Backyard Discovery Skyfort II Cedar Swing Set Review

Backyard Discovery Skyfort II playset from the front, no kids to be seen

If you’re looking for an all-in-one, multifunctional playset for your yard, the Skyfort II by Backyard Discovery is probably one you’ll want to consider.

The Skyfort ii is the second generation of an appealing, well-designed and -crafted backyard cedar swing set that has gained popularity right across the country. Could this home playground provide endless hours of outdoor fun, adventure and exercise for your kids and their friends?


To see the latest great deals on Amazon for Skyfort II, click here.

What Does the Skyfort II Offer?

All the components of this complete and multi-functional backyard playset are contained inside the massive boxes that are deposited on your doorstep. Once it’s set up, your kids will have all of the following wonders to explore:

  • Lower deck with full picnic table
  • Space for a sand box (cover available as a separate purchase)
  • Raised clubhouse play fort complete with wood roof, bay windows, and covered entry way
  • Spacious upper deck front porch with sun balcony
  • Crow’s nest - a fantastic lookout area
  • Swing bar with two belt-type swings and a two-person glider
  • A stable, all-wood traditional ladder with flat rungs
  • 10-foot-long wave slide
  • Monkey bars
  • Solid 5-foot high climbing wall

Take a peek around the back and sides of the Skyfort playset...

  • How Big is the Clubhouse?

    The upper fort is a good size, about 4ft x 5ft - that's not including the porch area or the crows nest. The roof is high enough so a 6ft+ adult can easily stand up. Getting inside in the first place - through child-size openings - can take some doing, though. And who knows if you can ever get out again!

    How Many Kids Can Use Skyfort At The Same Time?

    The Skyfort II is designed to accommodate up to 9 children at a time. On those activities designed for individual use, each child should weigh no more than 150lb. And on areas designed for multiple use, each child should weigh no more than 120lb. The total weight capacity is stated at 1080 pounds.

    It’s unlikely that many families would have so much activity on their playset at once, other than during the occasional birthday party or large family gathering. But it’s nice to know your set could handle the extra traffic without a problem.

    What Comes in the Box?

    Make no mistake, the fully assembled Skyfort ii is a large structure! The components don't fit into just one box. You should expect to receive a stack of four identical boxes, weighing around 720lb in total (see image below).

    The boxes contain (almost) everything you need, including the hardware and an instruction manual. Hex keys are included also, but no tools: eg, power drill, ladder, screwdriver or restorative imbibements!

    The courier will deliver curbside , then it's up to you! Each box measures about 8ft x 2ft x 9in. If you take the boxes separately, you should be able to drag each one around to the yard or wherever you want it.

    Delivery boxes on truck and on driveway - with dimensions - to give an idea of how much space they actually take up.

    How Big a Yard Do I Need?

    You'll need a fair-sized yard in order to accommodate the Skyfort 2 playset. Fully assembled, this multipurpose cedar swing set takes up approximately 17ft x 23ft of ground space. Additionally, you’ll need an unobstructed height clearance of about 12ft 6in. That’s what's needed for the structure itself.

    But you need to have extra space all round for kids to run and to be safely clear of the swings. The standard minimum is 6ft all around (adding about 12ft to the length and width respectively). So you'll need a space about 29ft x 34ft, including the safe play zone. See the diagram below.

    Skyfort ii playset Safety Zone diagram with dimensions

    Also, there are so many pieces included in the kit that having extra space available  to lay them out is a blessing.

    You don't necessarily need extra yard space to sort out the parts. You could use a garage or driveway. If you’re in a neighborhood with no dividing fences, perhaps you could even borrow the lawn of a kindly neighbor - with permission, of course! Either way, you can make it work. It’s just much easier if you have plenty of room.

    It’s best to have at least two adults tackle the assembly of this beast. Remember, those four large boxes containing the complete Skyfort II have a combined weight of nearly 800 pounds.

    Don’t even think about lifting any of those boxes by yourself. Get a helper and work together. There's no point in risking injury. You’ll still be a superhero once the project is complete and your kids get to enjoy playground-quality fun right in their own backyard.

