Category Archives: Budgets and funding

5 Ways to Save Thousands When Buying Your Playground Equipment

Stretching your playground equipment budget:

Commercial Playground Equipment Blue over Rubber Playground Surfacing_620x350Buying playground equipment requires a wealth of resources including funds and manpower.  With some commitment from your local community, you can save thousands with these tips. Here’s how your playground equipment budget will normally be allocated by percentage with a typical turn-key project:

Description Percentage
Equipment 60%
Installation 28%
Playground Borders 7%
Mulch/In-fill 10%
Taxes/Shipping 5%
Total 100%
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How To Compare Playground Designs

Comparing your playground designs

Be sure your playground incorporates as many play experiences as possible.  Remember, it isn’t always the number of play events that are on a play structure that make it a good value, but the value of the play itself.

Comparing your playground equipmentAs an example, let’s compare Playground A vs.  Playground B

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Save Thousands By Installing Your Playground Equipment As a Community Build

One of the best ways to stretch your playground budget is by having a community build to install your playground equipment. Considering installations run between 25-40% of your total budget, it can be a disappointment to know that $6000 of a $10000 budget actually goes toward the equipment, while the rest is applied to installation/shipping/mulch/borders/taxes, etc. Those who install their own playground gain a sense of ownership and responsibility toward the finished project, and the pride felt by the volunteers in their accomplishment translates into pride toward the school or the community. You’d be surprised the number of people willing and able to put their tools & efforts to work.

What is needed for your playground installation: Unfortunately, the major power tools should be left at home. The only major tools/equipment (assuming the site is level) are an auger/bobcat and a great attitude.  Depending on the scale of your installation, the community build can be completed in a day or two (weather & volunteers permitting).  Usually, the day prior to build is spent laying and punching the holes; prepping the components; and laying out the equipment in advance of your volunteers. The key to organization is having activities for everyone to do, without requiring a lot of cooks in the kitchen.  The groups can be split into teams to tackle the various phases:

  • offloading and unpacking  and sorting equipment
  • site preparation
  • post and platform assembly
  • panel and component assembly
  • borders and mulch installation team
  • 1 or 2 runners for hardware/tooling drinks & food
  • Project managers to coordinate the event.

The most important priority is to remember that this should be FUN!!!!  Ask local companies to donate goods or services to the Build Day, from construction materials to food and beverages. Offer free publicity or advertising on your playspace’s signage as an extra enticement. Here are a few more tips:

  1. Check before you dig!!!! Call ahead to have your local services identified on your build site—includes sprinkler lines
  2. Verify that your design plans and installation instructions are in-line with site
  3. Offload and secure equipment until build day
  4. Review all of the installation instructions thoroughly before build day
  5. Make sure the site has been prepared properly, i.e. less than 2% grade
  6. Secure area off for 72 hrs to allow concrete to cure
  7. Secure area from access if no surfacing has been installed
  8. Provide adequate dumpster and haul off packaging



  1. Customer to dig and clean holes and remove spoils. This must be done a minimum of one day before the actual build day.  Customer is responsible to meet and unload truck and assist in sorting hardware if we are providing supervision on build day.
  2. Manufacturer Representatives will assist and laser holes in some cases if we are also providing supervision.
  3. Customer to provide and install concrete and provide 2” thick concrete paver blocks(stepping stones) to be placed in the bottom of the main structure holes.
  4. Recommended Tools:
  • a.      14” – 18” Auger bit – 12” minimum-Recommend using a Bobcat with auger attachment
  • b.      Post hole diggers – 2 or 3
  • c.      Tape Measures – Long and Short
  • d.      2 Foot Level – 1 or 2
  • e.      4 Foot Level – 1 or 2
  • f.       Ladders – 2 each 6 foot or 8 foot or possible other heights
  • g.      Torpedo Levels – 12” Magnetic – 2-3
  • h.      Various Shovels and Garden Rakes
  • i.        Ratchets Wrenches 3/8” – 4-5
  • j.        9/16” sockets – 4-5
  • k.      Electric Drills – 2 – Don’t recommend cordless
  • l.        ¼” Drill Bits – 4-5
  • m.   Extension Cords
  • n.      Water Hose and Nozzle
  • o.      Wheel Barrow – 3-4
  • p.      Pry Bar (Digging Bar) 6 foot – 1 – CRITICAL
  • q.      Concrete
  • r.       2 – 4               8ft pressure treated 2 x 4’s
  • s.      2 Tables 3×6 or 3×8 in width and length or 2 picnic tables.
  • t.       2 Long handle sledge hammers if plastic border timbers  ordered
  • u.     4-6 Milk crates used for various purposes