Swing sets are a popular spring project for families with young, energetic children with energy to burn. Installing a swing set is not difficult but it does take more time and patience than most people realize. Home owners should be realistic in estimating how much time they need to assemble the swing set and whether they have the time to complete the project.
One way to decide how large a swing set to buy is double the cost of the swing set to budget for paying someone to install the swing set for you. This way you can complete the assembly quickly rather than letting the project take up all your free time for several weeks. You'll also want to read Swing Sets: Research Before You Buy as the most important feature for your child is giving them personal space all their own versus the biggest swing set.
Creative Ways for Installing a Swing Set
Very few swing sets can be assembled in a day. Unless components come pre-assembled, you're actually signing up to be the final step in the manufacturing process. Today's swing sets are really more like playgrounds with so many parts that more time will be spent assembling the equivalent of several swing sets.
Some creative ideas for installing a swing set quickly (based on my experience running a handyman business and finishing this chore for many homeowners):
- Have a weekend party and invite 1 or 2 skilled friends (with their own tools) to help with the project. Start fresh on Saturday morning and decide end of day, what help you need on Sunday. You'll enjoy the project more when you're working at a comfortable pace and look forward to the “we got it done” celebration on Sunday night.
- Recognize that you won't be able to assemble and install the entire swing set over one weekend, when working by yourself. You'll enjoy a busy weekend and avoid delaying completion of the project if you schedule a local handyman to complete the project if you're not done on Sunday. At my handyman business we had several homeowners schedule us to come on the following Monday to finish the project … and once in a while, they canceled because they got extra help installing the swing set over the weekend.
- Explain to your children that it's a big project and you need their help. Set expectations that it will take several weeks to complete the swing set project. Review instructions and pick logical end points for each weekend, so you and the children know what to expect. Children can learn a valuable lesson about working hard to get what you want.
Tips on Installing a Swing Set
My handyman business assembled 4 to 6 swing sets each year and we learned from each project. Assembly is unpredictable because there are new manufacturers/models each year, so last year's box store product might now take 50% more time.
An extremely challenging installation last year illustrates the problems and potential solutions, to minimize the install time. If you want to minimize problems, stick with an established brand and/or retailer who will support you through the installation. You should also compare at least one brand manufactured in the US and/or one brand that comes partially assembled (you will find the buyers guide at Swingsets.Net helpful).
Swing Set Problem: Part way through the assembly, you may realize the location selected isn't level or you only have 3 ft of clearance from a fence or other unmovable fixture.
- Solution: Swing sets should be at least 6 feet from any potential hazards with more room suggested behind swings. When selecting your location, place small stakes in each corner and run string between the stakes. Make sure ALL strings are level which may involve removing or adding dirt. You should also consider using an absorbent fill underneath like sand, pea gravel or synthetic mulch for safety. Shade is also a good idea as direct sunlight will cause the swing set materials to get overheated which may cause burns.
Swing Set Problem: Delivery company dropped the boxes at the end of the driveway on a rainy day causing all the stickers identifying individual pieces, to come off so it took several hours to lay out 100s of different shapes and create new labels so we could find them quickly during assembly.
- Solution: Identify where you want the delivery company to leave the cartons and have a tarp available if it's raining. Move the cartons to the location where the swing set will be installed before unpacking them. You won't finish the job in one day so have a tarp to cover everything up over night.
Swing Set Problem: There are thousands of pieces of hardware (2,316 for the one shown in the photo) and they are not shipped in individual, one size/shape per bag.
- Solution: You'll need 10 to 15 containers, i.e. what you have for storing left overs. Paper bowls are an alternative but the hardware is heavy and doesn't have covers for storing them over night. Sort all the hardware prior to beginning the installation and you'll save time by placing each type in individual containers. For safety, you want to insure:
- Use of self-locking nuts or lock washers to prevent loosening
- Exposed bolts should be capped
- hooks should be tightly closed
- Hardware should be resistant to corrosion.
Swing Set Problem: Like the hardware, there can be hundreds of pieces of wood (472 in the swing set shown here) and they may or may not be labeled making assembly a challenge as many pieces are similar in shape.
- Solution: You will want to label all wood pieces ahead of time. It's helpful to line them up numerically on the ground next to where you're working, to speed up the time used to find them. You can also identify any missing pieces and call the company or purchase wood to use instead (take the dimensions with you to Home Depot if you don't have the tools to cut the wood in the required shape).
Swing Set Problem: This manufacturer's estimate for installing a swing set was 16 to 24 hours with 2 people (32 to 48 hours). After a full summer of installations, they admitted these kits were taking “… closer to 48 hrs”.
- Solution: With 2 skilled people, each with their own tools, assume you will need the maximum suggested install time and allow for at least 50% contingency. With a team of unskilled people, you probably want to double the estimated time. Write down how long each page of directions takes, and adjust your schedule after completing 3 to 5 pages of directions. You can celebrate when you get done faster without worrying about the clock.
What I've Learned About Installing Swing Sets
Between my team, my husband and myself, it took more than 42 hours to complete this installation. The worst part was the customer, when we were done was very unhappy.
She didn't care that she caused one problem by leaving the cardboard boxes out in the rain, so all the labels on the parts were washed off. She did sort out the hardware at my request but didn't care when we had to go out and buy wood to make up for two missing pieces.
We followed up by talking to other companies specializing in swing set installations and they reported similar problems. The real proof came the following year when the Chinese company who in theory manufactured this swing set, disappeared. We found the same/similar designs online so the reality is they simply changed the company/brand name to hide their relationship to a product consumers, and installers like myself, no longer trusted.
For more information on swing sets, you might also find these articles helpful, especially the one about researching first!
- Backyard Fun is More Than a Swing Set
- Playground safety tips from the National Program for Playground Safety (NPPS)
- Swing Sets: Research Before You Buy
- Tips for Installing a Swing Set >> this article
- Your Kids Can Help You Find the Best Swingsets