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 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 6 (4/4)

Day 5 was Sunday aka a Day of Rest. So no work done until Monday (4/4/11). I had originally coordinated with my coworker Geoff to come over on Saturday. He is also building a playset this summer, so the thought was that we would swap labor – he’d help me on mine, and I’d help him with his. So originally he was going to come over on Saturday, but after I reviewed the progress from last week, I decided Saturday wasn’t a good day – I wanted to make sure that I knew a bit more of what I was doing before I brought in another person.

So upon checking schedules, Monday was the only day that worked for us, so we set that up. It seemed like it was going to work out perfectly since I was on Step 13, which was the step where we’d need to move it from its interim spot in the driveway back into the backyard, something that was clearly going to require (at least) two people. The tragedy in all this was the fact that when Monday dawned, it was scheduled for thunderstorms and heavy winds all day, with a 100% chance of precipitation :-( . And sure enough, skies were dark all day, with lots of rain and wind.

But by the time we got off work and over to the house, the rain had definitely calmed down. It was still drizzling a bit, but certainly nothing too terrible. First order of business was to carry it back into the back yard. There was some measuring and some visualization and Carolyn came out too to give her thoughts on where it should go. Once we settled on a spot, then we set to level the ground.

It took quite a bit of time actually – digging it out and checking level from every possible angle. Once we got it pretty close, we figured out that rather than picking the whole playset all the way up and moving it in order to dig around it – we could just lift up part of it and dig the dirt out. I’m sure Geoff must have volunteered at one point to “shoulder” the load…

Finally…. success!

Then came the real fun of what we would come to refer to as the “infamous” Step 13. I know I mentioned in an earlier post that it seemed like the technical writers were charged by the word – so many places it just seemed like an extra sentence or paragraph would have been SO useful. But Step 13 was so over the top that I felt the need to show you, in its entirety, the instructions.

First sentence – “time to position playset in permanent location and secure to ground”. Check – we did that and had it all nice and level. Now we get those 4 “Y41″ stakes and measure out 6″ from either side in the corners. Okay we did that, but then it starts talking about securing them to the baseboards with 1″ bolts – how can you possibly do that if they’re 6″ from the board? Geoff and I noodled on that one for a long time. Was there some other board involved? A longer bolt?

Plus who would want a stake sticking 3″ out of the ground inside the playset? We thought maybe the interior ones were supposed to be covered up by the “O5″ sandbox seat boards (shown in the bottom instruction picture), but what about the ones that were 6″ outside the playset on the other side? Talk about tripping hazard!

Finally we figured (and I THINK correctly) that the stakes were supposed to end up flush against the baseboards and the 6″ was only so you’d have some room / leverage to twist them down into the ground. So we marked the spots where the stakes were supposed to go

Then moved the playset a foot or so to the side, twisted the stakes into the ground (yay moist ground due to rain all day!), and moved the playset back into place.

But the next problem came on the other side. These bolts / nuts required access on both sides (one to drill in the bolt, and one to secure the nut on the other side so it didn’t just spin). But the other side was blocked by the picnic table floor boards (part of Step 11). So we had to remove those in order to secure the stakes on that side.

They were annoying too because they were VERY tight and hard to get out and then back on.

This whole step really made very little sense. There’s no mention of moving things 6″ before Step 13. Am I alone in wanting the playset to be in a specific spot in the yard, rather than just “over there somewhere”? Why would anyone start building the playset 6″ off of where they really wanted it to be? And would it have killed them to at least mention this whole 6″ move somewhere in the beginning of the instructions? And that’s not even mentioning the whole picnic table floor board fiasco.

In any case, I’m pretty sure we eventually got it right, and we managed to knock out Step 14 too before it got dark.

Day 6 time: 4.5 hours (2 1/4 hours * 2 people)
Total time: 15 hours
Mistakes made: 2
Steps completed: 13-14 (out of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 4 (4/2)

Friday night it stormed pretty good, with some ice / hail thrown in for good measure. I worried as I lay in bed. I mean obviously the playset can’t be hidden from the elements forever, right? It is going to live outside after all! Still, we hadn’t sealed or stained it yet and I worried about it. Plus our carport is open on the side and I wondered how much rain would get in there on all the boards.

We had a pretty busy day lined up on Saturday (as usual) but I was able to go outside for a bit early in the morning to check things out. The assembled playset was a bit wet but not really worse for wear. Inside the carport though, quite a few of the boards were laying in puddles of water. I decided to move some of them around and prop up some of the wet ones so that at least they wouldn’t just sit in wet for awhile.

That picture is actually from the end of Saturday after we had used a fair number of pieces as well as cleaned out the garage and so I moved some of the pieces that were sitting in the “low-lying” parts into the garage. For much of the day, Carolyn was cleaning out the garage (with my occasional help) while I worked on the playset. We were joking about the Amazing Race, which is one of our favorite TV shows (okay well actually the only show we watch). We’ve already determined that to save the marriage that we must never go on TAR together, but all day Saturday we were making jokes like “In this roadblock, teams must choose between 2 Miller Saturday tasks – their choice: Clean the Garage… or Install the Playset”, etc. You know, because we’re “cool” like that!

So in my early inspection, as I looked at Step 7, I realized that I had made my first mistake.

