Leveling Ground for Playsets: The How-to Guide

leveling ground for playset

How do you level a playset on uneven ground? How much does leveling a playset cost? These questions and more will all be answered in this article.

If you’re purchasing a playset, it’s important to have a level, stable foundation for it to rest on. Safety is a #1 priority for your kids when they’re playing. By having a level playset, you won’t have to worry about the playset falling over or breaking from uneven stress on the frame. Take it a step further and secure the playset to the foundation.

Without giving away too many more spoilers, let’s dive into the article!

How Do I Level a Playset on Uneven Ground?

There are a couple of ways to level a playset: (1) level the ground in your backyard, (2) use blocks, or (3) install a playset pad. We’ll dive into the details of each method:

Ground Level

To level a playset on the ground in your backyard, follow these steps:

1. Mark the Area

Measure and stake out the four corners of the swingset. Keep in mind, you want 6’ of extra space around the perimeter of the entire playset as a safety precaution.

2. Dig Out & Level

Measure the slope with a laser or string (see how to measure the slope with string here). From there, level the ground where needed by removing the topsoil from the highest points.

Next, grab a 2×4 and double-check to make sure the ground is level. You can do this by placing the 2×4 along the side of the level swingset base. Then, take a level and place it on top of the 2×4. If the ground is not quite level, rake the dirt around a bit until each side is checked and leveled. Don’t forget to also level the center of the ground base as well.

3. Install the Playset & Anchor It

Once the ground is leveled, install your swingset and make sure that it is anchored to the ground.

4. Add Surface Material

The final step is to add soft surface material to cushion any hard falls. Laying down woodchips, mulch, or artificial grass are some ideas.


Using blocks can also be a simple way to level your playset. Here’s how.

1. Mark Swingset Legs

First, mark off the locations for the swingset legs. Each of these areas should be 1’x1’.

2. Dig to Level

Make sure that all the 1’x1’ dugouts are at level with each other. Then, place wooden or concrete blocks in each 1’x1’ dugout.

3. Level & Secure

Re-check blocks and make sure that they are level. From there, secure the legs of the swingset to the blocks. And that’s it!

Don’t forget to cover the blocks with a cushion or padding for safety purposes.

Playset Pads

Playset pads are the surest and most secure way to make a safe and happy backyard playground for kids. There are several different types of playset pads that could work. Here are 3 options:

Wood Mulch Playset Pads

leveling ground for swingset wood mulch pad

The installation process for a wood mulch playset pad is done much quicker and faster with a professional team, like SitePrep.

Generally, our playset pad installation process looks something like this:

  • Excavate and install a perimeter.
  • Add a crushed stone and a fabric barrier.
  • Add the woodchips.

If you’re curious about how we level the ground for a swingset and install the playset pad, check out the video below:

Some pros to a wood mulch playset pad include:

  • Leveled by experts (like SitePrep)
  • Excellent drainage
  • A soft surface material

Pea Stone & Tamped Sand Foundation

leveling ground for swingset pea stone foundation

With this process, your installation crew will most likely follow these general steps.

  • Stake the boundaries.
  • Excavate and level the playset pad area.
  • Add peastone.
  • Add sand on top.

Artificial Turf Playset Pads

leveling ground for playset turf pad

Artificial turf playset pads (like the one above) probably look the best out of the 3 options on a property.

The installation process is similar to a wood chip foundation:

  • First, excavate and install the perimeter.
  • Add a stabilization fabric.
  • Add crushed stone. Tamp it.
  • Add the turf layer. Secure it to the perimeter. Tamp it to remove all wrinkles and spots.

Here’s a more detailed video about how we install and level the ground for a swingset.

Here are several of the main pros for this type of playset pad.

  • One of the safest and most durable ways to level a swingset
  • Stable
  • Extremely safe
  • Soft surface area to protect kids from hard falls
  • Level ground (pad installed by experts) for swingset
  • Durable
  • A playset pad can be installed on a sloped yard (and made level)

Other Options

Of course, the above options are not the only methods that can be used to level ground for playset. A couple more options might be rubber pads, rubber mulch, or simply a level grass area.

