Sunday, May 30, 2010

Backyard Play Area

If you have kids, you most likely have a play area in your yard. So how do you make a fun and functional area for your kids while maintaining the landscape? From our experience, here are the things to consider:

Location, Size & Scope
First, consider a location that makes sense for you visually from the home and whether the space allows for ease of construction (i.e. how hard will it be to get a level grade for your pad?)

If you install the play area near the woods, you may end up with uninvited guests, like bugs & ticks. If you put it near your home, you may hear more shrieks of delight than you bargained for. On the other hand, that helps keep little ones close by where you can keep an eye on them. If you put it near the street or your driveway, you may have a potential safety issue due to traffic.

Next, think about what the play area with include. Just a swing set or a swing set, sandbox & trampoline? Carefully consider the “fall zone” for each piece of equipment – at least 6’ on all sides for flat elements, like sandboxes, and at least twice the height in the front & back for swing sets (20’ in front and back for a 10’ high swing set). You can maintain the 6’ border on the sides of swing sets. If you have a lookout tower or something similar, use twice the height on all sides as the fall zone.

Designing the Space
What do you want to use to delineate the space? We recommend railroad ties or wooden timbers, filled with mulch or stone, rather than just grass. Keep in mind that you may see weeds at some point with either mulch or stone. We don’t recommend putting down weed mat or weed barrier under the mulch or stone; it doesn’t work well and can be a hassle in the future.

The company that makes the play set should have options for a platform. Often times, they have “plastic timbers” that retain playground mulch. Playground mulch is a unique product actually made from rubber and is available in an array of vibrant colors to enhance your playground. It won’t break down like regular bark mulch, which will allow it to last a long time (some brands even offer a lifetime guarantee).

If you prefer the look of bark mulch, use the same type as you have installed in the beds around the yard. If you have stone in your driveway or on a path, consider using that material in the play area.

If your children are young, the path from your house to the play set will see a lot of traffic. The constant foot traffic won’t create optimal grass-growing conditions and may cause mud and weeds in the future. Consider adding a stone pathway from your house, deck or driveway.

Here is a before/after picture of a play-set area TGK designed and installed for a customer. We used small pea stone under the set and retained it with wooden timbers (two timbers high).

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