5 THINGS TO LOOK FOR
There are many companies out there who make playground equipment. You can run down to the hardware or sporting goods store, or jump online and find a playground. With so many options and prices, how do you know if you’re getting the best value? More importantly, is the playground is durable and safe? Here are 5 things to consider.
We’ve all heard the phrase, “It’s what’s inside that counts.” This is equally true in assessing the quality of a playground. In short, poor quality is unsafe. Looking at the materials the playground is made from can help identify the quality of the structure. First, look for type of wood. The best quality playgrounds will be made from Redwood or Cedar. American or Imported, these types of wood have demonstrated consistently to be better and longer-lasting, as well as insect and rot resistant. This is important to note, because some companies build their playgrounds out of Pine or soft woods and stain them to look like Cedar or Redwood. They are not the same, so make sure you ask.
Also, when looking at the type of wood, you should also check the thickness of the wood supports, as well as the type of hardware (bolts, screws, nuts, etc.) being used. Some playgrounds barely have a small little board holding a major play component like a monkey bars or swing support. Always lean toward the thickest wood pieces available.
Another type of playground that is not as commonly found on the market, but worth noting here is the aluminum playground. When considering an aluminum playground, keep in mind rust factors, sharp edges, and the amount of sun or heat the play area will be exposed to make a safe decision for your child.
This could technically fall under materials, but we’ll make a special note of the plastic components. The quality of your plastics (slides, swing seats, rock grips, etc.) are as important as the quality of the structural wood. First, squeeze it hard. Grab the plastic and squeeze. High quality plastic won’t flex or move much at all, because it’s thick. Secondly try to pick it up. High quality plastic is heavier because it is more dense. Ask what the weight of the slides are and compare with other manufacturers for weight. In addition, the highest quality plastics will be double walled. That means the piece (slide in this case) will be hollow in the middle and have double walls of thick plastic. This ensures the most plastic is utilized in the slide, versus a single wall slide of thinner, lesser grade and weighted plastic.
WARRANTY & MAINTENANCE
Any reputable company with a high-quality product will offer a great warranty. The warranty should cover workmanship and defects in materials. You should see a promise from the company or manufacturer that the product will be made well, and if something is broken, it will be fixed. Check the length and scope of warranties to make sure you are getting what you think. In conjunction with a warranty is a pre-planned maintenance program. This will include things like watching for insects and when to look at re-staining and sealing the wood for longevity.
This is really a piggy back on the materials section too, but the nuance is unique, so we’ll discuss it separately. Once you’ve determined the quality of the wood and plastics, take a look at the overall structural stability of the playground. Check for corner braces that help the unit be stable. Walk up and grab the playground and give it a shake. It shouldn’t move much. If it does, there are probably some improvements that could be made to the structural stability. What kind of supports does it have? Are there any reinforcements on high-pressure areas? For example, we notice that most backyard playgrounds have a swing beam that bends and sags in the middle, which weakens the overall structure. One way to solve that is by reinforcing the swing beams with a steel piece on 3 sides of the wooden beam to prevent this warping. It also allows peace of mind for adults to swing and play with the child.
One other indicator of quality can be price. Though this isn’t definitive in every case, it often means that we get what we pay for. High quality products tend to cost more, on average, than lower quality products. We’ve all purchased something from a store that we couldn’t believe the deal, and it broke 10 minutes later because it was of poor quality.
Often, playgrounds can be reflective of this. Cheaper isn’t always better. In fact, many times it’s not good at all. Playgrounds are like most items of large investment, such as a car, or a house. The recommendation is to buy the highest quality that be afforded, and that extra investment will be made up for in peace of mind and reduced frustrations and maintenance. Price shopping and discount sales happen frequently. Take advantage of those. However, also compare the 4 pieces above as well, and you will have a better opportunity to get a higher quality playground.