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How To Build A DIY Outdoor Children’s Playset

Learn how to build an outdoor treehouse and playset that is higher quality and cheaper than you can buy at a store. No need to be on a waitlist for that backyard playground because you can start building one this weekend.

wooded DIY playset with green slide, rockwall and two platform levels in backyard.

DIY projects are perfect for outdoor spaces. You can make it completely yours by adding fun activities for the kids and even a special outdoor space for adults like a screened-in porch project. Our family was so excited to build an “outdoor treehouse” and DIY playset in our backyard.

DIY Outdoor playset

Why not just buy an outdoor playground for our backyard?

After looking at all the premade treehouses, playsets and playgrounds we came to the conclusion that they were either too cheaply made or way too expensive.

The main playsets my husband wanted to get were from places that don’t even list the prices in their catalogs (what does that tell you about price??!) Therefore, this DIY family decided to build our own DIY outdoor children’s playset

At the end of this post, I will list the cheaper outdoor playsets that we considered buying. 

*Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are our own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission. Read our full privacy policy.

Factors to consider when building your own DIY backyard playground

  • How much do you want to spend? Pressure-treated lumber and/or natural wood for outdoors is not necessarily cheap.
  • Where will you be putting your playset?
  • How long do you want this to last? What age range do you want your playground to accommodate?
  • What safety features will you make to make sure that your DIY playset is safe?
  • What other accessories may you want to purchase?

Extra Swingset Accessories Used

playset accessories used in DIY playground with image of steering wheel, slide, rockwall holds, handle and telescope.

For our playground, we built the main structure but bought a few additional items. Here is a list of the playground accessories we purchased.

Unfortunately, sometimes the slide (Olympus Wave Slide) that we ordered is not always available. You may have to shop around to find a slide that could work for you.

Other places to purchase Olympus Wave Slide

Design Your Playset

  • We decided to put ours between two trees for the shade
  • Ours is 8’ x 8’ ….this makes the least amount of waste – most bang for your buck in using 16’ long pieces
  • Our major limiting factor for height was due to the pre-made slide we bought off of Amazon. It is designed to be mounted 5’ off of the ground.
  • Sketch everything out and take the sketch to your local lumber store to bounce ideas off of them. Never hurts to have a second opinion

Note we did not apply for a local building permit. Each municipality has varying rules for structures like this. Please do your own research.

black and white image of DIY playset with black sketch lines showing measurements for DIY playground.

Our Playset Dimensions

Playhouse is 8’ x 8’.

4’ x 8’ x 5’ off the ground (where the slide is) and has a second level two feet higher that is 4’ x 8’ x 7’ off the ground.

Due to the two levels, our playhouse has six posts. If you decide on having one level you would only need four posts.

Recommended Supplies

Any playground accessories you want to add (see our list above)

Full disclosure: All wood and lumber were delivered to our driveway from our local lumber store. Local lumber stores are a great resource for this and all other types of projects.

Above, I have linked to the items at big box stores so that you are able to see the items specifically since our local lumber store doesn’t even a have website I could link to.

You will want to do research on whether you are comfortable using pressure-treated wood for a child’s playset. The pressure-treated wood of today (after 2003) seems to be safer, but you need to make that choice as to what you feel comfortable about.

Post Digger and wood supplies fro DIY Playground

Tools needed

  • Shovel
  • Post Hole Digger
  • Wheel Barrow
  • 4’ Bubble Level
  • Screw Gun
  • Circular Saw
  • Sledge Hammer
  • Tape Measure
  • Spud Bar
  • Garden Hoe (for mixing concrete)
  • Vice Grips
  • 36” long nail stakes
  • 6’ step ladder

How to construct an outdoor playground in your backyard

1. Choose the footprint and size of your playset structure. See the above sketch and dimensions of our playset.

2. Layout post locations (at corners of structure). If you are having two levels, then you will need 6 posts, if you only are going to have one level for your “treehouse”, then you will only need 4 posts.

