Wooden Swing Set – How to Build One

We Need More Outdoor Toys!

Spring is in full swing!  And it is getting warm and sunny outside, and my kids want to play out in the sun!  We have never had a swing set because we have always had the luxury of going to the park.  However, with the pandemic still in full swing, we have not gone to the park in over a year.  And I do not believe my youngest has actually been on a swing!  As we approach yet another lockdown, I have been in a frantic panic to get the backyard set up and child ready.  So, began my mission to build a wooden swing set.

Before we begin, we should keep some things in mind. As we are in pandemic mode, everyone is in crazy mode. There are not many spring/summer activity play centers available to buy commercially. And the available ones are significantly more expensive than I am willing to spend. I also have a vision of future expansion, additions, and modifications to my swing set, so there was a need to go with wood.

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What You Need:

  1. Wood –
    1. Four 8 ft  long,  4″x4″ – these will be the legs.   You can use 12ft long as well.  This will make the swing set taller.
    2. Two 12ft long, 4″x6″ beams – This will be the top span
    3. Two pieces of shim – I used 1″x6″ deck board.
  2. Construction Adhesive
  3. Lag Bolts for top beam.
  4. Corner Brackets – These are the ones I used
  5. Swings – one, two, or three.  Depending on your plan – I used 2 of these.
  6. Hanging bar – Optional.  I bought one of these as my kids like to climb.  Also, this is great for expending energy 😉
  7. Heavy Duty Hangers – You will need 2 per swing/attachment.  These are the ones  I bought.
  8.  About 15ft x 10ft of space.

Let's Begin!

Measure Your Playground Space

Before you get too excited about installing a wooden swing set, it is imperative to measure the available space. Do not get carried away thinking you can build a massive wooden swing set. These take up more space than you realize. The kids will need to have room to swing, so the total footprint will need to take that into account. An additional 4-6 feet of space on the front and back of the swing set will be required.

For the set that I am making, we have an available 18ft x 18ft space.  And at the end of the day, even that seems tight.

Wood Requirements

For our backyard,  we decided it was best to go with only 8ft long 4″x4″ and a 12ft top beam.

The brackets that we bought are for a 4″x6″ beam, but we cannot purchase a 4″x6″ beam. A 2″x6″ beam is actually about 1.75″ x 5.75″. The height of the beam worked well with the brackets.  However, the width of two of these beams left a gap at the side of the bracket. So we needed to add a shim. But before we add a shim, we need to glue the two 2″x6″ beams together.

wood

Draw out your plan

Before you cut, before you drill, before you glue, before you do anything, you need to measure. And with the price of wood being so high, you really do not want to mess this up. So measure, measure, MEASURE!

For best results:

  • Place the two 2″x6″ beams on top of the other,
  • Slide on the brackets.  For these brackets, the maximum inside span can be 10ft.  Make sure you read the instructions from the product you buy, as it may change over time.  Slide the brackets onto the wood to their correct spots.
  • Mark out with a pencil/pen where the swing is going to be.  Ideal spacing for the swings and hangers is:
    • 12 inches apart 
    • 20 inch spacing for each swing/hanger chain.
    • 12 inches from the center of the legs. This is about 6″-8″ from the top of the legs on the brackets. (remember, your legs will be leaning out and not going straight down – at least not with these brackets).
  • Lag bolts  – mark off where you want them on your beam.  Remember, you do not want them interfering with your swing hangers.  So if you plan on putting them in line with your swings, they need to be offset a bit.
  • Make the markings on the top and sides of the wood to be visible on all sides.
Once you have everything measured out, go back and check your math.  Just to make sure.
wooden swing set
wooden swing set
wooden swing set

Lag Bolt Holes

If adding lag bolts,  you should have marked them on the wood, as suggested above.

Make sure the wood is aligned, all the edges and corners meet up.

Using several clamps, clamp the two 2″x6″ beams together.

Drill your lag bolts holes.

Check to make sure bolts fit in holes.  But do not leave bolts in beam.

Gluing the Beam

Make sure you have completed the measuring steps and lag bolt drilling above before you glue!  Once you glue, you cannot un-glue.  Well, in theory, you can, but I am not going there.

IMPORTANT NOTE: You now have holes in the beams for the lag bolts. Take special note of the way you take the board apart.  This will be the same way you put them back together once you apply the construction adhesive. If you flip the top beam off, you will need to flip it back on. Otherwise, your holes will not line up, and you will have a mess.

Spread the construction adhesive generously on the wide side of the wood.  

Put the other board back on top. REMEMBER YOU WANT THE HOLES TO LINE UP, so you need to put it back on the way it was taken off.

Line them up so that the holes are lined up. Insert lag bolts and tighten. Once they are all in and tightened, add clamps as well to help hold the beam tight.

Let the construction adhesive dry.  Depending on what you use, you will probably need 12-24 hours.

wood glue

Install Brackets

Once the glue is dry, it is good to carry on with construction.

This is where it gets a bit tricky.  I mentioned above that the sizes are off a bit.

You will need a shim piece to install into the brackets as well.

We had a piece of deck board that we cut to fit the length of the bracket.  It was a bit too thick, so we shaved off a bit with a plainer.  

Once it was reduced in size a bit, we started the process of assembling the whole thing.  This involved the glued beam, the bracket, and the shim.  

With some brute force and a mallet, we pushed the shim into the brackets with the beam.

This required some finesse so that the bracket would be in the correct final position.

Finally, drill in pilot holes, and install the lag bolts into the wood to hold it together.  Do not forget the washer.  

