Backyard Swing Set DIY | For Big Kids

Backyard swing set DIY. How we built our backyard swing set for big kids. Complete with playhouse, balcony and rock wall.

I send the kids outside a lot.

It sounds a bit more like this though, “if you’re inside, you’re cleaning!”

They grab each other in a frantic and giggle and scream as they push their way out the backdoor in front of one another to avoid the dishes at all costs.

So when the harsh Arkansas winds blew our swing set over, we had a problem.

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Table of contents:

This is our own personal experience. It is advised to seek professional guidance. Always practice tool safety and comply with city guidelines.

Our backyard swing set was our first real outdoor project as new homeowners. The kids were 5 and 2 at the time and we searched for one that would grow with them through the years. We found a backyard discovery swing set with playhouse, slide, swing set, rock wall and picnic area.

It was perfect and grew with the girls just as we had hoped.

Until one night the strong winds of Arkansas got the better of it and destroyed our family fun.

Destroyed swing set from the Arkansas storm.

No amount of TLC was going to bring this swing set back to life and the threat of “if you’re inside, you’re cleaning!” just didn’t hold the same excitement of rushing out the door to avoid the dishes.

Like any family with older kids we went back and forth between buying a new swing set or building one, but sadly the ones in our price range were just too little kid-ish for our girls needs.

It took a solid few months for me to convince my husband that we could build something, but eventually he caved.

DIY Swing set and playhouse with rock wall, balcony, rope swing and more.

I want to be clear that this is not a guide to building your own DIY swing set or swing set plans. These are just the steps we took and the things we learned along the way on building our own. This is for entertainment and informational purposes only.

BACKYARD SWINGS SET DIY

How we built our backyard swing set + materials list

The sketch was drawn up and the plan was to complete this project a little at a time. Which also meant buying wood a little at a time. Just enough to complete whichever section we were working on without having too much wood waste.

WOOD

  • 4- 4″x4″x12′ (for posts)
  • 2- 4″x4″x8′ (for swing set)
  • 3- 2″x6″x10′ (for balcony support & rope swing)
  • 3- 2″x6″x12′ (for base and top of swing set support)
  • 1- 4″x6″x12′ (beam for top of swing set)
  • Approximately 16- 2″x4″x12′ (framing + ladder)
  • Decking – Approximately 20- 12′ (top and bottom platforms + rock wall)
  • Cedar fence pickets – Approximately 55 (playhouse structure and balcony railing)
Part of the wood used for the playhouse project.

TOOLS

  • Impact driver
  • Drill
  • Circular saw
  • Miter saw
  • Recipracating saw
  • Oscillating tool
  • Impact socket adapter
  • Socket set
  • Apex bits
  • Spade bit
  • Clamps
  • Measuring tape
  • Level
  • Square
  • Speed square
  • Ladder
  • Sledge hammer
  • Shovel
  • 16 Penny nails (for spacing)
  • String (for roof line)
  • Pencil
  • Safety glasses

HARDWARE + OTHER

PICK THE LOCATION

Bottom floor of playhouse platform- 6’x6′

Top floor of playhouse platform- 6’x 101.25″ to include balcony

12 Feet to include swings= 18+ feet long in total (the 4×4 A-frame swing posts kick out a little bit)

The first thing we did was pick the location in the yard that we wanted to built in. We decided to choose a different location than our last swing set to take advantage of the tree line as a better shade solution for the swing set in the hot summer months.

We also needed to keep it several feet away from our fence line since the back corner can get muddy after heavy rainfall.

Then we built our base frame using the 2x6x12’s making sure everything was square and level. It’s important to note that two of these 2x6x12’s are cut exactly to 6 feet while the other two measure just shy of 69 inches. That gave us a perfect 6’x6′ base frame. Then we added subfloor support every 16 inches on center.

