The Ultimate Guide to Anchoring a Playset to Avoid Accidents

Anchoring a playset is essential for keeping kids safe while playing in the area. Some of the best tools for anchoring a playset to avoid accidents include concrete with anchor pads, twist-in anchor screws, and pound-in stakes.

After you build and install a child’s dream playset, you want to be able to sit back and enjoy an afternoon of outdoor play; however, you don’t want any accidents, and that means anchoring your playset properly. Here we will provide you with the ultimate guide to safely securing and anchoring your new (or old) playset.

Proper anchoring will give you fantastic peace of mind while you chase your little ones around the back yard. Anchoring a playset will help prevent accidents and make a backyard playground an overall more safe space.

If you’re looking for the right way to anchor a new playset, or even anchor an existing playset, stick around. The ultimate guide to anchoring a playset is right here; just keep reading.

Things to Consider When Anchoring your Playset

Before we can go into the step by step guide to properly secure your playset, we need to lay the groundwork. There isn’t one way to anchor your playset. We must ask several things before beginning the process of anchoring a playset.

Will this playset be used solely by small children? Or will adults want to play on this playset too? If the playset is small and only made for children, then you will need to consider how robust the anchor needs to be, while also weighing the dangers of having hard concrete around or other possible tripping hazards.

Before anchoring the playset, you should think about whether the area is designated for kids only or for adults as well.

If older children, as well as adults, use the playset, then you will need to anchor the equipment with maximum strength. More weight on the playset means that there will be more force for tipping. This is especially true if you are anchoring a swing set.

What kind of elements will your playset be subject to? Are you in an area with strong winds? What about floods or freezing during the winter?

If you are subject to many strong winds, you may want to consider placing your playset somewhere the wind has less impact. You should also ask yourself how close your playset is to your home. Could a piece of the playset break off in a storm and damage a car or a window?

If you have frequent floods, you need to consider the foundation of your playset. Will it become weak and mushy during heavy rain?

The list of possibilities is endless. You need to take a step back and ask yourself what sort of problems you might face. When that windstorm attacks or that flashflood water rises, you’ll sit back and thank yourself for taking the time to consider what might go wrong.

Dangers of Unanchored Playsets

If you’ve read this far and think that you don’t need to anchor your playset, let this be the last time you have that thought. Remember that there is no such thing as an accident. When a child gets hurt, it is usually because they were doing something preventable.

Anchored playsets will help you avoid undesirable injuries and allow the kids to play in a safe environment.

Now, of course, we are unable to control everything in life. But the proper anchoring of your playset is something you have to perform. Children (and adults, in fact) are injured many times every year by playing in unsafe areas and on unsafe equipment.

It is not worth the risk. Bones can be broken, heads can be struck, and many knees will be scraped if a playset is not installed correctly.

Now, maybe you are wondering: I want to secure my playset, but I’m not sure I need to. It’s not very big, and the kids have been playing just fine on it. Should I anchor my playset?

The answer is YES if:

  1. Your playset is a swing set
  2. Your playset is raised from the ground
  3. Your playset could tip over in strong winds (Perhaps a playhouse or fort)
  4. You’re not sure. It’s better to be safe.

Are there any exceptions?

The only possible exceptions to this would be a very small playset where anchoring wouldn’t even really be possible, and the playset doesn’t lift the child off the ground. Most of those playsets are so small that they are usually used indoors in a basement. Little Tikes makes playsets like this.

As a general rule, if your playset can’t be used in your living room, then it should be anchored.

Be sure to see if you have any local laws or ordinances surrounding the proper anchoring of a playset. Always refer back to local laws and codes. This article is meant to teach the general principles surrounding anchoring your playset safely.  

How to Anchor your Playset: General Principles

Everyone’s playset is going to be anchored in a unique situation. Your friend may have purchased the same playset kit as you; however, they might be anchoring it into the sand instead of dirt and clay. Perhaps you and your friend both have lush green lawns, but maybe your friend installed a smaller playset than you did.

The point is this: not every rule applies to every playset. We must learn the principles of proper anchoring before we will be able to anchor our playset effectively. With that said, let’s go over the different types of playset anchors and where they perform best.