    Any Preparations I Should Make?

    The best preparation is to check the area of your yard where the play set will go, and level it, if necessary.. It's important that the Skyfort II is built on a stable base, and beginning with a level area is the best way to ensure stability and durability.

    When the ground is level it also helps when lining up parts. If the frame isn’t square from the get-go, it only causes problems with subsequent steps of the installation.

    It's also best to plan to do the assembly when you're not going to be rushed. You want to be extra sure to get all the finishing touches completed without unnecessary pressure.

    Getting it done and then being able to witness the sheer joy it will bring to your kids should be all the motivation you need. Seeing those smiling faces makes the required effort well worth it.

    What Materials is it Made From?

    Skyfort 2 is constructed of Chinese cedar. Cedar of any sort is an excellent wood to use on outdoor projects because it contains a resin that makes it naturally more durable than other woods like pine or spruce. In fact, Cedar is one of the best woods (along with California redwood) you could use for outdoor playhouses, swing sets, and furniture because it's naturally resistant to rot, decay, and insects. It's a softwood, though, so you have to be prepared for dents to occur as part of the wear and tear.

    The Chinese cedar (actually a type of cypress) is a fast-growing variety, so resources are easily replenished. It also has tight knots and clear, straight grain.

    It’s also pre-cut, and pre-drilled, and pre-stained, making it an assembly job instead of a complete construction project. You'll need to do some pilot-hole drilling.

    Powder-coated metal brackets add structural strength, while the safe-T-lock further ensures stability. Other elements, like the wave slide, are made from a durable plastic.

    How Well does Skyfort Cope with Weather?

    The weather conditions vary widely in different parts of the country. The wood comes with a water-based stain to give it color. You'll probably find that this initial stain will naturally fade, and there may be some denting and minor splitting of the Chinese cedar.

    This isn't the end of the world, and is to be expected with a softwood. The way to deal with it is to sand lightly to smooth where necessary and then protect with sealant on a regular basis. I think it's a good idea to do this immediately, to give extra protection from the get-go.

    Exposure to the elements does take its toll on the Skyfort, just as it does with any wood construction. Extreme conditions of hot and cold can be tougher on anything outside - including cedar swing sets. Your best protection is a frequent coating with a sealant that has a waterproof and UV-resistant finish. The more you can shut out the harsh elements, the less damage they can cause. (See Maintenance section below.)

    Assembly: How Big a Deal is It?

    The Skyfort 2 arrives in pieces - many pieces. But don’t be intimidated by the scope of the project. If you like putting together models or solving jigsaw puzzles, assembling a swing set is a lot like that - only MUCH bigger. You might even find it fun...

    But if you're the type who prefers to have everything fall into place at the snap of your fingers - well, let's just say you're going to have to relax a little here. There’s a bit of a learning curve involved in setting up any large playset if you’ve never done so before.

    But don’t worry. As one reviewer put it, “If you have basic tools and a third-grade reading level, you can put this together”. I'd add to the mix a good heap of patience!

    Some things are already done for you. The roof and floor panels come pre-assembled. So you only need to secure them after the frame is firmly in place.

    Getting your Skyfort installed perfectly will take some time. But it's not too difficult. The key to a successful installation lies in the planning .

    At the start, all you have are several boxes loaded with parts and hardware - plus an owner’s manual. It can seem like a daunting task. After all, with an empty space and literally hundreds of individual components, where do you even begin?

    Sort and Label

    Each part is identified by a letter and number (eg K4 or M20). Your best bet is to sort out the various pieces and categorize them, alphabetically and numerically, according to the instruction manual. Open all the packages of hardware (screws, bolts, washers). Sort them out by placing them into jars or plastic bins or bags - with labels.

    Getting organized first will pay off in spades. You'll be able to assemble step-by-step and only take out the pieces and hardware you need as you need them.

    Once sorted, all you have to do is focus on one step at a time. Go ahead and complete that step. Then move onto the next.

