When you imagine the memories that you would like to create for your children, odds are favorable that at least a few of them will include a swing set. But, in order to make these dreams a reality, you have to start with a level playing field- that is, a level yard.
To level the ground for a swing set, you can dig the sod to an even level, add material like rubber mulch in an enclosed surface, or add cement blocks to level just the supports of the swing set. The longest lasting option is leveling the sod and adding a sturdy mulch within the confines of a structured enclosure.
Continue reading to learn more tips and tricks for easy ways to level the ground in your yard for a swing set.
Of course, how you choose to level the ground in your yard for a swing set depends entirely on the type of yard you have, your budget, and, of course, personal preference in how the end result will appear. Leveling off a yard that is relatively flat with a slight grade will be a totally different project than leveling off a yard that has a steep incline.
How Do You Level the Ground for a Swing Set?
As mentioned, leveling the ground for a swing set is no easy feat. Fortunately, it is often very labor-intensive, but it is not too difficult to map out. Additionally, the concept of leveling the ground does not take too much brain power.
Just prepare yourself for a heavy amount of exercise with this task- especially should you choose the route of digging and re-leveling.
Leveling the ground for a swing set can be done in three main ways:
- Digging the sod to an even level
- Adding material like rubber mulch to an enclosed surface
- Or adding cement blocks to level out just the supports of the swing set
You can even combine these options, but you will want to use the specifications of your unique swing set, as well as personal preference, to make this decision.
Each of these options has its pros and cons. While digging the sod and creating an even level is relatively inexpensive, it is going to be the most labor-intensive option.
Adding rubber mulch might be easier to achieve an even level, but it will cost you more up-front. Then, adding cement blocks to the level out the supports of the swing set will work, but the blocks can create a stumbling hazard that is ill-suited for an area with small children.
With each of these options, you can see that there could be many reasons to choose either of them.
However, each provides an avenue that will help to ensure the safety and longevity of the swing set you install on top of it. Before we move on, let’s take a closer look at how you would level the ground for a swing set using either of these three options.
Digging the Sod to an Even Level
One of the most common options for leveling the ground for a swing set is digging the sod to an even level. In short, this means that you will be removing excess dirt that causes your yard to be uneven (and would otherwise cause your swing set to sit at an unbalanced angle).
Taking on this task should not be done lightly, as it is the most labor-intensive option. However, conceptualizing this option and bringing it to life is not terribly difficult other than the laborious portion.
If you’d like help with the labor, I recommend checking out Home Advisor Landscaping to find professionals in your area. I’ve been able to find some pretty good companies on there.
This option can be done regardless of the size of the swing set. Many people prefer this option because it is not very expensive to do yourself, and it can serve long-term benefits for your home.
Keep in mind that leveling off too much of your yard (such as if the swing set will take up more than 75% of your yard) can create negative effects in the instances of heavy rain.
If you find that you are attempting to level off your yard for your swing set, but your swing set will inevitably take up the majority of your yard, just be sure that you have a plan for rerouting the water that could accumulate in a downpour.
This can be done with a uniquely constructed irrigation system (of sorts) or through professional grading of your yard. Either way, just do not forget this portion of your planning, or your home could reap the consequences of this decision.
Here’s a good video of someone leveling the ground for a playset to give you a quick idea of what you’ll be doing. More in-depth steps are below.
To dig the sod to an even level for your swing set, follow these steps:
Measure and mark the area to be leveled
Whether your swing set is large or small, it will come with standard dimensions. You can use these to measure out an area (generally a rectangle) in which you will need to level out.
Be sure to give yourself plenty of room to work with, as too narrow of a space can create difficulty in placement of the swing set at the end of the process.
This includes giving about one extra foot (or more) on each side per the dimensions of the swing set.
Additionally, you will need to provide adequate room for the swings to be used in full motion if there are any fences around. Be sure to place the swing set out of the way of any hazards like wires, tree branches, or other objects that could cause harm to those using the swing set.
Lightly water your lawn
A few hours before you begin digging the sod to an even level for your swing set, it is a good idea to lightly water your lawn. You will want to make sure that you are simply adding a layer of moisture to soften up the ground, but be careful not to soak the dirt.
Lightly watering your lawn can help the digging process to become easier.
Though too much water can make for a soupy, muddy disaster, and too little water (or no water) is simply going to feel like digging into a pile of bricks. While this step is not necessary, it will certainly lighten the physical load on those leveling the ground.
Find the lowest part of the plot
When you are leveling the ground for your swing set, you will need to ensure that you consistently dig down rather than supplying dirt to the top layer. Adding loose dirt might work in areas where the supports are not going, but adding loose dirt to try to even everything out can create an insecure base for your swing set.
Instead, find the lowest part of the plot that needs to be leveled. You can do this, generally, by looking out across the area, though there are ways to ensure you are in the right spot.
- One of the easiest ways to make sure that you are in the lowest area is to use a long, flat wooden board.
- By resting it on top of the ground, you can level out and see which areas are lower and uneven.
- These boards will come in handy later, too, as you work to make sure that what you have dug is actually level.
Dig 2-3 inches below the surface of the lowest part
Now that you have found the lowest part of the ground that you will be leveling for your swing set, you will want to dig 2-3 inches below the surface. This will help you to provide an even base and begin to section off areas that will be leveled.
If the area is not obvious (such as if it’s just a dirt pile and you are not rooting out grass), then you can mark the leveled areas with small flags or cones.
