Levelling ground for swing set - Questions
Hello all. Newbie here – with a new house, so probably will be here a fair amount. :)
I need to level a fairly large backyard area for a swingset, about 30'x25'. I also need to dig it out to contain about 12" of mulch to minimize injury from the inevitable falls. The backyard is sloped and crowned, the NE corner being the high point, and the SW corner the low point.
1) Since the leveling and play-area perimeter (probably timber?) will create a terrace of as much as 14-16" at the SW point, do I need to consider any retaining-wall type capabilities, or will timber/rebar suffice?
2) Since the perimeter wall will cross most of the yard, should I get fancy and cut in steps?
3) Drainage is good now. Since I am leveling a decent size area and putting down a weed barrier, do I need to create some sort of drainage channels under the timber to prevent pooling and encourage the mulch to dry after rains? Also, since the crown drops off rapidly at the western edge of the area (which is also the fence line to my neighbor, should I plan on a French drain of some kind to keep from flooding his yard in heavy rains?
4) Should I put down stone over the weed barrier to help with drainage, or is a couple inches of sand/soil sufficient?
5) Last, are there any red flags or possible concerns I seem to be overlooking?
I could provide a pic of the yard if it helps.
Many thanks in advance,
pix of the area would be cool definitly run a french drain along the lowest side to run the water off take note of the low points now when it rains there before the dig
Biggles, thanks for the reply. The unbuilt swingset has sat in my garage for a year, as other home ownership matters took over. :-(
My sad children are spurring me to do it this spring, though, so I'm getting serious again. I'll take some pics tomorrow and upload for the group to see.
FYI, my father in law works construction, and he convinced me a mini-ex is better for the job at hand than a skid steer. Interested to hear people's thoughts on that after seeing the pics.
When I was a kid, we didn't have 12" of mulch under swing sets. Yes, my brother did break an arm jumping out of swing...but it taught him to be more cautious in the future (not a bad thing to learn). Just sayin.....
You will be fine with PT 6x6 timbers for the wall at that height. Your kids will outgrow the playset before the wall needs replacement. Steps would be a nice touch . . . but it would only be 2 or 3 of them (at 12"-16" wall height), so it might not be worth the extra time and expense. Adding steps into a timber wall requires a lot of extra cutting and materials.
Pictures would be beneficial.
pics - finally
good point Seattle. :)
Red, thx for the tip about steps and timbers. very useful and just the kind of advice that will save me from despair.
hopefully these pics can help...will send in 2 parts
Just a thought, but you can probably limit the height of the necessary retaining wall by "splitting the difference" and digging into the hill a bit. Essentially you'd have two shorter walls: one on the downhill side, retaining mostly your mulch, and one on the uphill side retaining soil. Something to consider if you are worried about the wall height becoming a hazard for little ones.
If going with 6x6 timbers, try and keep your dimensions where it can be made using 8' lengths. The 8 footers are much easier to handle (particularly if working alone), and avoiding cuts will significantly reduce construction time. You won't save much in materials cost by going with 12 footers. Landscape supply places may have better pricing on the timbers than big box stores. Timberlok screws will speed up construction considerably, and save your sledgehammering muscles, but man those suckers are expensive.
I'm not sure if the rollover popups with picture titles works for you guys - if not, i can explain the pics. The distance shots are from the alleys on either side (I've got the trampoline) to show overall slope as best as possible.
The last 2 pics of the first post show where I currently have a drainage issue to the NE corner, resulting in the freshly poured sidewalk cracking after the contractors laid it (before I bought).
As an FYI, I had someone do a yard plan, and eventually the sidewalk will be torn up and replaced with paving stones or gravel, so I'm not overly worried about that side (other than handling drainage problems).
This forum is a beacon of hope in a sea of DIY anxiety :)
On a related note, I think I have solved the skid steer vs. mini ex. quandary by going with a third option: going to take part of the back fence down and rent a Terramite backhoe
Be careful about excavating too close to the deck. You want to stay clear of the poured concrete footings for the deck.
