Every child deserves the best when it comes to backyard play equipment. Not only are swing sets a great way to get the kids out of the house and out from behind their screens now and then, they provide opportunities for active play and socialization. However, installing a swing set and maintaining it is often a chore that parents have difficulty keeping up with. The unfortunate result of this is often poorly maintained play equipment that isn’t as safe, or as fun to use, as it should be.
Fortunately, there are some steps that parents can take when setting up their play equipment to minimize the amount of maintenance work that they’ll need to do.
1. Weatherproof the frame
The most time consuming maintenance task on a swing set is keeping wooden frames properly protected from the elements. Moisture and sunlight both damage wood over time, eventually weakening it enough to make room for insects and fungi, which can much more quickly deteriorate it. Simple paint, sealants, and stains provide temporary protection lasting several months or a year, but need to be reapplied regularly.
If you’re looking for a way around this issue, you can take a more intensive approach up front, and eliminate the need for maintenance for years. The best way to do this is to coat the wood in epoxy, before finishing it with varnish to completely block moisture and prevent bleaching. This combination does not weather easily, and will keep the wood completely sealed for much longer than any paint or simple sealant.
2. Use durable materials to mount your swing
Natural fiber ropes are popular for swings because of the way they feel, and polyethylene is popular because of its low cost. Unfortunately, both of these materials are poor choices for mounting your swing. Polyethylene is very vulnerable to UV radiation, and can become noticeably brittle in a matter of months, while natural fibers can quickly begin to rot when exposed to steady moisture during winter or spring. Nylon ropes cost more, but are far more durable, and will last many years before beginning to weaken.
Similarly, ensure that any bolts, and screws used to mount the ropes on the frame are large enough to bear the desired loads, and that nuts and washers are large enough to distribute stresses into the frame without damaging it.
3. Use recycled rubber as fill material for the base
The fill material that forms the base of a swing set often doesn’t get much attention, but it’s critically important. It protects kids when they jump or fall from monkey bars, or slides, and ensures that what might have been broken bones are instead just a few bruises. To keep that fill material soft enough to effectively absorb an impact, parents need to replace organic fill material like wood mulch or wood chips every year or every few years. Recycled rubber, on the other hand, will last for several decades before any replacement is needed.