If you've got playsets on your mind, no doubt your head is buzzing with models, materials, designs, and endless questions. Relax, we’ve got the answers for you. Check out the 6 top facts you need to know before purchasing your swing set. It’s the best crash course in outdoor playsets you’ll ever read!
Fact #1: Not All Woods are Created Equal
Which wood you choose for the construction of your playset will depend on your needs and budget. Redwood is a beautiful option with a fresh, rustic flavor. It is also extremely expensive, so this wouldn’t be your best choice for kids’ playground equipment. Cedar is also a decent wood in terms of pricing and durability. This wood is soft though, and needs to be supported properly to ensure it won’t warp with time.
For the most durability and long-lasting option, there’s pressure treated premium preserved pine. Unlike the pressure treated wood of yesterday, today’s pressure treatments are lab-tested and proven to be safe for children, adults, and animals….see more on this in a future post! The Premium Preserved Pine has a lovely aroma to the wood itself and the treatment makes the wood the most rot-retardant of all the woods available. So you are getting a lovely wood that will last you for years, and best of all, pressure treated pine will not break your bank either!
Fact #2: Size Matters
When it comes to play sets, deck size really does matter. The deck is a raised floor or landing area that acts as the top of the structure’s support. Decks can come in different sizes and shapes, and the various playground equipment (like slides, ladders, rock walls, etc.) will generally be anchored at the top to this landing.
In general, you are going to want a deck that is high enough so your little ones don’t outgrow it before they’ve had their fill of fun. If you plan on keeping this swing set for kids as they get older (say 11 and up), you’ll want to go for something five feet or higher]. Sets with five- or six-foot high forts will last your kids well into their teenage years. In addition, higher forts mean taller swings with higher swing arcs, not to mention a higher deck also gives you a more spacious set.
In addition to the height of the deck, the square-foot area is important too. Many swing set manufacturers offer a 4x4 foot deck, but this space only allows for 1-2 kids max to play safely at one time. Alternatively, more ample deck space ensures that more children will have adequate room to play safely on the deck. Most people opt for a 4x6 foot deck, which allows for approximately 2-3 kids to play safely at once. Some higher quality sets even offer a 5x5 foot deck (we do). Of course the size and age of the child may affect these numbers.
The square foot area of the deck also plays an important role in how many add-ons you can attach to the deck (slide, ladder, climbing wall, etc.). For example, a 4x4 foot deck allows for only a single item per side, say a slide or ladder. A 4x6 foot area lets you put two items on the six-foot sides, say a slide and a climbing wall, but only one item on the four-foot side (like a ladder). A 5x5 foot area lets you put two items on all sides, allowing for the most add-ons possible on the deck (slide, ladder, climbing wall, rope ladder, fireman’s pole, etc.).
That being said, if you have small children or if height is an issue for your child (handicapped children, petite frames, or youngsters with a fear of heights), a four-foot deck will be a better option for you. Base your decision on your kids, not on other people’s.
Fact #3: You Get What You Pay For
As with everything in life, you get what you pay for when purchasing swings. Go for solid beams even though they cost more; they’ll be sturdier and last longer (which will be cheaper than having to buy a new set in a few years!). The swing beam (the top beam that holds the swings) should be made of solid 4x6 piece of wood, and the posts (any vertical piece of wood that touches the ground) should be made of 4x4 solid pieces. This will give you the best structural support possible. Pieces that are glued together will break much faster as they’re more susceptible to weather and wear and tear damage. You aren’t going to get away with a good quality swing set without spending at least $1500.
Fact #4: Quality Swing Sets Come With Quality Warranties
Since you’re paying a lot of money, you want to make sure you are covered for the long term. That’s why you should just walk away if the set doesn’t have a good warranty. That’s at least ten years, but fifteen years is even better and common among the better quality manufacturers.
Fact #5: Pre-Drilled Holes & Quality Screws are a Must
Look for swing sets with pre-drilled holes and use commercial-grade hardware, including electro-galvanized, oversized screws and bolts. The pre-drilled holes will save you time and money, but even more so it’ll ensure that you don’t split the wood when drilling your own holes. Using quality screws and bolts provide better safety for your children since the set is held together with sturdier components, and won't corrode over time, like cheaper hardware will.
Fact #6: The Right Surface Material = Good Swing Set Safety
The surface material you lay beneath your set is just as important as the material the swing set itself is made of. Quality surface material will soften the blow if a child falls, won’t wear away with time, and will overall provide a safe, strong structure for your child to play on. Rubber safety mats, sand, wood chips, or mulch (approximately 12” deep) are all suitable surface materials.
Need more tips on choosing your first swing set? Check out The First Timer’s Handbook: How to Choose, Setup and Enjoy a Safe Backyard Playset. It’s got everything you need to get your first swing set up and running in no time!
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