3. Measure the hypotenuse to make sure it is square (A^2 x B^2 =’s C^2).

4. Take a step back and make sure the orientation is how you want it.

Using bagged concrete to set posts

5. Use a shovel and a post hole digger to dig down below your area’s frost line (36” to 42”) depending on the area for each post.

Post digging tip

  • Dig and set one post then cut an 8’ 2”x 4”. At the end of the 8’ 2” x 4” mark and dig for the next post hole (verify initial measurements).
  • With such a small number of holes to dig, a rentable electric auger from home improvement stores is not really needed. However, here is a link to rent one at Home Depot (because not everyone wants to do this manually).

6. Once the post holes are dug mix bagged concrete in a wheelbarrow and pour in around the post. Leave concrete at least 6”s below grade (below the existing grass) so new topsoil and grass can grow.

We used a similar post technique when we created our DIY raised garden boxes. We completed both of these backyard projects within weeks of each other.

Mixing concrete

You will end up with an appx. 12” wide (diameter) hole for the post by the time you are done.

posts in ground

7. Make sure each post is plumb by putting a 4’ level on it (in both directions). Plumb means that the post is level on a vertical surface. You want your posts straight!

8. The post will be appx. 12’ to 13’ out of the ground so you will need to “kick” the post back to the ground once plumb (see above pictures).

Wood making foundation for playground

What does it mean to kick the post?

When you “kick” the post, it means that one (1) of the 4”x 4” x 16’ long posts will be 42”s in the ground (42”s down in the ground with appx. 12.5’ out of the ground) needs to be supported in two (2) directions until it can be attached, by additional lumber to the other to be set posts.

To do this you “kick” the post back to the ground at approximately a 45-degree angle. At the post, you will screw a 2 x 4 to it. At the ground level, you put a nail stake into the ground and then attached the other end of the 2 x 4 to the nail stake with a nail to the stake.

9. Start with plumbing and setting one post. The posts have to be plumb at the ground level and at the top.

Man attaching 2 x 4 to posts

10. Once the first post is set, cut 2 x 4’s and attach at the correct dimension over to the next post at ground level and appx. 10’ off the ground. This will keep the structure square-based on the first post.

Posts set for wooden playset

11. Once all posts are set, cut, and attach by screwing a 2×10 board at the base (ground level) and at the height of your desired platform(s).

Backyard playground foundation

12. Once these boards have been attached the structure should be very sturdy. If not something is wrong.

Base of the first level of DIY playset

13. Once 2 x 10”s are attached to the base, cut and attach 2 x 6’s for the subfloor. The deck boards will go on top of the 2×6 subfloor.

Deck boards being attached to playset

14. Once the 2×6”s are attached, then screw down the deck boards.

DIY wooden step in swingset

15. If making two levels, you may need to consider building a simple step. We also added a handle to help kids get easily up.

DIY wooden ladder on playground

16. After the deck boards are attached, you will need to determine what you want to be attached to your playset. You will need to consider where you may want something attached on the outside or inside of your structure.

Climbing rock wall with rope

17. We have a slide, DIY ladder built with 2 x 4s, and rockwall coming off of one side. Additionally, we have a pull-up bar coming off the other side (another DIY project that we made).

See the post about how to build a DIY climbing rockwall.

Steering wheel in DIY playset

You (like us) can add a telescope, pirate flag, steering wheel, climbing rope and climbing rock holds. We even have a spot to add a swing or long rope to climb.

Telescope toy for playset

18. Once you figure out how and where kids will be able to climb in and out (up and down) you will have to build a safety handrail in the other spots

Attaching slide to wooden playset

19. When building a handrail, you need to consider the building code. For handrails that means no space larger than 4”s can occur. We also added a 2 x 4 across the open area where the rockwall and slide are. This way kids could climb under, but hopefully will not fall out!

DIY handrail for backyard playground

20. Our playhouse has a top rail, mid-rail, and toe board (we are comfortable with this). Each parent needs to put serious thought into the fall protection measure taken or not taken.

