Kids' Play Center #1: Choosing a Plan

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Blog entry by Olaf Gradin posted 03-10-2008 10:54 PM 99020 reads 4 times favorited 6 comments Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Kids' Play Center series Part 2: Slow Progress on Phase I - Leveling »

For my son’s fifth birthday, my wife and I decided to check into an outdoor structure for him to play on. I’ve gone back and forth in my mind about this; I didn’t have one growing up, there are nice parks within a 15 minute drive, and he’s an only child at this point. On the other hand, I would love to build this for my son. There are plenty more pros and cons to weigh, but this story is more about the fact that we have…more or less…decided to build. The slight hesitation is a result of the costs that are piling up in my planning stages.

From the onset of our decision, I had found a set of plans from “Workbench Magazine” that I immediately fell in love with. It’s sturdy, not overwhelmingly big, and attractive.

Backyard Playhouse

The beam extending from the face of the building attaches to a footed post – this design does not require any buried structures.

I like this design for a few reasons. The large timbers used to build the supporting structure and beam for the swing set are very attractive to me. It reminds me of the Craftsman ideal in form and function. It is built to sustain some rough times, yet looks stylish too. The house perched atop the base is quaint. It could be a trick conjured by color – one that may lessen if another color were chosen. Whatever it is, I like the appearance of this little house topped with cedar shingles, painted a deep hue of red, and trimmed in white. The plans call for certain amenities; a slide, swings, sandbox. I have a tire swing I’ll use made to resemble a bull. I will probably add a swing, as it has enough room for both. The sandbox will stay too, but I will switch out the slide for a zip-line we got for him at Christmas. I still have to mitigate the safety concerns on that little accessory, but I think I can figure something out.

The major downside to this construction is that it requires level ground – something I have a total absence of. I could alter the design a bit and sink some concrete footings for posts into the ground, but leveling the ground is an added bonus for the rest of the family. I had thought to terrace my entire yard – the house itself is sitting on a 4’/1’ slope down the backyard. This is a step towards that dream if I choose to level off a play area. The other downsides have to do with material costs. The plans call for cedar shingles and all pressure-treated lumber. I’m considering alternatives, but not interested in doing so at the cost of rigidity or durability. If I’m going to spend upwards of $1000.00 on something like this, I want it to be around for a decade or more. For the record, I live in northeast Georgia. Even treated lumber can can fall prey to fungus, termites, and sun-bleaching around here. This will be my first exposure to MCQ and ACQ treated lumber. Perhaps these newer chemicals will resist the local concerns better than I’ve seen in the past.

-- It takes a viking to raze a village. &mdash Blog'r:

6 comments so far

View GaryK's profile


10262 posts in 4010 days

#1 posted 03-10-2008 11:13 PM

Looks like quite a project. I wish you luck which ever way you decide to go.

-- Gary - Never pass up the opportunity to make a mistake look like you planned it that way - Tyler, TX

View Scott Bryan's profile

Scott Bryan

27250 posts in 3843 days

#2 posted 03-11-2008 12:01 AM

Good luck with your dilemma. I can tell you that I put in a play center for my two grandsons and they use it everyday, weather permitting. Your son is at the age where he will get a lot of use out of it for the next few years, if you decide to put one in.

-- Challenges are what make life interesting; overcoming them is what makes life meaningful- Joshua Marine

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 4182 days

#3 posted 07-31-2008 09:58 PM

have you been working on the play centre?

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View Olaf Gradin's profile

Olaf Gradin

73 posts in 3861 days

#4 posted 08-20-2008 02:54 PM

Thanks for reminding me that I had this posted out here. Time to update the LumberJocks!

-- It takes a viking to raze a village. &mdash Blog'r:

View rick1974's profile


1 post in 2996 days

#5 posted 04-04-2010 05:46 PM

love the cubhuose but i was wondering how did you attach the beam for the swings with the house itself? did you have any pictures? I am biulding a clubhouse for my son and daughter and saw yours and love the idea for the swing. thanks.

View WestcottMitch's profile


4 posts in 2686 days

#6 posted 03-03-2011 09:45 PM

Looks fantastic! I live in the Southern Midlands of England, even though our winters are cold-ish I would treat the wood every couple of years and that should be okay. I build most projects with reclaimed wood pallets (which I pick up for nothing). I’ve never seen a termite, so good luck!

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