The Cranbrook wooden swing set by KidKraft is a mid-range playset that has reduced the number of bells and whistles while adding monkey bars. We are going to do a full review here to give you a chance to think through those trade-offs. At $1,200, including shipping, it is still a price tag worth checking out before you purchase.
The Backyartisan's Verdict
Here’s how we break things down at the Backyartisan. We give ratings for each category on a 5-star scale and a weight next to each category, adding up to an overall rating. Roughly 30% of the weight is given to the aspects of the playset before it’s in use, 45% goes to your kids’ experience and use, and 25% to the value of the playset. Next up, the Backyartisan rating for the Cranbrook wooden swing set by KidKraft.
Shipping & Receiving
Shipping and receiving a playset is a little bit more complicated than your typical online purchase. We recommend you check out the article we wrote to detail this playset shipment and receiving process and help you avoid headaches.
Our Cranbrook verdict: We give KidKraft 4 stars for the shipping and receiving of the Cranbrook. In general, they’ve done a fantastic job determining the most efficient way for packaging and shipping swing sets. Nothing is quite 5 stars in shipping in our book for swing sets. We have just found it to be extremely difficult to view anything as easy in this industry as it is today.
Trucking Company Appointments
Remember, a playset is generally a fairly large and heavy shipment. It does not easily fit on a parcel van, instead shipping and generally via LTL freight. The typical freight companies require that you make an appointment for your delivery, which could include being home for a window of time. You’ll also want to know from the retailer if they expect you to unload the item yourself, which is not atypical.
Dealing with Pallets
The Cranbrook comes in four boxes, but it ships on an 8 foot long pallet. Your trucking company may be willing to take this pallet with them when you are done unloading, but be prepared to dispose of it if you have to.
Unboxing and Taking Inventory
If you’ve read any of our reviews or help articles, you’ll know that we really try to point out the potential difficulties behind receiving a swingset shipment. NR experience, no swingset really escapes the large, heavy, and cumbersome boxes required to build a playset.
Once again, we recommend taking a lot of pictures of the shipment before you even unband it and start breaking down the pieces to pull them off of the truck. Definitely inspect every box taking plenty of pictures. You generally have 30 to 90 days to inspect the contents of the boxes as well, so we recommend you set aside an hour or two to look through your contents.
Box Weight and Dimensions
With the Cranbrook you get four boxes and a slide. One box is right at 100 pounds and runs 7 feet long. Two longer boxes cover up almost the entire 8 foot pallet. These are large in size, but aren’t the heaviest boxes you’ll deal with at roughly 75 pounds a piece. One box is just under 50 pounds, and the slide is under 20 pounds. All in all, nothing too heavy about unloading these boxes.
Getting your playset put to use is the next step, and you’ll want to know what you’re doing so that you can keep your children safe. Read what we’ve put together here on assembling a swing set yourself and consider learning more about hiring a professional swing set installer.
Our Cranbrook verdict: We give the installation an average review of 3 stars. It isn’t the most difficult, but it is certainly in need of some elbow grease. It’s just not terribly easy even if it is simplistic.
You run into many of the same tools that you should have on hand and a toolbox. If you don’t have one of the following around your house, it absolutely will not hurt to have it going forward, so head on down to the hardware store: tape measure, level, hammer, cordless drill, carpenter square, screwdriver set, ratchet with socket sets, ranch, drill bits of various sizes, hex key or Allen wrench, ladder, safety glasses, and pencil.
Ease and Timeframe of Installation
KidKraft suggests that the Cranbrook will take you 10 hours to put together with two people. We feel like this is very aggressive for a first-time installer. Given the height of the fort and various panels to assemble on it, we think this is every bit of two workdays. Grab a buddy on a Saturday morning and plan on putting in a full day as well as a decent afternoon on Sunday to get this thing put together.
KidKraft is trying to sell this playset, so we have seen them short change the time frame before. It’s not the most difficult thing to put together, mainly looking at turning bolts and screws. Putting it up right is the harder part and main reason why you’ll need a helper.
Quality of Directions
The Cranbrook instruction manual is roughly 75 pages, and primarily in grayscale. It is heavy on diagrams that are extremely helpful as long as the stickers are in the proper places on your pieces. We think that they do a very good job of keeping everything concise in this manual.
The instructions are in well written English, a basic but very important hurdle for items coming from China.
The use zone for the Cranbrook swing set runs roughly 27’x27‘. That’ll give you 6 foot clearance to run around the entire swing set, so we recommend you give that space for fences and anything else typically in the backyard.
We’ve noticed some people who will put the swing’s upright posts near to a fence to save a little bit of room as not many children go on that side of the swingset. We don’t necessarily recommend that but we do see how people are able to get larger swing sets for small backyards.
Stability & Durability
To get the most from your playset investment, you’ll want to see it last for years to come. In order to see that through, you really need to be buying something that is stable and durable. We go into the detail behind most components and what you should expect.
Our Cranbrook verdict: We give the Cranbrook 3 stars for stability. We found that kid craft has value engineered the heck out of their products, and that means that you don’t necessarily need to expect it to be overbuilt for the price. You may find that the warranty of 5 years is pretty well what to expect in terms of the lifetime in general.
Joints & Hardware
This is your standard fare of hex bolts and lag screws, most anything you can buy at the hardware store off the shelf. Nothing really special about any of the plates and hangers either, frankly, they feel a little light in the hand.
Add only 1 inch thick for most boards, we find the Cranbrook to be even thinner than most other Playsets, including those in KidKraft’s offering. They employ a double board beam for the swing set where each board is only 2 inches thick, which we think probably gets the job done but in general have never loved the dual beam approach.
