Moms, dads, and grandparents want the kids in their life to have hours of outdoor fun, and adding a backyard fort is a great way to do just that! We’ll review four wooden play sets by some of the most reputable brands on the market to help make your decision easier. Keep reading to find out the unique features and ways your kiddos can enjoy the outdoors even more.
Topping the list of our backyard forts is the Summerstone by Cedar Summit. It’s versatile, fun for a broad range of ages, and a great size for most backyards. There are plenty of ways to make this fort your own, but you don’t need to do anything to it for years of fun to be had! If you’d like to skip the full review, click below to purchase.
1. Cedar Summit – Summerstone
Who’s this for:
- Large backyard
- 2 years and up
- Those who’d like a fort that feels like a clubhouse
This is a slightly larger set with dimensions of 18×10’9”x10’10”. If you’ve got the backyard space, though, this is a delightful option! Let’s talk about some of the features:
- Upper clubhouse with a working door and 2 large windows
- Downstairs café table with bench
- 2 belt swings with soft touch rope
- Premium glide swing for one or two kids
- Spiral wave slide
Its sturdy construction is impressive. The swings can hold kids or adults up to 110 pounds. And the assembly is much easier for this set, as Cedar Summit has offered parents a helping hand by pre-assembling the doors and roof. For those of you Fixer Upper fans out there, you’ll also appreciate that the roof is shiplap, so even your backyard can have some shabby chic flair!
The customer service for this brand is excellent. They offer a 5-year limited wooden component warranty, and if you have any questions, you can give them a call or contact them through the website. We’re including a maintenance video from the manufacturer with tips on how to keep your set in tip-top shape all year round. These can be applied to any of the forts mentioned.
We like the Cedar Summit Summerstone for it’s more heavy duty construction and ease of assembly. The soft touch rope is a nice feature for the kiddos, keeping their hands from getting burned on the metal chains that most swings use, and the spiral wave slide is great added fun for older and younger kids alike. Years of fun are ahead with this backyard fort!
2. Backyard Discovery – Atlantis
Who’s this for:
- Large backyard
- Kids 3-10 years old
- Those who’d like a sandbox and extra features
Coming in at about 170 square feet or half the size of a standard two-car garage, the dimensions are 18’1” width and 9’3” height with a depth of 7’9”. Here’s what’s included in the Atlantis:
- Upper clubhouse, with a wooden roof, that can be reached by a ladder or rock wall
- Upper deck has bay windows and a sun porch
- Ground level area for a sandbox
- Snack window – a place for your child’s imagination (and treats) to flow freely
- A swing set with 2 belt swings and one two-person glider
- 8’ slide
There’s so much fun to be had in this play set as it is, but if you’d like additional features, it’s as easy as a phone call to Backyard Discovery. They’ll be glad to send you lumber to build a floor for the bottom clubhouse or fun extras like a telescope or captain’s wheel to help your kiddo fare the seven seas.
This set comes with a one-year warranty, plenty of time to see if anything needs to be replaced or adjusted. In order to ensure you’re meeting the specifications of the warranty, you’ll need to water seal the play set. This is a good idea anyway, since you’ll want it to be mold and mildew resistant.
Overall, the Backyard Discovery Atlantis is a large, fun, and well-made play fort that can liven up your backyard in a weekend. If you’ve got the space and the level ground, then you can’t go wrong with this play set. Who knows, your little marauders just might find the real Atlantis.
3. Gorilla Play – Chateau II Clubhouse Treehouse
Who’s this for:
- Smaller backyard
- Those looking for a maintenance-free option
- Loads of features
The Gorilla Play Chateau fort is a more compact but incredibly entertaining play set measuring 19’x14’x11’. Your kids will have hours of fun with all of these great features:
- Upper clubhouse with wooden roof, chimney, 2 windows, and working shutters
- Rock wall with climbing rope
- Rope ladder
- Lower clubhouse
- Steering wheel
- 2 belt swings
- 2 trapeze swings
- 6’ Wave slide
Gorilla Play really thinks through safety as well with an add-on that encloses the back of the upper deck. Plus, there’s a safe entry ladder allowing kids to climb into the clubhouse away from the swings. If you’ve got younger children, you can even adapt the swings to accommodate them, while still providing fun for the older kids.
The cedar used for this set is from sustainable forests, and the company also has an option called Timber Shield that will make the wood virtually maintenance-free. It’s a polyethylene coating that encases each wooden piece shielding it from weather and providing extra protection. This extra measure would save you the time of sealing and staining the wood yourself, and what adult doesn’t love saving time and energy!