While you will want to work in a pattern, it is still a good idea to mark if you are unsure of where you have dug (or not). This will help you to avoid having to use the leveling tool as frequently.
Dig across to match this height
Use a wooden beam and level to keep track. Unless you are using a sod cutter to remove the dirt and level the ground for your swing set, then you will want to use a flathead shovel. You can use an alternative option if you prefer, but a flathead shovel is often preferred for this task for the generally even digs that you will be able to accomplish.
As you move across the rectangular area that you are leveling out for your swing set, one of the easiest ways to ensure a proper level is to use a wooden beam.
You can rest it across the ground and move your leveling tool across it as you go. By placing the level on the left, center, and right side of the beam, you can check to ensure that all portions of this area are, in fact, level.
Once you have confirmed that the area is level, you can move onto the next section.
Be sure to measure as you go so that you do not have to painstakingly return over the area and level it out once again. It is better to take the time to measure it than to have to re-dig. This is especially true if you live in an area where inclement weather could change the course of this project.
Section off portions to achieve an even level
In addition to using the appropriate tools to dig across the area to match the height of the first dig, you will want to section off portions as you go. Not only will this give you an idea of how quickly (or slowly) you are working, but it will provide you with a way to keep track of what you have dug and to ensure a proper level.
To section off portions, you can use a stake or flag in the ground and tie a piece of twine or rope between two to create a baseline.
Or, you can choose to use landscaping paint to get the general pattern down. Either way, sectioning off portions will ensure that your ground is level and that you did not miss a beat along the way.
Test for the even level
Hopefully, you will have been testing the level all along the way, but now that the entire surface has been dug up, you will want to do a final test. You can do this in two easy ways or find your own option.
- The first way is to take a long board and place it on the ground, checking it section by section.
- Place the level on the left, center, and right of the board to ensure that it is flat.
- Move to the next section and ensure that at least a portion of this section is being directly compared to the previous section.
The other way is to place stakes in the ground and tie string to them.
- Then, you will ensure that the string is level by placing the leveling tool on the left, right, and center of the string.
- Then, measure (with a ruler) the number of inches from the ground to the string.
- Ensure the same measurement throughout the entire area.
Adding Rubber Mulch
The next option to leveling the ground for your swing set is often done in tandem with the above option. Adding a surface like vinyl or rubber mulch is often preferred to wooden mulch.
We prefer rubber mulch, but we cover all the available ground cover options, including pros and cons, in our What To Put Under A Swing Set article.
Rubber mulch lasts longer, is weather-resistant, and does not splinter and create a fall hazard. But, it is going to be a bit more costly in the beginning, and it is more of a permanent option for your yard.
To add rubber mulch, consider the following as additional steps following the above steps in digging the sod:
Complete the surface
Now that digging the sod has been completed and you find yourself with level ground, you are ready to add your rubber mulch. The thicker you make the mulch, the more protection it will provide in case of a fall. Some people recommended 8-12 inches of rubber mulch for maximum protection. But 4-6 inches can also help prevent injuries during a fall.
Include edging/surface enclosure
To avoid the rubber mulch seeping into your yard, and to ensure that the rubber mulch does what you are intending it to do (level while offering your children a lighter surface should they fall on it), you will want to add an edging or surface enclosure.
There are a few options for edging such as:
- A plastic playground border
- Or a plastic edging stake
- You can also choose to build your own from wood
- Or you can get creative with your landscaping
- The general idea is to enclose the rubber mulch and keep it at a level, bound area.
I recommend using a Rubber Playground Border (link to Amazon) to help protect against injuries in the play area.
Here’s a video showing a family using the rubber edging and the rubber mulch to give you an idea of what it would look like to go this route.
Add Blocks to the Supports
Finally, if you do not plan on leveling out the yard itself, or if you would like the option of adding additional structure to the supports of the swing set, then you can add cement blocks or an alternative option like this Swing Set Anchor (link to Amazon).
Many people choose this option but add some type of protective covering to the blocks to prevent any tripping hazard. With small children around, adding sand over the top of the cement block, or completely burying the block can help in this case.
It is really important, at the end of the day, to ensure that this option is completely secured in your yard.
You will want to make sure to anchor the swing set properly so that it does not tilt, and you are not left with a swing set that will begin to tilt after a year or so of use.
Finishing Touches in Assembly
After you level off the ground for your swing set, you will want to double-check on a couple of features for the safety and longevity of your yard and swing set.
- Ensure that the crossbeam between A-frame runs parallel to the ground. If you are worried about a sloped yard, then you will need to be sure that the beam that the swings are hanging from runs parallel to the ground. Otherwise, the swings will not have enough clearance and will not function properly.
- Keep the swing set from sinking. To keep your swing set from sinking into the yard, especially in an area that is known for more precipitation, you can use pavers or another type of leveling kit that will help to prevent the edges of your swing set from cutting into the ground. The wider base will more evenly distribute the weight of the swing set and have less of a cutting edge into your yard.
- Measure for clearance from any hazards. After you assemble your swing set, be sure to do a safety test. Check the weight limits and ensure that you are able to swing comfortably without any shaking or creaking of the structure. The pressure from the swing should not affect the structure if it is assembled and installed correctly.
- Conduct a noise test. Take note of any creaking or leaning as this indicates that the swing set is not properly leveled. This could cause long-term damage to the set as the pressure to the beams and bolts will continue to wear on the structure. If there are no strange creaks, and there are no visual red flags, then you can rest assured as you complete your safety test.