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How To Buy A Swing Set

In many parts of the country, spring rolls in after spending month entertaining the kids indoors and we are ready to get outside and play!! That tends to get many families thinking about new ways to fill those warm weather days with excitement. We go out and get new bikes, balls, sidewalk chalk even bounce houses. But one of the biggest spring purchases is a new swing set for the backyard. I think most of us go into making this major purchase with the intention of providing hours of fun for many years to come. The problem is that there are so many different manufacturers, features and even wood types that this can get very confusing. A great place to start is to determine if you are interested in a wooden swing set or a maintenance free swing set.

Wood or Maintence Free?
The choice of a traditional wooden swing set over maintenance free is really based on the amount of time you are willing to put into annual maintenance of the swing set. Most wooden swing sets are made with woods such as cedar and pine. These typically come factory stained and sealed. I compare this to building a wood deck off of the back of your home. An annual staining keeps the wood sealed and prolongs the life. Just as you would stain and seal a deck you would do the same to your swing set by easily purchasing the products from a local hardware store. There are manufacturers, Congo Swing Sets uses a 100% Polymere coating. Not only does that mean no staining, it also makes the swing set splinter free! If the platforms or beams happen to look a bit dingy from the natural surroundings , a quick squirt of the garden hose can bring it back to life. Be prepared to spend more up front for this feature, but keep in mind you are not spending money on stain over the years.

Size Up Your Space
This is actually a critical step that is not always thought out as well as it should be. You may have an idea of an area in your yard that would be perfect for your new swing set, but that may not always be the case. First of all, is this space level? For proper performance of the swing set it will need to have all structural beams placed on a level surface. This may require adding some fill dirt to an area or raking out some dirt from another. The swing set posts are not buried into the ground, rather just sit on top of the surface so level is key. Next, make sure you have a large enough safety zone. The safety zone is the “fall area” around the swing set including the swings and bottom of the slides and ladders. Keep in mind how far in front and behind the set a swing will go as a child is gaining momentum. The same goes for a child coming down a slide with any significant speed, you would not want a structure such as a tree in close proximity. The “safety zone” is the minimum size area required to install that swing set. This is your child’s safety please do not cut corners. After determining the size of the area you will need, it is time to think about the type of surface you will have under and around the set. Popular choices are wood chips, mulch, sand and pea gravel. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) recommends 12 inches of the material of choice. It is not recommended to place the swing set on top of the lawn because this is not absorbent enough for a fall. Here is a link to some great safety information from the Southampton Swing Set by Swing N Slide Next, lets talk about the swing beam. This is the beam across the swing set that positions the swings, trapeze, gliders ect. Smaller less expensive swing sets typically offer a 2 position swing beam. This means there are two sets of swing hangers allowing for two swings, a swing and a trapeze, a swing and a glider swing ect. When you get into a larger foot print you will begin to see three position swing beams. This gives you more flexibility in what to offer your children. Keep in mind there is a whole other market just for accessory add-ons for swing sets. Even if the set of your dreams doesn’t come with the toddler bucket swing you can easily purchase it at any given time. Here is a great page to give you an idea of options that are out there. Swing Set Accessories Finally, ask yourself if monkey bars are a must. This is the other main feature you need to consider. The thought of monkey bars was scarey to me as I remembered back to my childhood falls so I ended up opting out. That being said it is still an available option and appeals to many.

Installation
Installing a swing set can be done two ways. Do it yourself and the only fee is your blood sweat and tears, or hire an installer and sit in the comfort of your home watching the magic happen. Obviously hiring an installer comes with a price. Depending on the size of the set you choose you are looking at $150-$500 to install. We decided to do it ourselves. It took my husband, myself and my father a day and a half to build a Gorilla Great Skye I. The process was not bad at all. We began by laying out all of the wood in order on our lawn. We then set up a table and spread out all of the nuts and bolts in categories as the packages were labeled. This was actually the hardest part. From there it was simply following the amazing instruction manual page by page. As my father and husband were installing one piece I was looking ahead and finding the pieces need for the next page. The process was seamless. This decision is completely based on you comfort level. There are obviously very heavy pieces of wood for the beams and support posts so the more man power the better. I would not call it advanced DIY as the instructions made it seem very easy.

You Get What You Pay For
Budget can really be the driving factor that ultimately determines the swing set for you. Although we may want all the bells and whistles, they add up quickly. Prices of swing sets can reach over $5000 for certain model. This is not really a reasonable option for the majority of consumers. There are also models available in the $300 range. I am a firm believer in you get what you pay for. This is something that you should stretch your budget to the max. If that means $500, that’s ok!! There are great choices from companies like Backyard Discovery and Swing N Slide that are manufacturing quality products for that price. Make sure you are doing your research. Search around online, read reviews or even all the 800 number on a swing set website and pick their brains. That is what they are there for. Quite often buying from a smaller online retailer rather than one of the Big Box brand stores will offer you a much personal experience. These smaller websites are in the business of swing sets and that’s what they know. Use their knowledge!!