This post has been a long time coming and will finally round up the Jungle Fort major construction which has lingered on for many months. Overall everything has worked out great and my children have been enjoying it immensely. With all the major construction out of the way the final safety fixings will complete a very enjoyable job and a great learning curve. Many of the openings have had grab handles installed which is a very easy fix. The grab handles come in various colors and have inch and a half long lag bolts with washers to keep them securely in place. The placement of the grab handles was based on the reach of my children when scaling the rock wall or climbing the ramp. The grab handles at the slide entrance was also based on the children sitting ready to slide down, so you can see this is all dependent on arms length and for me it had to suit my daughter as she is the smallest.
I found when fixing the grab handles the use of a pilot hole for the bolts and a little grease on the thread made it easier to ratchet the bolts into place and also prevented the timber from puckering up when winding them in tight. This ensured the handles ended up with a nice flush fit eliminating any rocking effect from ill fitted handles.
These handles from Detailed Play Systems are made from a high quality plastic and seem to be able to take plenty of abuse from the children, even though they are very smooth they offer plenty of grip with finger ridges inside. I would imagine that they have been tried and tested for being outside in the elements but only time will tell if they will crack or become brittle. I have tried pulling on them and they have been very secure but they are very slick so any moisture on them will increase the slipperiness of the surface so I have made a mental note to warn the children to be extra careful on those damp days.
All in all I have fitted a total of four sets of grab handles to all the openings and I’m glad I did as they hang out of the entrances calling to each other, much to my anxiety!
An additional item that I forgot to mention during the construction of the ramp was adding an assist rope. I didn’t anticipate that this would be so integral to the ramp but to my surprise this turned out to be a very important item. The ramp was quite steep and the rope is a must for young children who want to climb up and with the addition of the grab handles at the top it completed the overall safety for this item.
My children straddle the rope and haul themselves to the top where they then hold onto the grab handle while they lift their leg back over the rope and step onto the decking, all in one seamless motion.
With all the grab handles taken care of and all ropes in position the roof tarp was the one item that would keep the intensity of the sun off the children during the summer months and reduce the wind and drizzle during the winter. I had opted for the mega size roof tarp purely for this reason and I wasn’t disappointed with the choice. The material was marine grade and I had gone for a solid green color so that it would blend in with the surrounding foliage. I didn’t particularly want to draw attention to the structure just incase it would offend anyone, if it were a candy stripped top there would be no hiding the fact that this was a big Jungle Gym.
The roof tarp was a large 59 inches by 160 inches and would be held on with stainless steel snaps. The female part of the snap was already incorporated into the fabric of the top which left the male portion of the snap to be fitted to the rails that had already been installed for the roof. The first task was to place the roof tarp over the ridge of the roof and equally space it along the length as there would be approximately a gap of one inch per end.
The tarp then being stretched over the outer rails and clamped into position while the same procedure was used for the other side. This allowed for adjustment without any of the snaps being put in place. I needed to keep an equal amount of overhang per side and I knew there would be a little stretching involved when I started fitting the snaps. With the roof tarp finally dry fitted I clamped the tarp to the ridge rail so there wouldn’t be any sliding while I fitted the first side of snaps.
To find the position where to drill the pilot hole for the screw I stretched the roof tarp and pushed the attached snap to make an indentation on the outer rail leaving a perfect circle. This would provide the guide for the pilot hole and a simple one screw operation to fix the first snap into position.
I continued to use the same procedure for all the snaps on the first side and kept the tarp parallel to the bottom edge of the outer rail. I didn’t want to over stretch and have the tarp snapping askew on the rail. I was estimating that when I started to fix the second side down the tarp would line up parallel to the outer rail as well. I knew that the lengths cut for the roof rails were all correct and had been assembled correctly so there was no reason not to line up.
With the one side now snapped in place I could undo the clamps holding the tarp to the ridge rail and give an extra pull to release any wrinkles in the roof tarp before lightly clamping again. I again marked the position of the snap by indenting the outer rail but made sure to pull the tarp down as far as I could. I was hoping that they’d still be enough slack so that I’ll be able to snap both parts of the snap together. It was important to have a taut canopy but not that the snaps would come undone at the slightest pressure. With all the snaps in place the roof tarp ended slightly higher up the outer rail on the second side but parallel and the canopy had good tension. The real test would be during the winter when the storms start blowing in off the ocean, then I would find out if it would hold securely.
With a few minor elements to put in place, trapeze swing, disc swing and rope ladder this major construction project will come to a close and all that will be required is the annual maintenance of checking the bolts and an occasional coat of redwood stain, an amazing job when I look back at the photographs of the original pile of timber.