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How to Build a Swing Set: Step-by-Step Guide

If you are imagining the summer of dreams for your children, then, of course, a swing set has to be in the picture. But with so many options available in stores, online, and with do-it-yourself options, you might be stuck as to which option is the best for your family. We are here to help.

To build a swing set, you will select a free plan or draft one on your own, create a materials list, choose your customizable options (wood or other material, features, sizing, etc.), begin building, add weather protection (non-toxic sealants), and ensure the safety of your swing set.

With this step-by-step guide on how to build a swing set, we will cover the relative costs that come with customizable options (choosing wood, features, sizing, etc.) as well as other considerations.

By following this guide, we hope to create an option that seems realistic for you to avoid the high costs of buying a pre-made swing set and to be able to customize one that perfectly fits the needs of your family.

How Much Does it Cost to Build a Swing Set?

Before we jump into the discussion of how to build a swing set, you will want to review your budget to ensure that this is the best decision for you and your family. Compared to the price of some luxury swing sets, building one yourself can significantly benefit your budget.

Depending on the features that you want added to the swing set, the sizing, and if you have the tools you need, building a swing set can still cost within a lower range of some luxury swing sets. The average cost for building a swing set is between $100-$400, with luxury DIY swing sets extending closer to $1,000.

Whether you are looking to create an insane swing set with multiple layers, added features, and bonus configurations, or you are simply looking to make a standard A-frame model for your children to swing on as they grow up, the decisions are up to you.

Ultimately, building a swing set can be a sort of initiation for parents as they venture into the world of creating something- with their bare hands- that their children will cherish for years to come.

If you think these costs are a bit high, don’t worry, there are ways to reduce the budget. Or maybe you’d like to check out our Swing Set Cost and Quality article to get an idea of what pre-built options cost before building your own.

What Costs are Included in Building a Swing Set?

While the costs range for different makes and models, and you get to customize what will work for you and your family, there are still some basic costs that are typical when building a swing set. Using these points of reference, you will be more accurately able to determine the ultimate cost of building a swing set for your backyard.

Costs included in building a swing set are:

  • The materials (choice of wood or an alternative option)
  • Tools (drill, wrench, bits, bolts, screws, frame brackets, etc.)
  • Materials to level the ground (either leveling the ground itself or adding a material flooring)
  • Paint/stain/sealant for the wood upkeep
  • And additional swing set features like a slide

Of course, these choices are going to be highly personalized based on your family’s needs. For example, if you have a wide range of ages in children in your family, then you might want to add additional components that are more appropriate for small toddlers or for the older kids to use.

Is it Cheaper to Build Your Own Swing Set?

So with all of the talk of varying costs that are associated with building your own swing set, you might be ready to pitch in the towel before your project even begins. But, with a little inspiration, perhaps you will still consider doing this project yourself.

Building your own swing set is generally cheaper than purchasing a comparably sized pre-built swing set, though the costs on each can vary. You can build a luxury model swing set for less than $1,000 compared to a similar pre-built one that can sell for up to $4,000. The materials and quality may differ on the two.

Comparably, you can build a simple swing set for $300 that might be similarly priced to a simple metal one. But, with building your own swing set, you will get to customize the appropriate dimensions for your yard and your family’s needs.

Of course, if you have to purchase the tools to build your own, then this might add to the overall cost of building a swing set, so if you plan to go super simple, then the considerations might vary.

In essence, the more robust your swing set and the more extravagant features are included, the more likely you will end up saving money by building it yourself than purchasing a pre-built model.

Again, this will depend on your craftsmanship and the decisions that go into what type of swing set you hope to build. Do not forget, the installation and assembly costs that will be involved with a swing set that you build yourself versus a swing set that comes pre-built can vary, too.

Upkeep is important to factor in as well, whether that be the materials you choose to build with, or a warranty that comes with a pre-built option.

What Kind of Wood Should I Use for a Swing Set?

Moving right along into the construction phase of this post, one of the most influential factors in the overall design (and associated cost) of your swing set will be the material of which you choose to build it. If you are building a swing set yourself, you are likely going to be using wood as the main component with a few added pieces that you may purchase along the way.

