All photos/art by Chris Vaccaro
Project: playhouse and swing set
When Richard Svopa moved his family from Florida to Halifax, Massachusetts, three years ago, his three young kids quickly realized that something was missing from their new life.
And it had nothing to do with white sandy beaches and sunny February weather. Nope. Instead, the Svopa home was missing its customary playhouse, a backyard addition that Svopa, a longtime contractor, had built on three previous family properties. At one home, for example, he’d gone all-out, creating a post-and-beam structure with a mailbox and cedar shutters. So, about a year after the family’s move north and with a son’s birthday coming up, Svopa located a heap of inexpensive pressure-treated cull lumber and started planning his next creation. His main objective: “It had to be fun.”
As a kid, Svopa had built various tree forts, and with this new playhouse, he tried to replicate that sense of being off the ground.
His first task, however, kept him on the ground with his router. The goal: Make that rejected wood user-friendly by rounding every edge, reducing the chance of splinters. “That was a full-day job,” he says.
Dealing with four different buildings–swing set, two towers, and a bridge–meant that structural integrity was essential. Svopa paid careful attention to how each component was braced and how each one was connected to the next.
At the heart of Svopa’s creation are two 15-foot-tall towers. Each has a base frame constructed of 6-foot-long 4×4-inch posts, stiffened with a series of 2×4 and 2×6 braces.
For the flooring, Svopa nailed down 1×6-inch decking boards, while along the roof he recycled the louvers from a collection of Spanish cedar shutters into shingles.
At the base of the most intriguing section of the structure, the bridge, is a matching set of 12-foot-long 4×6-inch beams, bolted directly to each tower. And, like the rest of the wood, even the railings and balusters were prior lumberyard rejects.
Finally, Svopa constructed the swing set, building a simple A-frame structure whose 12-foot posts are anchored to the ground via a 2-foot metal stake. It’s attached to the closest tower with three-quarter-inch through bolts. The swing seats were from a Playstar kit.
Finally, he added some playful, breezy touches, too, such as a homemade rope ladder and a picnic table beneath one of the towers.
“Nothing’s really perfect,” Svopa says. “But when you see it all together, it’s fun.” Mission accomplished.
About $200 for lumber, swing seat kit, rope, and bolts
What Do You Like Most?
“I got to use my vision–it’s fun to do work like this,” says Svopa of his backyard creation.
Which is to say, he’s not done with the project. Coming soon: a rock wall for his three adventurous kids.
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