Sort All Playground Components When They Arrive
The first thing you want to do is unpack and sort everything that arrives. Start off by sorting the decks. Commercial playground decks can be square, rectangular, triangular or even hexagonal. First sort the decks by shape, then sort the decks by size. The next thing you will want to count and sort are the posts. Most commercial playground units will require fifteen or more posts. These posts should be sorted by length and labeled. You then want to sort all panels and accessories, followed by the hardware. There are hundreds of pieces of hardware on a commercial playground; utilizing multiple fastener styles and configurations. It is crucial to safety that the right hardware be used as directed for installing specific components, so take time to accurately sort and become familiar with all of the hardware you will be using. With all of the pieces that are used to make a commercial playground, it is not uncommon for parts to be missing, or the wrong pieces to be included. If you find that something is missing or out of place, be sure to contact the manufacturer immediately to get the needed pieces sent out, not doing so could delay your playground installation.
Figure Playground Deck Heights Without Protective Surfacing
When looking at your playground installation instructions, you will find labels on all of the playground decks depicting what their finished height should be. Keep in mind that the finished height will be measured from the top of your playground safety surfacing to the top of your deck. So, for instance, lets say the finished height of your deck is to be 40″. You intend on having 6″ of protective surfacing under the playground. This means that your unfinished deck height will need to be 46″ to ensure that the deck is at the correct height once your playground safety surfacing is installed.
Make Playground Posts the Correct Length
Most playgrounds will come with posts that allow for up to 12″ of surfacing. Most playgrounds will only require 4-6″ of surfacing, or in the case of poured in place rubber, even less. This extra length should be cut off. For instance, if you are going to be using 6″ of playground safety surfacing, and the posts are long enough to accommodate for 12″ of surfacing, then you should remove 6″ from the post. The easiest way to do this is with a portable band saw. If you do not have a portable band saw, you can also cut the post with a reciprocating saw or a metal cutting torch. Be sure to measure twice and cut once, be as accurate as possible to make all cuts uniform and correct. If you do not want to cut the posts down, you can also just simply dig your footer holes deeper. Although this may seem easier than cutting, it can be very time consuming and make plumbing the poles and squaring the playground more difficult later in the installation.
Playground Structure Layout
By now you should be ready to start the actual installation of the playground equipment. The first step is to determine the layout of the equipment. Make sure that your choice for where the playground unit will go meets all of the safety requirements for playground use zones. There are two ways to layout a playground. The first way is by using the measurements provided in the footer diagram of your playground installation instructions. The decks an measurements are recreated using string lines and stakes. The second method, which we recommend is to actually lay the playground decks and components out on the floor where they will be installed. This is by far the best method. You will actually place all of the decks, tubes and bridges on the ground where they will be installed. Make sure to sting a reference line if needed to ensure the components are square and straight. Once you the playground components exactly where you want them, it’s time to mark the post locations. The best way to do this is to place a wooden stake in the center of each post location and secure it with a few blows from a heavy hammer. Once all of your stakes are in place, carefully remove the playground decks and components and move them off to the size, being careful not to disturb or move the stakes you just installed.
Install Playground Footers
Each one of the stakes you just put into the ground represents a hole that needs to be dug for a post footer. Your instructions should tell you the required depth and width for the footer, in most cases it will need to be 12″ wide and 24″ deep. Larger diameter posts, such as those used in shade structures usually require a larger footer. Begin digging your footers at the lowest end of the grade, using a post hole digger, shovel or auger. It is important that the footers be dug as straight as possible. You will want to make your footer 2″ deeper than what is recommended. This is because once all of the holes are dug, you will be placing bricks in the bottom, raising the hole up by approximately 2″.
Playground Footer Depth
This is perhaps the trickiest part of commercial playground installation. All of your holes need to be the exact same depth. Chances are there is a grade that your are working on, so your ground is not perfectly level. There are a few ways to make sure all of your holes are the same depth. The best way to accomplish this is by using a transit level or a laser level. You will use the first hole you dug on the lowest part of the grade as your bench mark. Determine the elevation of the bottom of that hole and write it down. You then want to transfer around to all holes with the transit or laser level and determine what their true depth is, adding or subtracting dirt as needed to reach the correct depth, be sure to tamp down the bottom of the holes as you do this. You need to be within 1/8″ of accuracy with this step, or the rest of the playground installation will be very difficult. The other method for doing this is by using a string level. This method is very time consuming and not accurate, we would recommend renting a transit or laser level if you do not own one already. Once you are certain (check two or three times).