When choosing what kind of wood you should use for a swing set, consider the cost and quality you would like. Pine is a low-budget option, but it will require more upkeep. Redwood and cedar are alternative options that are a bit more expensive but still remain low-budget and are naturally insect and weather repellent. All wood should be stained and sealed.

Again, when you are looking at the costs associated here, this will be a highly personalized decision based on your current and long-term budget.

Check out our Best Wood For A Swing Set Article for even more info.

Cedar is the most popular option for building a swing set yourself because it is readily available in most locations, it is cost-efficient, and it’s one of the best long-term wood options because its natural repellents mixed with any sealant will provide longevity.

Though the other wood options will work, cedar is definitely one of the top competitors. But, if you are not looking for something that will be around long-term, then you can consider pine. Just be sure to seal it well and routinely inspect it for any signs of damage from rot, insects, or other culprits.

How to Make a Heavy-Duty Swing Set?

As you have calculated the costs and appropriated your budget for building a swing set, it is now time for the fun part: making a heavy-duty swing set to last your children for all of their childhood. Making a heavy-duty swing set means that you and your other adult friends will be able to enjoy it, too.

To make a heavy-duty swing set, you will need to follow a series of steps:

  • Measure your yard
  • Create a draft plan
  • Research features you would like to add
  • Gather the appropriate tools
  • Level your yard
  • Dig holes for the posts
  • Select, cut, stain, and seal the wood
  • Assemble the frame
  • Add different dimensions
  • Attach the set
  • And test it for safety.

To expand on these steps, here is what you will need to do:

Measure your yard

One of the most important preparation steps that you can complete for building your own heavy-duty swing set is to measure your yard. Whether you have a small or a large yard, you will need to know the dimensions that you have to work with.

When you know the dimensions of your yard as a whole, you can consider how much of your yard you will permit to be taken up by the swing set.

For example, if you have a smaller yard and would still like room for your garden, flower beds, or otherwise have a flat portion of your yard that is not taken up by your swing set, then you might need to consider a smaller model of swing set.

On the other hand, if you have a larger yard, then you might have more space for a larger swing set that has many different dimensions and components to it. Then again, you might have a larger yard and decide that you really do not need or want all of the luxury components for a swing set and decide to keep it a minimalistic look.

There is not a right or a wrong way to go about this decision as it really comes down to what is best for you, your family, your budget, and your space.

Once you have the measurements of the space that you have to work with, then you can proceed in deciding on the rest of the components on your new backyard structure.

Create a draft plan

Once you have an idea of the dimensions that you would like to incorporate in your swing set, you can begin a draft of the swing set plan. There are many free DIY swing set tutorials and drawing plans out there, so you can choose between these as you begin to sketch your draft.

If you are not one who prefers to sketch out the draft, then you can use a free plan to at least get an idea of the product that you will be creating so that you can share your vision for the end result.

Even if you are not one who is prone to sketching out every detail of your swing set draft, you can still sketch out the area that you would like for it to go. In this case, you will be able to measure- using your yard’s custom dimensions- and allot enough space for the swing set to go including enough space for the swings to actually move back and forth.

This last component for measuring and planning is critical and can be overlooked. Make sure there’s enough room to swing.

If you, unfortunately, place your swing set too close to your fence in an attempt to save a bit of yard space, then you could create an end result that is not functional as you will not have enough room to swing back and forth- completely destroying the mechanical purpose of the swing set in the first place.

A good place to get ideas for your own draft plan is, they have a couple plans that could give you ideas to work with.

Research features you would like to add

Once you have your basic draft done of your swing set plan, then you can begin doing a bit more research on the features that you would like to add. Of course, you might want to do a bit of research before you begin your draft, but doing this after the draft can help you to know how much physical room you have to work within your yard.

Additionally, if you have researched and begun a plan for building your heavy-duty swing set, then you will likely know what the cost will be on the basic materials including:

  • Installation
  • Assembly
  • Upkeep

In this case, you can use the remainder of your budget to incorporate features that you would like to add.

These do not have to be overly complicated features, either. Some people choose to use their basic supplies like wood to create multi-level decking options. While this can be a neat feature, it is one that will be made of the same materials that you will have already purchased, so the cost will overall be the same.

However, some people choose to go the median route and add smaller features (that are not wood-based) like rocks for a rock-climbing wall, a rope, or another type of climbing feature like monkey bars. These can add a little bit more to the overall cost and difficulty of installation, but they should not add too much that requires a ton of overhaul.

