Berkeley Parents Network >
What/Where to Buy >
Any thoughts out there on whether it is more cost effective to
build or buy a kids fort w/ attached play equip. i.e. tire
swing, slide, or climbing structure? They have full service
vendors, and then they have places you can order the equip, but
hire your own carpenter or contractor. Has anyone done this
recently. I'm not good at these decisions and have no idea of
costs. I have a designated space in our yard, a visual idea of
what we want for my 5 year old. She'd like to have something
like a tree house or fort to make her own, w/ a tire swing and
climbing rope. Can you also recommend a carpenter for me to
Anxious to get started!
You may be shocked at what custum labor costs but, you are
going to live with this right? So, if her nature is that she
wants someplace to bang around and you think you will be
getting rid of it soon anyway, go to Toys-R-Us and have her
pick a plastic thing that you can pass on later. But if she is
aesthetic, a dreamer, and you want something great like
a ''folly'' in your garden? Hire someone to build it.
Has anyone bought one of the big backyard play structures - the
really big ones, that have a couple of swings, a big slide, a
raised fort, monkey bars, etc.? Where did you get yours? How did
you choose? My mom wants to get one for her house for the kids to
play on when they're there, and we're debating between a plastic
one (e.g., from Little Tikes or Step 2) and a wooden one. What
were they like in terms of assembly, upkeep and sturdiness?
Yes I have! I got mine online at Costco (free delivery!) I bought it
during a major backyard renovation and had a contractor install it,
because it was VERY complicated. I just got it this past summer,
though, so I can't tell you about long term wear and tear, but my kids
we have the playstructure from costco and our kids, as do others love
it. it is reasonable and durable and has what any kid would need to
have fun. just beware, you or someone handy must be able to build it
for you or your mother. our kids love it.
We have the costco play structure, and we've had it for 2 years now, and it
has been great. I will say that one of the seats started to crack last year,
and we called up the mfr, who replaced it (though they were a little slow).
You should be aware of the area you need around the play structure to fit in
the swings and climbing, and it is expensive to put the thing together, even
if you do it yourself. My husband is very handy, and takes pride in doing
these things, but it was challenging for him. A couple of the instructions
were wrong, and you need to dig out around the structure and fill it w/
something like wood chips or 6'' of fill and grass to make it safe,and it
should be level: a really good example of how NOT to do it is at the Hiller
HIghlands country club, where the structure is not level, and the kids sail
down the slide to land in a 4x4 foot box, which is not big enough (would be
safer to have them just land in the grass). But it's a good structure, and
has kept kids in our backyard entertained from about 2 yrs (it's a little big for
them but they can still use it) up to about 8-9 yrs old. It did cost a bit to
build the whole thing, and it's pretty much semi-permanent, so something to
keep in mind. I can't remember exactly, but it seems to me he spent at least
another $1000 to build it properly. And if you pay somebody else to do it for
you, make sure you hire somebody to do it right. I've seen several of these
things with shortcuts, and they don't look all that safe to me.
I was thinking of buying one of those large wooden play structures
for my children to play on. However, we will be living in a rental
for another year before buying a home. My question is how difficult
would it be to assemble and then disassemble and move one of these
structures? Is it worth it to go ahead and get one (which I really
want to do) or better to wait until it has a permanent space?
Don't do it. My husband spent about 6 months putting one of
those wooden structures into our backyard. It's a lot of work,
and not inexpensive-you need gravel, concrete, wood chips or
other shock-absorbing surfacing, wood to contain the surfacing,
etc. You have to dig down about 6-12 inches, in a wide enough
area to contain all the shock absorption. Also, the owner of
the house might not appreciate or allow it. If, after being
really clear about what it involves, you still want to do it,
you need to speak to your landlord first. I can also assure you
that you won't want to move the thing. You'll want to put a new
structure in at your new house, and you'll want to leave this
one behind. For now, spend the time that you'd spend on the
structure by going to a playground. Save the money too. The
expense of BUYING the structure was almost minimal compared to
installing it properly. And unless you and your husband are
really handy,you won't enjoy the process (or you'll need to hire
help). my extremely handy husband discovered a number of errors
in the instructions--which included a DVD with about 100
Can anyone suggest a good place to get a wooden backyard playstructure for kids?
