Indy Outdoor Playsets help Homeowners Swing into Summer

Meranda Adams
Written by Meranda Adams
Updated June 15, 2021
Some sets allow parents to choose which components to include, such as slides, swings or climbing walls. (Photo by Meranda Watling)

Outdoor play sets, including swings and play houses, let Indy homeowners' children have fun outside on whimsical yet functional structures.

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Indianapolis residents Daniel and Amy Rexroth researched several playset manufacturers and styles both in person and online before settling on the perfect, sturdy Gorilla playset for their two daughters, now 4 and 7 years old.

The Angie’s List members saved money buying the playset online, but Daniel Rexroth quickly hired professionals to assemble the two slides, climbing wall, multiple swings and wooden deck structure. The $1,000 he paid highly rated The SwingSet Guy based in Muncie, Ind., cost about one-third the playset’s price, but after watching four men spend nearly nine hours putting the structure together, Rexroth considers it money well spent.

“I remember thinking when I read their reviews, the price seemed like a lot and ‘gosh, it adds 30 percent to the cost,’” he says. “It was worth every penny. It would have taken me half the summer to put together.”

When it comes to providing outdoor play structures for their children and grandchildren, Angie’s List members in and around Indianapolis turn to highly rated local companies for everything from building and assembling prefabricated playsets to custom-designed playhouses. Service providers say May and June rank as the busiest months for play equipment installation, with summer’s prime playtime approaching on the horizon.

Heather Sink, general manager of highly rated Recreation Unlimited in Noblesville, Ind., says many parents purchase sets this time of year but aim for pieces that the child can grow with and play on for years beyond the summer ahead. She encourages parents to bring their children to test the equipment before settling on a purchase. The company sells and installs playsets, playhouses, basketball hoops and spring-free trampolines, and Sink says some models attract certain age groups and genders more than others, which becomes apparent at the showroom.

The average playset Recreation sells costs about $3,400 plus installation, she says, but the Rainbow brand playsets they carry also come in lower price points and smaller footprints that the retailer can piece together to accommodate yard space and topography. She says despite a sluggish economy in recent years, the demand for outdoor play equipment remained steady, though customers began purchasing smaller or less expensive equipment rather than the most deluxe models.

“What we’re finding is, in lieu of spending a lot of money for a family vacation, they’re putting that money toward things to do at home that will create more memories than one trip to Disney,” Sink says.

Angie’s List member Barbara Biesterfeldt says when her own children were young, she couldn’t afford the playhouses and playsets they desired. Today, she’s fortunate enough to have both on her Northeast side property for her grandchildren to use while she watches them after school. After considering prefab playhouses that failed to live up to her expectations, she hired Danville, Ind.-based Best Barns of Indiana this past winter to build two small structures in her backyard abutting Mud Creek.

Each playhouse came customized to the child, one with a military motif for 8-year-old C.J. and the other with butterflies and stuffed animals for 6-year-old Samantha. “They both love the loft and being able to go up there and look down on the deer and see the ducks and herons in the creek,” says Biesterfeldt, who filed a positive report on the company. “They’re little kids’ dreams come true.”

When the grandkids outgrow the playhouses, Biesterfeldt says she plans to turn them either into storage sheds or sell them. Sink, whose company offers a disassembly service for playsets, also confirms there exists a large secondary market for playground equipment once children grow up.

Biesterfeldt says she deliberately chose smaller sized buildings to avoid the need for a permit. In Indianapolis, the city requires permits on structures larger than 120 square feet or outbuildings placed on permanent foundations, but check with your municipality and homeowners association, if applicable, as its rules may differ or even prohibit certain projects.

Don McSwain, owner of highly rated Quality Built Backyard Products, which builds playhouses and other backyard buildings, says most homeowners stick with smaller sized playhouses to avoid permits and control costs. His crew builds and installs about two to three dozen playhouses annually, ranging in price from about $800 to $10,000 depending on the features and size.

“There seems to be a growing demand for a better quality built and safer product that’s going to last,” McSwain says. “A lot of retailers provide playhouses, but they’re hard to put together, and homeowners and parents get frustrated or it doesn’t wear well in the weather. So we design and prefabricate our structures in our shop based on the child’s preferences.”

They can outfit playhouses with combinations of pastel colors, gingerbread moldings, scalloped edges and on fancier models, a porch or overhang to make the little cottage look like a mini house. To address customers’ concerns about safety and quality, McSwain carefully covers raw wood and nails using the same products he uses on playhouses as on larger buildings or homes.

Indianapolis resident John Wilson finally relented last summer after his 9-year-old daughter, Lucy, begged for a treehouse for years. For him, price came second to ensuring the structure was safe enough for the whole family to enjoy. He commissioned highly rated Decks By Steve to turn a conceptual drawing into a deck that sits 6 feet off the ground and wraps around a large pine tree in his Westside Indianapolis backyard. The structure includes a safety rail and full-size stairs so Wilson, his wife and his daughter can all play together in the tree.

“A lot of people do treehouses themselves, but I’m not much of a carpenter and didn’t want to nail anything into the tree,” Wilson says. “They built it in one day and it’s well built — and I never could have done that."

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