Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 24 (4/22)

So Thursday night I took a look at what was going on the next day and decided to take the day off of work. Building the playset was not the only reason, but it was definitely one factor. Also the kids were off school (due to Good Friday) so I thought it would be nice to spend some time with them. And the weather called for rain pretty much non-stop starting Friday afternoon and continuing for the next 4-5 days.

I went out about 9 a.m. and started on the next steps, which involved constructing the swingset portion. The kids were excited (even more so than usual!) because Step 84 got to use the coveted “A1″ piece. A1 is the swingset beam and is naturally the biggest piece, so the whole time we’ve been building this they’ve been looking forward to when we could use A1.

Here’s the A-beam part

And here’s that part attached to A1. It wasn’t that heavy but definitely useful to have 2 people carrying it.

It was tricky getting it level (same as with the monkey bars on the other side) because we had dug down a bit to place and level the clubhouse section. So we had to dig around to get it level. Our neighbors (who work at the school and were off for Good Friday) were also out trying to get some mulching in before it rained. I commented “Beautiful day for some outside work!!” :-)

Once the swingset beam was set into place, we had to construct and place the crow’s nest area, which sits on top of that big beam. And here we ran into a problem.

You can see the green “Y30-40G” metal braces, with the holes on the main clubhouse that the brace is supposed to attach to. The problem comes in that there are no holes on the board BEHIND that. I looked back on the steps where those boards were attached, and I still think that I did it correctly. You can see below the other left to right beam one of those spike T-nuts. Back in Step 52 we had to put those T-nuts in to “be used in a future step”. Originally I thought I had maybe put those nuts in the wrong place, but I don’t think so. I’m not counting that as a mistake by me. I ended up just drilling through those back boards, attaching spike nuts on the back end, and putting the bolts in.

Next step was attaching the swing hangers to the beams. The next problem is that the countersunk holes were not big (or deep) enough so the fender washers would fit in those holes. The instructions were (wait for it, wait for it) pretty confusing. The text of the instructions (Step 91) just say flat washers, lock washers and lock nuts, but the picture also shows a fender washer. The countersunk holes looked like they fit the fender washers, but it was just SLIGHTLY not big enough. Also I couldn’t get all those washers in and still have enough of the bolt to attach the nut to.

I ended up just using a drill to kind of widen the hole.

After putting in the floor boards of the crow’s nest, the next problem was that we ran out of flat washers. We had used extra flat washers earlier on because the truss bolts were not snug with only 1 washer on them. So I sent Carolyn to Lowe’s to get some more washers.

So that meant we had to skip Step 95 and 96, and move on to Step 97 – putting in the balusters for the crow’s nest. After that was done, we started putting the swings on (Step 102), because all the steps in between also needed those washers. We couldn’t put the glider on because we were missing some fender washers, but we did get the other 2 swings on.

Before too long Carolyn came back with the flat washers and we were able to get those other steps done. We finished the crow’s nest balusters and put in the telescope

Going back to the earlier paragraph about the spike T-nuts that were put in “for a future step”, we found out what that was for on Step 99 – putting in the metal ladder rails to go up to the Crow’s Nest. That was very tricky to do as the holes did not really match up. I ended up having to really wiggle them in to get them to “catch” on the nuts but eventually I was able to get it in.

Last few steps were attaching the metal grips on various places. Here I am putting the grips on one end of the monkey bars – they went in on both ends of the monkey bars, the top of the rock wall, and the top of the ladder.

I was able to put all of them in except the right side of the ladder, since that one required a truss bolt, and I didn’t have any of those left. By now it was about 5 pm and Carolyn said something like “You know, even though it’s been raining most of the day, at least it hasn’t been raining very hard!”

Cue massive thunderstorms and heavy rain! :-) I REALLY wanted to finish things up and get the slide on, but alas it was not meant to be. I worked on it some but just didn’t want to mess things up, so I decided to save it for another day. Plus, using my power drill (with the cord running through pools of standing water) in a thunderstorm didn’t seem like QUITE the best idea….

Nice picture of me taken from the dryness of inside. Getting close!!

Day 24 time: 8.5 hours
Total time: 48.5 hours
Mistakes made: 0 today (17 total)
Steps completed: 83-102 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 23 (4/21)

No work on Wednesday due to other activities, and Thursday was packed too – but after I got home and put the kids to bed, I wanted to at least get in a little bit of work, even though it was almost dark.