In terms of warranty, this set comes with a one-year warranty on accessories and a 10-year one on lumber. The customer service is outstanding and can help with any questions that may arise.
You’ve got it all in the Gorilla Play Chateau, years of fun for the kids and lots of perks for the adults, including clear assembly instructions, extra safety measures, and a high quality product. All able to comfortably fit into the backyard space you have available, be that large or small.
Who’s this for:
- Kids ages 3-10
- Smaller backyard
- Those looking for great warranties
Maybe you’ve got an even more compact backyard area and need a fort that would fit into the smaller space. Well the Jamboree Fort by Swing-N-Slide is a great option. It’s got all the fun of a larger set but in a smaller footprint. The Jamboree measures 13’x13’x9.5’ with all of these great features:
- Picnic table with fabric awning
- Upper clubhouse with shingled roof and framed windows
- Swiveling telescope
- Climbing wall
- 2 belt swings
- Ring-trapeze combo swing
- 4’ Slide
The set is recommended for kids aged 3-10, and if you’re considering buying this when your child is younger, you can look forward to years of use. It’s durable cedar wood, sturdy construction, and 5-year warranty are all helpful in getting the most life out of the set. The slide even has a lifetime warranty against cracks and breaks! That’s nearly unheard of from other comparable sets.
For assembly, you’ll want to grab a buddy. It should take two people about 20 hours to put the set together, and if you’re thinking this sounds like a lot of man hours, take heart. The instructions are clear, and it’s relatively the same estimated assembly time as most other sets of this quality. To save on time, we’d recommend unpacking all the pieces and organizing them according to size so that as you read through the directions, you can easily find what you need.
Some other great perks (for parents) are the all-weather hardware and fasteners that are included with the set, helping to keep the set free of rust. Plus, for the kids, the slide and swings stay cool, even in direct sunlight. This is great for those without a backyard full of shade trees.
We think the Swing-N-Slide Jamboree Fort would be a great option for your family for years to come. The kids will have a blast with all the activities, while parents can feel confident in the safety and durability of the brand. It’s a win-win.
Common Features & Considerations
Let’s start with what most wooden play sets have in common: assembly. Each backyard fort will come ready for you and a friend to build. The lumber, hardware, and any other necessities are provided, so all you need is the man (or woman) power and about 10-20 hours of time, depending on the set. Think of it as a way to really build anticipation for your kids as they see the fort coming to life before their eyes
All of these play sets are constructed using 100% cedar, which makes them naturally rot, decay, and insect resistant – great features to have on a toy that will be outside for years to come. With some simple regular maintenance, you’ll be able to keep the wood fresh and ready for whatever play your kids can imagine.
At the bottom of this article, you’ll find a helpful list of tools needed to build your backyard fort.
You’ll also want to be sure you have considered the space you have for your set. Manufacturers recommend that you locate a backyard fort or any play set six feet from any obstacles, be that a house, shed, or tree. Make sure you find a level spot that will accommodate the entire set, and if you don’t have enough space, you can create a low platform to anchor the set into.
For more functionality and safety, surround your set with grass, mulch, or wood chips. This will provide some extra cushion in case kids topple over as they slide or swing. Not to mention, it will really highlight the beauty of your cedar structure!
Tools – What You’ll Need
- Tape measure
- 48″ Level
- Carpenter’s Quick Square
- Claw Hammer
- Standard Electric or Cordless drill (we’d recommend a cordless)
- #1 Phillips, #2 Robertson and screw driver
- Ratchet with extension (1/2” & 9/16” sockets)
- Open End Wrench (1/2” & 9/16”)
- Adjustable Wrench
- 1/8” & 3/16” Drill Bits
- 3/16” Hex Key (this is where sets will vary, as some use a square key)
- 8’ Step Ladder
- Safety Glasses
So there you have it folks, four great options for you and the kids to enjoy for years to come. If you need a space-saving set, then go with the Swing-N-Slide or Gorilla Play, and if you’ve got yard to spare Backyard Discovery or Cedar Summit are the ones for you.
We want you to get the most out of your backyard fort, so consider quality, especially when purchasing a product like this that will live outdoors. We know everyone’s budget is different, but what you invest in the quality of craftsmanship and durability will prove to be worth your money. Just think of watching your kids or grandkids light up with joy as they wave from their upper deck before sliding down to start again and again and again.