Every parent goes through this… Once a year right about when the weather starts to change, we all get a little bit of “spring fever.” We are itching to ditch the heavy coats and get our kids outside again without all the rain and dreary weather. So, you get the idea to invest in a playset and you start searching on which one to buy, but then you realize that it’s A LOT more complicated than you initially thought. Take a deep breath because you’ve come to the right place. As you read this article, I will lay out everything you need to know, so you can make the best decision for you and your family.
5 Things to Consider Before Deciding on a Set:
- Material & Maintenance
- Options & Customization
The first thing you want to do is to determine how much space you have for a Playset. I recommend to measure including a safety zone. A safety zone is the area surrounding your playset where you kids will be playing. This is very important especially if you are planning to have a set with swings, monkey bars, or slides. You want to insure that children have ample space to play on each feature while another child is in the same area without getting hurt. The Playground Safety Commission recommends at least a 6ft. perimeter surrounding a playset. The area also needs to be inspected for low-lying limbs, wires, or large rocks.
As far as material goes there are 3 main options: Metal, Wood & Vinyl or Polymer-coated Wood. The main differences between these will be the durability, longevity, maintenance and overall look.
Metal playsets are typically made from a combination of steel and plastic. The large framework of the playset will be the steel while the small components and accents are plastic. Most manufacturer’s powder-coat the material to prevent from rust and heat retention, this process increases the longevity and look of the playset.
- They are common and inexpensive Not as strong as wood
- Quick to assemble Can bend, break or rust
- May be hot (do not recommend for high temperature climates)
- Needs painting every couple of years
Wood playsets are by far the most popular. There are 3 main types of woods used in playsets: Cedar, Redwood and Pine.
Cedar is a great all-around wood. It is resistant to rot, decay and damage. The main thing to pay attention to when buying a cedar playset is where it comes from and the thickness of the boards used (For example: Is the frame made with a 2x4 board or a 4x4 board)
Redwood, like cedar is resistant to rot, decays and damage. It contains tannin, which is harmless to humans and animals but toxic to fungi. Redwood is great if you get the right cut from the right supplier. I say this because the quality of redwood has recently started to decline, so make sure to ask the supplier if the Redwood used is made from new growth or old growth. The brownish-reddish color of the wood was wildly popular in the 90’s, but has become less popular due to the maintenance and people wanting a more modern aesthetic.
Premium Pine is preshrunk and preserved. This process vastly decreases the chance for shrinking, warping, cracking and decay. It can withstand harsh weather conditions and hold more moisture than cedar and redwood giving it a long life-span. Modern day treated woods do NOT use harmful chemicals such as arsenic. Most manufacturers’ uses copper-based and Greengard certified treatments that are 100% for children’s playgrounds. You should always check with each playset manufacturer on their safety testing if you plan on using a treated lumber.
Natural look High maintenance (needs to be sanded &
Stronger than metal playsets stained typically ever year)
Built to last Potential warping and cracking
Lots of design options & brands to choose from Splinters
Vinyl or Polymer Coated Wood
These sets are the new modern way of building a playset. You get the best of both worlds. You get the strength of a wood playset without the maintenance. Vinyl or Polymer coated playsets are typically made from a treated southern pine, but can differ depending on brand. There are only a few brands that make polymer coated sets. Some actually use a mix of regular treated lumber and wood. It decreases the price, but doesn’t make much sense to me personally.
Options & Customization