The Cranbrook includes a wave slide that is only 16 pounds. For some reason, this finish on the slide is a little bit rougher and not as glossy as you’ve come to expect from most thermal formed slides. That may be useful to slow some kids down as they come off of the 5 foot fort.
Wood Stain & Finish
The Cranbrook is one of those classic yellowish cedar finishes that you see in many playsets. In general, we aren’t the biggest fans of the color scheme. But for some reason, it continues to endure in the playset industry. With that said, KidKraft spreads it very evenly, so you don’t have to worry about any splotchy areas.
KidKraft puts their typical 110 pound limit on the Cranbrook. We’ve come to find that to be their norm, and we think that it will certainly fit the typical child. They also recommend a maximum capacity of 11 children, and with three swing positions, and picnic bench, I guess we can see how it would get there. We don’t necessarily think that you’ll see 11 children playing there very easily. We write more about playset weight limits here.
There’s something else we want to mention as we check out the pictures of the Cranbrook. I’m not quite sure where to put this in a review, but the weight and sizes seem to make some sense to me. It’s a little strange, but we want to point out that the pictures on the KidKraft website seem to have smaller children photo shopped into the play set. I think that KidKraft is trying to make the playset look a little larger than it really is, and I can see why they would want that, so I’m just pointing out to you a potential discrepancy between what you see in the picture and what you get.
Please take a look at our article on playground maintenance. We’ve taken some time to put together a checklist that should be helpful for you. In general, you’re gonna want to take good care of anything that you spend over $1,000 on. I don’t care how big your wallet is, it’s just common sense. The KidKraft Cranbrook is not built for a very long term ownership. We put it at 3 to 5 years, but with a little bit of love, you should get up to seven years.
Here’s where we highlight the various elements included in a playset. We try to go into the child’s perspective on your new toy.
Our Cranbrook verdict: We put the Cranbrook at four stars. It is just above average, in our opinion, because of the monkey bars. For a playset that costs just above $1,000, we find that to be a unique add on. We would say the same thing had it been a tube slide or another large feature.
Ups, Downs & Acrosses
In this section, we highlight your children’s options for getting on and off the fort. Heading up, you’ll find a rock wall ladder. Heading down, you’ve got the classic 5 foot high wave slide. What sets this apart from a lot of other less expensive playset is that it also has a full set of monkey bars. We find that to be a somewhat rare “across” at this price point.
The Cranbrook includes three swing positions, one of which is a glider seat. We think that this is a very nice touch that is standard with this playset. You may want to grab an infant bucket seat to complete out the three options and give your kids plenty of options to grow with the playset, swing wise that is.
Social Play Accessories
Besides a bench seat next to the fort that may bring children together, there aren’t a whole lot of social elements to the Cranbrook. This would typically include chalkboards or an interactive play panel for children.
Solo Play Accessories
KidKraft includes a clock and door, but there aren’t really that many exploratory social solo play elements. That’s okay in our opinion, we find that throwing a bunch of plastic doodads on to a playset can sometimes junk up the product.
Roof & Kit Options
KidKraft does not typically give you options to upgrade or downgrade roofs. In general, their configurations are pretty standard once you pick your product. Cranbrook fits that model, as you get what you see in the picture.
Price & Value
Now that you have gone through your experience of shopping/receiving, assembling, and even playing on the Cranbrook, what kind of damage will you do to your wallet? And is it worth it? That’s what we go into here.
Our Cranbrook verdict: We give the Cranbrook three stars for value. It seems adequately priced for what you get, but here’s where the old adage comes in: you get what you pay for. In this case, that means an average playset.
We think that the Cranbrook is a pretty decent value overall. You aren’t spending an arm and a leg on this playset. The options that you get on it to us seem to be appropriately priced. At this stage in the game, we know roughly what each element will run you depending upon the quality of the materials, and we think that the Cranbrook overall seems priced fairly. Drop in a tube slide or another major option, and you may be scratching closer to $1,600-$1,700 for a playset.
Most retailers offer swing sets with free shipping. By no means is shipping any swing set free. Just take a look at the pallet, the size of the package, and where it’s coming from. The Cranbrook should cost a total of $200-$300.
You’d be kidding yourself to think that that company/retailer would give you truly free shipping. In order to return the playset, if you do decide to do so, expect to carry all shipping costs, even including the “free shipping” that you actually did pay for. check out your retailer’s return policy, as it probably doesn’t fit your standard policies for online shopping.
You should expect installation for the Cranbrook to cost $350-$500. That is upwards of half the cost of the product, we realize. But, you need to recognize that this could take every bit of a day and a half for two people, so you might see how this dollars out for you and the installer.
KidKraft gives a one year warranty to all hardware and accessories, basically anything that is metal or plastic. Wood is covered for up to five years for structural failure or from rot or insect damage. We have found that they have quite a few outs on this warranty. They may decide to attribute damage to improper maintenance or natural changes in the wood, even saying that performance hasn’t been affected. In general, we just don’t love these swing set companies who have really long limited warranties on wood that they may not actually make good on.
Worth noting as well that KidKraft frequently changes their swing set models. There are discontinuations all the time, so five years from now, they may not even make your playset. That could make it hard to get your pieces via warranty or even if you’re willing to pay for it.
We give the Cranbrook by KidKraft an overall rating of 3.35 stars. It is an above average set, but as you can see, we don’t necessarily think it’s way above average. With a monkey bar set and three swing positions, one of which is a glider, we think that the Cranbrook offers a few unique components. That said, it is an average fort swing set.
Thanks for reading up on your swingset choices here at the Backyartisan. We try to do the best we can to give you the tools you need, literal and figurative, before jumping into big purchases for your backyard.