There seem to be a lot of options and I'm a little overwhelmed. Also, anyone have a
good person to install and build the box that it will go in?
Thanks so much!
We got our play structure from Benches, Etc in Marin off the 101. They were
very helpful and have a crew to assemble it for you. They may build a box for
you as well but we just put ours on the grass. They are also opening a new
store in Walnut Creek next month.
swing set fan
my daughter is 6 years old and we finally have a backyard to fit
a play structure. I was wondering though, how old do kids
usually play on them until (tire swing, monkey bar, rings, play
house on top of structure, climbing wall etc) it's so expensive
and i'd hate to spend all that money for a year or 2. thanks.
My children used our backyard play structure (playhouse,sandbox,
slide, swings, rope, trapeze) through about age 11. It was like
adding an extra room to the house. With more than one child, it
made it much easier to organize outdoor play and playmate
visits, and keep track of kids of different ages. It was well
worth the approximately $2000 investment. I have 2 boys and a
girl, and I decided to get the play structure because my
daughter (at about 4, the middle child) was constantly climbing
on everything in the house and swinging from the bunk bed like
it was a trapeze.
Love those swings
One thing to consider is whether your kids would use the
backyard very often. We had a nice backyard in our old house
but my kids preferred going to a playground or playing in the
front yard. They are very social -- they wanted to be around
other people, neighbors, the neighbors' dogs, the mail carrier,
the ice cream truck, etc. I loved the privacy of our back yard,
but my kids couldn't care less about privacy, they wanted to be
where there was more action. It really depends on the kids'
We paid big money 4 years ago for a structure that doesn't get used
that much. My
10 year old has now outgrown it and my 5 year old plays on it only when
come over. I would recommend getting a big trampoline instead!
these days with netting and padding and from what I've heard and seen -
them and play on them through their teens. It's great exercise too!
I had one as a kid-and I think it was definitly worth it for my
parents. I had a older sister, and we played on it from about
the time I was two and she was five till I was nine, but she
stopped when she was ten or eleven. It created wonderful
memories and fun.
I would not spring for a backyard play structure unless you live
in a neighborhood with no easily accessible, safe playground. We
met many of our current friends through informal playground
encounters in which we would end up talking to and ultimately
befriending people with interests similar to ours and kids in the
same age range. If we had put up a structure in our backyard we
would not only have spent a lot of money that could have gone to
other important entertainment/educational venues (science museum
and zoo memberships, the occasional kid concert or play, sports
or arts camps, etc.) -- we would have fewer friends! Of course,
our son is an only child, so he also needed to get out to meet
other kids, but even with more than one child, I think that our
local playgrounds are invaluable.
We are looking for a put-it-together-yourself swing set. We would like 2
swings and a trapeze plus a wood frame and all the nuts and bolts necessary
to secure everything together.
Can anyone recommend a place where we could buy this - locally or on the
David and Vivienne
A while back I was doing some research as to where I could find a good
wood framed swing set and I found this one company that offers some
really good quality with varying types, guarantees, and wood selections
You can email them and request a catalog of pictures which they will
email you back. Their email address is Bob Forney or B&B
Good luck in your hunt.
I'm looking for a two swings and a slide play
structure. I've seen similar in many Berkeley
back yards, but don't know where to get one.
The archives mention one place in Martinez, one
place in San Mateo and one catalog. Is there
any place local? Has anyone bought one lately?
(Some of the recommendation are from 1996.)
Toys R Us has a large selection of metal and wooden
swing sets and will deliver and assemble for an extra
charge. We went to a few of the play structure stores
that sell just wooden sets and found that they were
incredibly expensive and took weeks and weeks to order
and deliver. We got a wooden set with swings and two
slides at Toys R Us that our kids love. I think that
Toys R Us doesn't sell the set year round; you might
have to wait until the Spring. In case you haven't
discovered this already, the store in Pinole is a much
better shopping experience than the Emeryville store.
I did a lot of research on backyard playstructures last
spring. I needed something wooden and compact to fit
the backyard, with swings, slide, sand box, rock -climbing
wall, etc. I visited Swings-n-Things in Danville,
Rainbow systems in Martinez, ToysRUs (Concord store has
a lot more stuctures than Emeryville) and finally liked
best The Backyard Factory in Danville.
