Trampolines can provide countless hours of airborne fun when the weather is warm. Come winter, though, they become little more than liabilities, both to your kids’ safety and to that of your not-inconsiderable investment.
Let’s be real; a frost-slicked trampoline is an ER trip just waiting to happen. It’s also an invitation to rust, fraying, and other weather-related wear and tear that can destroy one of your children’s most prized playthings, which is almost just as bad.
That’s why if you have one in your backyard and the last crisp days of autumn are waning, it’s a good idea to educate yourself promptly on how to protect it from the long, cold winter months ahead.
How Winter Weather Can Damage Your Trampoline
It may come as a surprise to you to learn that you need to take any special steps to prepare your trampoline for winter weather. After all, they’re meant to be outside, right?
It’s true that most trampolines are made from pretty strong stuff: rust-resistant metals, stretchy polypropylene, water-repellent vinyl, and the like. But nothing is indestructible, as you well know, not even the most durable of outdoor items.
With enough exposure to moisture and below-freezing temperatures, metal will corrode, vinyl will crack, and polypropylene will develop invisible yet threatening micro-tears that might leave the entire jumping surface vulnerable to a poorly-timed rip worthy of the most cringe-inducing FailArmy compilation.
Don’t let that happen to your offspring. Winterize your trampoline.
Things to Consider Before You Winterize Your Trampoline
“Winter” can mean different things to different people depending on where they live. In the same way, “winterization” has more than one potential definition.
Let’s say you live in an area where winters tend to be pretty mild. In this case, you might not want to go to the trouble of taking your trampoline apart piece-by-piece, and indeed it might not be necessary to do so – your kids can probably still safely jump on your trampoline in the winter.
But if your neck of the woods transforms into a frigid wasteland between December and February, you’d be well-served to make sure your trampoline isn’t among the pitiable lawn fixtures that inevitably end up icicle-strewn and forsaken. Winterizing it is also an important step to keeping your trampoline safe.
Should I Take My Trampoline Apart or Not?
Unfortunately, there are no hard-and-fast guidelines for this kind of thing.
Gauging the kind of climate conditions the average trampoline is capable of withstanding is by nature a bit of a retrospective task. Most of the time, you won’t know how hard Father Winter has been on your elevation station until it’s already looking worse for wear (and becoming more dangerous with each jump).
Put it this way—loose springs, fraying fabric, and bouncing bodies are a bad mix.
For this reason, we advise all trampoline owners to play it safe and disassemble their trampolines before temperatures drop below freezing. It may seem like a hassle, but it’s nowhere near as much of one as racking up a hefty hospital bill right before the holidays or having to buy a new one the next season after yours has warped beyond use.
Not everyone will have the extra storage needed to stow away a 12-16-foot trampoline’s worth of materials, though. Even if you do, it might not be warranted if your winters are temperate and relatively dry.
So while there’s no readymade formula you can follow for deciding whether or not to leave your trampoline standing, it can be helpful to ask yourself a few basic questions, such as:
- How cold does it get in the winter where I live?
- Are we expected to receive a lot of rain, sleet, or snow?
- Do I have an adequate amount of storage space available?
- How able/willing am I to keep up with routine maintenance tasks?
- What kind of shape is my trampoline in already?
Side note: This final question is key for a couple of reasons. For one thing, it’s obviously unwise to have a dilapidated trampoline sitting in your yard if you also have kids who won’t to use it. For another, there’s little point in taking the time to dismantle such a trampoline if it’s not worth keeping anyway. Perhaps it should have come first on the list!
If your answers to these questions lean towards cold, wet, and worrisome, it’s best to just bite the bullet and break that bad boy down.
If, on the other hand, you’re not overly concerned about your trampoline’s overwintering prospects (remembering that its general condition is directly related to the users’ safety), you should find another project to put your energy toward.
