Step-by-step instructions for adding swings and monkey bars to your playground.
Picking up from the previous step (where we added bracing and blocking to the towers and bridge), now we will add swings and monkey bars to the playground. It’s good to tackle these playground components now, as it will require a little bit of frame-building expertise from Step 1: Towers and Bridges and a little bit of bracing expertise from Step 3: Bracing and Blocking.
This is the 4th post of my step-by-step How to Build a Playground series. You can read the other posts in this series through these links: Step 1 – Towers and Bridges, Step 2 – Deck Boards, Step 3 – Bracing and Blocking, Step 5 – Railing, Step 6 – Rock Climbing Wall and Step Ladder, Step 7 – Step Ramp, and Step 8 – Staining Wood. This series will show you how to build a playground that looks like this:
There are additional posts and a separate six-part series covering the fundamentals of building a playground; you can explore those on my Playground page.
Constructing the frame for the swings and the frame for the monkey bars is almost identical. Overall, the process is very similar to what you did in Step 1: Towers and Bridges when you built the tower frame. You need a 6×6 vertical post, which will be stabilized on the ground with double 2x support beams and bracing. You also need a 6×6 horizontal support beam where the swing hangers or monkey bars will get attached to. This horizontal support beam will be fastened to the vertical post and one of the posts on the tower.
Note that many playgrounds and playsets only use a 4×6 for the horizontal support beam. If you can handle the weight, I would recommend using a 6×6. I would also use at least a 10 ft. horizontal support beam. The horizontal support beams for both my swings and monkey bars were only 8 ft. As such, I could only squeeze in two swings and five monkey bars. More is always better, so try to use longer beams if you can. Be sure to read my Design Concepts post where I talk about spacing considerations for swings and monkey bars.
While it doesn’t look like we’ll be adding that much to the playground, you’ll actually need a fair bit of inventory to complete this step of construction. From my Materials & Tools post, you will need:
- Circular saw
- Impact driver
- Angle finder (digital)
- Dead blow hammer
- Drill bit set (6 inch)
- Drill bit set (spade bits)
- Level (48 inch)
- Level (for posts)
- Wrench set
From my Connectors & Fasteners post, you will need:
- CC66HDG: Simpson Strong-Tie 6x Beam/Post Column Cap
- ECC66HDG: Simpson Strong-Tie 6×6 End Column Cap
- KBS1Z: Simpson Strong-Tie Knee-Brace Stabilizer
- ML26Z and/or the ML24Z: Simpson Strong-Tie ML Angle Connectors
- 5/8 Inch through bolts and corresponding nuts
- 3 inch and 8 inch Simpson Strong-Tie timber screws
- 7 inch FastenMaster ThruLOK Screw Bolts
- Strong-Drive SDS Heavy-Duty Connector Screws (1/4 x 1-1/2 Inch)
- Nails: .131 x 1-1/2 inch and .131 x 2-1/2 inch Simpson Strong-Tie
From my Swings & Accessories post, you will need:
- Gymnastic Rings
- Monkey Bars
- Porch Swing
- Safety Handle (37 inch)
- Swing Hangers
- Swing Seats
- Trapeze Swing Bar and Rings
- Tree swing (60 inch platform)
Step 1: Notch the 6×6 Vertical Posts
The first thing you’ll want to do is notch the 6×6 posts. This won’t be as time-consuming as the notches required for the tower posts as these posts only need to be notched once at the bottom. Both the post for the swings and the two posts for the monkey bars need to get notched the same way, like this:
Refer to my guide on notching 6×6 posts in Step 1: Towers and Bridges if you need a refresher. Don’t forget to use the router with a 45 degree Chamfer bit on the 6×6 posts too.
Step 2: Fasten the Double 2x Support Beams
I used double 2x10s for the support beams that rest on the ground, and six total 3 inch Simpson Strong-Tie timber screws to fasten the the two 2×10 boards together. Secure the two boards together using two screws at one end (about a foot in from the edge of the boards), two screws at the other end (again, about a foot in from the edge of the boards), and two screws toward the middle of the boards. This image illustrates how to fasten the double 2x support beams together:
Use the router with a 45 degree Chamfer bit on the double 2x support beams too.
