Play set, jungle gym, swing set. No matter what you call it, if you have kids there’s a good chance you have one in your yard. If you’re in the market for a new set, some of the most prevalent options available to you are likely made of wood. Wooden swing sets are popular for many reasons. They’re nicer to look at than metal and can last years if properly taken care of. However, they’re not always perfect.
Before you pull the trigger on your next purchase, do your research. While wooden sets are great for many, they require upkeep in order to retain their functionality. Here are all of the best, and worst, things about wooden jungle gyms for your backyard.
Pros of Wooden Swing Sets
The pros of wooden jungle gyms are numerous. From looks to functionality, to custom builds and more, there are plenty of upsides for opting for wood.
Swing sets aren’t always great to look at. Metal or plastic iterations can easily become an eyesore. In fact, many jungle gyms look completely out of place. It’s hard for a structure like a swing set to look natural. As a result, many people look to wood. Wood is more natural, integrates better into the environment, and can compliment the space rather than go against it.
A wooden jungle gym compliments decks and other outdoor furniture well. The space blends together more seamlessly. Not to mention, pricier play sets may include additional craftsmanship, carving, or details. If you’re really willing to splurge, custom wooden swing sets can even be fully immersed into the environment becoming castles or treehouses.
It is much easier to customize a wooden swing set than it is to customize metal or plastics. Wooden components are more malleable. Carpenters can take a homeowner’s vision for the set and bring it to life. Whether you’re looking to have a single swing, space for a double wide slide, or a hanging bridge, the right contractor can make it happen.
Stain your set, add additional segments years down the line, or remove parts you’re no longer using. Wood opens up a world of possibilities if you’d like the opportunity to think big.
They Last A Long Time
It’s awful to pay a lot of money for something that only lasts you a few years. Chances are, your kids are likely to use your jungle gym for years on end as they grow up. Materials such as solid cedar and redwood are not only beautiful, but are made to last. Kept in good condition, a wooden swing set can persist through many childhoods, and be with you as long as 30 years. Of course, this assumes regular maintenance and a considerable amount of care. However, if you are ready to put in the work, you will be rewarded.
Cool to the Touch
Both metal and plastic get hot in the sun. During cooler months, sunlight on your play set isn’t a concern. However, swing sets are used most frequently during summer months. A galvanized metal play structure on a very hot summer day is hot enough to injure or even burn a child. Wood sets do not endure this issue.
Of all the potential materials, wood is likely to remain the coolest. It should not sustain temperatures that would cause injury or burns.
Cons of Wooden Swing Sets
Wood swing sets are beautiful and can be incredibly function, but they are not perfect. From upkeep to installation, keep these things in mind before you make your next purchase.
Similar to other structures such as decks, hardwood swing sets last a long time…if you care for them properly. Upkeep of wood is not incredibly complex, but it must be consistent. Staining, sanding, and sealing should be done yearly. This process protects against weather, wind, and other environmental wear and tear. Not to mention, without sealing and upkeep, the sun will gradually fade whatever the original finish of the piece was.
Homeowners should make it a commitment each year to do necessary work on their play set. While it may be unpleasant in the moment, it will pay off when your jungle gym remains beautiful and functional for well over a decade.
Again, as is the case with hardwood decks, using natural wood in your backyard comes with pitfalls. One of these pitfalls can be insects. Many people know about the structural risk of insects like termites, but they aren’t the only creepy creature that will call your play set home if given the chance. Wasps are also notorious for camping out in wooden swing sets. This creates both a structural and safety problem.
Thankfully, many woods such as cedar are naturally resistant to pests. Additionally, most play sets come sealed with an insect resistant coating. After time, this coating will begin to wear off and your swing set will become vulnerable to insect damage. This is another reason why it is so important to maintain your set each year.
Installation & Assembly
Unfortunately, all good things take both time and effort–including a beautiful wooden jungle gym. Because of their high level of customization, wooden swing sets often take more expertise to install. There is a genuine level of construction not seen in metal installation, and certainly not found in vinyl or other plastic materials. Additionally, installation is the last place to cut corners.
If not properly installed, swing sets can quickly become dangerous. Collapse, unsteadiness, and overall structure compromise are real risks to an improperly built piece. No parent wants to be responsible for their child being injured on a play set. Always do your research for your particular wooden model, and hire help if necessary.
A great wooden swing set is often expensive. From installation, to quality, to upkeep over the years, the price point can add up. Ultimately you must decide if the aesthetic and structural appeal of great quality wood is worth the heftier price point.