A wide array of tools and materials can be used for anchoring a playset, depending on its size and type.

Here is a list of standard playset anchors:

  1. Concrete with anchor pads
  2. Twist in anchor screws
  3. Pound in stakes

Pros and Cons of Concrete Playset Anchors

Concrete is a popular option for several reasons.

  1. Strength
  2. Longevity
  3. Versatility
Concrete playset anchors are especially popular due to the strength, longevity, and versatility of the material.

Strength

When we think of concrete, we think of something sturdy and durable. And this is true. When anchoring a playset with concrete, you will find that your playhouse or swing set feels stout and robust against the elements. Especially when poured into a hole in the ground, concrete is not likely to fail as a device in securing a playset.

Longevity

Concrete lasts a long time. If you don’t want to worry about replacing something anytime soon, then concrete could be for you. You also won’t have to fear that your playset will be stolen, if this is a potential issue in your area. Concrete is not easy to move once it’s set in the ground.

Versatility

Regardless of the type of ground you have, concrete can probably help you. This is especially true if you are dealing with gravel or sand where a twist in stake might not perform well. Unlike a stake, concrete can mold to its surroundings.

Those are just a few of the pros of using concrete. Now here are some of the cons to consider.

  1. Difficult to Install
  2. Could be dangerous if someone falls on it
  3. Not easy to move

Difficult to Install

While this may not be true for everyone, in general, setting concrete can be a process. You must dig the hole to place the concrete. You must make sure you properly mix the concrete. You must be sure to pour and level it properly. You must then find a way to cover it, so it isn’t dangerous.

It’s not a ton of work, but you will likely find it more cumbersome than the twist in stakes.

Although concrete anchors are quite strong and long-lasting, setting concrete may be challenging.

Potentially Dangerous

Concrete creates a hard surface. If you have young children who will be playing around the playset, you will need to consider a way to cover the poured concrete so that the children do not fall onto it and hurt themselves. This also means planning a proper diameter when pouring the concrete.

Too large a diameter and the risk of a child falling onto it increases. Too small, and you will lose stability in your playset.

Immobile

 While this was a pro, it’s also a con. If you ever plan on moving and want to take your playset with you, you’ll find concrete challenging to dig up. Typically, you would place a metal boot into the concrete that connects to the base of your playset so that you could still release the playset if needed.

You will still need to consider the difficulty in removing the concrete portion of the next owner of your home doesn’t want them there. Another thing on this issue, if you are renting a house, your landlord may not allow you to place semi-permanent concrete anchors.

Those are a few of the pros and cons of concrete. Read on if you are wondering about some of the benefits and drawbacks of the twist in anchors.

Pros and Cons of Twist in Ground Playset Anchors

We’ve discussed concrete as an anchor option. Maybe you’ve decided that concrete won’t work for you. Never fear, there are other options out there. Let’s now go over the pros and cons of the twist in the anchor system.

Here is a list of the pros:

  1. Fast to install
  2. Easy to move  
  3. Provides Good strength in Dirt or Clay

Fast Install

The twist in playset anchors is as simple as they sound. You twist them into the ground to secure your playset, similar to placing stakes in the ground for a tent. While there is a bit more to this process (we will cover later in this article), it is safe to say the twist in anchors are a bit easier to install than the concrete anchors.

Mobile

Twist in anchors can be twisted out as fast as they were twisted in. This is a plus if you ever wanted to move your playset. Maybe you purchased a bigger playset because the kids are getting older. Maybe you no longer need the playset and are going to give it to a friend. Either way, the twist in anchors make this a little easier.

Strength

Though the overall edge goes to concrete, the right twist in anchors can be compelling. Especially if you are twisting them into good soil or partial clay. In these conditions, twist in anchors can approach the strength and effectiveness that concrete provides.

Now let’s go over a few of the cons with a twist in playset anchors.

  1. Usually weaker than concrete
  2. Can create a tripping hazard
  3. Not permanent

Weaker

No matter how good the twist in anchor, they aren’t likely to match concrete in strength. Especially if your ground isn’t ideal, there is a chance that your twist in anchors could work themselves loose when faced with water or other stressors.

