Playground Rising

Wow…I woke up this morning and every part of my body aches.  My left shoulder is killing me; and my palms and wrists are like locked in place with pain.  Let me tell you why…

My wife and daughter are down in Massachusetts visiting with Nichole’s sister, who in August is returning to Kenya with her family.  While they are gone, I set about doing various projects around the house.  I did some landscaping, cleaned up the front yard, did some necessary painting and gathered some junk for a future dump run.

My biggest project however was building Ariel’s play area in the background.  If you have never visited out home, it is a “fixer upper” meaning that the previous owners were somewhat negligent in the care of the property.  We’ve been working for the past three years to fix things, mostly on the inside.  But this was one luxury we really wanted to add.  Ariel is a very active almost-four years old and most of the time she was playing in the front yard, a little close to the street for our comfort.

So, while my wife was away, I took the day off from my part-time job and got all my pastoral stuff done early so I could devote a full weekend to the project.

First, I had to lay out the plans.  The play area has two tiers.  The bottom tier is square 12 feet; the higher tier is 14′ by 13; and the entire thing is up against the retaining wall that supports our driveway (it will be painted white, which was not done yet at the time of the above photo).

Second, I had to clear the land.  The area was full of saplings and some kind of creeping vine as well as a tremendous amount of trash, junk and brush. There were also a number of overhanging branches that I wanted cleared so the play area would get decent sun.

It was nothing that a shovel, hoe, hatchet and bow saw couldn’t handle.  I went to work on it, and by Friday afternoon I had everything pretty much cleared.

Third came the framing.  I have some experience with playgrounds from when I worked for a Christian school, so I knew that wood is always a good option.  I framed the play area with 8 foot 4 x 4’s, held in place with 1/2″ steel rebar driven 2 feet down.  This was heavy work, since each piece of rebar had to be driven into the ground with a 10 pound sledge hammer.  The 4 x 4’s are held together 6″ nickel-plated timber spikes.

Finally, we had to fill it with a kid safe material.  I chose kid cushion, which I picked up from Outdoor World in Hooksett.  It took 5 cubic yards of the stuff to fill the play area to a depth ranging from 4 inches to 10 inches in some areas.  Thankfully, my friend Joel came to help me finish that part of the project.

All in all, with tools and everything, I spent about $500 and roughly 25 man hours to complete the project.  There’s another couple of hours of work left for the painting.  And next year, we’ll probably pick up a swing set for her.  But the project is done.

It is easily the most extensive home improvement project I’ve engaged in to date, and hopefully the hardest.  But nothing will be more rewarding than being able to play with Ariel in her new, safe play area. Her smile and laughs make the pain all worth it.

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