When shopping for a playset for your children, there are 4 items you should consider: strength, durability, maintenance level, and safety. Finding a playset that meets that criteria and your budget can get overwhelming fast.
The good news is that when you start searching for playsets based on their material, determining those 4 items becomes pretty simple.
Use our guide to vinyl playsets vs. wood playsets to help narrow your choices & find the perfect playset for your backyard.
Why Does The Type of Playset Material Matter?
The playset material matters because it will directly affect its performance in terms of strength, durability, maintenance level, and safety. If you invest in a low-quality material like plastic or weak wood, performance measures will decrease across the board.
But if you invest in high-quality materials like vinyl or a high-quality wood species, the strength, durability, maintenance level, and safety will greatly improve.
The 4 most common materials for playsets are metal, vinyl, wood, and plastic. So why does this guide only cover wood and vinyl? The reality is that by nature, some playset materials are superior to others.
Metal & Plastic
When it comes to residential playsets, metal and plastic rank much lower on the quality scale. Both of these materials are most likely to bend or warp with too much weight. It’s crucial that parents be sure their children are following the maximum weight requirements. Failure to do so could put your children at risk of injury.
Metal playsets are also prone to rusting, and plastic to cracking, which decreases their durability and increases the level of upkeep. Plus, if they aren’t anchored properly, their chances of toppling over are high because they’re so light. For these reasons, their warranties tend to be shorter than other higher-quality materials.
Wood & Vinyl
Unlike their weaker counterparts, wood and vinyl playsets are known for their sturdiness and longevity. Their upkeep is minimal compared to metal and plastic because they don’t splinter, rot, or rust over time.
Their similarities make it hard to determine which playset material is best. Our goal of this post is to help provide you with the information you need to know about vinyl playsets vs. wood so you can make an informed decision before you purchase.
How Long Do Wooden Playsets Last?
The longevity of a wooden playset can range anywhere from 10 to 20 years. How long it lasts will depend on the type of wood it’s made from and the type of upkeep you provide.
Do you periodically inspect the playset? If you notice a floorboard is showing signs of deterioration, do you wait months for it to get worse, or do you tackle the problem quickly?
The better attention and care that you provide, the better your wood playset’s chances of increasing its lifespan.
What Type of Wood is Best For Outdoor Playsets?
There are 3 types of wood that are considered high-quality options for playsets: redwood, cedar, and chemically treated pine. Because of its durability and price, cedar is usually considered the best wooden playset material.
Playsets made from redwood are rot- and insect-resistant. This is because redwood trees are naturally high in tannins — “complex chemical substances” that protect tree bark from infestations of fungi, insects, and decomposition. They are the most durable wood option and their price reflects that.
Cedar playsets, though slightly less durable than redwoods, are still considered highly resistant to rot and decay. Though they’re slightly lower in tannins than redwoods, their smell naturally repels bugs and other pests so their durability and strength are fairly comparable to redwoods at a more attractive price.
Pine is another popular wooden playset material. It’s a softer wood than cedar or redwood, but when it’s chemically treated, pine wood is actually the most rot- and insect-resistant.
However, pine playsets will require more frequent upkeep than cedar or redwood. Routine resealing treatments once or twice a year can ensure your playset stays in great shape for many years to come.
How Much Do Wooden Playsets Cost?
Redwood is typically the most expensive wooden playset material, followed by cedar, and then pine.
Playsets made from high-quality cedar and redwood can cost anywhere from $2,700 to $10,000. Chemically-treated pine is slightly more affordable and can range in price from $800 to $3,000.
Keep in mind, these price estimates do not include the cost of surfacing options. All 3 wooden playset materials — redwood and cedar especially — should avoid resting directly on the ground. An alternative surfacing option like rubber mulch or engineered wood fibers can keep your wooden playset from premature decay.
What Is Vinyl?
If you’ve ever felt composite decking or poly furniture, playsets made from vinyl will have the same texture. Simply put, vinyl is a versatile plastic that’s made from other recycled plastics and PVC. It’s a popular building material in the construction industry because it’s water-resistant and extremely durable.
In playset construction, vinyl is used as a sleeve to protect the wood beneath it. What we see as vinyl posts or decking are actually a combination of pressure-treated wood covered with a layer of PVC vinyl.
Why Is Vinyl So Durable?
Because vinyl is made from recycled plastics, it is resistant to water, pests, and rotting. Unlike wood, vinyl doesn’t splinter or weather over time. This makes playsets made from vinyl virtually maintenance-free.
How Long Do Vinyl Playsets Last?
A Swing Kingdom vinyl playset can last anywhere from 15-25 years. This is because their durability is so high and their maintenance levels are so low. An annual cleaning and/or power wash is really all the maintenance needed to keep your vinyl playset in good condition for over 20 years.
How Much Do Vinyl Playsets Cost?
Compared to wood playsets, vinyl playsets are noticeably higher in cost, but this is because their quality is unmatched.
Vinyl playsets retain their value long after your purchase. In fact, you can resell your vinyl playset when your kids outgrow it for half the initial price you paid! That’s a testament to the durability that vinyl brings to playset construction.
Ranking The Performance of Vinyl Playset vs. Wood Playsets
Now that we’ve outlined the differences between wood and vinyl materials, let’s circle back to those 4 performance measures we mentioned at the beginning.
Strength, durability, maintenance level, and safety are 4 of the most important qualities to look for when you’re buying a playset for your children because they can impact the playset’s warranty.
Here’s what they mean in the context of shopping for a playset:
1. Strength — refers to the playset’s sturdiness and ability to hold weight.
- Cheap materials and weak hardware are indicators of poor strength.
- Materials with thick dimensions and stainless steel brackets are indicators of excellent strength
2. Durability — refers to the playset’s ability to withstand normal wear and tear and hard weathering over time.
- Signs of damage or deterioration after years of play are signs of low durability.
- No indications of damage or deterioration after years of play are signs of high durability.
3. Maintenance level — refers to the hands-on care you as the playset owner will have to provide for your playset.
- Frequent inspections that result in the need to clean or repair your playset are indicators of high maintenance.
- Annual cleanings and little-to-no repairs are indicators of low maintenance.
4. Safety — refers to the risk of danger or injury.
- A high risk of injury is an indicator of low safety.
- A low risk of injury is an indicator of high safety.
The best playsets are high in strength, durability, and safety, and low in maintenance levels. In the chart below, we’ve ranked vinyl playsets vs. wood based on these key measurements.
Vinyl Playset Vs. Wood Playset Ranking Chart
Based on this chart, it’s clear that vinyl is the superior playset material.
If you’re looking to buy a vinyl playset, Swing Kingdom has been designing and building high-quality, maintenance-free custom playsets with warranties of over 20 years.