They have an indoor showroom with all of the stuctures
built and ready to try (bring the kids!) They will
adjust a playset to meet your needs. Ron came out to
see our backyard to make sure the playstructure would
fit. They delivered and set ours up (extra charge of
course). Very nice and professional. All the staff
have young kids which was nice. They are not the
cheapest (that would be Toys R Us) but not the most
We got our playstucture last May and the kids (age 4
and 2) played on it everyday!! Even now they like to
play on it while bundled up in coats!! Yes, it's
expensive, but if you move, the playsture can move
with you. After seeing ours, a girlfriend went and
ordered one too. Any questions, e-mail or call me.
Costco has a really nice one with a long slide and even a built-in picnic
table under one side. I believe it's about $600, mostly wood with some
Can anyone recommend a play system/structure and phone number? I am interested in a ChildLife structure but cannot locate phone number. (I tried the ''800'' directory) Any other excellent company complete with phone number would do as well. Thank you.
Note from Myriam:
Childlife's website is here:
Their phone number is:800/467-9464
I'm not sure if you're looking for those nice wooden ones, but we got ours
(metal) at Sears at Hilltop Mall a few years ago. They have a variety (maybe
even wooden ones too). The price was reasonable and my kids love it.
To the folks asking about play structures (and anyone else looking for an
alternative to Toys-R-Us), I'd like to recommend that you check out
Talbot's Toyland. They are in San Mateo, but well worth the drive! They
have the most amazing selection of play structures and toys for all ages --
I spent hours there, on my first trip, just taking it all in! And, for
those of you who have kids into trains, they have an entire room devoted to
trains. But, for me, the best part was the friendly, helpful, patient, and
well-informed staff -- a true blessing, and NOT something that you'll get
at TRU. Their number is (650)342-0126. Enjoy!
Leslie (July 1999)
As a reply to the parents interested in building a wooden play structure for
their two year old, let me suggest going to the Rainbow Systems Play
Structure showroom in Martinez. We actually bought one of their systems 5
years ago when our son was 2, and it is still in use by him and our 4 year
old daughter and their friends. It has 2 swings, a slide, a tire swing,
monkey bars, a rope ladder, a hanging bar, and a roofed platform that acts
as a "secret clubhouse" all in a compact space. While the cost may be too
high (and is was expensive even 5 years ago), you could get some good ideas
just looking. (1996)
Can anyone tell me the name of that cushy rubbery ground cover you see on newer playgounds to soften falls? Does anyone know where it's available?
If it turns out to be too expensive, can anyone recommend a good alternative for covering dirt in a backyard (20 ft. x 20 ft. space) with a safe material that's safe for kids to play on?
Thanks a bunch!
Mom looking for playstructure ground cover
The rubber stuff is either pour rubber and it is very expensive. We have rubber bark. It is recycled rubber tires and comes in many colors. It does NOT get hot in the summer and it is soft to the barefoot. You can get more information about it and you can also purchase it at:
Rainbow of The Bay Area - East and North Bay
280 Arthur Rd.
Martinez, CA 94553
Phone: (925) 228-6015
ask for Christina or Ron. They put in our playstructure and our ground cover. We get rave reviews from the kids and from parents too.
We could use recommendations on what to use to fill in a
play area for our toddlers outdoor play structure. We need
to add a cushioning material under the play structure and
its slide. We cannot use sand because of the number of
wild cats in our area (they would use a sand box as a
litter box!). We will likely keep this play area a number
of years and replace the toddler structure with larger play
gear for older kids as ours grow up. Bark does not appeal
to us either because it isn't very soft.
Anon Mom with twins
This helpful web page from the ChildLife (play structure
manufacturer) website tells all about the various materials
you can use to cushion under your play structure:
http://www.childlife.com/faq/surfacing.html. The page is
basically copied from ''Playground Surfacing Materials''
Consumer Information pdf from the US Consumer Product
Safety Commission, which you can download.