Then, you can choose to incorporate larger features that might cost a bit more or add to the installation difficulty. These can include an enclosed slide that twists and turns, a lookout tower with various components added to the walls, and more.

Some Common Additions To Consider:

  • Swings
  • Slide or twist slide
  • Rock wall or climbing wall
  • Climbing ropes
  • Ladders or stairs
  • Flying saucer swing or tire swing
  • Baby swing
  • Monkey bars

Additionally, you might choose to spend on protective gear that will cover any potentially pointy or hazardous edges- something that will be well worth its cost should they come up. Considering your children are likely the reason you are building the swing set in the first place, it makes sense to ensure their safety with any additional features needed.

On a final note, it is always a good idea to add in your children’s opinions on what should be incorporated on the swing set.

Though, you might want to limit the decisions to color options or deciding between 1-2 features rather than steering the ship.

By providing limited options, you can help them to get excited about helping with the project without overcomplicating the task or giving them too high of expectations on features you might not be able to afford.

Here’s a quick video showing how easy it is to add a simple rock wall and slide to your swing set. Maybe this can help give you some ideas for your project.

Gather the appropriate tools

Once you have your draft for your swing set, you will be able to come up with a list of tools that you will need to complete the project. Of course, the number and variation of tools needed will differ based on added components of the project, but there will be many similarities.

In general, you can have the wood that you select cut at the shop that you choose to buy the wood from at a pretty minimal cost, or you can choose to do this part yourself.

Often, with projects like these, people find that paying a minimal cost to have someone measure and cut all of the wood for them will end up saving them significant amounts of time.

However, this does not mean that this is the way you have to do it. You can choose to build your swing set however you would like, but these are just the type of suggestions that will make the feat seem a little easier and require less of your time to come to completion.

For the most part, free swing set plans often come with a list of the materials that you will need for that specific plan. Generally, these will include:

  • Nuts, bolts, and screws
  • Specific cuts of whichever type of wood you choose
  • Drills and wrenches
  • Frame brackets
  • Paint, sealant, and painting supplies

To determine which materials you will need for the swing set you are choosing to build, you need to have a well-thought-out plan.

This is another reason that it is helpful to write down and configure the draft- so that you can have something specific to reference as you prepare and then once you begin to build, too.

Level your yard

Leveling your yard will likely be the next step that you choose to do as you will want to make sure it is prepped for when you begin to build the frame of the swing set. You can choose to level your yard by using dirt and grass, or you can use a different type of substance like rubber/vinyl mulch.

Check out our How To Level The Ground For A Swing Set article for a step by step guide on the process.

You could always check out HomeAdvisor Landscaping for local professionals that could help with any leveling you need done in your yard. I’ve been able to find good companies on there, and you could even look for a handy man to help with the swing set if you needed it.

By far, one of the most preferred substances to floor your swing set with is rubber or vinyl mulch. But, this is going to be semi-permanent, so you will want to make sure that this is the route you are willing to take before beginning the pour.

Ultimately, choosing how you want to level your yard will be determined by your budget and the long-term plan that you have for your backyard.

Many people like rubber mulch as the base of their swing sets because it offers protection from falling that turf and wood mulch do not. Turf is known for giving scratches to the knees when people fall, and turf burns are just as bad as they sound.

Rubber mulch was our top pick, but we cover all the available options, including the pros and cons, in our What To Put Under A Swing Set article.

On that note, wood mulch is generally inexpensive, but if your child falls or jumps from the swing, they are more likely to experience splinters from broken shavings of the wood mulch.

Additionally, wood mulch requires more upkeep than many other forms of swing set flooring as it is not weather resistant and is prone to rot. It might also allow substances like weeds and plants to grow through it meaning you would have to re-mulch the area.

Either way you go, just be sure you consider the longevity, the upkeep, and the long-term costs that will be associated with leveling your yard. If you plan on moving from your house in the next few years, then choosing to level the dirt and grass could be more of a payoff than adding rubber mulch, but the choice is ultimately up to you.

Here’s a quick video showing some benefits to using a ground covering under the swing set.

Dig holes for the posts

If you are building a swing set that is relatively large, then you will likely need to dig holes for the posts. Otherwise, you might find that your swing set sways just as much as the swings do.

