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Sweet Small Yard Swing Set Solution

2014 July 30
by Becky

**UPDATE: Wow this is a popular post! And in case you miss it in the comments, someone found out Gorilla is now selling a set just like this! Here’s the link. I’m going to go ahead and take credit for their decision, they told me long ago they were “aware” of our design changes. And I bet this new one is a lot sturdier than our set up! Thanks for all the nice comments and emails!**

We made a fairly large purchase a few weeks ago, just before we left on our cross-country journey. It was something we’ve researched and talked about for the entire 16 months we’ve occupied our St. Louis city dwelling.

SmallYardSwingSet-PlayingInPJs

It wasn’t an easy decision, we needed something that wouldn’t overwhelm and/or crowd our small backyard. We looked for “compact” or “small” play sets, play grounds, swing sets, you name it, we googled it. The best option seemed to be going through a custom swing set company…until we saw the prices. OMG.

So we gave up for a while. We tried a few different things with the odd area in front of our small garage.

First up, a garden plan. The former owners left a nice little plot so we figured it was well-suited for growing veggies.

SmallYardSwingSet-Before

WRONG.

The garden was what can only be described as a huge embarrassing failure. Our yard just doesn’t get enough sun so all the lettuce, spinach, peppers, and tomatoes we planted bit the dust. Fast.

We removed the railroad ties after the garden disaster because they just didn’t make sense, then just mulched the area. We tried a sandbox, but with all our spring rain even a cover couldn’t keep out the mold and moisture, making the sand very gross. We tried just putting trucks and toys out there but Ethan wasn’t all that interested.

SmallYardSwingSet-Before2

So…once the weather really got nice we revisited our swing set idea with a much different attitude. At first we were just going to copy a design but make it smaller, buying all the materials separately. But after pricing out a few modify-able set options, we realized just how much more economical they are.

This one was a big contender and had a great price tag, but this one was just so much prettier. And since it would live RIGHT in the middle of our backyard, we wanted something that looked really nice. The price difference was significant but the online reviews were stellar and the second option had everything we knew Ethan would love. Both would need some modifications to fit our space properly, but that was an unavoidable issue.

Out of pure impatience and frustration, Stu ordered the Gorilla Nantucket play set. Home Depot offered free shipping so all the sudden, it was done.

SmallYardSwingSet-GorillaNantucketPlayset

In my Googling, I found our favorite play set featured on the very cute Confessions of a Serial DIYer blog and sent the author Christy a comment about it—her pictures proved this swing set would be perfect for our space! Well the day after we made our purchase, Christy replied with rave reviews and a link to the SAME playground at Walmart.

For $480 cheaper.

WHAT??? I profusely thanked Christy and got on the phone with Home Depot. The extremely nice and helpful customer service rep thoroughly reviewed the Walmart listing—we went through line by line—and in the end she agreed it was the same exact play set, just much much cheaper. A price match was granted!

I may have done a little dance after hanging up the phone. I’m a Home Depot shopper for life!

(Note: Walmart has since changed this listing to “out of stock”. Not sure it had anything to do with us, but I wonder…)

Fast forward a few weeks to a giant pallet of really heavy boxes being delivered to our curb and it took about 8,500 trips to get all the pieces to the back yard.

SmallYardSwingSet-ConstructionPieces

SmallYardSwingSet-ConstructionPieces2

Ethan was PUMPED to help. Pants-less. Our neighbors must think we are SO classy with our curb boxes and underwear-clad kid.

And after claiming it would take “a couple weekends” to put together, Stu knocked out 98% of the project in one Saturday.

SmallYardSwingSet-FortConstruction

SmallYardSwingSet-RockWallConstruction

SmallYardSwingSet-HangingSwing

Our main modifications included same-side slide and rock wall and, most importantly, the swing bar mounted across the front instead of off to the side. Before buying, we checked the materials list to be sure the beam would be extra solid. Worked like a charm and didn’t make our small yard look any smaller.

Ethan looked over Stu’s shoulder all day waiting for that first swing to be hung. It took him about four seconds to figure out the whole back-less swing thing and got himself going, fiercely pumping those little legs.

Here’s what pure happiness looks like.

SmallYardSwingSet-HangingSwing2

Stu was a man on a mission and assembled the set like a pro—I’m not sure he even stopped for lunch. We left off a couple of the accessories, like the tic-tac-toe game and trapeze, but plan to include them in the future. We’re just so thrilled with the look and fit and quality of the set.