I had the monkey bars assembled, so I went ahead and attached them to the playset.

This picture was taken the next day but shows the monkey bars. They just drill in to the playset and then there are stakes that have to be rotated and put in the ground (and then bolted to the base of the A-beam.

The only tricky part was trying to get them level. Since we did not level out the ground before we started (though our ground is what someone from The Princess Bride might call “mostly” level), it’s always an adventure. Especially since we had dug and lowered the ground somewhat to get the main clubhouse set and level.

Day 23 time: 1.0 hours
Total time: 40.0 hours
Mistakes made: 0 today (17 total)
Steps completed: 81-82 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 21 (4/19)

It rained like crazy all day Monday, but luckily it tapered off by the evening so I was able to get another evening’s work in. It was VERY muddy though, and I don’t know why, but the mud was particularly smelly. So everyone enjoyed me I’m sure!

First order of business was securing the ladder to the playset.

Number of times I was asked if the ladder was ready, while I was trying to line it up right? Eleventy.

A little bit tricky because the ground wasn’t exactly level, but I got it working, and we set out for some “inaugural” ladder climbs.

After the ladder comes the rock wall. Naturally you have to put in all the rocks to the boards, because shipping the rocks already on there would be way too convenient.

Not really a problem, except that the rocks attach with the barrel nuts, and I don’t know if it’s something about barrel nuts in general, these particular barrel nuts that they use in this playset, or just me not knowing what I’m doing, but I’ve found that it’s really tough to get them to be secure with just the one flat washer they recommend – most of the ones I put in needed to have 2 washers.

Plus you have to secure the other side with a screwdriver while you’re using the drill to tighten the phillips bolt on the other side, and it’s obviously very tricky to hold a screwdriver on one side while getting enough torque to tighten something else. Carolyn came out to help me though and we were able to get all of them secured.

Number of times a kid asked Carolyn to make a bologna and cheese sandwich while we were doing this? Eleventy more!

Attaching the rock wall was tricky because it’s kind of cramped underneath the playset, especially in the corner, so it took 3 holes drilled to get it to line up right (mistake!) but eventually the rock wall was attached and ready for some inaugural climbs!

Next was the monkey bars (assembled back on the driveway) – I did take some pictures of that but it was dark and something must have gone wrong with the flash as the pictures were big black blobs. I did make another mistake on Step 77 – it requires 1 1/2″ lag screws and 2″ lag screws on the “H2 Monkey Bar Ground Board” in different places, and I put the 2″ screws where the 1 1/2″ screws were supposed to go (and thus they poked out the other side). I also had a minor mistake on Step 80 – attaching the wrong size hex bolts to the triangle brace of the monkey bars. I secured the brace to the monkey bar support structure before I realized that I also had to secure it to the monkey bars themselves. Nothing big, but it did take me a few minutes to undo that, so I’ll count it.

Day 21 time: 3.0 hours
Total time: 39.0 hours
Mistakes made: 3 today (17 total)
Steps completed: 74-80 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 20 (4/18)

Sunday again was a (beautiful) day of rest, so I was back on the playset work come Monday evening. Hard to believe I’ve been at this for nearly 3 weeks now! I’m of two minds as to the length of time. On the one hand, I could have had this playset up a lot sooner had I taken some full days off of work (or of course paid someone else to install it). On the other hand, I’ve still been having a lot of fun, and while spending nearly all of my evening and weekend free time on this project HAS prevented me from doing some other things, I’ve had fun working with my kids (who are almost every morning asking if we’re going to be able to work on the playset today!)

I thought that I had finished step 67 on Saturday, but it turned out there was still one part of it left undone, so I quickly finished that off. I also realized that I had made a mistake putting the metal gable parts (big green triangle on the picture below) on the insides instead of the outsides (mistake!)

The tasks for today were installing the porch area in front of the clubhouse. But before we got to that, Step 69 involved walling off one of the sides of the 2nd story. The problem with that is that particular area was the easiest way to actually get UP TO the 2nd story (since of course we don’t actually get a ladder till Step 74). So I got those boards and hoisted myself up for hopefully the LAST time.