    TIP: Read ahead in the manual, Some people say the instructions aren't always as clear as they could be, so before you embark on a particular step in the manual, read the next step or two as well, so you know what's coming

    Install on a level ground and be sure to anchor all sections of the structure, according to the manufacturer's instructions.​

    When all is said and done, you’ll have an impressive backyard play set the kids will adore.

    Click here to see the current deals for Skyfort II on Amazon.

    TIP: Be sure to check the diagrams carefully to ensure you have the boards facing the correct way. As at least one customer has pointed out, the French instructions are worth looking at too, because they include additional close-up diagrams for some of the steps, which might make things clearer​.

    TIP: The slide comes dismantled in one of the boxes, so it needs to be put together. Some people have found this a bit tricky. If you're able to leave the pieces to soften in the sunshine for a while, it may help, When the plastic is softer, it's easier to bend and push into postion.

    TIP: If possible - and particularly if you live in a hot area - it's best not to leave the unassembled wooden parts out and exposed to the hot sun or rain for any length of time. They're more vulnerable while they're separate - will adapt to the heat or damp individually rather than in combination, so they might not fit together so easily.

    You won't need any special tools, but the basics will help ensure the job is done the right way. This includes a large level, tape measure, drill (cordless or electric with multiple driver bits) and open-end wrench, rubber mallet or hammer with a block of wood, Phillips screwdriver, and a ladder.

    How Long Does It Take?

    This can vary so much depending on the expertise or otherwise of the putter-togetherers! It can take three or four hours to sort out all the pieces before you even start. You may be tempted to skip this, but it will pay dividends in the long run.

    From reading various user reviews, I'd say two or three workers might take take two or three days. It's impossible to be more specific than that - if you get professionals in, they 'll likely manage it within the day, but they're assembling swing sets all the time. You definitely won't do it single-handed in an afternoon!

    Check out this speedy video below (and look out for the crow's nest tip at 2:56)

    Crow's nest tip at 2:56: the manual instructions explain how to assemble the crow's nest in situ, but some people have found it easier to assemble it separately and then attach.

    If assembling the Skyfort still seems like too daunting a task, you can always pay to have it set up by professional installers. It will set you back an additional few hundred dollars. If you’d rather not deal with the installation yourself, you always have this option available. There's a flyer in Box 1 re professional installation.

    Is it possible to dismantle and reassemble if we move?

    Initially I would have said absolutely not: this is a huge playset and once it's up, it's up... That's until I came across this video! They took their Skyfort with them when they moved house. Take a look. It's only 3:32 minutes long.

    (NB I don't know what the manufacturer would say about this - the Skyfort isn't officially designed to be movable.)

    Skyfort Maintenance

    The wooden components of the Skyfort II have a lot going for them right out-of-the-box. First, as mentioned, they are solid Chinese cedar, which is tightly knotted (meaning, there are no loose knots that can pop out easily). It's also naturally resistant to rot and decay. The wood comes pre-stained to give it a deeper, richer color and provide a first layer of protection.

    But you’ll want to take some additional steps to further protect your investment.

    It’s recommended to treat all wood components with a thorough coating of water-based or oil-based sealant every couple of years.

    And the very best way to get started on the right foot and increase the lifespan of your Skyfort 2 cedar swing set is to apply the first coat before you assemble a single piece. (See TIP below.)

    TIP; A few users recommend applying a sealant to the wooden pieces during the assembly process instead of waiting until after completion. The manufacturer seals with a color coating only, so this extra protection would be a real advantage.

    By doing this, it will help to ensure that all surface areas, and especially the end grain (which naturally absorbs much more of anything), are fully protected against moisture and the harmful UV rays of the sun.

    Inspect annually (at least) for weathered wood, loose bolts, or other damaged pieces. Most of these problems are easy to take care of when you catch them early.

    (By the way, weathering isn't necessarily a problem, unless you want it to be: some people pay good money to give their new wood a weathered and aged appearance!)

    What’s Good About the Skyfort 2?