SmallYardSwingSet-FromGarage

The cedar stain and roof details are really lovely…and less work. We will have to seal the set in the next month or so, but at least the staining is done.

SmallYardSwingSet-Evening-Play

I’m thrilled we can see the whole set from the back porch and from the kitchen window. Ethan’s at that perfect age where he can go out to play independently while I can still keep a close eye on his whereabouts.

Oh and key point in that paragraph? Play independently. Putting this super fun set in our yard has kept Ethan entertained every single day. We can’t walk from the garage to the house without him making a detour, announcing “I’m gonna play out here for a while.” He eats snacks and even meals in the fort, has buddies over to play, and uses his imagination to have little back yard adventures.

He is apparently keeping a pet dragon under the fort.

We’re thinking this timing couldn’t have been better…what with Peanut #2 on the way and all. While we love walking to the park and exploring our fine city, spending an afternoon in the back yard from time to time is really nice.

SmallYardSwingSet-Before

Yes, this was a big ticket item. But so far we are 110% ecstatic about finally making the purchase. It really finishes our little city yard. The yard that looks completely different than it did a year ago.

Wanna come over to play??!!

**I feel like I have to add this little note because I get SO many emails and comments about this swing set solution! We modified this structure ourselves without any input from the manufacturer, therefore we are not guaranteeing any safety regulations or warranties are being followed. This is just what we did, so build at your own risk! That said, I’ve emailed the manufacturer and maybe they will incorporate a few ideas for a set in the future? There seem to be a lot of us small-yard folks out there!

47 Responses
  1. July 30, 2014

    Awesome!! I’m SO glad that worked out the way it did. Isn’t it crazy how much cheaper it was?! I ordered mine specifically for the compact layout to fit in our small back yard also and I was so pleasantly surprised by how solid it was. The only issue we’ve had is the stain is now starting to wear, as would with any stained set we would have purchased. The structure is still solid as a rock! Enjoy :)
    Christy@Confessions of a Serial Do-it-Yourselfer recently posted..Old Thrift Store Frames Become New TreasuresMy Profile

  2. Linda Johnson permalink
    July 30, 2014

    It’s totally made for your backyard. Fits in perfectly and I love the look. Ethan was an expert at swinging when he came to Columbus. Great buy!!

  3. July 30, 2014

    So cool! Looks like so much fun and think of the things you can get done while he is enjoying it. Looks good too.

  4. July 30, 2014

    The set is perfect!! Fits into the yard like a glove. Can’t wait to play on it in September.

  5. Janet permalink
    December 4, 2014

    Hello, i absolutely love your article and i think we need the same playset you have.
    however, i’m a little confused on which one you bought.
    The picture of your son walking away from the set, doesn’t look like any of the ones that are on your link.
    Are there differenent configurations?

    Please help,
    Janet
    (mom of a 3yr old boy)

    • Becky permalink*
      December 4, 2014

      I Janet! I included the link to the model we bought in the post, and yes we made major modifications. They included same-side slide and rock wall and, most importantly, the swing bar mounted across the front instead of off to the side. Before buying, we checked the materials list to be sure the beam would be extra solid. Good luck!

  6. sharon permalink
    January 7, 2015

    Can you tell me what the final dimensions ended up being? Thank you!

  7. Jill permalink
    March 23, 2015

    I live in St. Louis too and I am yard challenged as well! Can you please tell me what your final measurements are.

    • Becky permalink*
      March 27, 2015

      I don’t know the measurements but will try to remember to get them and post here!

  8. March 27, 2015

    Did the play set come with modification plans or did you guys do those yourself? The way you have it set up is exactly how we need it. It loos great!

    • Becky permalink*
      March 27, 2015

      Thanks!! We just made it up. I think my husband picked up a few extra bolts (espec the big ones for the cross bar) but otherwise we just used the parts that came in the set!

  9. Lauren permalink
    April 15, 2015

    Did you happen to have the dimensions for the set? I know from the gorilla site the deck is 4′ x 4′. How far does the bar extend on either side? If the swing beam is the standard 9′ 3-station beam… it should leave 2.5′ on either side for each swing. Making the set approx. 9ft wide. Can you let me know if I am close? :) Thanks! This would be so perfect for our yard!

    • Becky permalink*
      April 15, 2015

      Yes! I just went out the other day and measured.

      Ok, so the bar across the front, where the swings hang, is 9 feet.
      The main body (so the fort part) is 4 feet by 4 feet.
      The widest part of the set, I measured from the back steps to the end of the slide, is 12.5 feet. That area also leaves plenty of clearance for the swings.

