Have you been anticipating your child growing up to be old enough to appreciate the joys of outdoor playground equipment? It’s a real milestone, especially if you grew up with a swing set yourself, and now you get to impart that experience to your child. But becoming a swing set owner entails a little more care than becoming the swing set user. Learning your way around the outdoor playset will go a long way to ensure your comfort with your child’s soon-to-be-antics in your backyard.
For starters, you know that the sheer number of configurations – from material to model to design – has the potential to leave your head spinning. So let's start by investigating the basics, and then developing your expertise as you decide what kind of swing set will work best for you and your family.
Balancing Expense with Quality
Consider that when it comes to swing sets, the better the quality, the higher the price (nearly always), but some features shouldn't be compromised. How do you know which swing set features are worth the extra investment? Let's take a look at some of the key decision points to consider when buying your swing set:
- Pre-drilled holes
It's recommended to opt for pre-drilled holes and accompanying screws – these attest to the quality of the craftsmanship.
- 4x4 vs. 2x4 beams and posts
When you opt for a wooden swing set, compare the cost of solid 4x4 beams to 2x4 beams. Solid 4x4 beams will cost more than 2x4 beams, but in the long run, they’ll put you ahead. Solid 4x4 beams are sturdy and last longer than anything constructed to replace them, and you want that structural support for your child(ren)’s great stability and safety.
- Strong wood
Some woods are far more expensive than others, and they aren’t automatically any sturdier; some element of wood selection goes to personal aesthetic preference. For example, birch is beautiful, but not for playgrounds. Redwood is a high-end wood, and also not suitable for a child’s swing set (all the more so mahogany). Some people choose cedar, but consider the risk of it – as a softer wood – warping over time. After you put all this effort into creating the greatest swing set you can, why go with something that will prevent it from lasting?
A better option to consider is pressure-treated pine. Pine is a strong wood, and by using wood that has been treated in this way, you extend the life of your swing set for a really long time. The pressure treatment protects the wood from decay, termite invasion, and other means of rot, for example.
Unlike the pressure treated wood from the 70’s, modern PT wood is treated with a chemical mixture that is completely safe and EPA-approved for use in public structures. So parents can rest assured that their children are safe and sound while playing on this resilient and decay-resistant wood.
- Surface area
One important element that tends to be glossed over is the surface upon which the swing set will stand. Now, depending on the kind of structure you get, you may address this differently (how much will your jungle gym be used for hanging upside down, for example?). You have a few options: Wood chips? Those have a lovely smell. Mulch? Less so. Rubber safety mats? Sand? Any one of these materials is a valuable component to the playground experience, and choosing the right surface material is your key to making that play safe.
- Playset size
Another crucial consideration is the size of your playset. For example: How large of a deck are you going to include? This is an essential question because the deck is part of the support of the whole system, anchoring the slides, rock walls, and whatever other play elements you choose to include, so both height and square footage is relevant. Moreover, if your deck is too low, your kids will outgrow your whole system long before they lose interest in it (4 ft. is great for little kids, petite older kids, and those with special needs, but you’ll want 5 ft. for a playset that really lasts them as they grow).
Lastly, check into the warranties. Swing sets are not cheap, and quality workmanship should be backed up by a good warranty. Which is not to suggest that swing sets last forever, but a good 10 to 15 years sounds about right.
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