Not sure where you live, but something like the Toro Dingo (with excavator attachment) might be a good choice for this project scale, and would be easier to get on site. They can be rented at some Home Depot's. Many tool rental places have weekend rates that allow homeowners to pickup friday evening and return monday morning for a one-day rate. DIGGING with a bucket (skidsteer or Dingo) isn't necessarily easy . . . they do much better moving soil that has been broken up already.
Honestly you are not talking about that much work to hand dig. A couple of guys working hard with several wheelbarrows could bang it out in half a day, with significantly less damage to the surrounding landscape.
As a third option, I'd submit that a skilled Bobcat operator could probably do the site work for about what equipment rental and transport will cost you. Around here, $75/hr for the man and machine is pretty typical, with something like a 4 hour minimum.
Yes, I will be careful around the footers - will test it by hand first, and come out a foot if too close.
I was going to do the work by hand, but decided I'm getting too old. Plus, I am looking forward to driving the machine. :-)
However, what you said about hiring someone with a Bobcat makes a lot of sense, so I will think about that; I live in DC, so sometimes getting skilled labor that isn't crazy expensive can be hard...
Regarding a machine: the reason I like the terramite is it gives me the excavator digging ability, and it has the larger bucket up front to make grading easier. I'm not experienced running an excavator, but have a fair bit using a bucket on a tractor from earlier days.
Just as a point of reference, I hired out the excavation of our yard for a retaining wall build. This was digging in hard clay soil. Guy showed up with a Bobcat and a excavator attachment. He'd dig for awhile with the excavator, switch to the bucket, and move the soil out, then switch back to the excavator. We paid about $400, and it was done in a couple hours. Renting equipment would have been $200+, required delivery fees ($100+) or complicated pickup/return logistics, it would have taken me all weekend, and it wouldn't have been done nearly as well.
I will see if I can doctor up one of the pics with drawings to help visualization. In the meantime, here's my plan:
Retaining walls on all four sides:
1) A retaining wall ~3' in front of the garage that runs from the sidewalk to the fence (eventually plan on putting steps down on the open side of the garage to some vegetable beds).
2) A retaining wall 2-3 feet out from the porch, running from the sidewalk to the fence.
3) A retaining wall along the sidewalk (this will be the most temporary, as I plan to break up and replace the sidewalk past the porch steps in the next 2 years)
4) A retaining wall that runs along the fence line. This is the wall I am most concerned with. The yard crowns and drops off rapidly toward that fence, and I want to make sure drainage isn't affected. (Plus, it's the neighbor's fence I believe, and we don't get along well, so I certainly want to make sure that section is engineered to a T).
Roughly 30' x 30' (I ordered a 100 ft yard tape, so will know more precisely soon) So ~ 900 sq ft.
6x6 timbers for the lower retaining wall, and 4x4 timbers for the rest. Although I may use 6x6 running along the fence, for reasons stated above.
1) Planning to use 3 6x6 timbers on the lower wall, each stepped back an each or so, plus a fabric sheet between 1st and 2nd timber to hold dirt as counterweght. Also planning to use rebar- but those TimberLOK screws look pretty neat.
2) Planning a simple french drain across the base of bottom retaining wall.
3) 2-3 grade away from house.
4) thin gravel base for drainage.
QUESTION: Is there a need for a 2nd french drain along fence line? (Paranoid about water flow into neighbor's yard)
Long term: eventually the set will come donw, but I like the idea of the flat yard for increased usability; that's the reason I don't plan on putting a weed fabric across the whole base.
thx to all.
Red, thx for the pics. that's a really good reference.
Sadly, your logic about renting the work out makes a lot of sense (I have such happy visions of playing around on a mini-backhoe :) ). The prices you quote are similar to what I will be looking at, so I will seriously consider that option...
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