Build an outdoor treehouse and playset that is higher quality and cheaper than you can buy
If you have been following our blog, then you know that several of our projects have been redoing our outdoor space. It has been a few years now that we have tried to truly make our backyard ours with DIY projects and a contracted screened-in porch project. An “outdoor treehouse” and DIY playset was going to be the perfect addition to our backyard.
Why not just buy an outdoor playground for our backyard?
As we sat on our porch during our “stay at home” time, we knew we needed to add more to our outdoor space for our children. My son’s birthday was coming up and that was when we thought it would be the perfect time to buy or build an outdoor playset.
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.
At the end of this post, I will list the cheaper outdoor playsets that we considered buying.
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.
Factors to consider when building your own DIY backyard playground
- How much do you want to spend? Pressure-treated lumber or natural wood for outdoors are 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
For our playground, we built the main structure but bought a few additional items. Here is a list of the playground accessories we purchased.
- pirate flag
- steering wheel
- climbing rope and climbing rock holds.
- In addition, we have a spot to add a swing or long rope to climb. I couldn’t believe we were able to order all of our accessories from Amazon.
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 DIY playset first
- 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.
- Six (6) 4″ x 4″ x 16′ posts pressure-treated
- 2x6x16’ – pressure-treated
- 2x4x16’ – pressure-treated
- 1x6x8 – pressure-treated deck boards
- 18 bags of Quickcrete (bagged concrete) – 3 bags per hole/post
- Exterior deck screws
- Double head #16 nails
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.
How to construct an outdoor playground in your backyard
1. Choose the footprint and size of your playset structure.
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.
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’s 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.
You will end up with an appx. 12” wide (diameter) hole for the post by the time you are done.
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).
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 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.
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 off of the first post.
11. Once all posts are set, cut, and attach (screw) 2×10 board at the base (ground level) and at the height of your desired platform(s).
12. Once these boards have been attached the structure should be very sturdy. If not something is wrong.
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.
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.
17. We have a slide, DIY ladder built with 2 x 4s, and rockwall (See post about the DIY climbing rockwall here) coming off of one side. Additionally, we have a pull-up bar coming off the other side (another DIY project that we made).
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.
19. When building a handrail, you need to consider building code. For handrail 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!
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 cities guidelines. (Always worth stating, we are not liable for your playset or treehouse design and you can see our full disclaimer here).
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 options to consider
- 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 off of it.
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 you can 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.
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!