    • The finished product is superb. All those daunting pieces fit together like a puzzle and transform into an awe-inspiring playground. This large playset provides multiple options and the capacity to entertain and thrill several kids at once, many times over.
    • You don't have to be an experienced builder to assemble the Skyfort 2 (though it helps!). All you need is patience and organization. That way you'll only pull what's necessary at each step of the building process.
    • Fantastic fort clubhouse

    I'm not sure about the wavy slide...

    Some parents have reported that the slide can be a bit bumpy. If you're wondering about this, you might find it helpful to check it out here (at 1:54).

    For those who don't have time to watch, the kids here in this customer video are playing and sliding very happily - and they even go down head first!

    What’s Not So Good?

    • Manufacturing imperfections have been reported by some buyers. A complaint is that sometimes the pieces don't quite fit. Or, the pre-drilled holes sometimes don't line up perfectly. This can happen with any product. The good news is that it’s easy to correct on your own by making new holes in the wood.
    • Be prepared for sending some of the wood parts back for replacement. Some people report that pieces of wood arrive already cracked. Or that some of the hardware is faulty. This is pretty much a fact of life these days with any kind of shipment involving multiple pieces. But it's covered by the warranty and easily resolved. Contact the seller and request replacements.

      This is a very good reason for checking everything thoroughly before you start to build.
    • Parts and hardware are not pre-organized by sequential steps. This means you'll have to do the organizing yourself. The reason is simple. It’s because the unit is packaged for the most cost-effective shipping possible. To have it organized before shipping would add to the cost. It’s most likely a contributing factor as to why the manufacturer leaves any organizing to the buyer.
    • Some parents think that the swings are set too close together - fine for little ones but not so good when they get older and bigger. An immediate solution is to remove one of the swings to allow more space. Another option is to replace the swing beam with a longer one. This isn't ideal, but if the Skyfort checks all your boxes otherwise, it could be the best way forward.
    • It can take time to put this thing together. The sheer number of pieces in the entire Skyfort II can look overwhelming. But it really is a matter of chunking it down into sections and working on one section at a time. Remember the old saying “By the yard, it’s hard. But by the inch, it’s a cinch”!
    • Some have said the Skyfort is not as “heavy duty” as they would like it. They suggest the manufacturer use boards that are milled thicker, making them more substantial. But for typical use, and with reasonable care, most users find the wood and construction are more than adequate.

    Skyfort 2 could be right for you and your family if...

    •'re looking for a big structure that offers a variety of activities
    • ...your kids want a proper clubhouse/fort
    • have plenty of space in your backyard
    • have kids of different ages and need to keep them all happy
    • don't mind doing a bit of maintenance to keep the playset in good order

    Skyfort isn't the one for you if...

    • have a small backyard.
    • want a playground set that's maintenance-free

    What's the Verdict?

    You can shop around endlessly. Compare features and value on dozens of options. But chances are, you'll return to the Skyfort 2 Cedar Playset because of the wide variety of features and the solid long-term value it provides.

    When you boil it down, although it's by no means perfect, the overwhelming majority of buyers seem to be thrilled with their purchase - once they've got the Skyfort up, and the kids have taken over.

    Although the wood may not be the greatest, or the instructions the clearest, it's reasonable for the price, and with proper maintenance, you'll get good value for money. A thorough and regular application of a good quality sealant to extend longevity will pay dividends.

    Anyway, these shortcomings are quite common, not restricted to the Skyfort alone. Most customers give a thumbs up and would buy again.

    Overall, it's a decent play set, it offers a huge amount of variety and versatility - and kids of all ages absolutely love it.

    One thing is for sure: the presence of a Skyfort ii in your yard will ensure many hours (months and years) of outdoor fun and adventure for your kids.

    Where to Buy

    Amazon is usually a great option. The cheapest place I've seen Skyfort II available is Sam's Club ($57 cheaper at time of writing), but you have to be a member.

    Click here to check out the best current deals on Amazon for the Skyfort 2 swing set.

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