Extra-Duty Swing Hangers Model #4888||Link|
|1 pair||Congo Play – Commercial Swing Hanger Galvanized Model # SH-04;||Link|
|1||Swing-N-Slide – Mega Rider||Link|
|1||Swing-N-Slide – Extra-Duty Swing Seat (green)||Link|
|1||Swing-N-Slide – Heavy-Duty Trapeze Swing Bar||Link|
*SYP = Southern Yellow Pine (commonly found at local large box retailers)
*PT = Pressure Treated
Other than few drill bits, rest of the tools are pretty standard. If you don’t own most of them, you will need to borrow them but as a DIY, it’s a good idea to start buying them couple at a time as you will need them to build things like decks and tree houses in the future.
- Metal Hacksaw; to trim off the excess bolt;
- Compound Miter Saw or Chop Saw (Like this one);
- Sawhorses (Like this Stanley Folding Sawhorse);
- Drill bit; I would not recommend using a long-shafted speedbor/spade bits because they are very difficult to drill a straight hole (I use this black oxide drill bit);
- Router; not a must but highly recommended to round out 4×4 supports to minimize splinters (I suggest this DeWalt DWP611PK 1.25 HP Max Torque Variable Speed Compact Router Combo Kit with LED);
- Router bit (Like this 1/2″ Radius Rounding Over Bit (Quadra-Cut));
- Spade/Boring Kit; to counter-sink bolt heads (Like this Milwaukee 6-Piece Universal Quik-Lok Stubby Flat Boring Bit Set);
When cutting 4x4s, I placed the miter saw on the ground which is really bad on my back. If you have a saw horse roller (like this Craftsman Roller Stand 11-1/2″ Roller Steel Support Stand), you can use your saw horses as a workbench.
In How I Built My Own Backyard Swing Set – Part 2 post, I will show you how I built the swing set frame.
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