Step 3: Fasten the 6×6 Vertical Post to the Double 2x Support Beams
With the notched 6×6 posts and the double 2x support beams, we can now fasten these two together. You will want to perform this step in the approximate location where it will be used on the playground, as the assembled pieces will be too heavy and cumbersome to move into place.
You will need the 7 inch FastenMaster ThruLOK Screw Bolts, the ML26Z and/or the ML24Z Simpson Strong-Tie ML Angle Connectors, the Strong-Drive SDS Heavy-Duty Connector Screws (1/4 x 1-1/2 Inch), and the level for posts. You’ll also need an extra set of hands to hold the post and keep it level (using the post level) while you fasten it to the double 2x support beams.
Place the double 2x support beams on the ground. Then place the notched 6×6 post on top of the double 2x support beams. Fasten the two together using four 7 inch FastenMaster ThruLOKs in a staggered pattern. Further secure the post to the double 2x support beams using ML26Z (or ML24Z) angle connectors. This diagram highlights the fastening of post to double 2x support beams:
And here is this fastening on the actual playground:
Note that I used six ThruLoks here instead of four. After the playground was built, I had some leftover hardware. Instead of having it go unused, I went around and further secured some components with extra fasteners.
Step 4: Bolt the Column Caps/End Column Caps to the 6×6 Vertical Posts and Tower Posts
I think it’s easier to bolt the column caps to the vertical posts and tower posts first, then place the horizontal support beam in the bolted caps. You’ll need the 5/8 inch through bolts and corresponding nuts, plus the 5/8 inch drill bit from the 6 inch drill bit set and the spade drill bits. And of course you’ll need the CC66HDG and ECC66HDG brackets, and some clamps. A dead blow hammer can help, too.
First place the CC66HDG or ECC66HDG on the top of the post (you might need to shave off a tiny bit of the post to make these steel brackets fit right). A dead blow hammer can also help get the bracket on the post. Use a clamp or two to hold the CC66 or ECC66 in place. Then use the 5/8 inch drill bit to drill through the 6×6 post. Use the 5/8 inch spade bit if you need to clear a little more space in the drilled hole. Then hammer in a 5/8 inch through bolt. Use a wrench to tighten one nut, then tighten an additional nut for double nut protection. Much like double knotting a shoelace, double nutting can help reduce the chance that the nuts will loosen. Here is what a bolted CC66 looks like:
Note that for the monkey bars, I used the two CC66s to cantilever one end of the 6×6 horizontal support beams so that I could have gymnastic rings and a trapeze swing bar and rings on the cantilevered side, and monkey bars and a traditional seated swing on the non-cantilevered side:
Step 5: Place the 6×6 Horizontal Support Beam in the Column Caps/End Column Caps
You’ll need someone to hold the vertical 6×6 post/double 2x support beams in place. Use a step ladder and carry the 6×6 horizontal support beam up the ladder and careful drop it into the CC66/ECC66 column caps:
You might need to use a dead blow hammer to make sure the horizontal 6×6 in firmly in the column cap brackets. You might also need to use the dead blow hammer to slightly adjust/reposition the vertical post and double 2x support beams. Use the 48 inch level to make sure everything is flat.
Bolt this 6×6 using 5/8 inch through bolts in the same manner that we just did in Step 4.
Step 6: Add Bracing
Finishing off the structural frame for the swings or monkey bars, it’s important to add diagonal “knee” braces to resist racking. There will be a lot of racking on these structural frames as the swinging motion naturally induces lateral movement, and traversing monkey bars also induces side-to-side movement. I used leftover 2x10s to make the braces – you can feel free to use whatever lumber you have on hand.
