How To Build A Safe Play Area For Your Kids

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monkey tower playset

How To Build A Safe Play Area For Your Kids

When choosing a playset for your family, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the options.

When it comes to materials, you typically have four choices: vinyl, metal, treated wood, or wood.

Vinyl

Vinyl swing sets use pressure-treated pine wrapped in polyvinyl chloride (PVC) for the structural components. They use composite decking (wood-alternatives made of recycled materials, such as plastics and lumber) for the walls and decks of the playset. There is no need to stain or seal these swing sets, but they should be cleaned annually. There is also no risk of splinters (which should be nearly non-existent with a quality wood playset that is sanded and has properly rounded edges). These swing sets are typically on the expensive side. One thing to keep in mind is that the moisture trapped in the pressured-treated pine has no place to go when it is encapsulated. That means rot is likely inevitable at some point in the life of a vinyl swing set.

Metal

Although they are the least costly alternative, metal swing set construction poses the disadvantage of having to dig holes in your yard and pour concrete to anchor the structure. This can mean a lot of extra work as your children grow older and you decide to remove the swing set. Although the metal used to construct these playsets are powder coated for protection from the elements, stability, rust and corrosion can still be persistent problems.

Treated Wood

Pressure-treated swing sets contain preservatives, which are applied in an effort to make the material last. And last it does! This material can hold up for years and years, although the quality (swing sets are not all created equally) can affect tendency to warp and twist. The process for pressure-treating wood allows the preservatives to be forced deep in the wood so that the material becomes resistant (which it is not naturally) to decay, insects and rot. In 2003 the EPA discovered that the preservatives used in pressure-treated wood included highly toxic materials including chromium, copper, and arsenic. Today’s pressure treated wood is treated with preservatives that contain much lower levels of toxicity.

Wood

Wooden swing sets are generally crafted from redwood, cedar or pine. While wood offers a natural aesthetic that can blend in seamlessly with your backyard, lower quality wood also requires a lot of upkeep to avoid looking shabby. Low quality wood with no preservatives will need to be cleaned and stained or painted periodically.

However, Redwood naturally resists rot and decay and minimizes warping and cracking compared to other wood species.

At Outside in Style, we only offer the highest quality playsets, and our decades of experience have led us to one brand in particular – Woodplay.

Woodplay is dedicated to producing the finest quality playsets for you and your family. They offer a no kidding guarantee, triple joint construction, premium redwood, bigger beams, and galvanized, recessed hardware. Plus, their wood is sourced from sustainable forests, so they can keep making quality playsets for generations to come!

Once you’ve chosen your playset, you’ll need to prepare the area.

Since safety is one of the most important features of any children’s play area, this should be a consideration from the very beginning of the design process. The area you choose for your playground should be a flat, level surface.

If needed, hire a professional to grade the area for proper drainage and to ensure an even surface on which to install your play set. Look for potential hazards in the area, such as low-hanging branches or utility lines that may be too close to the equipment or the children playing on it.

Exposure to the elements can shorten the life of your playground equipment or increase the need for maintenance. It can also pose a danger to children if metal equipment gets too hot from direct sunlight or swings are slippery from rain.

Make sure the play area surface is significantly larger than the actual play structure to make sure there is plenty of room for a safe landing after launching off of slides or jumping off of swings.

You will also want to define the play space with a border in order to keep your ground cover where it belongs, provide a designated area for play and help to ensure that your children’s play area harmonizes with your overall landscape design.

Make sure the play area surface is significantly larger than the actual play structure to make sure there is plenty of room for a safe landing after launching off of slides or jumping off of swings.

You will also want to define the play space with a border in order to keep your ground cover where it belongs, provide a designated area for play and help to ensure that your children’s play area harmonizes with your overall landscape design.

Ideally, the groundcover for your play structure will be safe, low maintenance, attractive and affordable.

You may need to balance these by spending a bit more for a safer option or accepting the need for some maintenance to ensure visual appeal, but these are the four basic features most property owners look for in play area ground cover options.

Here are some pros and cons of the most popular playground ground cover options to help you decide which one is best for you.

Pea Gravel
Rubber Mulch
Natural Grass
Artificial Grass
Play Sand
Wood Chips & Mulch
Engineered Wood Fiber

No matter which you choose, the most important aspect is safety. But safe doesn’t have to mean ugly! There are many options that will blend in with your current landscape and still do an excellent job cushioning your child in case of a fall.

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