Steps 70 and 71 involved creating the porch rafters and roof, and that step was done down on the ground. Since previous steps have let me know what direction the rafters are supposed to go, this didn’t take too long. One problem with Step 70 is that it claims you are supposed to put the 2 “V-shaped” rafter pieces together and then it gives vague instructions of how you’re supposed to run 2″ wood screws through them to connect them. It is not really clear how or where that’s supposed to happen but after staring at it for awhile, I did what I thought was best. It worked out okay but it was a bit tricky when I was trying to put the metal triangular support on the rafters, since one of the screws for the metal base hit this other wood screw that I had put in previously. But it all worked out.

The tricky part was actually ATTACHING the porch roof to the main clubhouse area. And by tricky part, I mean tricky part attaching it by MYSELF. Carolyn had come home while I was putting this on (snapping this nice picture)

She was able to help me get the bolts lined up into the right bolt holes, but it was a bit tricky getting the bolts to catch into the nuts. These “Spike T-nuts” that they give you are nice, but they are sometimes tricky to line up with the bolts. If you don’t have the bolt lined up EXACTLY right, your bolt spins but doesn’t catch. And with all the weight of the porch roof, the bolt was sagging some and not really lining up. It took about 15-20 minutes of me trying to simultaneously support the roof, push it up so the bolt was going in straight, make sure the nut stayed in place, as well as actually ratchet in the bolt with the socket wrench. Good times!

Then I put the gable on the porch roof (correctly on the outside this time!), and started on the ladder. I really wanted to get the ladder up and secured before I quit for the day, but alas, darkness foiled me.

As you can see, I got the ladder built, but it was pitch black by now (after 9 pm) and I didn’t want to risk screwing up the attachment since I couldn’t see in the dark.

Day 20 time: 3.0 hours
Total time: 36.0 hours
Mistakes made: 1 today (14 total)
Steps completed: 67-73 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 18 (4/16)

Friday was a day of no playset building due to other evening activities, and things were not looking good for Saturday either. It’s been pretty frustrating the past few weeks how each week it’s been beautiful on Sunday (a day of rest when I don’t work on this) but rainy and cold each Saturday.

And it was definitely rainy and cold this Saturday but at least in the afternoon, the rain kept itself contained to a mild drizzle and while it certainly wasn’t PLEASANT out, it was at least tolerable. Scott and I ended up going out there at about 2pm and we worked until dinner time. In retrospect, that may have been too much time working in one sitting as I was plenty sore in the evening and had to lie down for the evening as my back was not enjoying life.

I had put the rafters on the roof back on Thursday, and so the first task for today was putting on the end boards (that cover the “triangle” part of the roof). The instructions specifically state (and I read them like five times) that there is an opening for a window on the back, and no opening on the front. Which is all fine and good, but the pictures also specifically show a window on the front (the back is tragically absent from any pictures). I didn’t want to mess with the instructions, so I put the window on the back.

As I was boarding up the front part of the roof, I realized that I had put the back boards on the outside (at a very high degree of difficulty since it required me being 10′ off the ground on a ladder) rather than on the inside (which would have been much easier as I could have just used the stepladder on the 2nd story floor boards). So chalk that up for a mistake. Luckily it wasn’t too bad to unscrew them from the outside and put them on the inside.

Steps 62 and 63 were putting some Soffit Caps on the sides, and it was then that I realized (after way too much wrangling of the instructions and such) that back when I was putting the bay windows in the back that I also needed to put a set of windows on the left side (Step 55 in its entirety: “Repeat procedure on left side Bay Window per diagram”). Of course, the boards did not fit right on this side either – only 2 of them fit. Then while trying to rubber mallet one of the Q12s into place, I snapped it (will have to order another one – Mistake #2 on the day).

As I’ve mentioned before, Geoff and I are trading playset labor – he’ll be building a playset later this spring and so when he does, I’ll come over to help him. Last time he was here, he joked of another reason why he’s helping me first – that way he can look at our playset and then just one-up whatever we do. So when we were putting in the first bay windows he said that now he knew that his playset was going to have 2! :) I guess now he needs to have 3!!

After the soffits went in – it was time to put on the rest of the roof rafters. I had put in the top one on each side in a previous step as part of securing the rafters, but now it was time to put the rest of them on (except for 3 rafters on the right side that are intentionally left off until a future step – I believe in conjunction with creating the crow’s nest area).