Since this is a tall playhouse, we needed a proper footing to support the posts. We dug each post hole to 24 inches and placed our frame over the post holes and used scrap wood too ensure the base was level.

Pick a spot, build a base, dig post holes, level.

SET THE POSTS

Then we placed the 4″x4″x12′ posts into the ground one at a time and attached 2″x4″‘s to keep each post square before adding our concrete. At this time we attached the frame platform to the 4″x4″‘s using ⅜ 4 inch lag bolts, but kept the base supported by the scrap wood. Double checking that everything was square and level.

We left the posts to set and came back later to add the decking to the bottom platform. Starting from the center of the platform we worked our way out to each side.

As we reached the end of each side we had to measure and cut 4 of the deck boards to accommodate around the 4″x4″ supports.

In the end, our platform hung over by about an inch on either side of the base.

Place posts in holes. Set with Quikete. Add decking.

SECOND STORY DECKING

We decided how tall we wanted our second level to be by keeping in mind how much headroom we wanted in the top floor of the playhouse.

Since we knew we were going to angle the roof to allow rainwater to fall off the back of the play structure, we kept the bottom floor just under 5 feet tall from the base of the second story subfloor.

Then we trimmed our two 2″x6″x10′ down to 101.25 inches and attached them to the sides and framed in the subfloor, keeping an opening for the ladder and soon to be trap door.

In the trap door opening we doubled up the 2″x4″‘s to support it once it’s closed.

As we laid our subfloor it was important to keep in mind that our subfloor and decking needed to run in opposite directions for proper support.

Lastly, we added cosmetic decking along the side where the trap door is so there wasn’t a gap once we framed in the top section.

Building the second floor platform.

SECOND STORY FRAMING

Next (and by next I mean several days later) we began framing in our second story. We added four 2″x4″x101.25″ (101.25 inches long, because he’s married to me and I said so) to frame in the second floor. Then custom measured and fit the rest of what we needed.

Now, earlier I mentioned that we were going to install our roof at an angle, so at this point we needed to decided how much of a slope we were going to have. In the end we decided on a 5 inch difference from the front two 4″x4″‘s from the back two 4″x4″‘s. Allowing rainwater to flow off the back.

We trimmed the back posts down to the proper size and attached the 2″x6″x10′ support beam at the very top for our rope swing.

Back at the front, we kept the balcony railing at 36 inches from the deck floor to be a proper size to keep the kids safe as they enjoy their balcony.

Wood used for the second floor.

Then we framed in the balcony and began to attach the cedar fence pickets. Each fence picket is 72 inches long, so we were able to cut them in half for the railing. Since one end has decorative trimming, we cut an angle out of the other side so they all were uniform.

After the railing we began to work on the side wall. Since our wall slopes to the back, every cedar fence picket needed to be custom cut to fit. One of us would hold the fence in the proper spot, while the other would mark and cut the picket to size. Each of us screwing it down at the top, middle, and bottom of the wood.

Creating a large window at the side of the playhouse.

When it came time for our window, we cut the bottom of the window to match up with the 36 inch 2″x4″ support. Then we left a gap of a few pickets and added a finished edge to the top. We continued in this manner around three sides of the playhouse, making adjustments and framing to size as we went along.

Adding the cedar fence siding and rock wall.

We left the side wall closest to the swing set unfinished in order to install our roof support and panels later on.

Next we decided on the angle of the rock wall and framed out the back section before attaching the wood decking as a climbing wall. Then we attached the hardware and rope into the 2″x4″ at the top frame of the back entrance.

Making the rock wall at an angle.
Attaching the knotted rope to 2x4 frame.

Once that was in place we started on our roofing. We decided on 4 panels overlapping so that in a light drizzle the kids could still be outside enjoying the playhouse. To attach the roof we used several 2 ½ inch construction screws with washers, along the edges and roof supports.

Attaching the green roofing to the playhouse.

