There’s nothing quite like having your own playset in the backyard for your kids. They bring hours of fun for children and are a great way to keep them active at home, whether it’s swinging or climbing.
However, are expensive playsets worth the extra cost? The short answer to this is yes, the high-quality you can expect is worth every penny. Even so, there are other factors to consider before you buy.
Types of Materials of the Playset
One of the biggest determining factors of which playset to get is what type of material it consists of. Most playsets are going to be constructed of two materials: metal and wood.
While plastic playsets do exist, they tend to be on the cheaper end of the playset spectrum because they don’t last as long as either metal or wood.
Typically, metal playsets are made with specially-treated steel to protect against rust and decay, as well as protect against heat absorption. No child wants to burn themselves on a hot slide or on monkey bars!
Wooden playsets are also treated to resist rot and pests. It’s pressurized to make it stronger, so you don’t need to worry about beams breaking when your child uses the swings.
Metal is often easier to clean (simply wipe muck off with a damp cloth) and needs less regular treatment than wood. Metal playsets are often easier to assemble, but many families prefer the natural look of wood and don’t mind doing yearly treatments to keep the timber in tip-top shape.
Before you can accurately judge whether or not an expensive playset is worth the price, you need to establish:
- The quality of the materials
- The strength of the materials
- The thickness of the materials
Otherwise, it will be impossible to gauge whether or not you should invest in a specific model.
Quality of the Materials
When it comes to the safety of children, quality materials and construction are vital. Unreliable materials, such as low-grade quality lumber are prone to getting warped or splintering, can increase the risk of needless injury.
Take, as an example, defective or badly-made bolts. These pose two potential dangers: they could rust or deteriorate so severely that they destabilize the structural foundations.
With this in mind, we suggest using solid cedar beams for the playset’s structural base. The Consumer Product Safety Commission actually recommends this as they’re more resistant to splintering or collapsing and can be pressure-treated for extra strengthening. Cedar and redwood are also rot-resistant, so they will hold up longer under wet conditions. You can read more about them in our full article on the best types of wood for playsets.
Strength of the Materials
Another safety consideration is whether the materials are sufficiently sturdy. To start, ask yourself if a playset’s components may be liable to tear or break.
If they are, well, they could end up snagging on clothing as your children play. At best, this could lead to ripping a pair of pants or two. At worst? It could cause an accident that gets your child hurt.
It makes sense then to invest in a more expensive playset to ensure you’re getting top-of-the-line materials. It’s better to get a smaller set that’s of the best quality than a cheaper, larger playset that might break down more quickly.
Thickness of the Materials
Playsets are going to see a lot of jumping and running around, so it’s important that the surface beneath the playset is reasonably thick and soft to keep it well-cushioned.
It’s safe to say that excludes surfaces like concrete or asphalt, which are unsuitable for absorbing the kinds of falls typically associated with a playset environment.
Even soft grass, which is less likely to see serious injuries, isn’t preferable. After all, a dry spell can leave the ground too hard to cushion a tumble.
Instead, thicker and more adaptable materials like rubber mats, poured-in-place rubber, mulch, soft gravel, sand, or shredded rubber are go-to choices. They are perfect for creating a cushioned surface that provides a high level of protection for your children.
Number of Components and Options for Children
There are a vast number of types of playsets, each with a different number of components. Typically, more expensive options will give your children more variety in how they want to play.
For example, the cheapest playsets may only include a swing or two. Higher-quality and pricier playsets will often have a slide, a climbing area, swings, and even a covered playroom. Some may even have games on the side, like tic-tac-toe or a helm like you would find on a ship.
That means that each individual playset will have a different number of components, but there are some commonalities. Usually, a good quality playset will include some of the following:
- Monkey bars for climbing
- A sandbox
- Ladders, either rope or fixed
- A slide, either covered or uncovered
- A tower with multiple decks
- A bridge or swinging clatter bridge
Rather than getting the most expensive and complicated version available, it’s a good idea to see which your child wants. That way, you’ll know what they’ll actually enjoy. After all, not every child wants to play in the sand or climb a tower.
However, if you want it to be a surprise, pay attention to how they play at playgrounds. If they always go straight to the slides or if they prefer climbing in the jungle gyms, let that inform your decision.
It’s good to bear in mind that the more components a playset has, the more complicated the installation will be. While we love to get our hands dirty and work on a project, our children’s safety comes first. It’s a good idea to have a professional at least inspect your work to ensure safety standards have been met.
Durability and Longevity Concerns
No one can deny that playsets, especially the top-tier quality ones, are an investment. With the amount of money necessary for an expensive one, you’ll want it to be both durable and have a long lifespan.
On average, you can expect a playset to last anywhere from 15 to 20 years. Of course, the exact time will boil down to the quality of the materials used in construction, the craftsmanship behind it, and the amount your kids use it.
You may think a metal set will last longer than a wooden one, but that isn’t necessarily true. If a metal set is not well made, in all likelihood, it won’t last as long as a well-constructed wood playset.
If you want to extend your playset’s longevity safely, the best thing you can do is ensure it’s well made but also well maintained. The more you look after your set, the longer you can expect it to last.
We believe an expensive playset is absolutely worth the cost. You’re getting better quality, stronger materials, and it’s likely to last longer than a cheaper playset.
However, only you can be sure which set is best for your family and budget. If you’re able to spend the extra money, we suggest getting top-quality, which means a higher cost. You can potentially score a good deal if you buy at the right time of the year. Read our full article on the best time to buy a swing set and our study on how much does a swing set cost for more info.
This isn’t always possible for all families, but you need to ensure that the playset is as good in quality as you can afford. After all, you don’t want something that will break while your little ones are playing.
We include both expensive and cheaper options in our short list of the best playsets and have a full Short List of the best budget playsets. For more considerations on price and other factors, also be sure to read our full guide on how to buy a playset.