For the swings, I had space to fasten large braces cut at 45 degree angles. When determining the length of a brace, it’s helpful to keep in mind that you’re basically creating a triangle. I wanted 4 ft. sides for my bracing triangle (sides b and c in the triangle below), which meant my brace (the hypotenuse of the bracing triangle, side a) would be about 5.66 ft. I rounded this number down to 5.5 ft. since it’s easy to mark and cut at half-foot intervals. This is a good triangle calculator for helping determine the lengths of braces, which shows my 5.66 ft. brace length:
For the monkey bars, since there are two vertical 6×6 posts separated by the length of a monkey bar, there is less space to fasten large braces cut at 45 degree angles. So I used a 30-60-90 degree bracing triangle so that the braces would be longer than if I had used 45 degree angles. Here is the bracing triangle for my monkey bars, showing braces 5 ft. in length:
To make the braces, you will need a circular saw, hammer, and the digital angle finder. You’ll also need the KBS1Z Simpson Strong-Tie Knee-Brace Stabilizer, nails: (.131 x 1-1/2 Inch and .131 x 2-1/2 Inch), and 8 inch timber screws. On the lumber for your bracing, measure and mark the desired brace length. Then use the digital angle finder and trace out the bracing cut at the specified angle. Use the circular saw to cut the brace.
Hold the KBS1Z in place, then use the 1-1/2 inch nails when hammering into 2x lumber and the longer 2-1/2 inch nails when hammering into 6×6 posts or double 2x support beams. Once the KBS1Z is nailed in place, screw in the bracing with 8 inch timber screws for increased bracing strength and sturdiness.
This picture shows a KBS1Z connector fastened with nails, and the brace further secured with an 8 inch timber screw:
Refer to Step 3: Bracing and Blocking if you need a more detailed guide on bracing.
Step 7: Add Swing Hangers to the 6×6 Horizontal Support Beam
Don’t forget to read my Design Concepts post where I talk about spacing considerations for swings and monkey bars.
Grab those BeneLabel Swing Hangers. If you’re using 6x6s, you’ll want to get the 9.25 inch version of these swing hangers (not the 8.25 inch version). Drill holes for them at your desired spacing. The hangers already come with double nuts for installation. Everyone will love these swing hangers – they are completely quiet and wonderfully smooth. There’s no grinding or squeaking that’s so common with traditional swing hangers.
Here’s what the swing hangers look like installed:
Step 8: Add the Monkey Bars and Safety Handles
Drill in the monkey bars. I spaced mine 12 inches apart. Note that I also used monkey bars as step ladder rungs for getting up to and down from the monkey bars. Also add the 37 inch safety handles to help children climb up and down the ladder rungs. Here are what the monkey bars look like when installed:
I also took this time to add a few more 37 inch safety handles to the back 6×6 beam. I use these as extra pull up bars:
Step 9: Add the Swings and Accessories
With everything connected and fastened, you can put up the swings, gymnastic rings, trapeze swing bar and rings, and any other accessories you’re adding to the playground.
Step 10: Repeat for Additional Swing Beams
This is an optional step. Should you choose, you can add additional swing beams in between the two towers (where the bridge is). On my playground, these hold the porch swing and the 60 inch platform tree swing. No double 2x support beams are needed here. Simply bolt two ECC66 end column caps to the 6×6 tower posts. Then drop a 6×6 horizontal swing beam in, and bolt it in place.
Here are the two additional swing beams on my playground (shown in yellow):
In the next post, we will add railing to the towers and bridge.
We’ll soon be adding access components to the playground (a rock climbing wall/step ladder and a step ramp) so that children can get up to and down from the playground deck/platform. Before we do that, we’ll want to enclose the deck/platform with railing for safety.
Did you find this guide useful? Have you built a playground or play set? Let me know in the comments below!
Read the other posts in this series: Step 1 – Towers and Bridges, Step 2 – Deck Boards, Step 3 – Bracing and Blocking, Step 5 – Railing, Step 6 – Rock Climbing Wall and Step Ladder, Step 7 – Step Ramp, and Step 8 – Staining Wood.
Explore more at ProjectsByPeter.com/Playground
Post content, images, and featured image © 2021 ProjectsByPeter.com – All rights reserved.