DIY: Build a Balance Balance Beam

This afternoon I built a balance beam for my daughter (6) for Christmas. When looking around for ideas on how to build a balance beam I found plenty of instructions but none that exactly fit what I had in mind. It took my wife and I about an hour in Lowe’s to find the exact combination of parts we needed to complete the build (listed below with the Lowe’s part number for each item just in case others might find them helpful):

 

  1. #6118 – 1 – 4″ X 6″ X 8′ Treated Lumber $14.97
  2. #21210 – 1 – 5/4″ X 6″ X 8′ Treated Decking $4.97
  3. #163807 – 1 – 1″ X 5 1/2″ X 12′ Composite Decking $28.97
  4. #323899 – Box 2 1/2″ X 9 Decking Screws $8.67
  5. #10777 – Box 1 1/4″ Wood Screws $7.89
  6. #327236 – 4 – 1 1/2″ Corner Braces $15.08

The total cost for the parts (minus sales tax) was $80.55.

Note: We chose materials designed to be used outdoors. This balance beam will be going in the backyard so it needs to be able to withstand the elements and our 6 year old at the same time. Real balance beams are covered in suede… this one uses a composite decking material that won’t splinter but has slightly less grip then suede… if you are building something for indoors you might change up your choice of lumber and go with the suede covering.

Here are the steps I used to construct the balance beam:

  1. Cut the 5/4″ board (item #2) in half (2 pieces 4′ long each) using a¬†miter saw.
  2. Cut one 5/4″ board in half again (2 pieces 2′ long) using the miter saw (the two pieces will become the balance beam’s feet).
  3. Cut a 8′ 3″ piece off of the 12′ length of composite decking (item #3).
  4. Attach the 2 2′ long pieces of decking to the bottom of the 4 X 6 X 8 (item #1) lumber using the corner braces (item #6) in the following manner:
    1. Position the 4 X 6 X 8 lumber so that the 6″ segment was vertical (perpendicular¬†to the ground).
    2. Center each 2′ decking board perpendicular to the 4 X 6 X 8 beam starting 1′ in from the end of the beam.
    3. Attach the decking boards to the beam using the corner braces (one on each side of the beam) and the 1 1/4″ wood screws (#5) to attach the braces to the board and the 2 1/2 decking screws (#4) to attach the braces to the beam.
    4. Important Note: The 1 1/4″ screws might poke out of the bottom of the board (mine did). You can use a metal file or dremel tool to remove the point. Alternatively you could get 1″ screws…
  5. Screw the composite decking (#3) to the top of the beam using the 2 1/2″ decking screws (#4).
    1. The decking has one rough and one smooth side. We chose to put the rougher side up for traction.
    2. If you cut the decking right it should overhang the beam by about 1/2″ on either end.
    3. The decking will also overhang the beam by about the same amount on each side of the beam.
    4. I recommend pre-drilling the decking before sinking the screws and making sure that each screw will end up just below the surface of the board for safety.
    5. I placed screws starting at the end of the decking at approximately 10″ intervals alternately between 2 screws and on central screw.
    6. Sand of any burrs that are left over from the drilling/screwing process.
    7. You might also fill the holes with some silicon caulk while you are at it…
Here is a very poor diagram of what the balance beam looks like from the top and side:
Balance Beam Diagram

Balance Beam Diagram

One final very, very important note: Although I and my brother and law tested the balance beam out by jumping up and down on it at the same time (combined weight of nearly 400 lbs) I am not an engineer and do not even play one on TV. If you choose to build a balance beam using the materials and rough instructions here you do so at your own risk and promise not to hold me liable for any injuries or unhappiness. Life is dangerous. People get hurt. I neither endorse nor condone walking on balance beams. Test your work out on yourself before unleashing your child on it.

6 responses to “DIY: Build a Balance Balance Beam

  1. Nicole Julian

    Just wanted to say thanks for this awesome instructional! Our daughter wanted a balance beam for her 3rd birthday and this was perfect and so easy to build. My husband made it in less than 2 hours and shopping for the supplies was super simple with your list. She was a happy girl and her daddy was too! Thanks again.

    • You are very welcome. I am really glad this worked out for you. Our balance beam has been sitting out in the backyard for 2 1/2 years now and is still going strong.

  2. How does this balance beam hold up to the elements? We live in MA so it’s not dry and sunny here all the time.

    • So far so good for our balance beam. It has been outside for over two years and is still solid and safe. You should check on it every so often just to make sure of course but if you use the right materials it should hold up to the elements pretty well.

  3. Could you upload a photo of the finished product? Sounds really great!

    • Hi Chuck, I will try and remember to do that this weekend when I cut the grass (right now its probably too long to see the balance beam thanks to all the rain we have had here in Virginia).

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