I put the first (new) one on, and then realized that the rafters were on wrong (Mistake #3 on the day!). I’m no roof expert, but even I can tell when the rafters are set up in such a way to have the rain fall INSIDE versus just rolling down the roof. So I had to unscrew those and turn them around. It was a bit tricky to get all the rafters on. The first few on top went okay because I could just put the ladder underneath the empty part, but as I got lower and lower, my opening gradually disappeared. Eventually though I got them all in. My assistant Scott was very helpful in helping pass me boards.

Last step for the day was working on setting up the clubhouse porch support boards, and then it was time for dinner.

Here’s a shot from the next day – starting to look like an actual clubhouse!!

Day 18 time: 4.0 hours
Total time: 33.0 hours
Mistakes made: 3 today (13 total)
Steps completed: 59-66 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 16 (4/14)

Thursday is our crazy day with 2-3 kid activities which requires a lot of running around. I was supposed to drop off my 6 year old son at soccer and then come back to work on the playset, but I just didn’t feel comfortable leaving him there so I decided to wait for awhile till Carolyn could come stay with him, so it ended up being close to 7pm before I got to work.

First order of business was trying to find the 1″ wood screws – no luck. I ended up having to call customer service and they claim that they’re being shipped.

The previous day Geoff and I had put the window boards on so today I was “framing” the bay windows. That quickly turned out to be a problem as the Q12 boards were too big to fit in their space. The Q12 boards were 11″ long and the Q8 boards were each 2 3/8″ wide. So that’s a total of 15 3/4″ required, but the 3 sides of the H9 windows boards were 15 1/4″, 15″ and 16″, so only one of the three windows “fit”. So I decided that I’ll need to cut those Q12 boards to size, but I decided not to bother with that at this time. Again, I’m not counting that as a mistake for me because I don’t think there’s anything I could have done.

Final step for the day was putting on the rafters on the roof of the clubhouse. This was kind of tricky to do and required me to get an external ladder on the side in order to be able to access the bolts on the outside of the rafters.

Here’s a picture of that as well as you can see in the background the bay windows I was talking about earlier

Day 16 time: 1.5 hours
Total time: 29.0 hours
Mistakes made: 0 today (10 total)
Steps completed: 54-58 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 15 (4/13)

After getting in a few hours on Saturday after the rain, I did not work on Sunday as usual and then was rained out on Monday. Tuesday we had van troubles and I was not in the mood to continue playset work, so it was Wednesday before I was able to get back into things.

My co-worker Geoff and I had agreed to work again on Monday, but as mentioned earlier, rain. We seem to have a knack for scheduling work days during monsoons. But Wednesday looked like a good day and we were able to get started a bit after work.

First order of business was fixing the bolt hole that was not lining up. We drilled an extra hole and secured the post with bolts.

The next few steps were putting in some of the wall boards to enclose the playset. Here’s Geoff attempting to secure the first vertical board.

That was when we realized Mistake #1. The holes in the vertical board did not line up with the horizontal board. So we moved the horizontal board down to line up with a different board and secured it.

Then we realized that vertical board did not go there (Mistake #2), so we unscrewed it and moved it to where it belongs. Then when we got here, we realized that our horizontal board was right in the first place (Mistake #3), so we had to fix that.

Here you can see the extra holes

And finally, a few shots of where we ended up for the day.

We ended up stopping for the day because the next step we needed to do required 1″ wood screws, which we could not find. It was getting dark though so I decided to stop and look for it the next day when it was light out.

Day 11 time: 5 hours (2.5 hours * 2 people)
Total time: 27.5 hours
Mistakes made: 3 today (10 total)
Steps completed: 42-53 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 11 (4/9)

Saturday was a very rainy day. Yup, it pretty much rained ALL DAY. It finally tapered off in the late afternoon, so I was able to work a bit on the playset. So last time you may remember that there was a bit of a problem on Step 32.

This bolt was not lining up. It’s a thick piece of wood that gets hex bolted in to perpendicular boards in 3 places. The ones on either end lined up perfectly, but the hole for the bolt in the middle was off slightly. Now that I got a better look at it, it looked like the only option was going to be to drill a matching hole. I was a little leery to do this just because you never know what that might affect several steps down the road, but after inspection, it seemed like the best option. I’m not counting that as a mistake (by me), because I can not see what I could have done that would have averted the problem.

Progress was going rather quickly – these steps were pretty easy to understand and pretty easy to do. I was getting into a good rhythm of getting the wood and fasteners for one page of instructions (usually 2-3 steps), take it back to the playset, and then install the boards, and go back.

