The Ultimate Swing Set Buying Guide: Your Kids, Your Money
Once spring arrives, the kids hopefully will start heading outdoors to enjoy the great weather. One thing that might be in the finances this year is a swing set. And, depending on the number of kids you have, their ages, and other factors, your family might just be looking at getting a new residential playground right in the backyard.
Find the Right Size Area
Although this may seem like a common sense question, find the right part of the yard where the swing set (or playground) will go. One important consideration is to think about the kids on the swings.
Will there be enough room for multiple children to be actively swinging and other kids to run around the swing set?
Further down in the guide we'll talk about things like terrain and safety features, but finding the right area is important. Remember changes outside including where the sun will be and whether or not there is adequate space for all of the features of the playground.
How Big Is Your Family?
Even though your children may not be toddler age, think about the next couple of years and how that may have an impact on your investment. Yes, that's right, having a swing set is an investment and will make a world of difference when the kids start to grow older than five years old and are ready for something other than a swing or small slide.
Here are questions you may be able to answer:
- Are you a stay-at-home parent or will you be?
- How many children do you and your spouse plan to have?
- Do your kids have friends that come to play?
- Are there enough activities on the swing set to accommodate all of the kids?
As you picture the little guys (or girls) playing on the set, try to understand the highest number of kids that will be present on each activity. If friends plan to come over, how often will this be? Is there a part of the extended family that is going to get to enjoy the fun?
Really think about the size of your family and whether or not your next swing set will fit for everyone. The cost over time will work itself out and will help with future growth should you decided to have more kids.
Overall Design and Material
Choosing your design is going to help fulfill your child's needs and/or wants. Each playset is different and will have an impact on individual needs for children. For example, if you have monkey bars, a slide, and some type of rock climbing wall, the kids will be sure to get their workout in for the day.
The typical options for a swing set are wood and metal. You can also find sets that are a blend of plastic with metal, or wood with plastic parts (i.e. the canopy on top of the clubhouse).
Wood is definitely the higher-end and recommended playset. It offers a very robust and sturdy setup as a long term solution. Cedar wood offers the natural decay, rot, and insect and insect resistance along with a great color and look for your yard. You can also find southern yellow pine swing sets that are treated with non-toxic chemicals.
Normally, for wood sets staining and checking the nuts/bolts will need done after a couple of years.
Wood Swing Set Benefits
- Naturally does not rot or decay
- Very sturdy with heavy-duty bolts/hardware
- Very long-term solution
Wood Swing Set Disadvantages
- Longer installation time
- Overall playground is heavy
- Possibility of termite damage
Choosing a Metal Set
Depending on the quality of the metal used by the manufacturer, you might just be able to find a great swing set for the price. If you have kids that like to rough house or are on the older side, the metal can bend.
You should find that on average choosing metal over wood will be the more affordable option, but it also depends on what you're looking for. Specifically, what are the size of your children and their ages?
Metal swing sets are practically maintenance-free due to the powder coated finish on them. You won't have to worry about them rusting unless the finish starts to come off.
Metal Set Benefits
- Typically less expensive than wood
- Faster/easier to put together
- Metal is not prone to rust
Metal Set Disadvantages
- May not support the weight of older kids
- Not as sturdy/stable as wood
- May bend or break if metal is exposed
Backyard Discovery has an awesome selection of wooden swing sets and other outdoor items. You can find their Amazon page here with all different types of cedar wood playsets and even smaller playhouses.
Listed below are some examples of both wooden and metal swing sets so you can compare quick features of both items. Remember that with a wooden setup, you'll generally spend more time to set it up. Although the complexity of the product may change whether or not the installation will take very long.
Backyard Discovery Prescott Cedar
- Built with lightweight, heavy-duty cedar wood
- Age range 5-11 years
- Site to store shipping (from Walmart)
- 7-12 hours for installation
Super 8 Metal Set
- Powder coated paint finish (weather resistant)
- Components are pre-drilled for easy setup
- Offer electric starting (less pull starting)
- 90-day limited warranty
Their Own Kind: All Plastic Swing Set
An all plastic swing set will help you to not worry about bends in metal or wood getting attacked by termites.
Another advantage to having only plastic is easy assembly. Plastic can last an extremely long time given that it is properly cared for and put together correctly.
