503 Outdoor Playsets

Play-sets provide children with hours of fun in the backyard; something that television simply cannot beat. Since your children will likely be spending hours on end playing on their personal playground, it’s important to do the appropriate research before purchasing one to ensure utmost safety while they’re playing. You will want to think about size, construction and maintenance when shopping for your play-set as well. More 
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How can I be sure my playset is safe?


This is the single most important factor you must determine when choosing a play-set. Though the majority of manufacturers follow industry guidelines in terms of safety, it’s possible there may be a few who try to skirt the necessities. Here is a list of all the things you should guarantee about your play-set:
• All openings should be less than 3.5” or larger than 9”. There is a chance for head entrapment on any openings that fall between those measurements.
• Any “S” hooks must be closed tightly. Open hooks might catch clothing, which could lead to strangulation or other injury.
• Ensure there are no exposed moving parts; they can pinch or crush.
• All elevated surfaces should have guardrails and slides should be accompanied with sit down bars overhead.
• Seek out rounded edges vs. flat on wooden play-sets. Flat edges can scrape and splinter over time.
• All hardware should be recessed to prevent snagged clothing. In addition, bolts corrode over time and exposed hardware could be a tetanus liability.
• Make sure the play-set is anchored sturdily into the ground before children attempt to climb or swing on the structure.
• Be weary of monkey bars that double as the swing-holder and monkey bars leading to nowhere. Children using the monkey bars and the swings at the same time can create a potential hazard, while monkey bars that do not lead into an entrance can also be dangerous.
• Avoid metal slides due to heat retention. Go with plastic slides with UV inhibitors instead.

What should I look for in the accessories?


All accessories need to be checked for safety as well. Consider some type of “soft grip” coating on swing chains to prevent pinching, like Plastisol. Be sure any play decks or forts have a roof of some form to eliminate sun exposure, and avoid wooden rungs on ladders or monkey bars as they can deteriorate.

What type of wood is best for construction?


There are several types of woods that will be beneficial for play-sets, however each has their pros and cons. Here is a list of some of the options to consider.
Redwood: Redwood weathers well and is resistant to rot. Be sure the redwood is of good quality: low-end versions may develop more knots, which can weaken the wood.
Cedar varieties: Cedar is resistant to rot, insects and weather, making it a strong candidate. However, be sure to check the bolts often as they may weaken due to cedar’s lesser density.
Teak and Mahogany: These are also ample woods that are durable and weather well.
*Remember: regardless of which wood you choose, be sure it’s been treated with a water-based stain that is as environmentally safe as it is kid-friendly.

How large should my playset be?


Your child is going to want the biggest play-set imaginable, but your yard space and your wallet won’t likely align to that wish. A customized or deluxe play-set will inevitably be more expensive and take up more room in your backyard. Be sure to appropriately measure and anticipate the amount of space you will need to accommodate your backyard playground. Don’t forget to account for “buffer zones” around the play-set as well: there should be at least a six foot perimeter surrounding the play-set to prevent kids from swinging, jumping or falling into something dangerous.

How is the playset assembled?


Depending on how much work you want to put in (and how much you trust your assembling skills), be sure to understand exactly what the play-set requires to get to the finished product. Essentially, you can build one entirely on your own, purchase the lumber separately and build it with a kit, or buy a play-set that is “ready to assemble.” This will come down to what you feel comfortable with and how much time you want to spend on actually building it.

What type of maintenance is required?


Wood will change shape due to different weather patterns, so yearly play-set check-ups are important. Make sure to tighten loose supports, anchors, bolts and screws, and replace anything that is missing. It’s likely your play-set will need to be periodically sealed, stained and painted to prevent deterioration as well.
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