How To Level: Backyard Playset

Installing a backyard playset requires multiple safety considerations. Most backyards and lawns require ground leveling and preparation to ensure safety and stability. Even if you hire professional installers to handle the job, you will likely have to level the ground yourself.

Leveling a backyard playset can be tricky, especially if it’s your first attempt. The most straightforward method is to level the ground with a rake and shovel, redistributing the soil under the playset to create an even ground. Most homeowners prefer constructing a tiny retaining wall or placing cement blocks under the playset.

It is pertinent to note that every backyard or lawn has a unique landscape, and there are no one-fits-all solutions. Examining your yard’s landscape and soil is important to find the right leveling solution. Read on to learn how to level the ground to set up a playset for your children.

Is it Really Important to Level the Playset?

It is imperative to level the playset to ensure child safety, prevent damage and create a stable playing environment. Neglecting this crucial step can result in tipping and tripping hazards, setting the stage for serious injuries during usage.

An unlevelled playset can easily lift up and blow over during a heavy storm. Playsets are designed to be placed on leveled ground, and a lack of adequate leveling can damage the wooden structure, hardware, and joints.

An unleveled playset will likely have uneven swings, putting excessive pressure on the joints and hardware.

Leveling a Playset: Choosing the Right Option

Multiple solutions exist when it comes to leveling a playset and finding the right option for your backyard demands research and due diligence. Most backyards aren’t perfectly leveled to prevent drainage issues, and homeowners prefer slightly sloped landscapes to drain out rainwater efficiently.

If your yard is graded, installing and leveling a playset can be a challenge. Each leveling solution is unique, and you need to determine the right fit for your yard.

Soil Redistribution

Soil redistribution is the most common and simplest leveling method that you can perform without any fancy tools or specialized skills. This method is ideal if the yard is mostly level and needs minor adjustments. However, this option demands a lot of effort and time.

Adding Concrete Blocks

The supports of the playset need to be leveled to maintain stability, and you can achieve this goal by adding support blocks. Installing concrete blocks or supports will elevate the ground height. Some manufacturers design leveling blocks and supports to fix slightly unlevel grounds.

However, these blocks aren’t the safest choice as they can cause tripping hazards and make an unsuitable choice for sloping yards.

Constructing a Retaining Wall

Suppose your yard is uneven and needs extensive leveling to hold a playset safely. In that case, constructing a small retaining wall is an efficient strategy to prevent soil erosion and tripping hazards. This method needs raw materials and tools, and demands extensive labor.

Hiring Professional Installers

If you’re not familiar with construction work, and your backyard is sloped, consider hiring a professional playset installer to handle it for you. A professional will bring in specialized skills and tools to address soil requirements, prevent drainage and ensure playset safety. While this can be costly, it will ensure that the job is done right.

Crucial Considerations before Leveling the Ground

Most homeowners find soil redistribution the easiest and simplest method for installing a playset. This method is quite common among DIYers and only demands your time and labor. Before you get started, it’s important to consider some crucial aspects that will influence the process and outcome.

Safety First

It is important to examine the safety of the location where you’ll be placing the playset. Does the chosen spot provide ample space for your children to climb, jump and run around the area? Are there any tripping hazards or safety issues nearby?

Experts recommend having at least six feet of empty space all around the playset to create a safe and spacious environment. You also need to add 12 feet of empty space in the front and behind the playset to account for the height of the swing beam.

The exact dimensions of the play area determine the size of the playset. Be sure to check out the manufacturer’s manual for instructions and dimensions.

Avoid Damaging Utilities

If you’re taking the DIY route, be sure to avoid constructing the playset over underground utilities such as electric and plumbing lines. This can result in costly repairs and upgrades, especially if the ground requires extensive digging. We advise consulting your local utility providers for exact markings to identify the electric and plumbing lines running through the yard.

Adequate Ground Covering

Are you planning to construct the playset in a grassy area? If so, it should be known that this is not the safest option because grass underneath a playset can create safety and stability hazards. Experts advise laying out at least 9-inches of covering, such as mulch or pea gravel.

Using the right ground coverage is important as it will determine how deep you need to dig to finish the installation. You don’t need to level the entire play area, but most homeowners prefer extensive leveling, even with a ground covering.

When adding a ground covering, most homeowners worry the material will overshadow the aesthetic beauty of their yard. If you’re struggling with this dilemma, we advise constructing an edge to separate the play area from the rest of the yard.

Simplest Method of Leveling an Uneven Ground

Digging the ground to redistribute the soil is the simplest method to install a playset with close attention to safety and stability concerns. However, this simple method is certainly not the easiest and requires extensive time and effort. You will have to dig up the sod and remove the soil, followed by raking.

This is a labor-intensive method, but it comes with peace of mind of doing a job well done. This method does not require specialized equipment, just a few basic tools you may already have in your toolbox.

