In a previous article - Monkey Bars - I described how I decided to build some monkey bars in our garden for my kids and design process I used. This article builds on that one, this time covering the purchasing of materials and the build itself.
I opted to use a company I’d found online during my initial searches - Econo-Steel. They provide steel joiners that can be fixed easily onto steel bars with a quarter inch Allen key, as well as being able to cut the steel bars to the sizes I needed. Their website provides a catalogue of all the joiners to make ordering easy and (as an added bonus for me) are based only 20 minutes from my home.
Having worked out the joiners and lengths of steel bars that I thought I needed, I made my order. I say “thought” - I cant stress how important it is to check and recheck all measurements - more about that below.
I had not done any engineering-type calculations on what weight the bars could support; I figured that steel bars are pretty strong and the combined weight of my kids is under 50kgs. Econo-Steel gave some advice on the thickness of bars, which come in different diameters, based on what the expected use would be.
Once I’d collected my order and laid it out at home, I realised that I had got some incorrect joiners and not enough of another type, so it was back to Econo-Steel for an additional order.
The final (and correct) materials order was:
|25 MGPE (33.7 OD)||Pipe/round tube||2100||13|
|25 MGPE (33.7 OD)||Pipe/round tube||1000||4|
|25 MGPE (33.7 OD)||Pipe/round tube||500||20|
|132||feet B34 size||-||9|
|128||3 way angles B34 size||-||6|
|182||hook B34 size||-||4|
|138||ring B34 size||-||4|
|101||T-join B34 size||-||45|
|133||plastic cap B34 size||-||2|
Note: more information on each item is available on the Econo-Steel website, including images of each item.
Putting it all Together
I put the monkey bars together in stages, connecting the 500mm horizontal bars to their joiners and then threading them onto 2 of the 2100mm bars. For the gaps between bars, I opted for 300mm, which meant having 7 bars in total, including the 2 end bars.
I then did the 3 sets of vertical bars in a similar way, though this time using 2 x 500mm bars as ladder rungs, spaced at 350mm from the ground. This height (700mm) meant that my youngest could reach the top of the monkey bars when standing on the top rung.
The 3 sets of vertical bars, showing the 2 ladder rungs on each
Keen not to make any more mistakes, I roughly placed all the monkeys bars in their intended spots to ensure that everything would fit. This was very beneficial as it showed my design would not work because of a low-hanging tree branch. After a bit of rework to mirror my original design so that the branch could be avoided, I was ready to fix the monkey bars in.
I opted for brick footings to support the monkey bars, fixed with Dyna bolts. This was largely because I had some spare bricks lying around. There are many sites that describe how to build footings, so I won’t go into detail except to say if you own / rent / borrow an SDS rotary hammer drill it will make drilling the Dyna bolt holes as easy as cutting into butter.
An SDS drill is a tool worth investing in, especially if you are into DIY. Make sure you get a reputable brand like Makita or DeWalt and it will last for many years.
Once all the vertical bars were firmly bolted onto their footings, I adjusted and tightened all the joiners. A long handled Allen key is a good tool for this as it gives better leverage.
I opted for bark mulch on the ground, largely because there was mulch in the space when the trampoline was there, but also because it gives a relatively cushioned landing.
The finished monkey bars
My kids love their new outdoor activity area and have the blisters to show for it!
Would I do it over again? Possibly not, given the amount of work involved, though it is really satisfying to build something yourself and have people enjoy it as much as my kids do.