Tripping Hazard

The most twist in anchor systems will have a portion of the anchor protruding from the ground. This is not ideal where young children are running about. You will need to find a way to minimize this risk. Perhaps place a piece of foam over the chain that connects the anchor to your playset. At the very least, mark the protruding anchor with a neon flag, so that playset users know where the screws are at.

To avoid fatal accidents, you should mark any protruding anchors with bright neon colors.

Not Permanent

While this will depend on the system you decide to go with, in general, we wouldn’t expect the twist into the ground anchor to be as permanent as concrete. This is either a good or a bad thing, depending on how you view it. Just note, you may need to reposition your anchors after a summer of use as your stakes may have become loose with time.

Hopefully, you are closer to a decision on which anchor system is best for your playset. Keep safety as your main priority, and you won’t go wrong. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different ideas. Consider doing a test on just one part of your playset. If it isn’t what you want, you’ll have no issue changing to something more useful.

If you have any friends with playsets, ask them to show you what they did. What worked for them?

Let’s now get into the specifics of how to install each anchor system.

How To Anchor a Playset with Concrete

So you’ve decided to use concrete as your playset anchor. Awesome! The first thing you need to do is to make sure you’ve decided on a proper location. Once you pour concrete, it’s not easy to move.

Once you’ve got your location, it’s essential to make sure you have the proper materials. Use the list below to get you started:

  1. Shovel to dig the hole
  2. The proper type of concrete
  3. Wheelbarrow or large bucket to mix concrete
  4. Anchor plates that will attach to legs of a playset
  5. Proper hardware to secure the bottom of the playset to concrete

Locate You Spot

Find an area and make sure you have the ground as level as possible. If you don’t have level ground, you may need to dig some of the holes to different depths.

Dig the Holes

Dig your holes and prepare for concrete. The size of your holes will depend on what you are anchoring. If you’re anchoring the legs of a swing set, you may want your hole to be narrower and more in-depth. If you’re securing the four corners of a playhouse with a slide, you may be okay with shallower and broader.

Start by digging some holes and prepare the area for concrete anchoring.

Follow manufacturer recommendations for your playset and anchor. They are the ones who will know precisely how your anchor should be installed. Don’t be afraid to get on the phone and call the manufacturer if you get stumped.

You also may need to place some gravel or sand at the bottom of your hole. This will help with water drainage, and it will keep your anchor from moving.

Mix and Pour Concrete

Pour the concrete and insert anchor plate (an anchor plate is anything that connects the legs of your playset to the concrete. This could be a commercial device, or coiled wire cable as rebar). You may need to drill a hole near the bottom of your playset leg if it is wooden.

After mixing concrete, you will need to pour it in the holes and insert anchor plates.

Whether you attach your anchor plate to the playset first and then place it in concrete or visa versa is up to you. This will depend on how large your structure is and what type of anchor you use. Try to make things as level as possible. Also, be sure to have everything ready before you begin pouring concrete.

Let Concrete Cure and Set

Allow the concrete to set before the use of playset. This is usually at least several hours; however, you should follow manufacturer guidelines and even wait a day or so. Make sure all hardware attached to the structure of your playset is secured and working correctly.

You want to be meticulous about this. It would do no good to try to gain the benefits of a concrete anchor only to have the system fail because of a hardware issue.

Again, always follow your playset manufacturer’s guidelines. If you’ve never poured concrete before, see if you have a friend or family member with some experience to give you a hand. As long as you do your research (like you are right now), you should be just fine.

Now that you have some understanding of the concrete system let’s cover the twist in anchors in more detail.

How to Use Twist-in Anchors to Secure Playset

If you have reviewed your options and found the twist in anchors to be your best choice, then read on for more in-depth discussion.

What type of twist in anchor do you have? Are you using the ones that are formed like a screw? Or do your twist in stakes just have a single wafer at the bottom that twists into the ground? You must know which one is best for your playsets needs.

Let’s go over a few of the different designs below. We will be covering three main designs and how to install them.