Here’s a list of tools required for the job:

  • Garden rake
  • Level
  • Mallet
  • Spade shovel
  • Stakes
  • String
  • Tape measure

Here are some additional supplies that will make the project easier to execute:

  • Border space
  • Duct tape
  • Garden pins
  • Hose
  • Landscape paint
  • Landscape fabric
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Wooden board
  • Sod cutter

Step-by-Step Guide to Leveling the Ground

Once you’ve gathered all the necessary tools, it’s time to start leveling the ground. Begin by marketing the target area with stakes and string and remove the dirt to create an even ground. If you don’t know how to properly use a carpenter’s level, you may have to reconsider working with this method.

The tool is fairly easy to use and ensures the utmost accuracy. You simply have to place the level on a horizontal area, and an air bubble in the middle of the level will indicate whether the surface is level or not. Likewise, placing a level against a vertical service will indicate whether it is precisely vertical or plumb.

Here are step-by-step instructions to help you get started:

  • Begin by marking the ground
  • Use the manufacturer’s instruction manual to determine the exact dimensions of the playset.
  • Use a tape measure to mark the location where you want to set up the playset using rocks, stakes, or paint.
  • Create a large rectangle to designate the area where you intend to place the playset. Be sure to leave ample space for the kids to move around and play without running into any safety hazards.
  • Use a mallet to install wooden stakes at the corners of the rectangle.
  • Identify the stake located at the highest segment of the yard, and tie it up with a string.
  • Connect the stake to another stake, and be sure to make it taut by wrapping it around the stake multiple times.
  • Use the carpenter’s level to make sure the string is perfectly level.
  • Extend the string to the remaining stakes and use duct tape to secure it tightly to the last one.

Note: Suppose you want to add ground covering underneath the playset. In that case, you can follow the steps above to stake out the designated area.

Sod Removal

Sod refers to the layers of grass, roots, and dirt you will have to remove to level the ground and create a neat, stable area to hold the playset. Removing dry or soaking wet sod is the hardest, while moist sod has a considerably easy removal process. We advise using a hose to water the area 24-48 hours before the process to make it easier.

You can extract the layer of sod using a shovel, and it is important to dig deep to extract the hard-to-remove grass roots. Typically, experts advise digging at least 3 inches deep, but the exact amount depends on the variety of grass in your lawn. You will have a more accurate picture of how deep you need to dig once you start digging.

You can handle the job much more efficiently if you use a border spade to cut the sod and create a grid of 1-square-foot sections. Sod is heavy to handle, so be sure to use a wheelbarrow to lift and relocate the pieces. You can repurpose the larger sections for different home improvement tricks.

Homeowners who intend to add mulch to cover the ground should remove the sod from the entire area. The process will be much easier and faster if you rent a sod cutter to remove the sod.

Soil Redistribution

Redistributing the soil is an important phase in leveling the ground and creating a safe and stable playing environment. You begin with the highest point of the designated area and work your way toward the lowest point.

  • Start by digging out the soil from the highest end and moving the soil to fill up the lower ends. Be sure to use a wheelbarrow to collect unwanted soil. You can either discard it or repurpose it.
  • If you are adding a ground cover, you will have to dig deeper to erect a basin to hold the material.
  • Take a garden rake to treat the dirt and give it an even appearance.
  • Now, use a level to examine whether the ground is level. If it is level, you will have to assess the exact measurements and make minor adjustments to make it perfectly even.
  • Use a tape measure to examine the distance between the ground and your level string. It is important to ensure the distance is consistent along the string tied to all the stakes in the rectangle.
  • If the level is long, you can use it appropriately by placing it on the dirt resting in the middle of the play area. It is important to ensure the level is flush against the ground.
  • If the level is short, consider putting it on top of a longboard in the dirt to get accurate results.
  • Examine the level of the entire area you intend to use.

You may have to repeat these steps multiple times to ensure the ground is perfectly leveled before you install the playset. Once you are satisfied, you can remove the stakes and work on installing a weed barrier.

Preventing Grass & Weed Growth

Laying down a weed barrier is a great trick to prevent grass and weed from reemerging in the designated area. You can achieve this trick by adding a landscape fabric underneath the playset.

Take out the landscape fabric and measure the quantity needed to cover the entire area. It’s wise to overlap at least 3 inches where the fabric connects. If you’re having difficulty laying the fabric in place, consider placing some rocks over it to get the job done easily.

Secure the landscape fabric using garden staples. Be sure to insert the staples across multiple points to close all the open gaps and prevent the fabric from moving.

Final Thoughts

Leveling a playset using the basic sod removal and soil redistribution process is fairly easy, but it’s also a time-consuming process that requires prior planning. If your yard has a complex electric and plumbing system, it’s best to contact a professional that can install the new backyard playset for you.

Jack Dempsey