You’ve decided to purchase a wooden playset for your family. You know you’re going to make a big investment and want it to last as long as possible. Below are 8 secrets to keeping your swing set not only looking good, but safe and sturdy for many years to come.
1. Purchase a playset made of the best material possible.
Swing sets are generally made from one of three types of wood: cedar, pressure-treated (PT) pine, or redwood.
Redwood, while being the most expensive wood used in swing set manufacturing, is also naturally resistant to rot, decay, and damage. The quality of redwood has declined in recent years, which can lead you to purchasing a substandard swing set. Redwood is prized for its cinnamon color, but will turn blackish-grey without annual waterproofing. A non-preserved wood, redwood also needs periodic cleaning, staining, or painting and is susceptible to rot after five years. Because it is a soft wood, redwood playsets often need extra steel support brackets in high traffic areas like stairs.
PT pine swing sets are priced between cedar and redwood ones. They had been given a bad rap due to the arsenic that was once used in the preservation process. Since 2003, PT pine has been 100% safe for humans, animals, and the environment due to the use of non-toxic copper-based preservatives in place of the arsenic, and the pressure treating process protects pine against rot, decay, and insect infestation. PT pine is able to withstand severe weather conditions and can absorb more moisture than cedar or redwood. It’s recommended to seal your PT pine swing set every two years.
Cedar is about twice as expensive as PT pine, and is naturally resistant to rot, decay, and damage. Since cedar is not preserved, it will need to be cleaned and stained or painted periodically.
2. Keep it clean.
Be sure to clean off your playset and check all of the hardware at the beginning of the usage season and twice monthly after that. If any of the hardware is damaged or rusted through, replace it immediately.
3. Seal with weather protection, if needed.
Non-pressure-treated wood needs to be protected with weather sealer. Most of these products form a shell-like surface on the outside of the wood which keeps the rain from seeping in and prevents problems like mildew and rot.
4. Choose quality hardware.
Prevent the common issue of bolts corroding by purchasing a swing set that uses superior quality hardware to begin with. Hot-dipped, galvanized screws and bolts are the most resilient hardware options, and these will prevent rusting, corroding, and hardware breakdown. With these types of fasteners you will also save yourself the time and headache of having to caulk the screws upon installation, and wooden swing set owners will be happy to hear that unlike inferior zinc plated hardware, galvanized fasteners don’t need to be oiled every season.
5. Spray for bugs.
Spray the perimeter of the playset with child-friendly, non-harmful bug repellant at the beginning of each season. This will keep away ants, wasps, and carpenter bees. Carpenter bees are especially damaging to a non-PT wood swing set as they bore holes into your wood to lay eggs. They don’t stay once the eggs hatch, but the holes are yours to keep – that is, if you opt for a non-PT pine swing set. There are chemicals that you can use to keep the bees away, but they may be harmful to humans as well. Sealing the wood with an oil-based stain may keep the bees from returning annually.
6. Check for rotting wood.
This is most likely to occur where the non-PT treated wood meets the ground. Replace rotting wood immediately. Look for use special grade PT pine rated for ground contact wherever applicable (fort legs, swingset legs, etc.).
Painting or staining your wood swing set will also add to the protection. You can keep the natural look of the wood, but once it starts looking worn you can always put on a coat of paint. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instruction to ensure the coating is appropriate and applied properly.
Extended exposure to wind, rain, or snow can decrease the lifespan of your wooden playset. It’s recommended to cover the set with a tarp when not in use, especially during cold or rainy seasons.
Now you know how to keep your wooden playset in mint condition – some prevention and simple maintenance will keep you swinging safely for 20 years or more. Looking for more safety tips? Grab your free copy of the Complete Guide to Swing Set Safety to ensure that playtime is always fun and safe!
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