How to Level the Ground for a Swingset and Install a Foundation

Great question! Building a level playset foundation can be a fun DIY project by following a few simple steps. We’ll also be referencing a more in-depth article throughout. Although the linked article is directed more toward shed foundations, with a few minor tweaks it becomes applicable to our case. One of the main differences is that we will add a surface material on top of the stone to cushion any hard falls or mishaps.

Without further ado, here are the main steps to follow!

1. Stake out the 4 Corners of the Playset

Measure and stake out the four corners of the playground. It’s important to remember that you want 6’ of extra space around the perimeter of the entire playset (find out more here).

2. Level

Tie string from the corner you want to measure to the highest corner of the playset pad area. Then simply measure down from the string at each corner to the ground to find the difference in height between those two points.

That’s probably the simplest way. You can also laser-level, which may provide a more accurate measurement (learn more).

3. Excavate

Now that you know how much dirt to dig out, it’s time to start excavating (you can even use a shovel to excavate). Sometimes that means just taking a few inches of topsoil off the top. However, if there is a considerable slope in the playset pad area, then you need to consider one of the following methods (learn about these methods in detail here).


Essentially, a dig-out is cutting away into the slope to level.


A build-up is basically what it sounds like, building up the lower side to level.


Combining the two above methods is called…well, you guessed it, the combination method.

4. Level Check

Once you’ve roughly excavated down to the desired level, check the ground to make sure that it’s level.

This can easily be done by taking a 2×4 and laying it across each side of the foundation; then placing a level on top. Don’t forget to make sure the center of the foundation is also level.

5. Build the Perimeter

Starting at the lowest side, cut out a strip of level ground around the perimeter of the playset foundation. Level and install 4x6s around the entire perimeter. Stack the perimeter up to level (read more details).

6. Anchor Perimeter

Secure the perimeter by nailing 2’ rebar every 6’-8’ around the entire perimeter. You can read more about this process here.

7. Level & Backfill

The dirt inside the foundation perimeter needs to be level and 4” below the top of the wooden perimeter (learn more here).

8. Add Fabric

Once the dirt is level, add a fabric weed barrier to keep the weeds suppressed. Make sure the fabric material is also permeable for proper drainage across the entire playset foundation (detailed out here).

Note: If you’re planning to add woodchips as a surface material on top of the pad then, you can perform this step (step 8) after Step 9.

9. Add the Gravel & Tamp It

Alright, it’s now time to add 4” of gravel across the entire playset base. Rake the gravel and then tamp it to lock it into place (find out more).

10. Add Surface Material

It’s now time to add the surface material. Here are several videos showing how to do that for a woodchip surface or artificial grass surface.

11. Install the Playset

Don’t forget to install your playset. You can learn more here about how to anchor the playset to the foundation.

What Not to Use to Level the Ground for a Playset

There are several playset foundation materials that should not be used. Here are 3 materials that should not be used to level the ground for your swingset.

  • Concrete
  • Asphalt
  • Any other hard surface

The primary reason not to use these materials to level the ground for your playset is safety. A hard surface could seriously injure a child if he/she falls. That’s why turf or a woodchip foundation is a great surface material, and, when combined with a gravel sub-base, creates an ideal, level swingset base. Later, when the kids grow up, you could use the foundation as a firepot/hangout area.

How Level does the Ground Need to be for a Playset?

The playset should probably be level within an ⅛” across the entire pad.

At Site Prep, for example, we level our pads with extreme attention to detail.

How Much Does Leveling a Yard for a Playset Cost?

The cost to level a yard for a playset can be determined when the following variables are accounted for.

  • Size of playset
  • Equipment used
  • Terrain rocky, type of soil, etc.
  • Utilities nearby
  • Method of leveling
  • DIY or hired help
  • Amount of slope

Although all these variables are important to consider, here are the 3 most important variables to consider.