      Hope this makes sense!! I was going to try to put it on an image but it was hard to show, I’ll post one if I can.

      • Lauren permalink
        April 15, 2015

        Makes sense! Thank you soo much!!

  10. Mike Giordano permalink
    May 5, 2015

    Hi – love the modified configuration. Did Stu need to drill any additional holes to put the swing bar across or the rockwall on the same side as the slide? Thanks!

    • Becky permalink*
      May 6, 2015

      Thanks Mike! You know, I know he got bolts and had to drill holes in the swing bar, and I’d think he had to drill something for the rock wall, but it clearly wasn’t a big deal because we had no issues, it all went together very easily. I’ll get more details and let you know if there were any tricky parts!

  11. Rebecca permalink
    May 16, 2015

    Oh my goodness, I’m in St. Louis, too…. And struggling with the exact same issue. So glad your blog was first on “swingset for small yard” google. Definitely an inspiration! Now if I can work up the courage to actually put one together. Seems easier to have someone else do it!

    • Becky permalink*
      May 17, 2015

      That’s awesome!! You can do this, it was easy, just time consuming to put together. My son uses it EVERY day, even all winter when possible! Best money and time we’ve ever spent. Good luck!

  12. Kim permalink
    June 12, 2015

    we bought this set and configured it the same way you did. I notice when the kids are swinging it wobbles quite a bit. It’s never come close to being lifted off the ground, but still it makes me nervous that it wiggles. I have even re tightened bolts which doesn’t make much difference. Do you notice this problem? If so what did you do about it? Thanks!!

    • Becky permalink*
      June 13, 2015

      Ours does the same thing Kim, just wiggles every so slightly if Ethan is going really high. More so on one side than the other, so it could be a leveling issue. Not sure how you secured your posts, my husband did not drive any supports into the ground (as I had suggested but was denied) but it still seems very sturdy. We aren’t worried! Hope your kids are loving it!

  13. Mike permalink
    July 9, 2015

    Swing set looks great! I have been looking for this same style/footprint for some time now. My question is, on the modifications, was there any major changes? like wood cuts? or adding material? or was it just repositioning the supplied materials and drilling different holes? Also, did you have to add any additional support to the swing arm?

    Thanks!

    • Becky permalink*
      July 9, 2015

      Thanks Mike! We just used what they sent and drilled different holes, no extra support to the swing. The board is HUGE and so are the bolts holding it up. My husband swears he used bolts that came with the set, I had to ask him a while back because I couldn’t remember! Good luck! Clearly swing set companies need to come up with a more compact design, this post has been SO popular! Common issue. :)

  14. July 31, 2015

    This set looks awesome! We have a small backyard and need a set just like this. It’s hard to find small sets with a slide, climbing wall and swings. How did you fit the climbing wall and slide on the same side. In the original picture of the set without the modification, it doesn’t look like there’s enough space on one side for both.

    • Becky permalink*
      July 31, 2015

      Thanks Sharon! There was enough room width-wise, we just left off the little side railing parts of the opening (two vertical slats on each side of the opening), if that makes sense. I really need to do a post all about how we put the set together, we get SO many emails and comments about it. I just keep telling people my husband is not a carpenter (like REALLY not), but he’s handy and he figured it out, so it was not as hard as it may look! We just built the base and then figured it out from there. Good luck!

      • March 23, 2018

        Did you ever get this post done? We are doing this next week and wanted any more tips we could find. Thanks so much for this idea!!!!

  15. August 7, 2015

    Thanks Becky! We are going to look into this set!

    • Becky permalink*
      August 9, 2015

      Fabulous! Good luck!

      • January 18, 2016

        Hi Becky, I too am an admirer of the work you and your husband did for the modified version of the playset. We’d love to have this same style in our backyard for our two little boys. I’d like to know if you still have this playset and how it’s holding up? Does your little one still enjoy it?

  16. Rakelle permalink
    May 9, 2016

    We installed it today. Wish I could attach pictures. Thanks so much! The kids love it!

  17. Lora K permalink
    August 29, 2016

    Hello! I just found this post and it seems to be exactly what we’re looking for. Love this idea! I was wondering how it was holding up after a couple years? Our kids are a bit older 3&5, so I was curious how it is with heavier weight? Did you have to do anything special with the modifications to make sure it would still be safe in a different configuration. Thanks!!

