I’ve spend a lot of time thinking about building a tree house without a tree, and tried to think of cool stuff to make it awesome. I considered a zip-line to make a dramatic exit, but my yard just isn’t right for one. One thing that’s always been in my head is a fire pole.
After a lot of looking, it turns out that there just isn’t a good turnkey solution. The play-set people all sell some variant on this:
Which is nice and powder coated, but also pretty locked in to a specific deck height that they use for little play structures. They just seemed wheezy. My brother suggested I look on Amazon for stripper poles (which they do, in fact, sell), and I read a great description of using a flagpole for exactly the same application. All of these poles are sectional, though, so they’ll be wiggly. If I went that route, I’d probably fill it with sand to stabilize it.
I recognize, though, that my daughter will probably climb it almost as much as she slides down. And the last thing I want to worry about it the pole breaking. I finally settled on a chain link fence post. They are galvanized steel, so any slivers would be a bit of a bummer, but if it gets slid enough, it could polish up OK. The challenge was finding one 13′ long. I finally located a supplier who would cut a chunk off a 20′ section for me, but I had to get there during business hours.
Just on a lark, I swung in to Alco metals, one of my favorite spots. This is a serious industrial sales facility who still let you bring your kids in to paw through their scrap heap. I found a section of 2 1/2″ stainless steel tubing with a 1/16″ wall thickness. This was overkill in a big way, but it was so beautiful. I went to the sales counter and we talked a bit and she ended up selling me 13.5′ for $96. This was an deal made everyone’s day.
I got it home and realized I had some serious work to do. There was a brick step leftover from the original patio. I assumed this would be a simple matter to bust out, but it turned out the bricks were in 6″ of concrete. I levered it up a bit at a time and whacked it with the sledge (n.b., buy the damn sledge hammer. I tried for a while to do this with a pick and breaker bar, and that was just dumb)… eventually got it into small enough pieces.
Next I spent a bunch of time clamping it in place to find the right spacing off the platform. The description on this site is about right. Close enough so the littlest can reach it, so it feels a little tight for a grown up. It ended up about 14″ away.
Dug about 18″ down with a post-hole digger and put a couple of inches of gravel in the bottom. I screwed a board up at the eves and used a Simpson bracket for chain link fences to secure it. The bracket was about 1/8″ too small, but I had a sledge hammer, so we reached an agreement.
Mixed up some concrete and filled the hole. Really, I don’t think this bad boy is going anywhere any time soon.
At the end, it turned out exactly like I’d envisioned. It even looked a lot like the drawing I’d done in sketchup. And the pole is really fun. It’s only a 5′ drop, but it feels like a long slide. For grown ups, it’s a tight fit between the pole and the platform, but it’s a cinch to swing yourself way out so you go down facing the house.