How do you find out what the kids like? Especially if this is your first swing set, it may be hard to tell what features are going to be the best.
A great way is to just take the kids to the local playground. See what they are interested in and what they play with most. Maybe they need to go a couple of times or they've been in the past, so the swings or slide might be the favorite.
The features of your swing set will go a long way and hopefully help the kids discover more fun outdoors.
Terrain, Yard Type, and Playground Surfacing
Generally speaking, you'll want to find an area of the yard that's relatively flat. This is not to say that it will be hard to work with an uneven surface. Some swing sets will give the ability to adjust them to compensate; however, it's best to have a flatter area for stability.
Do You Have a Movable Shed?
We have an 8x10 shed in our backyard, so finding an oversized playground is not exactly going to fit in that corner. The good thing is that we could move it to a different part of the yard given the fact that we want to put our swing set there.
Would You Consider Laying a Foundation?
If you're yard doesn't have the best foundation like wood, mulch, sand, or gravel, you might consider laying it down to have a "playground area". This is common out at the neighborhood playgrounds and really helps with a soft landing from the swings and slides.
Fall Height Rating for Surfacing
There's a reason for the rubber mulch that's used in commercial playground areas. It's used for what's known as a fall height rating. This shows how bad the impact of falling into the surface will be. Keep this in mind when searching for the right surface.
Swing sets just aren't the same without a slide. You know it's true. @Lawnaholic
Safety Features & Concerns
Remember that we were talking about having the correct amount of space around the swing set when other children are active on it.
Using a 6' safety zone will help you allocate the correct space for safety reasons. For example, if a child were to fall after standing up from the slide, they would still be in the zone.
Take a look at the wood being provided. Are they 2x4, 4x4, or 4x6 beams? It can also be two 2x6 pieces glued together (bad move!).
Think about the following when you are deciding on the safety of your children:
- Does the set come with recessed hardware (not sticking out)
- Is it commercial grade or cheap hardware?
- Is the wood pre-drilled for convenience?
There's an entire Outdoor Home Playground Safety Handbook that covers everything about playground safety.
What's the Budget Look Like?
Of course, if we all had our choice, we'd definitely go for the Skyfort II All Cedar Wood Swing Set. C'mon, it's got a clubhouse, which means windows and a door. Plus, there's multiple swings, a sandbox, AND monkey bars.
(The thing's so nice I had to include a video below)
But we all simply don't have that luxury, so we're forced to make a decision about features vs. cost.
Price of Wood
A good estimate for wooden swing sets will cost around $500-$1,500. It's an important thought to consider how long these will last though. It's an investment, not just the next toy that's going to get left outside in the rain.
Price of Metal
You can find metal sets from about $100-$400. There are some above that price range, but for the most average purchases, this is the typical cost. For a good quality set with standard features, the average cost is close to $300.
All Plastic Swing Sets
These materials are in the price range of $500-$1,000 depending of the added accessories and features.
The Skyfort II Backyard Discovery Skyfort Playset Video
Installation (Don't Forget Labor Costs)
Installation (Don't Forget Labor Costs)
Unless your family is the DIY kind, you'll have to find someone to install your swing set and/or help you unpackage the delivery.
*Some of the wooden playsets can weight up to 800 pounds! In some cases, that means an 18 wheeler might even show up in your neighborhood (or driveway in the country).
The swingset that you purchase will most likely come with an instruction manual that could include upwards of 100+ steps to follow. This means that yes any person can follow the instructions, but it may be more beneficial to have someone experienced/willing to help with the installation.
Believe it or not, Amazon offers swing set assembly pros to help with your installation. Head over there to enter your zip code and see if there is someone available in your area.
If you can't find Amazon to connect you with someone, simply go to Google and type in "swing set assembly near me" after your set is delivered to find a local contractor.
Wrapping It Up
Purchasing a swing set is a big deal. Having the right amount of safety features, something that is going to last a long time and make the kids happy all at the same time is a challenging decision.
Keep in mind the benefits of the different types of swing sets and you'll be golden. It should be easier to decide when you know the features that you're looking for and the quality of products your family likes.
You can also visit Playground Safety for recalls and state regulations for playgrounds in your area.
Take care of yourself -- and your fun playground!