Whether it’s adding a pool or building a playground for the kids, backyards are a perfect place for family activities. No matter what your backyard plans, remember to keep safety in mind when designing and building your family friendly project.
The first step often involves fencing in the backyard to provide privacy and address safety concerns. For young children, consider adding a second gate latch high enough to prevent inquisitive fingers from accessing it. See our article Fences: Surrounding Your Surroundings for more information.
Backyard playsets have come a long way in recent years. The sturdy wooden frameworks and plastic accessories such as those from Rainbow Play Systems not only look great and are kid friendly but hold up to the elements better than traditional metal swing sets.
When purchasing a playset:
- Choose a set your children will grow into, rather than out of.
- Observe your children playing and get their feedback to determine the activities they enjoy.
- Look for a system that can be expanded as your children grow.
- Make sure it’s made of a durable wood like redwood or cedar. Pressure treated pine can be used if the preservative doesn’t contain arsenic or chromium.
Installation of a play set can be done professionally, or you can do-it-yourself. Many sets come with precut wooden parts, though long posts may have to be purchased separately.
When building a playset:
- Keep at least 6’ between the set and objects such as trees and fences.
- Round sharp edges with a router to prevent injuries.
- Sand rough surfaces to reduce splinters.
- Allow pressure treated wood to dry and weather before staining.
Pools and Hot Tubs
Swimming pools and hot tubs are another popular component in a family friendly backyard. While everyone wants a pool, they’re expensive to build and maintain. See our article on Adding a Pool for more information.
Hot tubs are not only less expensive and easier to install, they use only about $100 a year in chemicals and the water only needs to be changed every four months.
Since a full hot tub can weigh from 2,000 to 5,000 pounds, it’s important to be sure you have an adequate slab or reinforced deck capable of supporting the weight. To find out how much your hot tub will weigh, multiply the number of gallons of water it holds by 8.34 pounds then add the empty weight of the unit and weight of the occupants.
In order to maintain your backyard, you need a storage shed to store lawn equipment, tools, and other supplies. Start by checking the city setback requirements to determine how far the shed must be built from property lines. Also, examine any neighborhood restrictions to see if they have regulations concerning the materials, size, or style of storage buildings.
When building or buying a storage shed, consider:
- Size: How much room you’ll need for your tools and equipment.
- Lighting: Since sheds often don’t have power, choose one with natural lighting from windows or skylights.
- Ventilation: To reduce heat and provide fresh air. Cover vents with screen or hardware cloth to keep insects and animals out.
- Accessories: Shelves and hanging racks to organize lawn and garden equipment. Adjustable shelves provide flexible storage space.
The foundation can be a concrete slab or a wooden floor made from pressure treated pine and plywood that’s set off the ground on concrete blocks or pavers.
This 8’ x 10’ storage shed from Lifetime is made from steel reinforced plastic panels that are both strong and durable.
While you can hire professionals to assemble a storage shed kit, it can make a good weekend DIY project and teach older kids basic carpentry skills. You can also have a prebuilt storage building delivered to your home. Before ordering, be sure there’s adequate vertical and horizontal clearance for access to the site and unloading.
For more information, see our article on Sheds.
A family vegetable garden can provide a valuable learning experience for kids while putting food on the table at the same time. Kits are available to start your garden from seeds, or you can buy seedlings from a nursery.
Vegetable gardens can either be planted directly in the ground, in raised beds, or in containers on a patio or porch. It’s important to provide the proper ratio of light, water, soil, and fertilizer for your plants to grow. Visit our Around the Yard website for more information on gardens.
Other Tips From This Episode
To remove wooden posts that have been set in the ground, screw a block of wood to the side of the post and stack concrete blocks next to it to form a fulcrum. Position a 2×4 under the block of wood and over the fulcrum. Using it as a lever, pull down on 2×4 to jack the post up out of the ground.
The iSeries Zero Turn Lawn Tractor from Cub Cadet combines the convenience of zero turn handling with traditional steering. iSeries mowers come in models ranging from a 42” to 50” cutting capacity and are available at The Home Depot.
Reducing Playground Injuries
What do I need to look for to have a safe play area outside for my kids? –Maureen from Portland, Maine
To reduce injuries, put at least 12” of mulch or sand under and around play equipment. Repair or replace dangerous hardware, like exposed bolts or open “S” hooks. Install railings around elevated play equipment, making sure the openings between balusters are less than 3½” or more than 9” to prevent children from becoming trapped. Remove any tripping hazards such as stumps, roots, and rocks. Finally, always keep an eye on your kids!
Power tools used on Today’s Homeowner with Danny Lipford® are provided by Ryobi.