Safety and durability are among two of the most important factors people consider before purchasing a swing set. And if you’ve done any amount of research, you’ve probably come across different types of swing sets, whether it be metal, wood, or vinyl. In this blog, we’ll help you put the metal vs. wood vs. vinyl swing set debate to rest, and help you better understand which type will check all your boxes.
Deciding on a Swing Set
Choosing the right swing set for residential or commercial purposes isn’t a decision you make on a whim. You want it to last, and you want it to be something that will actually serve a purpose and bring joy to the children playing on it.
All of this means you need to take into account deciding factors like financing, space, and safety. But one of the most important factors to keep in mind is to try to purchase a set that will grow alongside the children playing on it.
If you’re too focused on the perfect swing set right now, it may only last a year or two before your kids outgrow it. On the other hand, no one wants to purchase a swing set just to tell their kids they have to wait a few years to enjoy it because it’s too dangerous for them right now.
Regardless of what type of swing set you may have been looking at so far, it’s a good idea to consider purchasing a modular set you can add pieces onto in the future.
With a little housekeeping out of the way, we can now explore the metal vs. wood vs. vinyl swing set debate in more detail.
Around 137 children per day injure themselves on public and private playground equipment every year. Injuries are often the result of falls, especially when the ground surrounding the swing set has not been covered with a protective surface.
A little rough-and-tumble play is bound to happen, and most injuries can be prevented with proper adult supervision. However, it’s important to make sure your swing set is safe.
Falling off a swing set is one thing. But sustaining an injury because of a faulty product is something you could otherwise avoid. To help you make the safest choice, we’ll weigh the safety of metal, wood, and vinyl swing sets below.
Metal swing sets get hot in the summer and are prone to rust over time. Also, the chains on a metal swing set usually have gaps large enough for children to pinch their skin in. Metal swing sets aren’t typically going to cause any serious injuries compared to other types, but they’re not the most comfortable and forgiving type on the market.
Wood swing sets are a popular choice, especially for residential use. However, it’s not uncommon for a standard wood swing set to have insects like yellow jackets and wasps who create nests in the gaps. You also need to watch out for splintering on wood swing sets, though this is more likely to occur when the swing set has not been properly maintained.
Swing set and playset wood was once commonly treated with chemicals that could prove harmful to children after an extended period of use. However, the industry stopped production of this type of wood in 2003, and it’s no longer a concern.
Vinyl swing sets are a top choice. It’ll best protect your kids from burns and pinches, and they're virtually maintenance-free. If you want vinyl but prefer the look of wood, there are plenty of high-quality vinyl swing sets that come in styles mimicking the look of wood. At Innovative Playtime, all of our swing sets have non-splintering, slip-resistant surfaces to maximize safety.
The winner? Vinyl.
Durability & Longevity
The durability of a swing set hinges upon two factors: (1) the type of material used, and (2) its design and construction. The stronger the hardware, the more durable the swing set.
The last thing you want to purchase is a swing set that doesn’t hold up past its first winter. The next section in this metal vs. wood vs. vinyl swing set debate deals with strength and longevity.
Metal swing sets are extremely durable when you first purchase them. If you keep up with routine maintenance, they should last for quite a while. However, the metal chains and surface of this type of swing set can begin to rust and become much less resilient over the years.
If you want a swing set that will grow with your child, metal isn’t the best bet — as an older child may be a little too heavy for swings that have rusty chains from wear and tear.
Wood is an excellent choice for durability, provided it’s high quality. When looking at wood swing sets, be sure to avoid wood that is:
- Low quality. A cheaply priced swing set will reflect its quality. Buying an investment structure like this solely off of the price tag will cost you more in the long run, not to mention act as a constant safety hazard.
- Too soft. Soft wood isn’t a great choice for an outdoor swing set, and it’s a subpar material to build with. Nails and screws have difficulty holding in soft wood, which means these types of wood bend under pressure far too easily.
What is the best wood for swing sets? Typically, cedar and redwood are a go-to for constructing high-quality swing sets. These woods are known for being naturally resistant to disease, rot, and insect infestation.
High-quality vinyl is extremely durable. On average, a high-quality vinyl swing set can last around 15-20 years, and a high-quality wood swing set can last just about as long. However, vinyl requires significantly less upkeep than a typical wood swing set.
The winner? Vinyl.
Honorable mention: Wood.
Most people who purchase a swing set — whether for residential or commercial uses — don’t want to put a lot of time and effort into maintaining it. Ideally, the more “set it and forget it” the swing set can be, the better. And while no swing is completely maintenance free, there are definitely some that require less upkeep than others.
Overall, metal swing sets are reasonably easy to maintain. While they do rust and corrode over time, there are some ways you can at least slow the process.
For instance, using a sealant, finish, or paint can help preserve your metal swing set. Additionally, you can consider adding plastic covers to the chains to help them last longer. You’ll also need to tend to knicks and scratches in the metal that will develop over time.
Using an oil-based stain on a wood swing set about every two years can help keep the wood healthy. It can also keep the factory warranty valid. You should also clean the entirety of a wood swing set — including the canopy and rubber areas — every few months.
Vinyl swing sets require the least amount of maintenance. Cleaning a vinyl swing set is easy, as the material takes well to water. Also, choosing a vinyl swing set means you don’t have to worry about painting, sealing, or staining the swing set on an annual basis.
The winner? Vinyl.
Which Is Better? A Wood, Metal, or Vinyl Swing Set?
Are metal or wood swing sets better? What about vinyl? Again, it depends on a few factors like price, space, and safety.
We recommend opting for a vinyl-encased wood swing set, the kind we offer at Innovative Playtime. However, the next best options are a high-quality vinyl swing set and a high-quality wood set. While metal swing sets have been a staple on playgrounds in the past, there are simply better and safer options on the market now.
Preparing for Your Swing Set
Okay, we’ve helped you sort through the metal vs. wood vs. vinyl swing set debate — but we’re not done yet. Once you’ve decided on the type of swing set you want, it’s tempting to jump straight into purchasing. However, taking the time to find the right one for your yard will save you from a lot of frustration.
Before purchasing a swing set, we recommend taking measurements of your space, paying close attention to the slope of the space. If your space has a slope in excess of 12” over 20’, then you may need to have the site leveled or mulched. You could also have a turf pad installed to help level the area.
Also, be sure to check the access points of your yard. Do you have any gates? If so, how wide? Do you have steps surrounding the area or unique landscaping? Maybe steep hills, dips, or low-hanging wires or branches? Preparing the area for a swing set will make the delivery and installation process as simple as possible.