To know how deep to dig holes for your posts, you need to know the measurements of the entire swing set.

If you are building a heavy-duty swing set that has 6×6 posts that are at least 10ft long for an A-frame model, you will need to bury the posts at least 1ft deep to root the post while allowing sufficient height for the swings to function.

  • You will want to dig the holes for the posts slightly wider for the base than at the surface, though this can take some technique
  • Then, you will cover the base of the hole with gravel to help provide a balanced and stable surface to place the post in
  • Fill the hole with cement or another dense substance
  • And leave about 4-6 inches on top for dirt to go back over the cement

Choosing how deep to dig your posts will depend on the overall height that you wish for the frame to be. This will also be affected by how long the frame will be.

Too long of a beam could sag in the middle and experience wear with larger, heavier loads. Too short of a beam will not permit enough room for multiple people to swing simultaneously.

You can however, avoid digging holes and setting posts with a smaller or more stable swing set plan.

Here’s a video showing a simple frame that requires the post to be secured in the ground.

Select, cut, and stain the wood

Selecting, cutting, and staining the wood are all going to be essential components that make your swing set stand out apart from the rest. Top recommendations for wood include cedar and redwood, though you can use pine if it’s all that’s available.

Cedar is often preferred as the best wood to build a swing set with because it is durable, cost-efficient, and naturally repels insects. It is also good in heavy weather conditions, especially once you add a sealant to its surface.

How long you cut each piece of wood will be determined by the swing set plan that you are going to follow. If you live close to a wood-shop, then you might not have to worry about the cuts as you can always go back for more.

But, try to get all that you need in one shot to avoid the headache of returning to the store and the hassle of having to stop working on your project to make the trip.

Be sure to stain the wood and then seal it with a non-toxic, weather repellent. Some people choose to seal the entire structure after it has been completely assembled.

This option is fine, but you might find it easier to at least apply one coat while you are working with the wood (before screws, bolts, swings, and slides get in the way).

Assemble the frame

Now that the wood is cut and prepped, you can begin to assemble the frame. One of the most popular options for building your own heavy-duty swing set is to use an A-frame model, though other options are certainly available.

Since the triangle is the strongest geometric shape, the A-frame provides a durable structure that can stand to hold significant weight.

To assemble the frame, you will need to use the appropriate pieces of wood that follow your swing set plan. Generally, the frames can be assembled using frame brackets that are easily attached to the top of the posts.

Be sure to measure the base and the top of the frame as you go to ensure that the frame is even and appropriately angled.

Once you complete one side of the frame, move on to the next ensuring that each is at the same spacing, measurements, and angles. Then, you can attach the ends of the frame together and continue onto the more complex components of building your swing set.

Add various features and dimensions

Now that your frame is built (the cornerstone on which the rest of the structure will rely on), you can add all of the other features that you wanted to add.

This includes:

  • Decking for additional height options
  • Slides
  • Monkey bars
  • A rock-climbing station
  • Tire swing under the deck
  • And a structured area for a water/sand table
  • Now your swing set is really coming to life

Here’s a cool video showing a rolling pipe slide add-on. It can cost a bit of money, but a cool idea anyway.

Attach the swing set features to the frame

You can choose to add the swings as the finishing touch, or you can add them in before the other features. We like to place them as a finishing touch as this can be a magical moment that you and your family will enjoy.

Be sure to choose the appropriate hooks and swings based on age recommendations and weight measurements. Of course, you will also want to measure the spacing and the holes that you will have to drill the swings in beforehand.

Consider the weight and general size of the people who will be swinging before placing the swings. Then, attach the swings and invite the family to come to watch the safety test.

Test the swing set for safety

Once the swing set has been assembled and a non-toxic weather and insect sealant has been added, you can test the swing set for safety. Depending on how strong you have built this swing set, choose something (not your child) to test the swing set with.

I like to just try the swing out myself. If it can hold me, it can hold the kiddos.

Once you are confident in the structural soundness of the swing set, you can invite your children to join in the fun. They likely will have been dying to jump on as they have watched you construct their swing set all along the way.

Be proud of the structure you have built, and know that building a heavy-duty swing set for your children has elevated you to a new level of parenthood that some might not be as brave to venture into.

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