This set comes with everything you need to hold it in place.

bracket needing shims
wooden swing set

Drill in hangers

Before we get carried away, we want to drill in the hangers.  It is much easier to do this when the beam is at ground/waist level than when the beam is up in the air.

You already have the locations marked off, but you can do one final check to make sure.

Drill pilot holes before you try to drill in the hangers.  You do not want to split the wood.  Drill in the hangers.  The set that I recommend comes with heavy duty-screws, so no need to buy extras.

Drill them all in, and then do a check with a ratchet to make sure they are all tight.

hangers

Install Legs

Up until this point, we were doing all of the work in the garage.  So, we needed to move to our final destination.

Also, this part requires a few people (at least two, but 3-4 is ideal).

Installing the legs is easy.  But, just in case:

1) Insert first leg, one person holding the 4″x4″ up, while the other person drills in pilot holes followed by the lag bolts, with washers.

wooden swing set

2) You can either have someone hold the first leg secure or lay it on the ground.  Then follow set one for the second leg.  

We did both legs on one side and moved to the next side.  When you move to the other side, someone will need to hold the legs on the first side secure (as you will have the swing set either upside down or on its side.  This is where the extra people come in handy.

3)  Install third and fourth legs, following sets 1 and 2 above again.

Legs are installed!

 

Flip and Install Swings

Flipping the wooden swing set from its side to the upright position required 2-3 people.  Remember, when standing up the set, you will need to start as far off to the side as you can so that the feet can land on the ground.

Once all 4 legs are on the ground, lift and put it in its final spot.

Then install swings.

And That's It! You're Done!

wooden swing set

Final Thoughts

Some things I learned while building the wooden swing set:

  1. Before, during, and after building the swing set, we had a vision of what we wanted.  We want this to last for years to come, and we want to be able to add and modify it as the kids grow.  That is why we used wood, instead of buying a metal one from the local store.  One day we want to add:
    1. a climbing wall on the one end
    2. a rope ladder on the other end
    3. add a ninja warrior obstacle course on the hooks instead of swings
    4. Possibly modify it to allow for a slackline.

If we had just purchased a regular swing set, we would not have been able to plan for these items in the future. But who knows? Maybe we will never get there.

2.    The price of wood is astronomically high due to the pandemic and everyone doing projects of all sorts.  If we had bought this wood last year, it would have cost less than 1/2 the price.  If we had bought it before the pandemic, it would have cost us 1/8th the price.  

3.  We purchased a 12ft span of wood for the top beam.  This allows for an overhand on each side.  One side has only about 3 inches, and the other has about 20 inches.  This allows us to add additional hangers for more ropes and activities at a later date.

4. I recommend you install anchors into the swing set to hold it down. Once kids start to swing higher, there will be enough momentum in the system for the legs to lift off the ground. Depending on your yard space, you may need to check for utilities belowground. If your backyard has no utility lines running through, go ahead and install anchors. Although I always recommend you check just in case.   For this,  you will need to purchase some steaks – 15-inch or longer. Drill a pilot hole in the bottom of each leg, and hammer the steaks into the ground.

Was this Tutorial Helpful?

Did you find this tutorial on how to build a wooden swing set helpful?  Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

If you liked this tutorial, be sure to check out my other wood projects here.

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This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. Christine

    Wow! Great play set built here. I love the idea of changing it in the future as your kids grow. Love it!

    1. Katherine

      The only problem with modifying it in the future is we told the kids now that we would “one day” do it, so now they won’t stop asking for more… lesson learned!

  2. Kayleigh

    Great job on this detailed DIY. I would love to have something like this for my children in the future… Especially if it’s modifiable as kids get older. Awesome stuff!! Thank you for sharing this.

    1. Katherine

      My kids are loving it. It gets used daily, and it’s worth the effort! I really recommend it!

  3. This is so great – outdoor play is so important for kids and giving them more opportunities is key! Thanks for sharing this, if we ever get a yard I will definitely get back to it! Thanks again!

    1. Katherine

      It’s really a great investment so far. The kids are outside daily, and getting lots of exercise and fresh air. And they sleep great at the end of the day! I highly recommend it!

  4. Dan

    This is so timely for me. We are deciding between buying vs building. Thanks!

    1. Katherine

      We thought about buying, and we even tried out a few sets out. But for the amount of money the pre-built sets were, it really didn’t seem worth it.. and they wouldn’t have supported three kids at once. We’re really happy with the new set, and kids are already looking forward to the future mods.

  5. Rachael

    This is such a great way to spend money on a play set. They can get so expensive! Thanks for the detailed guide!

    1. Katherine

      It really was worth it. And if it weren’t a pandemic, it would have been cheaper, it we probably wouldn’t have needed one anyways… completely worth it!

  6. Very impressive Wooden Swing Set! I will share this with my father in law, I think it will be a perfect addition to our summer house!

    1. Katherine

      I hope you convince him to make one! It’s been a great addition to our yard!

  7. Diana

    This is such a great idea! I keep looking at the sets online but we just can’t afford one, I mean who can?! This is a perfect frugal diy option.

    1. Katherine

      It’s really great. The kids love it. And we have the option for upgrading and accessorizing as they grow and get bored. Worth its weight in gold!

    1. Katherine

      Thanks! I was trying to have it make sense! I’m glad it did! And as a bonus, my kids are having a blast!

  8. Abby

    This actually looks really doable because you’ve broken it down so well! If I had the space, I’d totally give it a shot.

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