Again, you may have to have a permit and meet your city’s guidelines. Always worth stating, we are not liable for your playset design or treehouse design. You can see our full disclaimer.

DIY backyard playground

Once all items are attached, you can truly enjoy your DIY playset! I know our children have already started to create many memories in our backyard.

Other Playhouse Design Options

  • Underneath the playhouse, we currently have dirt or (as we call it) a mud pit. Our kids currently really like playing in the mud and dirt but…
  • You could put a ground cloth down and turn this area into a sandbox or have river rocks, etc.
  • The structure is tall enough and strong enough to add on a swing set set-up, tire swing or something like that it.
Backyard playground with pirate flag

Future plans for our DIY playground

One day we may even add swings to the side where we currently have a board hanging off. I even love the idea of a climbing rope or dual swing. We will have to make sure it is safe before we add that, hence why I am thinking a rope may be better.

I also saw this safety handle to go on the 2 x 4 above the slide. I am thinking we will add this soon! We also have plans to buy an outdoor fabric or canopy that could be attached to the tops of the posts.

Outdoor Playsets or Playgrounds To Buy

If after reading this, you might realize that there is just too much that goes into doing this as a DIY project. So here are some of the playsets we considered buying before deciding to make our own outdoor treehouse or playground.

Backyard swingsets to purchase

Cheapest or Economy Choice for Playset: Kidkraft Arborcrest Deluxe My sister-in-law has this one. Her kids have loved it, however, she thinks it will only last a few years.

Highly Rated Playset: Gorilla Playset (on Amazon) and you can also price compare the same set at Home Depot.

Best Bang for your Buck: Backyard Discovery Skyfort in Cedar (on Amazon) and here it is at Lowe’s

Follow us on Pinterest, Youtube or Facebook for more DIY inspiration!

However, due to the time of year, some playsets are very hard to find in stock. Just another reason to try to build a playground in your backyard yourself!

What DIY projects have been so great for your family over the years? We love that this outdoor playset will grow with our families for years to come.

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Matt Price

Monday 28th of February 2022

I ended up doing something very similar, after reading your blog post! Mine was a bit smaller (city living, smaller yards!), with a 5' x 5' platform, and a 10' tall climbing wall that was removable, so they can use it to access the fort, and a nearby tree. I bought redwood, for durability (and smells nice!). There were no appropriate 1x6 deck boards (thanks COVID!), so we ended up using 2" thick deckboards (2x6s and 2x12s). I also didn't sink the posts into the ground, it's so heavy I didn't feel we needed to worry about this. And the fort is SOLID! :) The whole thing cost just under $1,000. I made sure to get as much of the lumber cut to size at the local big box hardware store.

Erin

Monday 28th of February 2022

Hey Matt! This is awesome to hear! I am sure if you were to have bought a brand new playset it would have been at least 3x the amount and not nearly as nice. We would have loved to use redwood, but just wasn't in the budget at the time. I would love to see your playset and maybe share with our readers on our email list. Feel free to email us some pictures at [email protected]

Bethany

Tuesday 29th of June 2021

Is pressure treated lumber safe for kids to play on?

Erin

Thursday 1st of July 2021

Hi Bethany. You will want to do research on whether you are comfortable using pressure-treated wood for a child's playset. The pressure-treated wood of today (after 2003) seems to be safer, but you need to make that choice as to what you feel comfortable about. You could always consider using natural cedar.

Cheryl

Sunday 18th of October 2020

Hi, wondering how much you would say this cost you to build? Also how long did it take? Looks wonderful and you did a great job.

Thanks!

Matt

Wednesday 9th of December 2020

Looks great! I'm building one very similar right now (deadline is Christmas). Now that you've had it up a few months, is there anything you would've done differently?

Erin

Wednesday 21st of October 2020

Hi Cheryl. A rough estimate would be around $700-$800 in materials. Some of the playsets we were looking at buying were around $3000 (we just couldn't do that and knew we could build something ourselves). We were also building our raised garden boxes and had the lumber delivered at the same time. In addition, we already had the tools needed to build this playset. Good luck.

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