How to Build an Outdoor Wood Playset
By: Danny Lipford
We built this playset—including swing set, climbing wall, and second-story playhouse with a storage room underneath—from pressure treated wood in three days for about $1,000 in materials.
Check out our Playset Plans to find out more.
Playset Materials List:
- 7 – 4” x 4” x 16’ playhouse posts
- 1 – 8” x 8” x 10’ swing set post
- 1 – 4” x 6” x 12’ swing set beam
- 18 – 2” x 4” x 12’ band joists and rafters
- 5 – 2” x 4” x 8’ ladder and climbing wall
- 8 – 1” x 4” x 12’ corner boards
- 138 – 1” x 6” x 6’ siding and roof boards
- 4 – ½” x 4’ x 8’ treated plywood
- 1 – roll of roll roofing
- 1 – pair strap hinges
- 1 – door handle
- 1 – padlock latch
- 2 – swings
- 1 – trapeze
- 12 – climbing handholds
- 1 – rope ladder
- 32 – 50 lb. bags concrete mix (12 cubic feet)
- Galvanized or stainless steel nails and screws
Building Outdoor Playset:
- Lay out the location of the 6’ by 6’ playhouse on the ground. Check to make sure the diagonal measurements from corner to corner are both the same so the structure will be square.
- Dig 2’ deep or deeper holes for each of the four playhouse corner posts and three center posts.
- Dig swing set post hole 12’ away from the playhouse and centered on the side wall.
- Set 4×4 playhouse posts and 8×8 swing set post in the holes. Make sure all posts are plumb and secure them with diagonal bracing if needed.
- Fill the holes around the posts with concrete, and allow the concrete to set.
- Attach horizontal 2×4 band joists to the playhouse posts at ground level, 3’ high, 6’ high, 7’ high, 10½’ high, and 12’ high.
- Attach joists for the second-story playhouse floor to the 7’ high band joists.
- Position shims on top of the floor joists to allow rainwater to drain off playhouse floor.
- Attach ½” treated plywood on top of the floor joists shims to form the floor of the playhouse.
- Nail 1×6 fence boards vertically to the first floor and second sides of the playhouse, leaving a small gap even with the playhouse floor on the two low sides of the floor to allow for drainage.
- Attach 1×4 corner boards to the corners of the playhouse.
- Except for the drainage gaps between the floors, cover the seams between the first and second floor siding with 2½” wide strips ripped from the fence boards.
- Cut the 8×8 post off so the top of the post is 6” higher than the playhouse floor.
- Notch the top of the 8×8 post on the side facing the playhouse to accept the 4×6 horizontal swing set beam.
- Attach the 4×6 swing set beam to the playhouse and swing set posts with lag bolts.
- Cut the playhouse rafters to the desired angle and length.
- Construct triangular plywood gussets and attach them to each pair of rafters.
- Position the rafters on top of the 2×4 band joists, and attach them to the posts and band joists.
- Cut off the top of the 4×4 posts below the top of the rafters.
- Deck the roof of the playhouse with ½” treated plywood.
- Install roll roofing over the roof decking.
- Screw fence boards down on top of the roll roofing.
- Construct a 2×4 frame covered with 1×6 fence board for the storage room door.
- Use strap hinges to attach the storage room door to the first floor of the playhouse.
- Build a ladder and climbing wall to the second story playhouse from 2x4s.
- Use eye bolts to attach the swings and trapeze bar to the 4×6 beam.
Watch this video to find out more.
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- How to Install a Tree Swing Safely (article)
Danny Lipford: This playset is built primarily with posts—four-by-four, eight-by-eight, and four-by-six. All the lumber for this structure is pressure treated pine.
The primary structure is laid out as a six-foot by six-foot square with four-by-four posts at each corner and at the center of each side, except the front where there will be a door. These 16-foot posts are anchored in concrete filled post holes. If you live in a cold climate, you’ll need to go deeper than the two feet we’re digging here.
The eight-by-eight post is set centered on the square and off to one side by about 12 feet. Later it will support the beam that holds the swings.
The four-by-four posts are then connected with horizontal two-by-fours at the ground level, at three feet, at six feet, and at the height of the floor for play area—or about seven feet.
At that point the two-by-fours are connected with more two-by-fours across the space to create floor joists. We attach thin shims to the center joists so that the treated plywood floor that goes on next will slope slightly to the sides to shed water.
We’re using standard one-by-six by six-foot fence boards as the siding for the structure. They are nailed to the horizontal two-by-fours in three different places.
Once we cut off the eight-by-eight, we notch it so that the four-by-six can span the space between it and the play house. The beam is then secured to the post with long lag bolts.
The roof rafters are constructed on the ground using more two-by-fours. Each pair of opposing rafters is joined together with triangular plywood gussets. Then I add more horizontal two-by-fours at the height where I want to support the rafters.
Now, once the rafters are attached, the excess four-by-four posts can be cut off. Half-inch plywood decks the roof, and then it’s covered by asphalt roll roofing to keep out the water. On top of that we screw down more dog-eared fence boards to give the roof a more finished look.
The fence board siding continues up to the hand rail level, with the dog-eared pattern facing up. We leave a small gap on two sides so the sloped floor can shed water. Next, we use two-by-fours to construct a frame for the large door, or gate, that allows access to the lower level of the structure.
To trim around it, and cover the seams in the fence board siding, we rip more fence boards on the table saw to a two and a half-inch width. To access the top of the playhouse, we’re building a simple ladder using more two-by-four material.
With the basic structure complete, you can add the accessories that make it fun for the kids—like climbing walls, swings, and rope ladders.