date March 25
Installing a playground
The first and most important step is find a playground! There are many places to purchase new playgrounds with or without installation. We went the cheap route and bought a used one off craigslist.net for a couple hundred dollars. The biggest drawback to a used playground is transportation. Luckily, we had access to a large trailer and were able to transport it without taking apart most of the structure.
The next step after selecting your playground is to prepare an area to put it. Make sure you know the footprint you need for the playground, and make sure you include space to use it. (for example leave room to slide off the slide) Mark the corners of your playground with a stake for reference. The flatter the area you choose the better! Unfortunately, the place we decided to put it had a pretty steep grade. With the help of a mini tracked skid steer , this task is pretty easy even on a grade. I was out of town the week my wife got started and she was able to level out most of the area herself with no experience operating a Dingo mini tracked skid-steer or leveling.
The basic idea is simple - lower one side and raise the other. Because of the grade, in our case, we added used railroad ties purchased from the local Coweta tool and hardware store to the corners to act as a retaining wall. In many cases this will not be necessary. If you do use railroad ties, make sure to drive some rebar through each end into the ground to help hold them into place. We used a rotary hammer to make this easy, but it isn't required. If you need to get it perfectly level use a laser level to check your results, but eyeballing it will tell you most of what you need to know. For a playground, you can do some additional leveling when you install the structure and the mulch, so it doesn't need to be perfect.
Once the area is level, the hard work is done. Place the playground on your newly leveled area. During this step you will also want to put down your weed control mat, if you are using one. I recommend it to help with the weeds. You probably don't want to be spraying weed killer on the playground or have to spend a lot of time pulling weeds.
After you have installed the playground, you will want to use a bar level to check the playground itself. Make sure it feels sturdy and is level by checking a few different locations. You can shore it up to level it with extra dirt.
After your playground is installed and level and your optional weed control mat is in place, you are ready for mulch. While we have some great equipment for making your own mulch, I recommend purchasing a mulch designed for playgrounds. Many people get enough mulch to cover the area 4" deep. For official calculations and depth recommendations, click here. Just dump it in. Using a wheelbarrow, Dingo, or skid steer will make this task faster and easier. There are many local places in Atlanta area that sell mulch. In this case, I purchased my mulch from Four Seasons and they installed it for me for a few extra bucks, because I already had the equipment available for them from the leveling portion of the project.
One final recommendation is to let your kids help out with the project. Even if it is simple tasks like moving sticks or picking up rocks. The will be super excited to have helped build their own playground.