Wooden playsets are known for their durability and for the potential to add on loads of fun accessories for your family to enjoy for many years. But which wood will be the most durable? Take a look at the breakdown below:
Cedar is naturally resistant to decay and damage, but cedar swing sets are generally not constructed for a long life (and many of these playsets are manufactured in China). Cedar sets come in a variety of sizes, so you must be careful which one you’re purchasing. Is the fame composed of 2x4 or 4x4 pieces of Cedar? (You want 4x4.) Is the swing beam crafted of a 2x6 or 4x6 pieces of cedar? (Again, here you want the larger size – 4x6.) These distinctions will make differences not only in price, but in the safety of the swing set.
Since cedar is not preserved, it will need to be cleaned and stained or painted periodically. With careful maintenance, untreated cedar should last up to 20 years – but without proper maintenance, it won't last even close to that long. Cedar is the least expensive alternative for wooden playsets.
Redwood playsets are usually made of US-grown California Redwood. Redwood is also naturally resistant to decay and damage due to the tannin it contains. This natural chemical is harmless to humans and animals, but toxic to fungi and bugs (which is a good thing!).
In the past, redwood swing sets have stayed flat and straight, with only slight warping, cupping, or cracking. Redwood swing sets are valued for their beautiful cinnamon color. However, the quality of redwood has begun to decline in recent years. Cuts from newer growth trees and non-center cut redwood can lead to your purchasing a substandard swing set.
As redwood is not preserved, it will be necessary to clean and stain or paint it periodically. Annual application of waterproof sealant is required to keep redwood from turning blackish-grey.
Redwood playsets become susceptible to rot after five years. Because it’s a soft wood, Redwood swing sets often need extra steel support brackets in high traffic areas like stairs. Redwood is the most expensive alternative for wooden playsets.
Pressure-Treated (PT) Pine
Pressure-treated pineis the most durable of all wooden swing sets available today. Given a bad rap due to the past use of arsenic in the preservation process, PT wood is now 100% safe for humans, animals, and the environment. The wood is now treated with safe copper-based treatments that are totally harmless, and protect against rot, decay, and insect infestation. In addition, the treatments help minimize shrinking, warping, cracking, and cupping. PT pine is able to withstand severe weather conditions and can absorb more moisture than redwood or cedar. These abilities combine to give PT pine a lifespan of more than 20 years.
Although PT pine is preserved, and therefore doesn’t need as much cleaning, staining or painting, sealing your PT pine swing set every two years is recommended. PT pine’s cost is between that of cedar and redwood.
A Final Word
A wooden playset is a large investment and you want one that will last the longest with the least maintenance. For value, durability, and ease of use, a pressure-treated pine swing set is the way to go. You may have a larger initial payment than if you purchase a cedar playset, and you may not have the beauty of a redwood playset, but your PT pine swing set will last well you throughout your child’s childhood with a minimum amount of work for you.