    • Becky permalink*
      August 29, 2016

      Hi Lora! I think I have a more recent post buried out here somewhere talking briefly about how we ended up adding the side bar and A-frame on to the side of the swing set due to a loud squeaking noise that happened during swinging. Honestly, everything was very safe and fine, there was just a slight movement of base when two kids were swinging simultaneously, and this movement didn’t start until my husband had a go on a swing. He’s an average sized guy, well under 200 lbs, but I think a little too heavy for this little set and it got things off kilter. I think if we’d set the posts in concrete or made a couple other accommodations it would have been more stable…but we were winging it and didn’t quite know what to expect when modifying this set.

      Whatever the case, we have the side bar very closely hugging a large tree (I need to post pictures!), still leaving only 2 spots for swings/trapeze apparatuses, as opposed to the 3 spots in the original design (one of our spots is blocked by a tree, you can hang a swing there but it won’t go anywhere!). This addition required us to move the whole set over a little. But it works! Again, I did not feel the set as in my pictures above was unstable or unsafe, just noisy :) If you are better at these thing than us (doesn’t take much!) I’d take a look at adding more support to the main structure and center beam and going for this set up, it was very cool.

      • Voula permalink
        September 30, 2016

        hi! just received our swingset and going to embark on creating the same one as yours. I see you had mentioned some additional posts about what exactly you did – did that ever happen? cant seem to find on search, would love a link to any other details!

  18. February 10, 2017

    We are planning a small play area for our two small great grand kids can you tell me where you got this one? Thanks

  19. February 20, 2017

    So sad to see that this is no longer in stock. I want this set so badly!

  20. Kim permalink
    February 26, 2017

    Hi- Your post has given me hope that I can fit a playset like this into our small yard! Do you mind sharing with me what the footprint of this set ends up being with your configuration? Also, was it fairly straight forward to mount the cross bar in front of the house rather than off this side? Or did you have to buy separate hardware to make it work?
    Thanks so much!!

    • Becky permalink*
      February 26, 2017

      Hi Kim!
      We did have to buy long screws to attach the board. I don’t think this set is available anymore but try this one from Amazon, my friend just set it up in her yard and it’s perfect for her two boys (same age as mine) and their friends!

  21. Sarah Loveless permalink
    April 8, 2017

    Oh my goodness! This blog might have been the save of the century for us! We live in the downtown area of NOLA and have very limited space! My parents offered to purchase this play set for my daughter and after much consideration, I decide just this morning it was too large and was about to call my father with a huge, “thank but no thanks.” However, after reading this, I am sure we can make it work! Thank you so much for the information and time you took sharing!

  22. April 27, 2017

    Hello
    I am looking for a high quality space saver swing set and this looks amazing. How is it holding up?
    Can wide is it? from one beam where the swing hangs to the other on the left?
    I see you noted the depth, from stairs to front of slide and thank you, but how wide is it?

  23. mlb permalink
    May 23, 2017

    How big is your yard on the right side? We live in NY and our yard is only 20 x 20 ft so I am trying to determine if this is still too big!

  24. Jasmin permalink
    June 11, 2017

    Hi thanks so much for this post I want this set but the one your friend has is much more affordable. Did she modify her set like yours or does it fit in a small yard as is?

    • Becky permalink*
      June 11, 2017

      I don’t think they modified it Jasmin! Just set it up as is. If anything they maybe trimmed the swing bar to only fit two swings as opposed to three shown in the picture. It’s a great price!

  25. Shawn permalink
    August 26, 2017

    I just purchased the Nantucket set just like yours.. how much clearance did you give yourself from from the garage to the back of the swingset?

  26. January 27, 2018

    The best way to introduce children to the outdoors is with play sets that are exposed to the elements. A child swing set would be a great choice. thanks for sharing a nice blog. Really super ideas for kids sewing set. I think this is the best place to buy swing set.

  27. February 26, 2018

    swing set makes childhood memory for kids. When I remember my childhood always feel my swing sets where I had passed most of the times. I want to make a memory for my kids in her childhood. I am searching the best place to buy a swing set. Thanks for researching the swing set to buy the best swing set for kids. This really helps me. Thanks for sharing guidelines to buy a swing set.

  28. Nadia permalink
    April 21, 2018

    Hey, just wondering what the footprint was after your first modification? Thank you

    • Becky permalink*
      July 31, 2018

      This is SO funny Katherine! Thank you for sending this! I actually sent an email to the main address at the company a couple years ago and asked if the would consider designing a set like this. Their answer was from the CEO who said “We are aware of your design”. It was hilarious! Apparently lots of people want a small swing set!

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