Method of leveling

Did your installers use a build-up, dig-out, or combination method to build the playset foundation? This affects the cost of the project.

DIY or Hired Help

Making the playset foundation a DIY project may be a cheaper solution, but requires quite a bit of time, planning, and energy. However, you will typically save money building the pad yourself.

Many people opt to have the foundation leveled and installed by professionals for many reasons. Here are two common reasons:

  • Having a crew install a foundation will ensure that your playset will rest on level ground.
  • An experienced crew (like SitePrep) can install a level playset pad in several hours.

Amount of Slope in the Yard

If you’re looking to level a playset on a sloped yard, it can take a bit more money, depending on the amount of slope. While we can’t speak for other companies, here’s a percentage overview of the price increase, depending on the steepness of the slope in your backyard.

Amount of Slope Percentage Price Increase
8”-14” Add 20%
14”-20” Add 30%
20”-26” Add 40%
More Than 26” Custom Quote

Of course, a good playset foundation to keep your kids safe is priceless.

However, a playset foundation could also eventually be swapped out for a batting cage or a driving range. Or it could be transformed into a fire pit patio for hangout times with friends and family. Understanding the versatility of a swingset foundation helps the investment become even more worth it.

If you’re wondering what the cost would be to level the ground and install a foundation for your swingset, try requesting a free quote from us. You just must upload a few pictures of your backyard and fill in several other details related to the site area. Once the form is submitted, we’ll get one of our experienced site estimators to quickly send you a price estimate.

Button to “Submit A Free Quote in 1 Minute”

Do You Have to Level the Ground for A Playset?

Yes, you NEED to level the ground for a playset. Here’s why:


A playground is a place where kids can hang out and have fun. Safety should always be at the top of the list. Make sure to have 6’ of extra space around the playset.  This helps your kids have more room to run around and still be safe on stable and level ground.

Plus, if the ground is unlevel, your swingset may tip, potentially causing serious injury.

Swingset Damage

If not placed on level ground, the swingset itself could be damaged over time. Unduly stress on certain parts of the swingset could wear out the swingset framing and possibly result in a swingset collapse or a short-lasting swingset.

Voided Warranty

A lot of playsets come with a great warranty that can protect your investment for a while. However, if the playset is installed on unlevel ground, the warranty could potentially be voided. That’s a double-negative because not only does your playset risk having a short lifetime, it’s also not protected under warranty.


A level turf or woodchip foundation combined with a wooden swingset is an awesome sight to see. It just adds an amazing aesthetic to any backyard. Below is an example of a turf foundation we did for a customer in their backyard.

Easier to Install the Playset

Getting an efficient, affordable, and professional team to set up, level the ground, and install a foundation for your swingset makes it much easier to install the actual thing. Just add the swingset and anchor it to the foundation.


Probably the most important reason to have a level foundation for a swingset is for drainage purposes. A gravel foundation topped with a surface material like turf or wood chips is a perfect drainage system around your playset when it rains. Plus, the rain won’t mitigate the integrity of your playset foundation.

What is the Best Thing to Put on the Ground Under a Swing Set?

The best thing to put underneath a swing set depends case-by-case. But typically, a level gravel sub-base combined with a top layer of turf or wood chips is probably your best bet. It lasts forever, keeps your swingset level, and drains well.

What is the Easiest Way to Level Uneven Ground for My Playset?

Probably the easiest way to level uneven ground is to level out the ground with a shovel and rake. However, that will take time and labor, and if you have neither, then hiring a foundation installation company is probably your best bet.

To Conclude

Now you know everything you need to know about leveling ground for a playset, from making sure your foundation is level to how much the whole process will cost you. We hope you will find this information useful and that it provides you with everything you need to create a fun and safe environment for you and your children!

Also be sure to check out our article on leveling ground for a shed!