How To Care For And Maintain Wooden Playground Equipment

Wooden playgrounds are a lot of fun, and with a little bit of regular maintenance, you can keep them safe for years to come.

So you've finally gotten around to getting that wooden playground that your kids have been nagging you about! You spent the whole weekend setting it up, every child in your neighborhood is climbing all over it, and you're feeling pretty good about yourself. You probably spent a small fortune on lumber, plastic slides, and swings, so now you need to make sure your investment lasts more than just one summer.

Do you know how to take care of your wooden playground?

Long gone are the days of those lightweight metal swing sets sitting on a pad of blacktop. They've been replaced by high-tech wood and resin, slides, tubes, pirate ships, and everything else a kid can imagine. Fortunately, most of the new playground equipment is made from low-maintenance materials, and little needs to be done in the way of caring for it. However, regular checks should be made, to be certain nothing has broken down or cracked, and to make sure that your playground is still safe for your little ones to play on.

Examine your play set regularly, and look for the following:

* You should have loose-fill material underneath for padding, in case a child falls. Rake through the material and pull out any bits of trash, debris, broken glass, small toys, animal droppings, etc.

* Make sure all bolts and screws are tightened as far as they can go. Also make sure none of them have sharp edges or are sticking out. A child's shirt or drawstring can snag on a bolt, and could lead to strangulation. Kids can also get cut on screws or bolts that aren't properly tightened.

* Check for peeling paint or cracks in any plastic components. A plastic slide or swing with a crack in it should be replaced, not repaired.

* If you have swings, check the chains for stability by tugging hard on each of them. Try the swings out yourself, if possible, to make sure that nothing's going to come down. Also be sure that the S-links are completely closed, so that clothing doesn't get caught when a child jumps off the swing.



* If you've got a sandbox as part of your play set, make sure that you've got a cover on it. The cover should be light enough that kids can safely remove it and heavy enough that it won't blow away on a windy day. Check the sandbox to make sure there are no animal droppings in it.

At the beginning of each season, in addition to doing the above routine checklist, you should:

* If you have access to a power washer, wash the structure every year. This will clean off any microscopic nasties that might be lurking on the play set, such as insects, bacteria, or bird droppings.

* Seal the wood with polyurethane to make sure it stays water-resistant. Although wooden climbing gyms are pressure treated to help keep mildew and insects out, carefully examine the structure to determine whether insects have made their way inside. Wasps and ants like to hide in wood, so inspect the playground thoroughly.

* If there are trees or shrubs near the play structure, trim them back at least once a year, preferably more.

* Watch for deterioration and/or corrosion of hardware. If a piece is rusted, designate the play set off limits until you can replace the corroded piece.

* Add more loose-fill padding to the ground area each year. This should be at a depth of 6 - 12", depending on local guidelines.

The best way to get into the habit of checking your wooden playground is to do it each time you mow your grass. Make it part of your routine. Check your play set regularly and your kids will have many years of happy and safe playtime.

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