  1. Screw Shaped Twist in Anchor
  2. Wafer Screw Twist in Anchor
  3. Push in Anchor

These are three of the standard designs.  Each of them has its pros and cons. You must get a set of twist in anchors that is robust enough for your playset.

Screw Shaped

These are probably the most common type of screw-in anchor. They work by attaching to the legs of your playset with a metal strap. They are then held to the anchor by a chain.

A few issues users note with this design is that they can bend when being tightened into the ground. They also might become loose after a period of heavy use.

One other thing to consider, some of these screw-in anchors have a suggested weight limit. For instance, they might say that no child greater than 100 pounds should use the playset with these specific anchors.

Here’s a link to this style of screw-stake on Amazon. Be sure to read reviews and find what best suits your needs.

Wafer Shaped

This style of a screw-in anchor is very similar to the screw-shaped version. However, instead of looking like a spiraled screw, there is just a single plate at the end.

While there is no significant difference between the two other than the design, it’s essential to know that you have other options if you find that the screw-shaped stakes aren’t working for you. Here are a few reasons you might try the wafer shaped stakes:

  1. You’re ground isn’t holding the screw-shaped stakes well
  2. You find the wafer shaped anchors to be more robust

When it comes to choosing the proper screw-in anchor, it really comes’ down to experimentation. What anchor works best with your specific playset on your specific ground.

Here is a link to the wafer styled playset anchor.

Push-In Anchor

The push-in anchor is entirely different than the screw in style. However, we include it in this list as it provides stabilization in the same way as a screw-in style anchor.

This anchor works sort of like a fish hook. You can quickly push it down into the ground, but as you pull back on it, the anchor is activated and grabs ahold of the earth.

The push-in anchor might be a style to consider if you have particularly loose soil. This design will be able to be pushed very deep into the earth. This might provide a better base than the screw in style. This all depends on your specific situation, but it’s good to know that you have this option if you find yourself stumped.

If you have especially hard ground, then this style probably isn’t for you. You will find it very hard to push anchor far enough into the earth to be effective. You will run into this issue more if you’re dealing with a lot of clay or compact gravel.

How To Properly Install Screw-in Playset Anchor

Now, let’s take several moments to go over how to install the screw in anchors properly.

Choose the Correct

Have an appropriately sized anchor. That’s right, and the first step is to make sure the anchors you purchase will work with your playset. Especially be sure that your anchor will attach to the legs of your playset with no issue.

Some anchors have a metal strap that goes around the legs of your playset. Be sure that this strap will fit the diameter of your playset legs.

After you’ve made sure your anchor will fit, it’s on to screwing in your anchor.

Attach Anchors to the Ground

Screw-in your anchor to the ground. Remove some of the grass so that you can see the dirt. Then, take your anchor and push it into the ground with medium pressure.

Before screwing in your anchor, find a spot with perfect stability to ensure that the area is safe for kids.

It’s essential to think about where you are going to screw in your anchor. Choose a spot that won’t be a significant tripping hazard, but also provides excellent stability to your playset. The inside portion of your playset, underneath the angle of the support leg, is usually the right spot.

Finish twisting in the screw. You may need to use a stout piece of wood or a screwdriver as leverage to finish twisting the anchor into the ground. You want the screw portion of your anchor to be into the ground; however, make sure you leave enough area to chain your playset leg to the anchor.

Secure the Anchors to the Legs

Attach your playset leg to the anchor. This is usually done with a chain that is included in the kit when you buy your playset anchors.

Playset anchor kits usually include chains that can be used for attaching playset legs to the anchor.

When attaching your anchor to your playset, you want to make sure that the chain is pulling on the leg to keep the playset stable. But you don’t want too much tension, or you risk the chain failing or prematurely loosening your anchor.

All right, hopefully, by now, you have a well-secured playset and can let your children play safely for days on end.

The Conclusion to Playset Anchors

Suppose you read this whole article, congratulations. You are committed to properly anchoring your playset. Remember to do your research. The most important thing is to find the right combination of anchor and playset.

Be sure to take some time to enjoy your well-anchored playset. You can now watch your kids swing for hours on end and know that they won’t be the victims of any playset accidents.

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