In the past playground installations were challenging to say the least. Massive wood and steel structures would be erected, bars welded together on site, heavy wood timbers being lifted and put in place by hand.. That has all changed with the help of metal posts, and components that can be screwed together with a set of allen wrenches.
Preparing a playground site is one of the most important steps in a clean install. Unfortunately, depending on the scope of the project it can be one of the longest steps as you ensure that your area is graded for a level surface and proper drainage. For this we recommend a tractor with a grading attachment not only for the initial site preparation, but for use in spreading playground surfacing in the later stages of the build.
Speaking of surfacing, by taking some precautionary steps here you can ensure a safe, and long lasting surfacing install. First, it is important to check for debris and other objects within the graded playground plot as this can migrate through surfacing over time and compromise the fall height protection of it. Second, we recommend installing a geo-barrier textile over freshly graded ground as it will help to keep dirt and weeds from your surfacing material.
In addition, this is a great time to ensure all concrete work is done at the site including the installation of walkways and borders that will contain the playground surfacing later.
Support Post Installation
The posts are the heart of a playground structure, they carry the weight of the structure and the kids that are playing on it. Because of this proper post installation is crucial to the safety of your structure, and the ease at which the following components are installed.
Being off just a half inch can have dramatic consequences to your build so the first step is to measure and mark the position of the posts according to your site plan.The best way to do this is to measure from the playground border and work from a common reference point.
Using this, mark your auger with your desired depth to ensure consistency when drilling your footing holes. Once your holes are in place the next step is to place your posts in the holes and verify post to post measurements match that of the site/structure plan.
If working in small teams, we recommend using straps to temporarily bind two or more posts together. This will make installing the playground decks much easier by keeping posts vertical while the decks are being attached with C-clamps.
Decks and Railings
The structure may not look like much now, just a bunch of posts sticking out of the ground, but our next step is to install the decks and railings.
Decks are installed using clamps at the different attachment points to a specific height as noted in your structure plan. Measurements from the ground to the height of the deck are taken and posts are marked at the correct height. Then the deck is lifted into position and clamps secured at each of the attachment points using the included allen bolts or drive rivets. Finally, a level is used to check that the deck is plumb and level and all posts are vertical.
Following the installation of the decks the structure is beginning to take shape and the next step is to install railings to protect kids from falling from the structure. Railings generally attach to decks and posts using bolts and clamps, and are checked for level before moving on.
Slides and Entry Points
Now that the basic structure of your playground is in place it is time to add the fun components to it.
Playgrounds can have many different types of slides but they all include a point where they attach to the structure as well as a support at their landing point. Depending on the type of slide you may want to connect the various sections and lift them into place together, for others you will want to start by attaching the piece that connects to the structure and work your way down to the landing support.
Now that there is a fun way off the structure you will want to install a way to get kids on the structure. This includes installing steps, ladders, and climbers as needed by your structure. As each component is different, you will want to refer to your installation instructions for more detail.
Once all of the components have been installed on your structure it is time to make the structure permanent. As you will recall we started out with posts floating in holes. We will need to set those posts in the ground by pouring concrete mixture into the holes according to your playground structure footing details.
Before this is done however, it is important to check the placement of the structure, that the use zone around the structure has at least 6 feet of clearance, and all surfaces and posts are level or else you will have a lot more work on your hands.
Installation of surfacing will vary depending on the type of surfacing used at your site. For this playground we used wood fiber.
Wood fiber is an easy to work with material that is usually delivered in loads of 80 yards or more. As such it is important to be ready with a tractor or a team of people to help spread the massive mound that will be delivered to you. A tractor is excellent for this because you not only get a bucket to easily scoop up and drop the fiber into the area, but with a grading attachment it is easy to smooth out as well.
For wood fiber the recommended initial install depth is 12″ as wood fiber tends to compact up to 33% this will leave you with a perfect 9″ of overall depth.