Breaking Down Your Trampoline
If you’re reading this section, it’s most likely because you’ve elected to disassemble and put your trampoline away for safekeeping over the solstice. Good for you! You can rest easy tonight knowing that you’ve fulfilled your duties as a responsible trampoline owner and parent.
First thing’s first—start by giving the trampoline a quick once-over with a broom, taking care to sweep away any leaves, twigs, or other debris you might find littering the surface.
While you’re at it, you might use this opportunity to scrub away caked mud, sticky juice residue, or other dried-on messes with a damp cloth. If you prefer to take the shotgun approach, you can also blast it with a high-pressure hose, then wait for it to air dry before proceeding. A clean trampoline is a happy trampoline, and a happy trampoline means happy kids. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
After you’ve finished tidying up, turn your attention to the pad. This is the vinyl-covered ring of foam covering the springs that encircle the central jumping surface. To remove the pad, you’ll need to undo each of the nylon tie-straps securing it to the frame. We recommend folding/rolling the pad up on itself cinnamon roll-style to enhance its storability.
Now you can move on to the safety net if your trampoline has one (it absolutely should). First, pull out the vertical poles that support the net—they should come right out with a little oomph. Then, unscrew the plastic fasteners that attach the net to the poles. Gather the poles into a bundle and fold the net up around them to make sure everything stays together.
Next up are the springs. You’ll need to pry these off using a spring hook tool, which your trampoline should have come with but can easily be purchased. Simply loop the hook into one end of the spring and apply tension until you can pull it free of its anchor point. Repeat roughly 70-100 more times, skipping around to evenly distribute the force. It’s a painstaking and frankly pretty tedious process, but hey, you signed up for this.
Stash the springs in a box to avoid misplacing them. Losing even one can compromise the function, stability, and safety of the trampoline, not to mention drive the OCD part of you totally bananas.
With the springs gone, you’re free to wrangle the jumping surface, also known as the mat. Stretch it out to its full length and width, then fold two opposing edges in toward the center to create a long rectangular shape. Fold this rectangle in half once, twice, thrice, or even a fourth time if possible. The smaller you can get it, the less space it will take up in your garage, basement, or shed.
Finally, disconnect the frame. Remove the screws in the uppermost horizontal members, drop them in a clearly labeled plastic bag, and place them somewhere you’ll remember to look once spring rolls around.
Performing Crucial Cold-Weather Maintenance
You’ve run a mental cost-benefit analysis and determined that you’ve got better things to do than to take your trampoline apart, only to have to put it back together in a few months like a spring-loaded erector set. At this point, your responsibilities will be pretty minimal—but no less important to carry out faithfully.
At the very least, you’ll want to shield your trampoline with a large tarp—or, better yet, an actual trampoline cover—to insulate it from wintry precipitation. Cold and moisture can both be detrimental to the longevity of your trampoline on their own. Together, they’re a recipe for disaster.
Fortunately, tarps are a tried-and-true, inexpensive solution perfect for jobs just like this. Many trampoline manufacturers also make trampoline covers in a variety of sizes that are designed to clip on and off in seconds. Some trampoline aficionados claim that the use of covers promotes mildew growth, but most agree that it’s perfectly fine, particularly if your trampoline is likely to get wet anyway.
If it snows a lot where you live, your other main chore will be to keep the white stuff off of your trampoline. Snow is surprisingly heavy, and if you allow it to pile up on the mat, it can stretch out the springs, resulting in a decidedly un-fun jumping experience later on down the line.
The best way to do this is to use a long-handled push broom or similar implement to displace fresh snowfall every few days. Steer clear of snow shovels and other hard-edged tools that might tear the mat fabric, and avoid standing on the trampoline while you work, as this will only put more strain on the already taxed springs.
Winter weather is tough on everything it touches, and trampolines are no exception.
With a little forethought, some sound judgment, and the right precautions, however, you can safeguard your trampoline from the unforgiving elements and make sure it’s ready to bounce back when summer days smile on you again.