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Mulched play set areas - Giving Value to the Customer

Discussion in 'Landscape Architecture and Design' started by LawnLad, May 6, 2002.

  1. LawnLad

    LawnLad LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 738

    We recently installed a mulched area for a swing set. "Get rid of the mud!" was the war cry. No price necessary - just do the work while we're out of town! So we did. You can see where this one is going. The customer didn't give me too much flack about the price - but he wasn't thrilled either. I like having estatic and thrilled customers - not indifferent or disappointed.

    We installed an 18' x 20' play area, with 4" x 6" x 8' ties, two high - so we could pin the corners and overlap the joints. Much like building a retaining wall, the first course always takes the longest. We pinned the base course in a few places where we knew the upper course would not pin through (didn't want 40 holes through the top course).

    Bottom line is this... I hate installing these little play set areas because the customer doesn't see the time into the job. The value isn't there for $1,500 or more depending on size, materials and labor.

    Is there a way to install these type of "structures" more quickly - or is it just a pita? We decided to set up string lines to make sure we were square across the area and we set the approximate level of the top tie with the string line. Since there was no footer/base material, we set close to level, but not perfect. Heck, afterall this is just for a play set.

    Since we get a call to do a couple of these a year, I'd like to try and do these less expensively if possible. Any thoughts/comments would be appreciated. Thanks.
  2. stslawncare

    stslawncare LawnSite Bronze Member
    from DE
    Messages: 1,484

    i to will be doing something like this soon, however dont think there will be any type of wall, just put the mulch on the ground and slowing thin out as u go away from the swing set. i got a price of around $16 per yard of mulch for the playground, for labor do u price this the same? i was thinking maybe charge less since it doesnt have to be as perfect as a flower bed? are there easy way to make these sides u guys are referring to?
  3. LawnLad

    LawnLad LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 738

    I prefer to make the play set a "bed area" by stripping the sod and edging the "bed" when given this choice. Then we lay in clean wood chips or a product called "Play Mat", a clean wood shread. The play area can be maintained like a regular landscape bed as the seasons progress.

    The "Play Mat" is more expensive than regular mulch. Regular mulch is about $19.00 our cost, we charge $35.00 per yard. Play Mat's cost is $26.00 per yard, we charge $35 to $40 per yard depending on quantity. Labor for the spreading of mulch is quick since it's dump and run. It's the prep work that takes time.
  4. paul

    paul Lawnsite Addict
    Messages: 1,625

    Try Little Tykes Kid Timbers

    Kid TimbersTM Border Panels
    The durable, economical alternative to traditional wood borders.

    The Border Panels
    Kid TimbersTM loose fill border panels are weather resistant and durable enough to be used in almost any climate. Drain holes in the panel bottoms help prevent collection of moisture. Molded in color and UV stabilizers help Kid TimbersTM border panels stand up to the enviroment and resist fading from sunlight. The internal walls are molded together for structural integrity. Sturdy overlapping connection joints and an 8 mm (.313") nominal wall thickness provides strength and durability that helps prevent warping.

    Kid TimbersTM loose fill border panels are one of the most cost effective ways to install a border around your play structure. Available in two lengths, they cost less per linear foot than most treated wood borders, they're easy to install and they're virtually maintenance free.

    Kid TimbersTM border panels are designed with rounded edges to help eliminate protrusions and help reduce trip hazards. The smooth rotationally molded plastic timbers eliminate splinters.

    Kid TimbersTM End Cap
    Provides an attractive finished look when border panels do not completely enclose play area.

    Kid TimbersTM border panels are available in 1836mm (6') and 610mm (2') lengths and come with anchor stakes, 19mm (.75") in diameter and 762mm (30") long to secure the border panels.
  5. BRL

    BRL LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,211

    Similar probably to the product Paul mentions are Recycled Plastic Landscape Timbers from Barco. Their web site is www.barcoproducts.com. I learned of them through another "playground" thread here, so if you do a search you will see comments on that. I got a sample from them & will be recommending that customers consider this for future installations. I've done a few playgrounds and sandboxes with the wood ties and now that I know about this product, I wish I had known about it before. As far as playground mulch, here are 2 web sites to check out: www.fibar.com and http://www.woodcarpet.com/

    There are actually specifications as far as how deep the play surfaces should be & how large. You can get brochures about this to educate your customers from the suppliers or maybe from http://www.ipema.org/home.asp

    As far as building the playground goes, its just like any retaining wall, except its just to hold boring playground mulch. The first level is the time consuming one. After you dig out the part needed, bring along some mason sand to screed to help level the first course faster. If you are using wood (and I'm betting they will still work with the plastic timbers hopefully), I have used Timberlock Screws with great success to mount the second or third courses to the first pinned or rebarred course. These are much faster than drilling a hole and hammering more pins in, and they are very strong. A vehicle smashed into a retaining wall along my driveway once and the screws held, so the kids aren't going to knock it over LOL. The screws can be countersunk and the small hole filled with caulk or wood putty to make it safer for the kids (do that to the rebar or pin holes also). For that great final touch (and a little added safety for falling kids), use a router to cut a nice curved edge around the corners of the border.

    Try to market this service to child care centers in your area. They understand the big bucks involved in installing playgrounds correctly. I will be installing a play set (and of course the border & playground mulch) for my kid's day care center and the set is over $25 Grand with out the base, concrete for anchors, etc.
  6. paul

    paul Lawnsite Addict
    Messages: 1,625

    Commerical playground installation run about 28%- 40% over cost.

    The nice thing about Little Tykes Kid timbers, they are hollow and need only one course for a complete install, plus they allow for a full safety surface. We have installed playgrounds with them in a couple of hours Vs wood timbers or plastic timbers. a pick-up truck can carry enough to do most play grounds.
  7. LawnLad

    LawnLad LawnSite Senior Member
    Messages: 738

    Paul & BRL - as always I can count on great feedback/info from you. Thanks for your replies. Thanks for links - looks like good product info. And as you suggested, good marketing tools to the customer.
  8. BRL

    BRL LawnSite Bronze Member
    Messages: 1,211

    Hey Paul,
    I forgot to write in my post; is there a website or phone number you can post for us to get info on those Little Tykes Kid Timbers. Thanks.
  9. paul

    paul Lawnsite Addict
    Messages: 1,625

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