You’re ready to purchase a swing set for your family and are considering one made of cedar. You want your back yard to have a natural feel and believe that a wooden playset will accomplish this goal better than a metal set will. Wooden swing sets also offer many more styles of add-ons: a straight or curved slide, swings, a teeter totter, or monkey bars are only some of the many fun choices that are offered. Cedar is the least expensive of the wood alternatives which also include redwood and pressure treated (PT) pine. However, should price be the only consideration? Read on to see why we do not recommend a cedar playset.
The Problems with Cedar
Most cedar play sets are manufactured in China and the parts come in a variety of sizes. You have to be careful and consider safety when purchasing your swing set. Is the frame made of 2x4 or 4x4 cedar pieces? Is the swing beam composed of a 2x6 or 4x6 section of cedar? These distinctions will make differences not only in price, but in the safety of your swing set. (In general, you want to opt for the larger size solid beams.)
Cedar is not a dense wood so screws and bolts tend to loosen quickly. You will need to tighten hardware regularly. Since cedar is not preserved, it will need to be cleaned and stained or painted periodically. Cedar can splinter, which can be anywhere from annoying to painful, and may lead to a less enjoyable play experience or lack of use of the swing set. It tends to rot, especially where the wood comes into contact with the ground.
Insect, bee, or wasp infestation is another problem with swing sets made of cedar. These infestations are not only harmful to your wood playset, but can be dangerous for your children. Carpenter bees are particularly damaging to your swing set; they bore holes into your wood to lay eggs, and while they don’t stay once the eggs hatch, the holes are yours to keep. There are chemicals that will keep them away, but may be harmful to humans as well. There have been those who suggest sealing the wood with an oil-based stain to keep the bees from retuning yearly – a fix that works for some, but not for others.
Worried your dream of a wooden play set for your child will never come true? Fear not, there’s an affordable, durable solution out there, but it's not made of cedar. It's made ofpressure treated (PT) pine. PT pine has long been given a bad rap, as the treatment method once utilized chromated copper arsenic (CCA), a highly toxic chemical.
However, since 2003, when the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) got involved, wood manufacturers changed to nontoxic copper based preservatives. These copper-based substitutes are safer than arsenic-based preservatives due to the human body’s inability to absorb copper (while inorganic arsenic is easily absorbed by the body). You now have an option that is 100% safe for you, your children, pets, and the environment.
The preservation and treatment of the pine result in a wood that is extremely strong and fights the everyday problems of infestation, rot, and decay. Due to its strength, hardware maintenance will be virtually eliminated, and splinters are unheard of. Insects, bees, and wasps are not attracted to PT pine, so you won’t have the unsightly and damaging holes or the danger of your children being stung.
PT pine is safe for you, your children, pets and the environment, and it’s durable and has a long life. Although more expensive than cedar, PT pine will more than make up for the upfront expense in its extreme durability and lack of maintenance for many, many years.