Wood is one of the most popular choices for outdoor swing sets. While wooden swing sets are attractive and durable, they are also generally more expensive. If you’ve chosen to invest in a wooden swing set, you will want to do everything you can to make it last for as long as possible.
Most wood play set manufacturers include a recommended maintenance list in their instruction manual. It is important to follow these suggestions as it will help your playset and its components to last longer and retain its aesthetic appeal. More importantly it will also help to maintain the safety of the swing set and keep your kids injury-free while they play.
While individual swing set brands may vary in their suggested maintenance, there are some basic tips that all wooden playset owners can follow to keep their set clean, safe and looking good. Below are 5 of the most important things you can do.
Stain and Seal the Wood
One of the most important things you can do when it comes to increasing the life of your wooden play structure is to keep all of the wood stained and sealed. Most brands will come with these components already pre-stained and/or pre-sealed. If they are not pre-sealed it is recommended that you seal the wood within 60-90 days after construction.
A waterproof sealant will prolong the life of your swing set by limiting the moisture that can seep into the wood and protecting it from UV rays as well. Some companies, like Gorilla Playsets, sell a commercial grade playground sealant that will provide a protective layer against moisture, mold, mildew, and sun. You can also purchase waterproof sealant at a local hardware store such as Home Depot or Lowe’s.
It is usually a good idea to reseal the wood on your set every 1-2 years. It doesn’t matter whether you use an oil or water based sealant as long as it is waterproof and protects against UV rays. Some sealants come with a tint if you want to enhance the wood’s color slightly but prefer not to or do not feel the need to re-stain everything.
Staining the wood is also an important maintenance step. Staining should be done every 2-3 years or as needed to keep the wood looking nice. When putting stain on the swing set be careful not to get it on plastic or rubber components as it can permanently leave stain marks on them. You should also begin staining from the top down so if the stain drips you can blend it in to the wood as you go.
If you live in an area that has cold and snowy winters or a season when the swing set will not be in use, you may want to consider covering it with a tarp. This will not only protect the wood from the elements but will help the stain and sealant last longer. Hopefully this will mean not having to do this step quite as often.
Make sure you know what not to do when staining your wooden swing set!
Do Regular Inspections
It is important to the safety and longevity or your playset to complete a regular inspection of all of its components. If you live in an area where your kids are fortunate enough to use their set all year around, then an inspection should be done once a month. For those that do not use their set in the winter months it is best to do an inspection in the spring before your kids start using it and then at least 2 more times before the end of the season.
While some regular maintenance items or fixes will be obvious you will want to look closer at other components such as the swing chains, plastic components, and small hardware. Especially at the beginning of the season you should check all bots and screws to make sure they are not sticking out precariously or broken off causing sharp edges. You may also want to tighten all nuts and bolts as required.
Plastic components should be inspected for cracks while metal parts should be checked for rust. Metal parts can also be lubricated with vegetable oil to keep them moving smoothly. If parts are beginning to rust or you see cracks, these parts should be replaced immediately to avoid injuries.
All wood components should be inspected for splinters and cracking. While splintering wood can easily be fixed by sanding the pieces, any cracked or rotting boards should be replaced immediately. As long as your swing set is still under warranty, the company may replace these boards. Otherwise you will need to cut and stain your own wood to fit or contact the manufacturer to purchase replacements.
Remove Any Detachable Parts
Again, this step might only apply if you live in an area with cold, snowy winters or are not able to utilize your swing set all year around. If you do not cover the entire playset with a tarp during the winter months, you may want to consider removing any parts that can be easily detached.
These parts might include swings, gliders, rope ladders, and even the canopy roof. By removing these parts and storing them indoors for the winter you will extend their usable life and avoid any deterioration of the plastic. You will also prevent stretching or tearing of vinyl or fabric canopy roofs because they will not be exposed to harsh winds or have snow sitting on them all winter.
Keep It Clean
Regular cleaning of your swing set will help prevent stains in the wood or rotting due to wet wood. It also keeps your playset looking nicer and will hopefully allow you to avoid having to stain it as often. Many brands recommend that you clean the playset before re-staining it to remove any dirt and debris.
Cleaning can simply be done with a water hose or power washer and mild soap. For heavily soiled areas you can also use a deck cleaner. If you choose to use a power washer, you’ll want to be careful that it is not so powerful that it indents the wood or causes it to peel. A soft bristle brush can also be used to remove bird droppings or dirt from high traffic areas. You will want to let your playset dry for 24 hours after washing before applying stain or sealant.
Another recommendation for keeping your swing set looking like new is to keep bugs and pests from building nests or boring holes in the wood. One way to keep bugs away is to use a cotton ball to apply liquid dish soap to the edges of the roof lines and inside corners of clubhouses. You should pay special attention to roof peaks and inside corners where spiders and wasps build their webs or nests.
Follow Weight Recommendations
Every wooden swing set you can buy will come with weight recommendations from the manufacturer for each of its components. While your set may seem extremely sturdy and durable, it is important to follow these weight restrictions. Not only will it keep you and your children safe while they play, but it will allow the wood and all other accessories to last for many years without cracking or other damage.
The play platform or clubhouse of your playset will have a varying weight limit depending on its overall size. Some manufacturers set this limit by weight while others set it by number of bodies. Many of the Gorilla playsets set this weight limit at 800 pounds. You will want to check the instruction manual of your individual playset to find its specific weight, number of children, and age limits. The list below will give you a general idea of these recommendations for some of the most popular accessories.
- Swing belt: 150 – 225 lbs.
- Glider swing: 120 – 140 lbs.
- Trapeze swing: 125 – 150 lbs.
- Toddler swing: 50 – 110 lbs.
- Tire swing: 125 lbs. or 3 kids
- Rock wall: 150 lbs.
- Rope ladder: 75 lbs.
- Monkey bars: 175 lbs.
- Slides: 150 lbs.
Just like any outdoor structure, a wooden swing set looks great in your yard but will require on-going maintenance in order to preserve its durability and integrity. By following these 5 simple tips you can protect your investment, support the safety of your kids, and keep your wooden swing set looking like new for years to come.