Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Joke: What's our playset's favorite song?  Freefalling!  I'm sure there are better ones... Fallin'? Lean on me, maybe?  That ones not bad.  Roll with me here, this intro wasn't really thought out.

One of the first things we wanted to upgrade after moving in was the playset.  Three big reasons I felt the playset was unsafe.
  • The leaning put a lot of force on that one very worn connection in-between the swings and the tower.
  • The swing's 'joist' was very bowed, and because it was wrapped in plastic, I didn't know how it was doing structurally.
  • The chains seemed really old and rusty.
We knew we couldn't keep the kids off of it, but we also weren't ready to fully destroy it yet given our other workload (and our guilt for not being able to provide one for so long).

So I settled with partially destroying it :)  I should probably say, it wasn't very smart for me to destroy it by myself.  Home alone.  But...  I did anyway.  There were several times I thought, if this fails, as long as I stand this way, it would only be a broken arm.  That's probably a sign of poor judgement.

We definatly wanted to make this thing *close to* plumb again.  Here's where we started.  What stinks is each post didn't check out even close to the same measurement.  ::Sighs::  Nothing is easy.

First I tossed off the slide and the ladder.  No pictures, as it's not eventful.  Well, except for my sprinting when I saw how many wasps lived under the slide after I tossed it.  No stings!

Next I removed the end support.  It was really heavy and definatly one of those, "Oh crap, how heavy is this going to be?!?" moments.  It was heavy but thankfully I was able to get a stick under the end to hold it up while I figured out the next steps. 

I smarted up a bit, and grabbed this half-wall (leftover from our old apartment) to support the other side.  With that in, I could wedge a 2x4 in and forcefully unscrew each rusty bolt at a time.  I was able to wedge a second 2x4 under the other side, and remove the second set of bolts.  This was very unstable and I did fear for my limbs (and dinning room chair) during the process.

This is the second big "Really, how heavy is this thing?!?" moment.  But I did it.  I pulled the whole thing down over my head and was able to toss it onto the lawn.  IT WAS HEAVY!  At the edge of what I could handle, for sure.  But afterward felt like I could rock the caber toss in the Scottish Highland Games, for sure.  Well... this would be a toothpick to them, but did get pretty good distance.  Work with me here.  I'm tiny.

One thing I did not show before, I actually had those two posts lightly supporting that side when I took down the swings.  I was worried that the swings were the only thing holding it up.  I may have been right, because when I went back, those support beams were jammed in there tight.

Once Jon was back home, little by little we got the posts a little more plumb.  Jon did the heaving of the side, I set the posts in a little further.

Once we settled on an average 'plumbness', I set in some bracing.  I chose to create a nest for the support-board with crossbars and make a square cut on the corner.  I wanted to try to keep the playset as square as I could and didn't want it slipping anytime soon.

I put the cross-support in the compression direction, so that it the force would be on the material and not just the screws. 

We then removed the supports.  It's a bad picture... but we're looking much better!

 The next step was to build out the swing set side.  I had actually built out the 'A-Frame' in the garage fairly early on in the process.  And then I had predrilled the holes in the beam once the porch was done needing it.  So the assembly wasn't that bad.

I went with design for it's simplicity (ie. no ladder like the old one).  A lot of the details are based on reading instructions for several swing set kits I found online.  The beam size for those were fairly consist, with a 4x6" being the norm.  I picked the length because my only options in the store were 8' or 12', and 8' fit in my van.  I may have tried 10' if that were available.  Spacing of the swing clips varied soooo much between different kits, that I just had to go for what I thought would work.  I finally settled on something like 17" for the width of the seat, and 14" between them.  My best guess at what it was, anyway.  I wanted an over hang at the end for a rope or something, but now I'm not sure there's enough room for one.  We could still try it next year.

I partially wished that I had bought this kit, because it is SOoo much cheaper than getting the parts separately.... but I didn't need all of the parts immediately, and currently money now is better than money later.  We have a lot of pressing repairs to do.  Plus, without the kit, I'll have the option to buy higher quality seats next year.   I used two of these EZ frame brackets, that did make it pretty easy, and these swing hangers, since the old ones were made for 4x4's (and I couldn't get them out of the old beam).  Those swing hangers were a royal PAIN to install.  They should not have been.  I figured out the nut they provide just did not fit the bolt.  Metal chips came out and the whole thing heated up real good. I decided to take my fight inside and pre-tighten the nuts on the bolts, to break them in.  It wasn't easier inside, but at least it wasn't on a ladder anymore.  It did help once I went back outside outside though.  Surprisingly one did actually go on smoothly, so it must have been a bad lot. 

I decided to return the 3rd EZ bracket I had bought and instead bought this bracket and some spray paint to save a few bucks.  (Actually, Home Depot was busy enough that looking up the price wasn't critical to them, so they gave the bracket to me for free!).  A few coats of paint, and it matches the other brackets well.

Because the A frame was taller than the old connection, and because that lower board was weak and thin, I decided to make my own little support system.  I felt a little nervous about how strong this would be, but my husband reminded me of how bad the old one was, so I pressed on.  The braket is to help with side to side movement and squareness, the 2x4" for the most of the vertical support, and 2x6" to tie it into the existing strong posts of the playset. The beam is attached to the 2x6" through the back too.

Here's Isaac happy with his new swingset!  I wasn't planning on to replacing the seats/chain until spring, assuming they would make through this fall. 

I was wrong.  Thankfully, Isaac was not on the swingset when it broke - I was. And thankfully no one was around to see me fall :)

(Dont' worry, Isaac has terrible aim)

Keeping to our limited budget, we just bought some cheap polypropalene rope from Lowes to tide us over this fall.  With a 244lb working load (each side), we should be able able to handle the force a couple kids  adults put on it, even while swinging.  We used a few Perfection Knots, and restored playtime for all light blue shirted children in the world our family. 

So that was the saga of the swingset.  It took about 3 weeks to finish all the steps (with other projects going on) and it took about 6 weeks to get this post about it online.  Ouch.

This isn't our longterm swingset plan, as I would like to have something a little softer than packed dirt under it... as well as making the tower a little less... falling apart.  But for now, it's 'survivable' and that's what we were going for.


Anonymous said...

Great job!

Hilaree said...

I love your blog! "Work with me. I'm tiny." I'm very impressed by your heaving skills. Hmm. That sounded disgusting.

Cassie said...

Bahaha! Hil, you crack me up!