Outdoor play sets come in a variety of styles and a wide price range. Parents can choose from traditional swings and slides to rings, towers, forts, etc. You can find sets as low as $200 to more elaborate sets costing thousands of dollars.
Common materials for outdoor play sets:
- Plastic: A popular material for toddlers.
- Wood: Wooden sets typically support 120 pounds or more per child and last about 15-20 years. When selecting a wooden set, ask what the wood has been treated with and be sure to avoid such treatments that contain arsenic or chromium. Consider redwood and cedar - they are good at repelling insects and are less likely to splinter.
- Metal: More cost efficient, but weather may wear them down faster Look for a set made of heavy duty galvanized steel with a lifetime guarantee against rust.
Before you purchase and outdoor play set, Angie's List says consider these tips:
- Size up your yard: Your yard will determine the type of playground equipment you choose. Consider the size of the unit in comparison to your lawn. You don’t want the play set to take up the whole backyard. There are many smaller sets available – not all playground equipment is gigantic. Avoid sloping areas to help prevent equipment from tipping over. Select an area that is away from trees, wires, etc. Position the equipment away from direct sunlight.
- Do you have clearance? The homeowner is responsible for permits, approval from homeowner’s associations, etc. Check that you have clearance to build the set.
- Playground design: As you choose the play area, consider picking a spot that will keep children out of the sun. You also want a spot where it is easy to keep watch over them. Lay out your playground allowing at least 6 feet of open space around the equipment. Also, choose a location with proper drainage.
- Ask your kids: As you browse playground sets, consider whether it will easily transform as your child grows. Have your children test the equipment in various materials since they will be using the equipment. Are they climbers? Do they enjoy pretend play, or want to play in the sand? Choose equipment based on your child’s age and equipment that it meets the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission guidelines.
- Playground costs: There is a variety in costs for different materials. Do you have the skills to build the set or will you hire help? Ask if the set is delivered and installed by an installation crew or left for you to set up.
- Factor in safety: Injuries from falls can be reduced by placing your equipment on softer surfaces such as wood/rubber mulch and sand. Materials should be 9-12 inches deep. Add more material to the surface once or twice a year.
- Maintenance checkup: Weather can affect the condition of the play set. Periodic hardware tightening is required and sealing the set is strongly suggested. It’s also a good idea to regularly check the set for frayed ropes, signs of rot and peeling paint. Occasional sanding may be needed if the wood becomes splintered.
Angie's List tips for saving money on outdoor play sets:
- A great way to save money on playground equipment is buying a used set. We’ve heard from highly-rated companies on Angie’s List who move their sets from one location to another. Their installers know how to dismantle equipment so re-assembly is easier and they know how to level according to the yard. One Angie’s List member was able to save thousands of dollars and tons of manual labor by on a swing set by buying a used set, and having a professional move it across town. The cost of the swing set would have been more than $3,300. The member had the swing set moved to her home and the best part about it is that the set has a lifetime warranty. Before the company moved the swing set, they inspected it and replaced any pieces of wood or joint fixtures that needed to be repaired or replace – at no cost to the member. So after the swing set was moved, they gave it the once over with the power washer and a fresh coat of stain – they had spent less than $1,000. That is more than $2000 in savings!
- There are companies and sell and install new equipment and others that just install the equipment you buy from a separate store. A professional playground installer can save you time, money and take the stress out of a large backyard project. While it may seem like more money up front, consider that it may take you a day or more to install, but will only take a professional installer a few hours. And if you’re thinking about installing the playground equipment yourself you need to be really honest about your skills and your time commitment. This is not something that you can put up overnight.
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