ENTRY LADDER

At this point we were in dire need of a real ladder to get into the top floor of the playhouse. We cut a 2″x4″x12′ down to size and made our ladder at a slight angle to make it easier to get up and down.

Using clamps, we held the cut to size 2″x4″‘s steps in place and made a small ladder with four steps spaced out every 12 inches. Keeping sure each one was level.

Building a ladder to the second floor.

A-FRAME SWING SET

It was about a week before we were able to pick up this project again, and by then we were all ready to see this swing set come together.

The A-frame bracket, swing set hangers, joist hanger and swings all came in and we were back in business.

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We then added an additional 2″x6″ to outside of the wall to give added strength and support to the swing set and it was at that time we noticed our original 2″x6″ on the inside of the playhouse, was a bit too high for our A-frame swing set. We brought it down to the correct hight, added the second 2″x6″ and attached our Simpson Strong Tie 4″x6″ bracket.

After that we attached the A-frame bracket to the 4″x6″x12′ using a sledge hammer and elbow grease.

We put the beam into place while my husband held it up with a ladder (that’s not a good idea) as I wrestled the 4″x4″x8′ posts into the A-frame.

*Note- We later added 8 additional 3 inch lag screws to the sandwiched 2″x6″‘s for additional support.

Setting the hardware in place for the swing set.

It took a lot of patience and communication but after a few tries we got everything into it’s proper spot. Since this backyard swing set was built on a slight slope we needed to make sure that the 4″x4″ on the higher side was cut into the ground just a bit to make everything level.

A-Frame swing set attached to playhouse.

Finally, we attached 5 of the swing set hangers to the bottom of the 4″x6″x12′ for each of the swings. We only used 5 out of the six because the giant swing is only attached by one swing set hanger to allow it to spin. (the big kids favorite swing to spin)

Swing set accessories to include a rock wall, giant swing, non-slip swing, and trapeze bar.

Swing Set Accessories

The rope swing was also set up on the top 2″x6″x10′ along the back portion of the playhouse and we attached that using an eye hook. We also braced the beam with a 2″x4″ cut at an angle to help support and get rid of the extra sway.

Rope swing attached to 2x6x10', with extra side support.

We added a few handles from our old playhouse and finished up the rock wall in the back and proclaimed this swing set done, for now.

What does done for now mean? It means we still have a trap door to complete! Oh I know, life gets in the way and work schedules don’t always play in our favor.

We’ve also talked about adding a L-shapped bench to the bottom portion (or a bench swing) and setting up movie nights using a sheet that would hang from the bottom of the balcony. But that is in the way, way future.

PLAYHOUSE TOUR

Inside playhouse showing the balcony.
Back of the tree house with rock wall and added swings.

HOW LONG DID THIS BACKYARD SWING SET AND PLAYHOUSE TAKE TO BUILT

It took about 6 weeks to finish this project. We had a few scheduling conflicts we needed to work around, so at times we were only able to work on it a couple of hours before needing to clean up and head off to work. Once work conflicts settled down, we were able to get everything completed in no time.

HOW MUCH DID THIS COST TO BUILT

I’m not going to give an exact cost since the price of building materials can change. But it was roughly between $1,600-$1,800 from start to finish. The amount of tools and hardware we had on hand also made this project possible.

In the end it was comparable to the swing sets you can find online that are just too young for our kids interests, but cheaper than larger playgrounds meant for older kids.

Big kids playing on completed swing set.

This wasn’t a small project by any means. It took a lot of planning, time, tools and knowledge to stay organized and get things done. There were also a couple of times we needed to measure twice and cut once along with math and guessing.

This playhouse could have been made a bit different for less wood waste but we also needed to keep our yard space in mind.

Big kids relaxing on finished swing set.

This swing set and playhouse combo has turned into a great addition for our backyard and one that will grow with our children for many years to come. The girls love twirling on the giant swing and us adults love the wide swing that if you can believe it or not, does in fact touch the sky!

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