Trampolines are the ultimate in backyard fun. My kids definitely enjoy all the outdoor equipment like jungle gyms, swing sets, and sports courts but there is nothing that compares to the fun and excitement they get from the trampoline. When their friends come over to play it is always the trampoline that attracts them first, and no matter the age the kids have fun.
In Ground Trampolines
We installed our trampoline in-ground primarily for aesthetic reasons. Our backyard has lots of landscaping and a natural look and feel that we didn’t want overrun by a large trampoline sitting high in the air on metal legs. An inground trampoline has the advantage of pulling the whole trampoline lower so it is not as tall. Most trampolines sit on three foot tall legs. Installing it flush with the lawn helps the trampoline disappear quite a bit, as only the netting extends up to eye level. Since the netting and the mat are black, our trampoline blends in well with the background.
Trampolines Are Dangerous
Originally we looked at installing the trampoline even without a net for a real streamlined look, but after some research we determined those trampolines were too dangerous. Having kids play on them without a net would be insane! You can find pictures online of inground trampolines installed without a net and it looks great but honestly I would not let my 4 year old OR my 14 year old go on those things. There is no way that would be safe.
However, it is important to understand that trampolines are inherently dangerous no matter how you install them. In ground or above ground, trampolines are going to be the most dangerous playground equipment you put in your backyard and some minor injuries are inevitable. To help control the injuries you should always limit the amount of people on the trampoline at one time and also avoid mixing big kids with small kids. It is safer if people of the same size and weight bounce together.
In Ground Trampolines Are Safer
One advantage of the in-ground trampoline is that it mutes the power of the trampoline a bit and that makes it safer to jump on. I don’t need my kids to be able to perform wild tricks anyways so losing a little bit of power from the in ground setup doesn’t bother me. Understand that trampolines work in part by compressing the air underneath them and a bit of that air flow is severely restricted by the in-ground trampoline walls. The trampoline still works great but it does have a bit less power than the typical above ground installation.
Another advantage of the in ground trampoline is that little kids can get in and out easily because there is not a ladder. Oftentimes for the youngest children it is the three foot tall ladder that is more of a hurdle to use than the trampoline. With our in-ground trampoline the kids just have to slip off their shoes and step through the overlapping netting to get in and start having fun.
Installing an In Ground Trampoline
Trampolines are not terribly complicated to install and assemble. Placing the trampoline inground only adds a few more steps and a little bit of complexity. The steps of installing an inground trampoline are fairly straightforward.
- Buy any trampoline and assemble it normally above ground.
- Dig a hole of the same size.
- Line the hole with a gravel floor.
- Line the hole walls with plywood.
- Drop the trampoline in the hole.
Of course the project is a bit bigger than we make it seem here above but it is not as overwhelming of a backyard task as you might believe. Let’s take a deeper look now at the steps to installing an in-ground trampoline.
1. Buy a trampoline and assemble it normally above ground. There are a lot of good trampolines out there to choose from. We have a 14 foot round one and that works great for us. It gives room to play games and have fun but doesn’t overwhelm the yard. Three or four kids can fit in at one time to have fun.
2. Dig a hole of the same size. You want a hole that is approximately the circumference of your trampoline and as deep as the legs. Don’t put the trampoline below ground or it will attract a lot of leaves and water. Leave it flush with the grass or slightly above. Most trampolines are 40” tall so a 36” deep hole makes sense.
3. Line the hole with a gravel floor. Cover the earth at the bottom of the hole with a layer of gravel to help with drainage and keep mud from splattering the trampoline during rain storms. Consider applying a weed barrier fabric underneath the gravel as well so that weeds do not grow.
4. Line the hole walls with plywood. Get large sheets of treated plywood that can ring around to form the walls of the hole. The sheets can overlap each other at the ends. The trampoline will go over the top of them so you won’t see them. The wall of plywood helps to make sure the earth walls do not collapse in underneath the trampoline. Use multiple kerf cuts along the plywood to help it bend alongside the hole.
5. Drop the trampoline in the hole. Place someone on each side of the trampoline and work to lift it into the hole. It is easiest if someone can position themselves in the hole to help orient it and then slide out at the end as the last step before the trampoline comes all the way down.
Note that it can be difficult to find service providers to help you. A lot of trampoline installers do not want to do in ground installation and neither do landscapers. It is understandable why they would want to avoid some of that liability. Trampolines are dangerous and people can get hurt on them no matter how you install it.
One option for homeowners is to break up the job into separate pieces. Most trampoline stores are happy to sell you a good trampoline and install it above ground next to your hole. And most landscapers are willing to help you dig a hole and line it with gravel and plywood. They just don’t want to put the trampoline in the hole for you. An option is to ask your neighbors for help and another option is to use day laborers. Either way go slowly and use caution.
It is useful to have help at each stage of the process. Trampoline stores install dozens of trampolines a month and can make quick work of an otherwise tedious process. They also can make sure the trampoline is assembled correctly and everything is tight together. This is critical because once the trampoline is in the hole then adjusting or tightening it will be difficult or impossible.
Cost of an In Ground Trampoline
Placing your trampoline in the ground adds a bit of expense to your project. Trampolines are already some of the more expensive backyard equipment and the installation only increases the cost.
- Trampoline Cost: A quality trampoline in the 14 foot range will likely cost you $1k – $2k.
- Cost to Dig Hole: Digging out a 14 ft circle down to three feet is a big task but not impossible. Budgeting spending $500 and/or some back breaking labor of your own.
- Line Hole: Lining the hole with plywood, weed barrier, and rocks on the bottom involves a trip to the hardware store. Plan on spending another $500 on these materials and remember also you need a skilled carpenter to make kerf cuts in the plywood.
- Drop Trampoline into Hole: Getting a half dozen day laborers to spend an hour helping me place this in the hole cost about $200 in my city.
Trampoline $2k + In Ground Installation: $500 + $500 + 200
= $3,200 estimated total cost
In Ground Trampoline Over Time
Some people wonder what happens in the future. I can tell you that the trampoline holds up pretty well if you take cover of it. We use a leaf blower to keep ours clean of debris and we cover it in the winter to keep snow and ice off of it. Also this is the SECOND trampoline we have had in this hole. After about ten years we cut out the first one and replaced the wood and gravel in the whole and then dropped in a brand new trampoline. That was about four years ago and this new one is holding up well. Here is a picture of the original hole – again we ended up replacing the plywood when putting in the new trampoline.
Water is a big cause of damage and deterioration for the trampoline materials, so if you have backyard sprinklers it is important to have them moved and adjusted to avoid spraying the trampoline. Unfortunately that likely means moving the sprinkler heads in close around the trampoline and having them shoot out from there so it can add another considerable expense to your project. Remember that keeping your trampoline dry is a big part of keeping it in one piece. Our project also ran into trouble with an irrigation pipe traveling through our pit so plan carefully before you dig and remember to call 811 for info on underground utilities.
Few backyard attractions are as much fun for kids as a trampoline, and placing trampolines in ground can make them safer and less intrusive. Homeowners do not have to purchase a special in ground trampoline, and instead can easily drop any trampoline into a prepared hole. Still, trampolines are dangerous and parents should monitor kids play on them to make sure it stays safe. Parents looking for a safer option for outdoor fun can consider a tree swing or gardening with their kids. Whatever you choose just remember that the backyard is there for your kids to have fun! If you have any questions or concerns about an in ground installation feel free to leave them in the comments and we would be happy to help you think them over.