Here’s a good example of what I’d like to see MORE of from the instructions

You may have to click to expand and see a larger picture, but in the bottom corner there’s a note indicating that on the P22 board, the holes are closer to the bottom of the board. See? Was that so hard?

Here’s a final shot of the day

Day 11 time: 1.5 hours
Total time: 22.5 hours
Mistakes made: 0 today (7 total)
Steps completed: 32-41 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 10 (4/8)

Friday night promised to be another good day for playset building. Weather was going to cooperate, and Carolyn was going to take a kid to soccer, leaving me free to continue work.

As I mentioned last time, work for today was going to be up on the top level of the clubhouse. And of course, there’s no ladder or any other means to get up there until Step 74, so there was a lot of pulling myself up and jumping down, to get more parts. For some reason, all my part fetchers were not in the mood to help :-)

For the most part, it hasn’t really been a problem that generally I have been doing this by myself. Today though it was a bit tricky in some parts.

That’s me trying to screw in both sides of a barrel nut :-) . I’m actually not sure I got that completely right – it’s not as snug as I’d like it but it’s okay for now and I’m going to revisit that a bit later.

Other than that, things went pretty well. Here’s the finished (for the evening) product

I stopped because a) it was getting dark (as you can see) and b) Step 32 was not working out right. There was a bolt that was not lining up with the bolt hole it was supposed to go in. I couldn’t really figure it out because c) did I mention it was getting dark, so I decided to give it a try next time.

Day 10 time: 2.5 hours
Total time: 21 hours
Mistakes made: 4
Steps completed: 25-31 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 9 (4/7)

They say it’s my birthday!! Doo doo doo doo doo duh doo!

But what could be more fun to do on your birthday than continue building a giant playset?!?!? I’m not sure.

Now that the playset is out in its “final resting place”, it is a little more challenging to get set up and put things away each day. Especially since my drill is not cordless :-(

First order of business was to continue working on the picnic. I knew that I would have a few hours and the weather forecast was pretty good, so I set the ambitious goal to get from Step 19 all the way up to 30.

Unfortunately, tragedy struck early on as I realized that something was not right.

I was trying to lay the boards for the top of the picnic table, which are supposed to lay crosswise across the support pieces near where my son is sitting. You can see the first three placed there, but if you look closely, the spot where the last two are supposed to go is blocked by a board sticking up.

Turns out that (once again), Leisure Time did not provide adequate instructions as to orientation of the boards, and I had that board flipped the wrong way. In fact, I was so annoyed with the instructions, I thought it was worth its own pic

You may need to click to see the detail, but there is the board (K14) in question. If you look closely, you can see that it does indicate that the hole on the top is closer to the top of the board than the hole on the bottom is to the bottom of the board. But again, would it have killed them to just call that out!!!

Luckily it wasn’t a big deal and I was able to just unbolt it, turn it around, and put it back in.

With the picnic table fully assembled, it was time for the inaugural snack!

After snack time, it was time to put the troops to work again.

They’re carrying the “fence” boards that go around two sides of the picnic table area. I got the one side on without a problem, but then see if you can spot the problem in this pic?

It’s kind of like a mobius strip or an MC Escher puzzle! :-) If you haven’t noticed, the top board is behind the post, and the bottom board is in front of the post. Which makes it kind of hard to level-ly attach the up and down posts. Again I was lucky that it wasn’t hard to figure out which board was wrong (the bottom one) nor was it difficult to take it out and put it where it belonged.

You have to space the boards out with a certain amount between each one, and all of my experience putting the balusters on our deck came in very handy here. I settled in to a rhythm pretty easily – measure it out, attach the tops, level the board, and attach it on the bottom. Every two or three, I measured my remaining space and adjusted accordingly. The reason for that is that if you’re even 1/4 inch off on each board, you don’t want to leave a huge (or tiny) gap between the last board and the edge. So by re-measuring every few boards, you can check and adjust your space if you need to. Nobody’s going to notice that one set of boards is 3″ apart instead of 3 1/8″, but they’ll definitely notice if all the boards are 3 1/8″ and the last set are only 2″ apart.

It was all looking good but then it started to rain, and this was a good stopping place, since the next step starts with the 2nd story of the clubhouse, so I called it a day.

Day 9 time: 2.5 hours
Total time: 18.5 hours
Mistakes made: 2 today (4 total)
Steps completed: 19-24 (out of 103)