How to Install Playground Equipment

American Playground Company recommends that you have a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) assist with the installation of all playground equipment to make sure it is installed correctly per ASTM-F1487 and CPSC 325 standards, the standards for commercial playgrounds. Whether you install the equipment yourself or have a professional do it for you, you should have a playground audit done to make sure everything is compliant.

Tools that may be needed:

  • Gloves
  • Safety glasses
  • Hard hat
  • Boots (steel toe preferred)
  • Wrenches of assortment of sizes
  • Screwdrivers
  • TT15 security torx bit
  • TT40 security torx bit
  • TT45 security torx bit

  • Drill bits
  • Allen wrenches
  • Ratchets and sockets
  • String line
  • Tape measure
  • Transit or site level
  • Shovels
  • Ratchet straps
  • Hand diggers
  • Skid loader, digger head and auger bits (recommended)
  • Wheelbarrow
  • Hammers and rubber mallets
  • Blocks or bricks for bottom of holes
  • Drill

There will be more tools needed depending on manufacturer and type of equipment. Most manufacturers will send the required security bits needed for installation.

Step 1. Assess Your Capability

The first step to install a playground is to make sure you have the appropriate equipment and manpower for the job. The holes needed to install the equipment into the ground can be quite large at times and will take much less work if you have a large digging machine like a skid loader with digging attachment.

Many of the playground pieces are quite large, so you should have people selected that are able to lift more than 50lbs.

Step 2. Determine Grading

You will need to grade the ground for the surfacing and base materials. Make sure to get this grade as accurate as possible to prevent more strenuous work later and to avoid any extra cost. If grade is improperly established too far down, it could make for shallower footings that could heave or require more cost for fall protection material and bases.

At the beginning of the installation process, you will have a construction site with multiple hazardous conditions that bystanders may try to check out. Due to curiosity, it is common for people to walk right into a construction site and could potentially fall in a hole or some other hazard. We highly recommend installing some sort of temporary fencing and signage to deter all users from the site. You may find construction fencing from your local American Fence Company.

 Make sure to be safe and wear all appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE). If running skids or other heavy machinery, conditions could be unsafe for the crew that do not know the machinery. Make sure to be safe and communicate with all surrounding personnel.

Step 3. Layout the Holes 

Layout all holes with appropriate use zone around all equipment. Optimize the layout for more direct ADA accessibility. Double check all layouts before digging holes. Make sure all appropriate use zones are established and any underground facilities are clear. As defined by law, you must call your local one call or digger hotline and have any private or public utilities located before any digging can begin.

Step 4. Dig the Holes 

Dig all holes to the specified depth and width determined by the playground equipment manufacturer. Make sure to follow all recommendations by the manufacturer to avoid voiding warranties. Once all holes have been dug to the required depth, install a brick or cement block in the bottom of the hole for the post to set on so it does not settle. If you dig the hole too deep and do not pack the loose ground back in very well, the hole may settle over time and equipment can become unlevel or even break.

Most all footings will be required to be the same height. To do this there will need to be a predetermined finished height for the final grade. Determine the finished grade and then subtract the length of the part of the post that will be embedded in the ground. This will determine the height at which your block is to be recessed in the ground. Since this is below ground, the best way to find this height is to shoot the height in with a laser level or transit.

Step 5. Begin installation 

Layout equipment and bolts for the first few items and then start installing. We like to find a good solid deck to start at that we can stabilize and level. This deck should be something lower to the ground and preferably something in the middle so can be worked out in all directions.

Keep installing equipment until all is assembled according to directions of the manufacturer. Do not modify any equipment or you will be held liable for any accidents. Do not deviate from the manufacturer’s directions in any way other than their specifications. Install all equipment and make sure to plumb and level as doing so.

Warning; If you get too many items attached without leveling the structure it will be much harder to get plumbed and leveled later in the installation process.

Step 6. Pour the Concrete

Confirm that everything is level and correct before pouring concrete. If need be you can pound in some ground posts and attach ratchet straps to make small corrections to the structure to make it more plumb and level. We recommend cutting blocks to help correct the spacing of the legs and prevent them from moving as footings are being poured and set up.

Pour all concrete footings and be sure not to move the posts around. You will also need to be careful as to not splatter concrete all over the powder coated finished surface. If this is left on before drying, it may be hard or impossible to remove the dried concrete without marring and scratching the finish product material. Let dry before releasing ratchet straps to keep from moving.

Step 7. Surfacing

If you have left out any drive rivets or other bolts, make sure these items are addressed now. We suggest doing the playground inspection before any surfacing material is installed.

  • Install any drains or drain tile that is needed or any underground utilities that could not be installed earlier
  • Install any base material for surfacing to a correct height as a final grade surface should be marked on post.
  • Install any ground blanket or geotextile fabrics to prevent any weed growth. This can also help any ground settling and help with drainage to ground soil separation.

Ensure that you install all surfacing material according to manufacturer’s instructions. Install to appropriate ASTM guidelines. For example, if installing Engineered Wood Fiber or (EWF), the manufacturer may instruct you to install in (x) amount of inch levels and pack or blow in. Then install another layer and so on until (x) amount of loose fill and (x) amount of compaction desired. If you do not pack the material it will settle and be really low once it starts being played on. If these steps are not followed it may also not meet the ADA accessibility and manufacturer’s warranty. Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF) is to be installed in minimum 9” compacted depth to create a 10’ fall height as a standard. It is not wise or appropriate to use 4.5” for a 5’ fall height or so on. It should never be installed below a 9” compacted depth.

Step 8. Playground Audit

Before any playground is placed into service, it should have a full audit done and in some states this is defined by law. This is to ensure that all items are compliant with the appropriate standards and to give a baseline for all maintenance inspections thereafter. All audits should be performed by a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI)

If any corrective actions are needed, fix these issues before opening. If all items are compliant to the standards, open to the users and enjoy your new playground facility.