You’ll probably have to click to enlarge the photo to see, but there’s a floor joist (H7!) that is supposed to go between the left and center posts. There are two holes drilled in the bottom board (H4) for screws to attach H7, but the holes are between the center and right – i.e. I have that H4 board flipped. Oddly enough, I managed to have BOTH boards flipped the wrong way. I didn’t have time to fix it in the morning, and while we were out, I tried to think of whether it would be possible to unbolt the boards and flip them or whether I’d need to just drill holes in the other side.

I didn’t want to have two extra holes in the board, so luckily I found that the board came unbolted pretty easily. I set my 9 year old assistant to the job!

The weather on the day would not seem to make up its mind. It would get cold, then warm, then rain, then stop, and at one point it rained while the sun was shining! Thankfully it never rained more than a drizzle, so I just kept on working – alternately putting my hood up, down, jacket off, on, etc.

The next few steps went well – after installing the floor joists (Step 7) and floor supports (Step 8), we moved on to the deck braces (Step 9). There are 8 deck braces (E11!), so I installed the first 4

Then I got cocky and started installing the next 4 on the other side. I pre-drilled my first hole and went to line it up, only to find that there was no corresponding holes on the other side to bolt in. Then I re-read the instructions and found that these deck braces were supposed to go on the other two sides for some reason. I’m sure it will be very clear why that is at some point in the process (around Step 57, perhaps?) . In any case, I have an extra hole now

Next it’s time to start putting the floor boards on the 2nd story. I specifically checked, and although it’s very early on that you start working on the upper floor, it is not until Step 74 (!) that you install the actual ladder to actually be able to REACH those floors … I don’t know if that’s a safety thing (they don’t want the ladder to go up before it’s all “safe” up there) or what, but it’s kind of annoying

Note the makeshift ladder I had to use to climb up there. My assistant was very helpful in putting all the screws in while I drilled them in – it was a definite time saver to not have to keep going back and forth to the screw bucket. We did notice that we had put a few of the boards in backwards, but luckily we noticed that before screwed them in. They didn’t line up with the rest of the boards over the floor joists – so we just turned them over and all was well.

One other annoying thing was that the corner posts for some reason (probably installer error) stick up a bit more than the side beams – so the floor boards on the edge stick up slightly higher than the rest of the floor. I’m not sure that there’s anything that can be done about that so hopefully it’s not a big deal.

After that, the final step of the day was installing the floor of what I believe is the picnic table area. Here are two of my assistants posing in front of the final product

Day 5 time: 5 hours
Total time: 10.5 hours
Mistakes made: 2
Steps completed: 7-12 (of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Day 3 (4/1)

Day 3 was another cold day. When I got home, I immediately set out to continue progress!

I had stored the first part of the playset underneath the carport to protect it from the elements, but obviously that was not going to be possible very much longer.

You can see the first section in the background behind me as i worked on Step 2, which is building a similar section to the first one.

Carolyn actually had a party to go to, so I had all the kids with me. Luckily the youngest went to bed early, so I just had the rest of them out here with me. She took the camera though, which is why there aren’t any more pictures of the evening’s work.

Steps 3-6 involve putting the sections from the first two steps together into the base of the clubhouse. Work went pretty well and I was able to complete up through Step 6

Day 3 time: 2 hours
Total time: 5.5 hours
Mistakes made: 0
Steps completed: 2-6 (of 103)

Skyfort Playset Installation – Choice and delivery

Our family of seven had had a playset on our “list” for several years before we actually purchased one. We wanted to buy one soon enough that our kids (at the time ranging in age from 10 to 2) were young enough to still enjoy it but old enough to be able to do stuff on it. But there always seemed to be a higher priority to spend our money on

Finally we had saved up enough money and bit the bullet.

We were very familiar with Rainbow playsets – there’s a distributor nearby that offers free play a few times a week, so we’ll occasionally go over there and play in their showroom.

We ended up deciding to buy this version from Sams Club, mostly because of the price. The Sams Club playset was (IMO) comparable to some of the $5000-6000 playsets from Rainbow, but instead only cost $1299.

I have no idea how long that link may work, as the playsets from Sams, Costco, etc. seem to “be upgraded” (i.e. cost more money) every year.

But basically it’s a standard playset

Here are the “specifications” from the link

  • Top level clubhouse with natural wood roof
  • Lower play deck with sandbox play area
  • Rock wall climbing feature
  • Crow’s nest lookout with play telescope
  • Lower level picnic/activity table
  • 2 heavy-duty belt swings with chain
  • 1 heavy-duty glider with chain
  • 10′ Fast-Trac deep slide
  • Monkey bars
  • Flat step entry ladder with handrails
  • Detailed assembly manual
  • Ships in 5 boxes
  • Recommended for children ages 3-10 years

I ordered it online on Thursday March 24th. It indicated 10-14 days for delivery. I originally had some problems with my Sams Club membership showing up on the website but eventually got it figured out. When I hadn’t heard anything for awhile, I was worried that somehow the ordering process had screwed up, but I got an email on Monday the 28th that the order had shipped. It had a tracking number (but no link to what site to use!). Eventually I “tracked” it down (pardon the pun), and it said it was on the truck with estimated deliver date of the 29th (the next day).

We weren’t sure when it would come, but it turned out that “delivery date” of the 29th was just when they call to schedule delivery. They called and set up delivery for the next day, Wednesday the 30th, between 1 and 5 pm.

And the journey begins!