Anyone have experience with various materials used to cover the
ground around a swingset or fort? If you used woodchips, what
kind did you use? Did you have a problem with bits of it
sticking to kids clothes? thanks in advance for your
There is a great material I've used professionally as a
landscape architect called fibar. You can get information at
www.fibar.com. It is a nice surface, similar to woodchips but
sturdier and I don't believe splinters as much. I have no idea
where you could get it around here but I bet if you called them
they could tell you. Otherwise use wood chips or sand. People
also sell cut up rubber tires -- but I've heard this can be a
I would make sure whatever you use that you get a good pile of
it and maintain it regularly. I imagine you would want at least
4-6 inches of material. Personally, I would do a test fall, I'd
rather be the one hurt than my child.
Wanting to buy some backyard slides and stuff like that, I've been
looking for ground covering materials that might make a backyard slide
safer. I didn't find anything until we bought a very small slide that
just so happened to contain much of the needed information.
The information with the slide came from the Consumer Product Safety
Commission, and you can find out more about Playground Surfacing
The CPSC is at: http://www.cpsc.gov.
Possibly more relevant are their safety publications at:
The Playground Surfacing Materials brochure is good reading: they
discuss rubber mats, sand, wood mulch, wood chips, bark chips.
My take is that "double shredded bark mulch" is a good choice:
relatively inexpensive at Home Depot (I priced something like that (but
was it double shredded?) at $2.99 for 2 cubic feet), relatively
attractive to look at, relative unattractive for cats and dogs. 9
inches of "uncompressed bark" protects for a fall up to 10 feet. 9
inches of "compressed" bark protects for a fall up to 7 feet.
Now all that said, my particular problem is still present: I have a
concrete backyard, and the CPSC says that this mulch should not be
applied over existing hard surfaces (so maybe I'll just add more...?)
From: Wendy (12/98)
To the person wanting to make concrete safe: My son is allegic to dust
mites, so we had to get rid of all our rugs. We put down a "rug" made
from rubber 1-ft-by-1-ft squares -- the alphabet squares that you often
see in catalogs and kids stores. You might want to check if they are
sturdy enough for outdoor use.
The house we moved into a year ago has an old homemade play structure
in pretty bad
shape. The main problem is that the wood is very weathered, split & cracked;
kids informed us when we moved in that it was all splintery and not good to
play on. I don't
know what kind of wood it is--certainly not redwood, probably whatever was
10-15 (20?) years ago. It looks like the whole thing could use a good
sanding, which would
be a big job. Does anyone have any experience with this kind of thing, or
who might be able to either refurbish it for us or look at it and tell us if
it's worth trying to
save? Our son wants to be climbing it, and I'd like to figure out soon
whether to tear it down
or try to fix it up. Any suggestions for people or approaches would be
''There is nothing in medicine more expensive or more futile than
attempting to keep a corpse from stinking'' Some Greek dude, long dead
The question reminds me of various techniques used for the temporary
resuscitation of dead wooden rowboats. Yes, you can patch it up so it
doesn't leak, much, but it's still a dead boat.
The tools are similar, and are commonly found in the Roofing section
of Home Depot.
First, is the play structure sound enough to bother with. You, the
adult, should stomp, swing, attack it with a pocket knife and
otherwise give it a right good rogering to determine if it will
collapse under similar ministrations by Junior. This is called Proof
Testing, and is common in engineering practice. Rot is your enemy -
checking, twisting, and splintering can be ignored for the time being.
If it survives the Parent Proof Test, and you do too, then it's time
to preserve what you've got left. Hit the whole structure with some
sort of primer - I like Firzite, you're looking for a thin, runny sort
of stuff WITHOUT silicone in it. Next, give the whole thing 2 coats
of aluminized roof paint. This will seal out the water and rot
spores, and smooth out the rough bits.
Advanced repairs may involve wood butchery to replace rotted sections
with new, and using roofing tar, roofing nails and flashing to seal
any gaps, cracks, and plywood end grain that are notorious rot
pockets. You, the Carpenter in Charge, need to constantly evaluate
whether this structure is worthy of your attentions, given your
wallet, the remaining years your kids will use the structure, your
time, your level of risk tolerance, etc.
You could always cart the whole thing down to Adventure Playground....
''Been There, Done That, Still Standing''
this page was last updated: Dec 12, 2010
BPN is now a 501(c)(3) non-profit and we are building a new website!
Read more, and see how you can help:
The opinions and statements expressed on this website
are those of parents who subscribe to the
Berkeley Parents Network.
Disclaimer & Usage for
information about using content on this website.
Copyright © 1996-2015 Berkeley Parents Network