HOW WE BUILT AN OUTDOOR PLAY AREA ON A BUDGET

Updated: Sep 12




Our son Elliott loves going to the playground (like every other toddler) so we agreed that the next DIY project would be to create a fun, little play area in our own backyard! The inspiration idea came from: Repurpose & Upcyle's DIY Platform Tree House. We loved the simplicity of this design and the fact that it was big enough so WE ALL could enjoy it. AND she also created downloadable plans to help you create your own play area in your backyard!



Here was the tree that we wanted to incorporate into the plan for many reasons such as:

  1. difficult time growing grass around the tree, very sandy area;

  2. started to become dead space in the backyard;

  3. building around the tree gives us a better line of sight from inside to the backyard;

  4. and it's the only tree in backyard ;)

With the current inflation prices (2022 yall), we knew we needed to keep this as budget friendly as possible, but also be durable enough to last for many years and many (neighborhood) kids.



Here's a list of materials and tools we decided to use to complete this project.


MATERIALS:

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TOOLS:

(Shemwell Spaces earns commissions through links)



Here was the drawing that I initially drew as my inspiration. We did end up making some changes to the plans along the way, but they were for the better. We moved the slide and rock wall on the opposite side so we could have better sight of it.


We were also fortunate enough for our neighbors/friends to give us their old playground set. We were able to keep the swing, slide and rock climb pegs and use in Elliott's tree fort, but unfortunately everything else was rusted.



Now here's how we built the tree fort!





After you figure out where you want your tree fort, dig out the post holes using a post hole digger. Each hole was dug up about 18 inches deep. (depending on your measurements, your hole depth may vary.) If you do not want to purchase this tool, check with your local home improvement store as they may rent these out for a fraction of the cost.


Once the holes were dug, we added the posts. Then we poured in some concrete mix in first and then added water and stirred in together in the hole. We then let it dry/set overnight.



If you are short on time, they do have a fast setting concrete mix which sets in 20-40 minutes!




The next day we added the frame/support boards with the lag screws. We liked the black screws best, but there are several different options you could use for this. We added interior support 2x4 boards every 16 inches and secured them with the joist hangers.

They also have joist hanger nails you can use, but we had so many exterior screws so that's what we used.



We decided on fence pickets as the floor boards as they were much cheaper than the alternative options.


Space was also cut out for the tree to grow, but if more needs to be cut down in the future, we can certainly do so!


Once the fence picket floor boards were installed using screws, we sanded with our orbital sander and using 220 grit paper.


This gave it a smooth finish and ensured that no future splinters were to be pulled from little fingers or toes or even paws!


Next we installed the top and bottom wood railings for the ropes to loop through.




To install the top and bottom 2x4 wood rails, we used these brackets and secured them with exterior screws. I spray painted the brackets black because I needed them to match the lag screws for some crazy OCD reason that I'm sure someone can relate too. ;)


Here is the spray paint that I used to paint these metal outdoor brackets. They DO look better black right?!?


We left the color of the wood as is. We really liked the way it looks (for now) and if we want to paint it down the road, we can!




Now, It was time to install the rope railing!


It was a little difficult to find instructions how to do this online, so had to figure this out on our own. For each board, we drilled holes every 4-5 inches and then sanded down the holes to smooth it out. Then it was time to add the rope! We tied a knot in the rope and pushed it through the holes to get the railing started. We skipped over a hole each time so we could cross over the previous rope on the return.





Once the rope railing was complete, we added the repurposed swing, slide and rock pegs. Then we added these accessories, an old beach umbrella we had and we left the solar lights that were on the tree for some night time fun/light.


Elliott will grow to absolutely loving this tree fort and will spend SO much time outside growing up. So many fun memories are going to be made out here and I love that it gives us another play area in the house.


The dogs AND cats have also been enjoying this area as well. I've been thinking about setting up a night camera one night to see what other animals are also enjoying the tree fort.


Think I should go for it?!




We put most of Elliott's outdoor toys on the tree fort, including this water table. This will hopefully prevent the backyard from being completely full of toys everywhere.


I also found some window boxes in storage, so I decided to plant some mosquito repelling plants such as lavender, citronella, rosemary and mint. Hoping this will help keep them away because they both love to attack Elliott and I.



For more videos on this project, check out our TikTok for more info.


For a list of all Amazon items related to this project, please click here.





If you are looking for more backyard play areas, check out MY BLOG POST.


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