Backyard playsets are an amazing investment in your kids’ childhood. They’ll get years of boisterous fun climbing, sliding, swinging, and playing on their swing set, and you’ll make memories that will last long after the wooden playset has faded – and if you choose the right material, this won't be for many, many years.
Choosing a material can be difficult if you don’t know what to look for. Pressure treated wood is one of the most commonly used materials for outdoor swing sets, but there’s been a lot of misconceptions built up around it.
Pressure treated wood is natural wood that has been treated with a solution to strengthen the wood and prevent deterioration from moisture, fungus, and insects. Let’s take a look at some of the myths surrounding pressure treated wood and the actual facts so you can make an educated decision about your purchase.
Myth: Pressure treated wood is dangerous for kids because they use harmful chemicals to treat the wood.
Fact: Originally, wood was treated with chemicals such as copper, arsenic, and chromium. In 2003, researchers discovered the hazardous effects of using such substances on materials that humans come in contact with. Since then, most manufacturers have ceased using these harmful substances.
Today, nobody uses arsenic when treating wood that will be used for playground equipment or other situations where people will regularly be coming in contact with the wood. Instead, safer substances such as amine copper quat and copper azole are used to preserve the wood, and these materials have been shown to have no negative effects whatsoever. So this concern is just a myth that can be laid to rest.
Myth: Pressure treated wood will poison the soil and plant life around the play set.
Fact: Once again, this misconception comes from the same confusion about the arsenic. Modern day playground sets are no more dangerous to your lawn than your average park bench or garden gnome.
Myth: Pressure treated wood is not as strong as some other options, like cedar.
Fact: The entire reason wood is being treated is to add durability and strength to the material. In fact, pressure treated wood is one of the most resilient woods you can find for your wooden playsets. They stand up against exposure, they repel insect decay, and this wood will even prevent fungal growths from forming and destroying the structure. Pressure treated wooden swing sets can last up to 20 years!
Myth: With pressure treated wood, what you see is what you get. You can’t paint or stain it to fit your preferences.
Fact: Wrong! You can use either oil or latex paints and stains on your pressure treated wooden swing set so you can enjoy any shade of the rainbow. A word of caution though: don’t try to paint freshly treated wood. You’re best off waiting a few months for the treatment to dry completely before applying a layer of paint or stain.
Myth: The EPA doesn’t approve pressure treated wood for kids’ playground equipment.
Fact: After the EPA found arsenic to be poisonous, a request was made to manufacturers to stop using this chemical, but no official law was ever passed. Instead, manufacturers willingly volunteered to cease the usage of such chemicals for the betterment of society.
Today any company that uses safe alternatives can get EPA approval, and many of them do. Manufacturers that use ACQ Southern Yellow Pine, for example, are completely up to EPA standards.
As you can see, pressure treated wood has really been given a bad rap, but you don’t have to buy into the misconception. Now that you are educated on the matter, it’s up to you to decide which material you choose for your wooden playset.
Want more info on swing set safety? Check out this comprehensive guide to playground equipment safety and keep your kids safer.
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