Terry Caliendo

ON December 4, 2015

Assemble your wooden backyard swing set yourself or hire a professional?


This article is part of a series of articles on my experience purchasing and building a swingset from Walmart.com.

PLEASE NOTE: This article is not fully complete.  Additional edits, clarifications, pictures, etc still need to be added as I'm able to find time.

When my wooden sing set arrived and I started pulling the immense amount of parts out of the boxes, I quickly realized this was a bigger task than I was expecting.    Interestingly, one of the boxes that arrived had a flier with a number to call to pay to have a professional come out and put the swing set together.

I figured why not give the toll free number a call and see what it would cost.  They wanted $500 to put my particular set together.

At the time, I didn’t know how long it would take me to put together.  I assumed about 15 hours and figured if I put it together myself, I’d be paying myself about $33 per hour.  And that’s after tax / cash money, so if I was to translate that into the pay I’d need to make at a job, I’d have to earn more towards $45 per hour to end up with $33 after taxes to pay the guy to put the swing set together for me.

Though I probably need to write another post just to clarify that statement, suffice it to say, that calculation made it worthwhile for me to attempt to do myself.

Now that I’ve completed the project and know that it took me approximately 25 hours to build, I paid myself more towards $20 per hour cash, or around $27 per hour in income.  While that’s not as good of pay, because I was highly organized and gave myself plenty of time to complete the build, I had fun doing the work and I learned a lot about myself and increased my skills to be more efficient in future projects.

With all that in mind I didn’t do a highly accurate job of tracking my time, I can say with a fair degree of certainty that it took me, assembling the swing set solely by myself, about 25 hours to put the entire backyard swing set together.  As I wrote earlier, the time it took to assemble was significantly more time and effort than I was expecting; so realize, though the picture may make it look simple, assembling a wooden backyard swing set from individual parts is probably a bigger project than you may be expecting and you’re going to need a lot of time as well as put in a lot of effort to get the swing set assembled such that it is safe, stable, and will last a long time.

After completing the swing set, I was pretty surprised at my organization, though, and I think being organized is what allowed me to not only have fun building the swing set, but reduced and even eliminated a lot frustration that might have caused me to get overwhelmed.   The instructions are laid out in such a way that you put together a bunch of individual pieces into individual components and then connect those individual components all together towards the end.  If I wasn’t organized and thinking ahead, I could have potentially gotten far enough off track that when it came for all the big pieces to come together, I would have lost my mind.

So when I think about the type of person that would be capable of putting a larger multi-step project like this together, I would prioritize saying its someone who is willing to try and be highly organized and thorough.  With so many parts and steps to merge together, brute force, in my opinion, will lead to an unstable, unsafe, and incomplete swing set.  You’ll forget screws, you’ll miss critical pieces, and along the way you’ll likely lose your mind.

I can’t stress enough that you have to think ahead about how all the individual components are going to mesh together in the end, or when that time comes you’ll be ripping your hair out in anger with the incongruence of larger pieces not-quite fitting together, forcing yourself to come up with make-shift solutions, which lead to a final product that is unstable, crooked, and therefore unsafe.

A project like this can easily get out of hand.  In my general assembly steps, I recommend that you pre-read the instructions book in its entirety to get a feel for how all the parts will eventually come together and try to mentally put each individual step together before physically starting the task.  It seems like a silly exercise, but even if you aren’t able to fully visualize before doing it, when you start actually physically putting parts together it will trigger in your brain, “Yes, this is what I was expecting”, “Oh… now I see how that goes”, or “No, I totally thought about this wrong”.

Either way, it will be the second time you’ve seen what’s happening and your brain will be more free to solve the problem at hand or see the correct way to put parts together, as opposed to first having to waste brain power getting your bearings with the parts before you can even start to verify that you are correctly assembling that particular component.

Another virtue for a project of this magnitude would be to have lots of time.  With enough help, you can probably slap one of these swing sets together in a day, but I recommend against trying to do it all in one session.  This project is complex enough that you’ll get confused and tired and you’ll need to take breaks to rest and reset your decision making skill.

Finally, the last trait would be to realize that you are going to make mistakes and that you will need to be willing to take the time to fix any mistake that could cause issue with the safety of the swing set.  For instance, should you put a brace that holds the frame stable on crooked or with the wrong screw, because the safety of your children is involved, you’re going to need to get that part fixed and assembled the correct way.

This article is part of a series of articles on my experience purchasing and building a swingset from Walmart.com.

PLEASE NOTE: This article is not fully complete.  Additional edits, clarifications, pictures, etc still need to be added as I'm able to find time.

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