That’s what you can expect if you decide to buy a large swing set for your kid’s backyard enjoyment.
It all started while visiting Toys-R-Us with family. My son’s birthday was the coming weekend and we were looking for some birthday ideas. He had mentioned a swing set before but he was especially adamant about it today, proclaiming that a swing set would just complete his birthday wishes.
My wife and I gave each other the same look – the one where we knew what we had to do but wouldn’t let him know that we were going to do it.
“Let’s look at the trains” I said and off we went.
While my wife kept the kids entertained at the train table, I went and looked at the available swing sets. I’d already decided to get the biggest and the best since I figured this would be something they’d enjoy for years to come. Unfortunately, the store didn’t have the $2,000 swing set or even the $1,500 swing set. The $1,300 set would have to do but as I examined it and compared the differences, I realized it was actually quite similar to those pricier versions and it would be more than enough. We settled on the Stonefield Lodge.
I got the best deal around. As I went up to make my purchase, I was informed that I could get 15% off my purchase by opening a Toys-R-Us account today. Aside from the new swing set, we were racking up a few hundred dollars in other toys so despite my hesitancy to ever take the cashier up on the “new account” offer, I decided this was the day to do it.
That dream was short-lived when I was given an $800 limit on my new account. When I questioned customer service as to why this was (because I have an exceptional credit score), she stated that this was all they usually approve when someone opens a new account – and a credit increase isn’t an option until I receive my card in the mail.
Ah… tricky. This way, the store can cap the total discount given without advertising it as such. I was a little bummed but I’d still be saving some decent money so I didn’t complain.
It got better though. As my wife and I stood there talking with the customer service rep for a while, we developed a good rapport and we were very complimentary in how she was taking care of us. She returned this kindness by pulling out a 20% coupon and offering it to us for our entire purchase! With our 15% “new account” discount, we managed over $500 in savings. We picked the right day to shop!
Transporting the Swing Set
I was lucky enough to already have my trailer attached to my vehicle since I’d been cutting some grass so I rolled around the back of the store and helped to load five very large boxes in the back.
This was my first “uh-oh” moment. That looked like a lot of pieces. I had one week though so it shouldn’t be a problem, right?
I snapped a quick picture of all the boxes loaded before closing the trailer up in case there was a later problem. I signed off on the ticket and headed home.
If you’re getting ready to purchase one of these swing sets, there shouldn’t be any problem with loading all the boxes in the back of a truck. The contents are all nicely packed and though a couple of the boxes are pretty heavy, it’s a pretty easy load and transport.
The Unveiling of the Boxes
I backed my trailer into my back yard and unhitched at the spot that I would be constructing and building my new swing set.
If you’ve got an enclosed trailer or a nearby area that might protect you against the elements, I’d advise to utilize this space. It rained a couple different times while I was constructing this swing set and I was fortunate enough to simply be able to throw the tools and screws into the back of my trailer when this happened, and wait for the sunshine to appear again.
The boxes were labeled 1 of 5, 2 of 5, and etc. I was hopeful that this meant I could open one box at a time and put the parts together before moving on to the next box. No such luck. The very first step required pieces from different boxes so that’s when I realized what needed to be done.
The first step is to pull everything out of all the boxes and lay it on the ground. I opened every box and breathed out a sigh of despair. It wasn’t the amount lumber that looked so overwhelming to me but the unreasonable amount of screws and bolts!
I had a new plan though and I can’t urge this next tip enough.
Take the next hour and lay all the boards out in numerical order, as well as the screws, nuts and bolts, which come in numbered packages. You’ll save yourself a crapload of time when it comes to pulling pieces for each part you assemble. Here’s what my yard looked like after laying out all my boards and here’s my box of hardware.
The Swing Set Manual
If there’s one thing I’ve learned through the years, it’s that manuals are often more “guidelines” than true instructional documents. It’s a frustrating part of buying any wood project that requires you to put it together yourself.
Our swing set was manufactured by Big Backyard and overall, I was pretty happy with the instruction guide.
It’s certainly not without error and there were a few “grrr” moments that had me wanting me to submit a correction but the mistakes were minimal and for a swing set this large, that’s saying something.
One example was constructing the door. You’re instructed to put the window in and then place the hinges on the door but the hinge easily overlaps the plastic window piece so the only way to do that is to loosen the screws you just put in and place the hinge under the window. The guide shows the hinge being installed with a bit of space between the window frame and the hinge but that’s not accurate.
I also wish the guide would add in a few tips. Many times, you’re instructed to piece something together and in the next step, you realize why you should have approached it a bit differently. The best example of this is when constructing the front wall. You’re told to square it before tightening the bolts and how it should be squared to the 3/4 inch. I squared mine and only had a half-inch top and bottom but the holes are pre-drilled so there wasn’t much I could do about that, right? I mean.. it’s square and the bolts are where they’re supposed to be. What else can I do?
A couple steps later, I was missing that extra 1/4 inch and it made putting the windows in a bit more difficult. A tip on the original page would have been helpful as to why I needed that extra quarter-inch. I would have likely drilled over a little to create the extra space.
Completing the Swing Set
I spent two full days putting the swing set together. I was fortunate enough to have my Father-in-law help the last few hours of day two but until the time, I was on my own, so it took me a bit longer than it probably should have. I had to get creative in constructing and attaching a few pieces with no help.
Attaching the roof pieces (after first constructing them on the ground) presented the biggest challenge. I nervously carried them up a ladder on my own and set them in – not something I’d recommend but everything worked out.
Once I attached the swing set frame to the main frame pictured here, everything got a little easier.
Here’s the final result with everything completed except the slide, which took me another couple of hours as I had to dig a couple holes for the supports and plant them in concrete. Despite the instructions to do this, I was going to skip the mud, but the set had a little wobble in it that I didn’t like and this took care of the problem. I’ll have to get a new pic and update this post at a later time as I simply forgot to take a final photo with the slide attached. I had a birthday party to prepare for in just a few short hours!
Building a swing set for my kids was an opportunity I had always hoped would present itself – after all, you need to be a Dad to a healthy child first, right? Well I’m lucky enough to have two happy, healthy kids and though I presented it at my son’s sixth birthday party, my four-year old daughter was grinning from ear to ear and was equally as thrilled.
Bucket list item accomplished.
I must confess that the overall time took even longer than I had expected but again, I was flying solo for almost the entire weekend. If you’re going to build one of these, make sure to get a friend and offer him some free pizza for his help. You’ll be glad you did. On both days, I got up at 7am, started to work in the next 30 minutes and worked late. On the first day, I worked until dark and on the second day, I got out my night work lights and worked up until midnight. I took very few breaks.
As for tools, make sure you have some good sockets, screw-drivers and don’t even think about putting one of these together without a strong power drill – and I’d highly recommend a cordless drill. I grabbed an 18-volt Ryobi for this task and I absolutely loved it. The battery power exceeded my every expectation. No doubt, I’ll be using this drill for many more projects over the years.
I’ll also pay the support folks at Big Backyard a compliment. I called them before opening any boxes and just asked for any tips they might have and I was offered some good advice on how the manual is laid out. They were easy to make contact with, reassuring and urged me to call back if I had any questions at all during the process. Great team of people over there.
And finally.. enjoy the process. Just accept that it’s going to be a long weekend while knowing this is a project that’s going to bring years of childhood fun for those who matter most in your life. Even working alone, I had a rather enjoyable weekend of listening to a lot of music and getting a lot of sunshine – all the while feeding my power tool addiction and creating a bit more life in my back yard.
Now it’s time to start planning for next summer’s bucket list item. Watch out Disney World – here we come!