Buying a commercial playset is a huge financial investment for your company. If you’re currently shopping around to add one to your property, the good news is you have options.
Between the materials, sizes, and play features available to choose from, there are plenty of choices on the market to suit your preferences and budgetary restrictions.
But how do you know if you’re purchasing a high-quality playset?
We’ve outlined 4 measurements you can use to assess a playset’s quality before buying. Using these characteristics, you can make sure you’re purchasing a high-quality playset that’s worth your investment.
4 Characteristics of High-Quality Playsets
There are 4 characteristics that you can use to measure a playset’s quality: durability, maintenance level, safety, and cost. You should consider each of these items before you buy.
Durability refers to the structure’s ability to withstand routine wear and damage. Durable structures have characteristics of strength, sturdiness, and longevity. Generally speaking, they’re low maintenance because they don’t splinter or weather easily.
High-quality playsets should be durable; they shouldn’t start decaying or rotting after a few seasons of play. You can use the playset’s warranty to help determine its durability. The longer the playset warranty, the greater its durability and the better the quality of the product.
Maintenance is another characteristic that can help determine if your playset is high quality. Generally speaking, a low-quality playset will require more frequent maintenance than a high-quality one.
No matter how strong your commercial playset is, routine maintenance checks should be conducted once every few months to ensure the safety of the children playing on it. Here’s a checklist of items you should be looking for during these inspections.
If you’re finding numerous problems with your structure during these checks, it’s safe to say your playset is requiring high maintenance, and therefore, is likely lower quality.
Knowing the pros and cons of the different types of playset materials — which we’ll cover later on —can help you determine the type of maintenance your commercial playset will entail.
Perhaps the most important characteristic: safety. High-quality playsets are safe. There are many factors you can use to determine the safety of a playset before buying. Here are a few of the most important:
- The playset material — the material the playset is built from is going to impact its safety, especially over time. Does the material splinter? Will it rust? These are questions to think through to determine the safety level of the playset’s material.
- The material that the playset will sit on — the ground material that goes under your playset is just as important as the playset material. Opt for safe options like rubber mulch or poured rubber tiles to help break any potential falls from the playset.
- The age group — make sure you’re buying a playset that’s appropriate for the age groups of the children who will be playing on your playground. It should match the stages of their development to ensure they’re interacting with it properly.
- The company’s reputation — see what others are saying about the company. Read reviews and ask questions to determine if the company you’re buying from is reputable.
These factors can help determine how safe your playset is and will be in the years to come.
The old saying goes, you get what you pay for. That reigns true, even in the playset world. While this isn’t always the case, high-quality playsets are going to cost more than their low-quality counterparts.
Because they must also be durable, safe, and low-maintenance, high-quality playsets must be crafted with the strongest materials and expert craftsmanship. Their cost reflects the attention to detail that’s taken each step of the way.
As you can see, the measure of one characteristic can easily impact another. For instance, durability is going to impact safety, which in turn will impact the maintenance level. The relationship between all 3 will then impact the overall cost.
It’s important to keep this in mind before you make a purchase decision. Consider which features are most important to you and where you can make some compromises to align with your budget. From there, you can make a decision that feels worthwhile to your company.
Rating Playset Materials
A playset’s durability, maintenance, safety, and cost are going to depend on the material it’s built from. We’ve rated 4 commercial playset materials on a scale of 1-5 (1 is the least desirable, 5 is the highest) using these measures to help you narrow your options.
Metal is a popular choice for commercial playsets because it’s strong. However, its durability can range from really great to very poor, depending on the type of metal, how much is used, and how it’s sealed.
Most metal playsets are made from steel, which is the most durable option. But unless it’s coated with a high-quality anti-rust treatment, the metal’s durability can be weak. Strong, high-quality playsets will use thick metal rods and posts that are sealed with a quality rust-resistant finish.
Only when metal playsets are built and sealed properly is their maintenance level low. You should still be on the lookout for rust or chips in the paint, but these shouldn’t be too much of an issue if the playset was sealed with high-quality materials.
If rust or paint chips do occur, they should be sanded and resealed with an anti-rust paint so the damage doesn’t spread.
There aren’t many safety hazards associated with metal playsets. Aside from the chemicals used to keep the metal from rusting, there’s one main safety concern: temperature.
Metal can get hot in the heat quickly. It’s impossible to keep it from getting too hot — almost as impossible as keeping children from climbing on the metal surfaces on those brutal, summer days.
For the most part, metal playsets are an affordable option. They’re typically less expensive than a high-quality wood or vinyl playset, and they can last for up to 15 years.
Wood is another popular commercial playset material. Like metal, a wood playset’s durability will depend on the type used to create the structure. Redwood and cedar are considered the most durable because they are resistant to decay.
However, wood has a tendency to warp and weather over time, especially if it isn’t treated with a proper water-repellent stain. While the warping rarely impacts the playset’s structural integrity, it loses some of its high-quality appeal.
The overall maintenance of wooden playsets is moderate. To keep the wood from rotting, it should be resealed on a yearly basis. They also require more frequent inspections to spot any splintering, rotting, or decaying of the wood.
When crafted with proper materials and tended to with care, wood playsets are one of the safest options. The most pressing safety concerns are splintering and rotting of the wood, which can be avoided for quite some time with routine maintenance.
Usually, wood playsets cost more than metal options, but a little less than vinyl. With careful attention, their lifespan can be up to 15-20 years.
Plastic is the most cost-effective playset material, but for good reason. Playsets made from plastic are not very sturdy or durable and they’re prone to warping and cracking. Because of this, they’re best suited for young children and toddlers.
Aside from warping and cracks, plastic is actually a low-maintenance material. It can withstand extreme weather conditions without fading.
In terms of safety, plastic playsets are the least sturdy. If it’s supporting too much weight, plastic can and will crack under the pressure. For that reason, the lifespan of most plastic playsets is just around 5 years.
Many playset manufacturers consider vinyl a premiere playset material. Similar to wood and metal, vinyl is extremely durable. Its construction, however, makes it lower maintenance than the rest.
Vinyl wood is created by inserting a piece of treated wood inside thick vinyl posts. The vinyl acts as a protective layer, keeping the wood beneath it shielded from the outside elements. Because of this, playsets made from vinyl never splinter, warp, or rot.
Aside from annual cleanings, commercial vinyl playsets are virtually maintenance-free. They don’t require repeated sealing or staining like wood or metal swing sets.
Its resistance to splintering or rotting makes vinyl an extremely sturdy, safe playset material. Great vinyl swingsets can last up to 25-30 years (though, more maintenance might be required after year 20).
Their main downfall is their cost. They are undeniably the most expensive swing set material on the market, but their quality reflects that.
Final Consensus: The Most Durable Playset Material Is…
Vinyl! If you’re looking for a high-quality playset that can stand the test of time, we recommend vinyl. Swing Kingdom designs, builds, and installs the strongest vinyl-clad commercial playground equipment, and has for well over a decade.