DIY Swing Set: Wrapping Things Up

Build your own swingset: complete plans and cost breakdown

The last of the swing set posts! Here we have the long promised cost breakdown, links back to all the posts in the series and a quick tour of the finished swing set, and some final thoughts about the whole big project.

First off, here’s a quick rundown on what we built. The tower is six by six feet square and five feet off the ground. The roof is a basic blue tarp for now, but we might make a nicer wooden roof sometime in the future. We also need to add mulch all around and under it, and put some kind of sealant on the wood before we can call it 100% finished.

There’s a 10 foot wave slide:

swingset-tower15

A ramp to climb up:

swingset-tower10

A rock climbing wall in back, for another way to get up onto the tower:

rampandwall5

A beam with space for three swings:

swings04

Underneath there’s a play kitchen:

backyard play kitchen

And a counter or table for playing store/restaurant/etc.

summer05

If you’re looking for all the parts to the series, I made these pretty pictures for you to click on:

swing set tower swing set play kitchen
swing set tower swing set tower

And now here’s a handy spreadsheet (that Dave tirelessly maintained throughout this whole process, because I totally would have relied on a wad of crumpled up receipts stuffed in a drawer somewhere) with the cost breakdown:

1 12 ft 4×6 $20.87 $20.87
6 10 ft 4×4 $11.37 $68.22
5 12 ft 2×6 $7.95 $39.75
13 12 ft 2×4 $5.48 $71.24
7 8 ft 2×4 $3.58 $25.06
3 8 ft 2×2 $3.30 $9.90
2 8 ft 1×2 $1.87 $3.74
11 12 ft 5/4×6 deckboard $5.67 $62.37
2 23/32″ plywood (4’x8′) $33.22 $66.44
1 textured redwood siding $16.12 $16.12 used to cover up the screws from rock climbing holds
50 3/8″ carriage bolts – 6″ long $80.50
50 3/8″ hex nuts $9.96
50 3/8″ washers $9.96
4 2×6 joist hangers $1.69 $6.76
1 5 lb box 2.5 in. deck screws $28.48
1 1 lb box 2 in. deck screws $8.90
1 screen door spring hinge set $5.46 optional: for door above rock climbing wall
4 1.5″ L brackets $0.58 $2.32
1 blue tarp $5.98
1 craigslist 10 ft wave slide $95.00 retails for $300
50 craigslist rock climbing holds $50.00
3 swings (new) $120.00
6 swing hangers $10.00 $60.00
1 5/8″ hex bolt (8″) $4.10 $4.10
1 5/8″ washer $0.42 $0.42
1 5/8″ nut $0.45 $0.45
16 3/8″ hex bolt $1.77 $28.32
16 3/8″ washer $0.22 $3.52
16 3/8″ nut $0.22 $3.52
2 16 ft 2×6 (scrap) $3.29 $6.58
$913.94

I added a couple of explanatory notes; if you need more details about anything else, please feel free to ask and we’ll do our best to clarify. The only place I really see where we could have saved money is by buying swings on Craigslist. We didn’t do this mostly because I noticed that a lot of swings have pretty low age/weight limits, and there was no way to verify that we were getting swings suitable for grown-ups and grown-up sized teenagers with used swings. So, as you can see, the swings were a surprisingly large chunk of the whole thing. As are carriage bolts. We used A LOT of carriage bolts.

Honestly? This thing wound up costing a lot more than we expected. Had we figured out from the beginning that it would have been so much, I’m not sure we would have done it.

(I always kind of have it in my head that if you build something out of wood yourself it will be practically free–like maybe $20 tops–but, actually, it turns out (over and over again) that wood is expensive).

That said, looking back on it, would we do it again the same way?

Yeah, I think so.

There are different reasons to DIY things. One is cost. One is, like, the satisfaction/joy/bragging rights of having built something all by yourself. One is to get exactly what you want. Sometimes DIYing gets you all three of these in one package; sometimes it doesn’t, and then you’re left deciding whether DIYing is really better than paying someone to do whatever it is or buying something premade.

We had three basic options when it came to acquiring a swing set: we could buy one new, we could buy one used off of Craigslist, or we could build one.

I don’t think we could have touched anything like what we built for $1000 new. Most of the sets you can buy at big box stores are on a smaller scale than ours and almost all of them are made of cedar. There’s some debate about using cedar vs. pressure treated lumber in swing sets, but the most common opinion seems to be that cedar is used because it’s lightweight and easier to ship, and that pressure treated pine is stronger and will last longer and require less maintenance.

Our priorities for our set were that it be really solid and safe, that it be fun for big kids as well as little kids, and that it have a fort with a good amount of square footage. Most of what I’ve seen online that looks to be of similar size and quality is at least in the $2000 range. And it’s hard to know from a picture online, but I don’t think many pre-made sets can touch ours in terms of….bulk. This thing is SOLID. Every decision we made was made with older kids and teenagers climbing on it in mind: 4×4 posts in the corners, the more expensive swings and hardware with higher weight limits, ramps attached with the help of trigonometry!

So, in short, we could have bought a new swing set cheaper, but one of the same size and quality would have been substantially more expensive.

