Homeowner’s Guide to Home Swing Sets

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Thinking about buying a swing set for your kids? Learn about materials, pricing and safety before you choose the best swing set for your backyard.

Spring is right around the corner, and if your family is like many in the U.S., you might be planning to enjoy the upcoming pleasant weather close to home. For families with young children, a backyard swing set provides a way for kids to burn off some energy while staying safe and socially distanced.

So many kids are spending so much more time at home that swing set sales are booming. Market researcher NPD reported an 81 percent increase in outdoor playground equipment in April 2020, one month into the coronavirus pandemic.

If you’re thinking about purchasing a swing set, here’s what you should know.

What Is a Swing Set?

A swing set or outdoor playset is a structure for children to play on. The simplest swing sets may have just one or two swings suspended by rope or chains, while larger sets may include a slide, monkey bars, rope ladders or other fun features.

Types of Swing Sets

There are three materials for swing sets: wood, metal and plastic. Some combine all three.

Sets designed for toddlers are most often made of smooth plastic, typically inexpensive and suitable for indoor or outdoor use. Metal, or a combination of metal and plastic, is well-suited to sets that feature multiple swings, slides, gliders and monkey bars. These are also a relatively affordable option.

Wood, especially insect- and rot-resistant cedar, is the most expensive material for swing sets and playsets. It’s the top construction material for huge, elaborate playsets like this one, which includes a clubhouse, climbing wall, picnic table and sandbox.

Pros and Cons of Swing Sets

Here are a few pros and cons of swing sets:

Pros

  • They provide a safe place for kids to play outside where you can keep an eye on them.
  • They can provide years of outdoor enjoyment for your kids and their playmates.
  • They come in various materials, designs and price points.
  • Most can be installed DIY.

Cons

  • Elaborate swing sets — like the one your kids probably want — are expensive.
  • Wood can rot, splinter and attract insects; metal can rust or bend; plastic has a low weight limit.
  • Your kids will outgrow the swing set, after which you’ll need to figure out what to do with it.
  • A swing set is a liability risk in an unfenced yard.

Swing Set Purchase Considerations

Swing sets range in price from about $150 for something basic to several thousand dollars for a playset with all the bells and whistles. If you purchase a large wooden playset, it may come with pricey delivery costs. These sets can weigh 700 lbs. or more. And if the components have to be delivered with a crane truck, the materials will probably be left in your front yard or driveway, to be toted to the backyard by you.

Swing Set Installation

Most swing sets, even the big playsets, come pre-drilled and with all the hardware you need to assemble them. Whether you choose to assemble the playset yourself or pay for professional installation depends on your DIY skills.

If you’re installing a large playset yourself, it’s almost certainly not a one-person job. Remember too, that you need to prepare a level area to locate the set. Leave at least six feet of free space on all sides, and be sure there are no overhanging branches or wires.

Swing Set Maintenance

The folks at Eastern Jungle Gym recommend cleaning, staining and sealing their wooden playsets once a year. Wooden and metal sets should undergo periodic hardware checks to make sure that all bolts are tight.

For metal sets, check for areas where the powdercoat finish may be compromised and subject to rust, and touch up with enamel paint as needed. Plastic swing sets should be brought indoors in winter, as cold temperatures might make the plastic brittle.

Swing Set Safety

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says that annually in the U.S., more than 50,000 children go to emergency rooms as a result of home playground accidents. Most injuries are due to kids falling from the swing sets onto hard surfaces.

Although most swing sets are installed over grass or dirt, the CPSC says these surfaces are not soft enough to prevent injury. Instead, they recommend a bed of wood chips, mulch or shredded rubber, or a covering of material made specifically for play areas. They’ve published a handbook on home playground safety that can guide families through the proper installation and maintenance of a home swing set.