Tree Forts vs. Swing Sets

Updated: Mar 14


Awesome play feature in the yard for all seasons.

Outdoor light feature at night.

When the dust settled after our renovation, we started researching swing sets for the yard. I quickly realized how expensive they are and also how long it would take us to put one together (plus factoring in the cost to our marriage and emotional well being). Instead, we enlisted our contractor to build a tree fort on the majestic Norwegian maple tree we call Okra.


The breakdown of costs:

$1,000 Materials and labor (about 1.5 days work)

$150 zip line

Cost of ladder, slide and other attachments


I started with the ladder, slide and cargo net to determine the height of the tree fort. We made our fort 5ft tall to fit the height of everything we purchased.


Then, my contractor got to work. To save time and money, build your fort to the size lumber comes in (there won't be as many cuts, so it cuts down on the cost of labor). Our fort is an 8-foot square deck, but 10 or 12ft would be great too. This is pressure treated lumber. We will eventually do stain to match the tree. Be sure to leave an inch or two of space between the tree and the floorboards to let it grow.


We made tall posts on the corners to hold the lights. I had requested a 1in piece of lumber, but my contractor made them much sturdier (not his first rodeo). This was probably the right call because now no one can pull the lights over, and it's holding up well in the elements. He also was careful to take off any corners under the tree fort, which I now realize is a major hazard. Also, be sure to place safety handles where they are needed.


We really love this addition to our backyard. Nothing has more charm than a tree fort! It also has more longevity than a swing set in terms of still being fun for our kids as they grow older.



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