Then there’s the Craigslist option. I have friends who’ve bought used swing sets on Craigslist, gotten great deals, and been very happy with the whole thing. It’s likely we could have gotten a really nice set and saved at least some money over building our own had we been patient and stalked Craigslist for awhile (from what I’ve heard, well priced play sets in good condition go very fast on Craigslist). The downsides of this would have been: 1.the need to disassemble it, move it, and rebuild it 2. it wouldn’t be new, so we’d need to very careful to make sure all the parts were still in good shape and that the wood had plenty of life left. 3. inability to customize it so it was exactly what we wanted. I think this would have been a good alternative to building our own, though; I’ve seen some really impressive sets on Craigslist.

So the other thing to consider here of course is time. This was a big project. Getting the tower up took a lot of helpers and the better part of Dave’s spring break. And we didn’t manage to find time to get the swings up until his summer vacation started. I don’t think assembling a kit swing set yourself would really save much time over building it from scratch (and I definitely don’t think buying a used one that needs to be disassembled and moved would). I mean, we more or less just bought the components of a kit and then put it together as it was. But you can pay people to assemble the kits for you (or to move and reassemble used sets). Obviously that’s a big extra expense, but you have to decide if the money or the time is worth more to you.

As for the whole satisfaction of doing it ourselves thing? Yeah, we’ve got that. This is the kind of DIY project that Dave and I (especially Dave) find enjoyable (as opposed to tiling!) so it didn’t feel like a big chore even though it dragged on for awhile. And it’s pretty cool to look out the window and see this giant thing that we built all by ourselves.

And I had my worries that we’d spend all this time and money building a swing set, and it would never get used….but so far they’re out there many times a day on it, so it’s definitely seeming like a good investment at the moment!

swings13

swingset100

alltheparts

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Comments

DIY Swing Set: Wrapping Things Up — 22 Comments

  1. That turned out great! We bought ours for $800, but we don’t have a ramp, just a ladder, and it is made of cedar.

    • I was surprised when we started adding it up and realized we spent more than on a lot of commercial sets! We could have broken the price list down to make ourselves feel a little better…like the plywood and climbing holds for the rock climbing wall were over $100….stuff like that 🙂

  2. This is so awesome. I think it was a stellar choice to go with new swings and also to build it yourselves over buying a used set. The sheer educational value for your kids in building it yourselves is priceless. You definitely have “life skills” covered right there. You can’t put a price on that 🙂 Love how it turned out. You have so many great details put into this like the kitchen and the counter. And that rock climbing wall too. PE!! Love it all!!

  3. This was an awesome project! I too had a moment recently when I thought, geeze wood is EXPENSIVE! But in the end, when you DIY, you get to create the image in your head, which is hard to get off the shelf! 🙂

  4. I love this project! Because it is such a fun set for big and little kids! And the price is just fantastic! You guys really nailed it! And ahhhh that second photo!?!?! Just melted my heart! That is pure love there! Just awesome! Have a great week you! Nicole xoxo

  5. This is an amazing play set, and I love your analysis of the costs/benefits. I’d say this is a total DIY win. It’s just what you want, it was cheaper than buying, and you enjoyed the process. You hit the DIY trifecta. Hope you have a great summer break with it!

    • Thanks, Rita! I think this was probably the only way my poor kids would get a swing set….building it ourselves and letting the costs sneakily pile up on us 😉

  6. Since you wrote a tutorial and actually built this, can you just come and do the same thing at my house. My kids would love it!!!!!! We probably need grass before though right? #priorities

    • It really would be a waste for us to only build ONE after we went to all the trouble of writing a tutorial 😉

  7. Hi there. Nice swing set! Love it actually. Would love more information on the swings.. where you purchased them? Brand name? Any information would be appreciated. Thanks.
    Allison

    • Hi Allison–thanks! I was sure I must have posted where we got the swings SOMEWHERE, but I just looked and looked, and I sure can’t find it. Bad blogger! And then I just went out and looked, and there’s no brand name stamped on them. I’m reasonably sure we ordered them from Lowes, though. Lowes, Home Depot, or any store that sells swing set equipment should have a good selection. We bought the commercial grade instead of the cheaper ones since we have bigger kids, and we used heavier duty bolts than what they came with to attach them (we bought U shaped hooks from a swingset store and attached them with hex bolts to the beam on top). Sorry I don’t have more specific info, but HTH!

      • Hi Gretchen, Thanks! And the slide info too.. would be helpful. Slides come in a lot of shapes and sizes on Amazon. Do you have info on that? Much appreciated.. again. Thanks!
        Allison

        • That one I actually did think to link to in the post about the tower….unfortunately, it looks like they’re not making the same one anymore (it’s still for sale from a third party on Amazon, but for $700…which is more than twice what it used to be). We actually bought ours on Craigslist, but it came from Lowes originally. It looks like they don’t sell it anymore, but it’s similar to this one: http://www.wayfair.com/Swing-n-Slide-Alpine-Wave-Slide-NE-4720-1T-SNS1134.html? The main thing about it is that it’s for a 5 foot platform instead of 4 foot like most smaller slides.

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