Many parents are considering purchasing pressure treated pine swing sets for their backyards, but this material has gotten a bad rap in the past. Let's get this straight once and for all: is this material safe for their children, pets, and the environment?
The Pressure Treating Process
The pressure treating process involves forcing a chemical preservative deep into the wood. The wood is then placed into a cylindrical holding tank and the tank is depressurized to remove all the air. When this is done, the tank is filled with the preservative under high pressure, which forces it deep into the wood. The tank in then emptied and the left-over preservative is reused. The wood is now ready to be utilized for a variety of outdoor uses, including playsets.
This process protects the wood from bug infestation, rot and decay, giving the wood a lifespan of more than 20 years, even under the most severe conditions.
The Problem & the Solution
When the process of pressure treating wood began over 70 years ago, chromated copper arsenic (CCA), a highly toxic chemical was used as the preservative in PT wood (arsenic is the same chemical used in rat poison!).
Once the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) discovered how lethally poisonous CCA was, the wood manufacturers resolved to stop using this chemical.
In 2003, the manufacturers changed to amine copper quat (ACQ) and copper azole (CA). These copper-based substitutes are deemed safer than arsenic-based preservatives due to the human body’s incapacity to absorb these chemicals, while inorganic arsenic is easily absorbed by the body.
Built to Last
There are many impressive looking swing sets out there with towering beams and many add-ons. However, if you don't choose the right wood, your swing set simply won't last – wasting your money and potentially endangering your kids.
A weak wood will quickly warp, crack, or fall apart, so be sure to get the strongest and most decay-resistant wood possible. Cedar and redwood are both great options, but they'll also cost you a small fortune. Pressure treated pine is as safe and as strong as these more expensive options, plus you get the extra benefit of it fighting the everyday problems of infestation, rot, and decay.
There are other things to look for when purchasing a playset. Some of them are listed below.
- Ease of installation. Look for swing sets that have pre-assembled parts, pre-drilled holes, and already attached hardware so that you’re not spending 2-3 days putting your set together.
- Deck height. Look for a set with a 5-foot high deck as standard.
- Hardware. Look for hot galvanized hardware (screws, bolts, etc.). It lasts longer than zinc plated hardware.
- The ladder. Look for ladder rungs made of 2x6 pieces wood, which provide more surface area for little feet to stand on.
- Knowledge. Look for customer care people who are qualified engineers and know about swing sets.
- Fort accessories. Look for large add-ons like and 18” steering wheel (instead of a 12” one), or a big 18" flag (as opposed to 6”).
- Slides. Look for a thick, high quality slide.
Now you know the key points to look at when buying a playset: start by choosing PT pine for its durability and long life, and then combine it with the right accessories for a strong and safe playground set that will be with your family for many years.
Want to know more about providing a safe, fun environment for your child? Get your free copy of The Complete Guide to Swing Set Safety now for step-by-step instructions on buying, building, and maintaining a safe playset for your kids!
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