From the April 2015 issue

Preparing Your Yard for a Playset

Dave Byrum, owner of Kids Gotta Play, offers advice on prepping your yard for a swingset, where to place it and how to decide what size is right for your backyard space.

The introduction of an outdoor playset to the family backyard may be one of the biggest surprises – and delights – for your kids. But before the play can begin, the preparation must take place.

So says Dave Byrum, owner of Kids Gotta Play, a metro Detroit retailer of outdoor play equipment. Every day Byrum and his team meet with dozens of families in the market for their own backyard playground. While his showrooms in New Hudson and Utica typically leave families in awe of their many options, Byrum is quick to point out that the first step in the process is a simple one: Decide where in your yard to locate your playset.

“Logically, it makes sense to identify a flat area if possible,” says Byrum whose Kids Gotta Play is the sole Michigan distributor for the Rainbow Play Systems line of equipment. “Ultimately though, what you have is what you have.”

By this, Byrum means certain limiting factors like a hill or a wet or slightly sloped yard may dictate your options.

“Certain structures are simply more accommodating,” he says. “For example, a castle structure may work better for a sloped yard than would a clubhouse. If your yard is very wet leaving the ground soft, you may need paver blocks underneath the playset to stabilize it and keep it from sinking.”

In identifying a location for a playset, Byrum encourages families to remember that kids don’t always play in a neat or organized way and as such, a perimeter around the playset itself should be taken into account.

“You’ll want to leave room behind and in front of swings because kids will jump off,” he explains. “You want to give them some tumble room. You also want to leave room at the end of the slide.”

Byrum also advises parents to look out for any low hanging electrical wires or landscaping that may need to be relocated. He also encourages families to factor in any particular view they would like to have or not to have.

“For example, some parents want to be able to see the kids on the playset from the kitchen window,” he notes. “Likewise, if you have an unsightly transformer you’d prefer not to look at, we can place the structure to hide the transformer from view.”

Fortunately for families in the outdoor playset market, Byrum and his team have more than two decades of experience helping families find and install an appropriate playset for their budget and their yard. Before coming in to a Kids Gotta Play showroom, Byrum advises families to take photos of their yard and get an approximate measurement of the area where they think they’d like to locate the playset. This information will help the Kids Gotta Play staff customize a playset best suited to the family’s needs.

“This is really helpful for us because sometimes it can be difficult for people to define their space,” he says. “Photos can help.”

When photos still leave questions, a member of the Kids Gotta Play sales team can make an onsite yard evaluation at no charge to the customer.

“Ultimately we want to know how level the yard is,” he explains. “We can work with slopes and hills by recommending a longer ladder, slide or legs.”

As for ground cover around the playset, Byrum says that resilient surfaces like mulch, rubber chips or pea gravel is always an optimal way to go.

“However, Michigan has really good soil and really good grass,” he says. “Ninety percent of what we put up residentially goes right onto grass.”

For those families interested in a resilient surface, Byrum recommends waiting until the structure is in place before putting it down.

And one final recommendation Byrum makes to those preparing for a new playset is that they check for any zoning issues that would prevent a playset’s installation or mandate its size.

“Every once in a while we’ll hear about a community association that doesn’t allow playsets or has certain height limitations,” he says. “I tell families we can customize a set to meet those types of regulations.”

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