Tips and Considerations on Shopping for a Backyard Playset
Ensure your purchase is perfect for your home and your family
Finding the perfect playset for your backyard is harder than you might think. First, there are so many sets to choose from (there are several “major” manufacturers, and each one offers dozens of different models). Second, there are so many factors to consider while shopping for a suitable playset.
Here are some factors to consider:
• Number, size & age of children. How many children do you have and how old are they? Will their friends use the playhouse? For how many years?
• Desired product life span. Are you looking for a swing set to last one child a few years, or multiple children over the span of many years?
• Desired features. Monkey bars, fireman’s pole, glider swing – what features will give your little ones endless hours of enjoyment?
• Your backyard. Is there enough space within the property line for your playset AND a buffer zone? Is the ground level (or flat)? Are any sprinkler heads, trees, tree roots, bushes, etc. in the way?
• Total Price. Does the price of the unit include delivery? Installation? What if ground prep becomes necessary?
• Warranty. Does the manufacturer stand behind their product? How far into the future is the playset covered?
• Ease of assembly. Can you do it yourself, or can you find professional playset installers to do it for you?
• Home Owner Associations: Does your Association have an approval process or any other regulations on playsets?
Take heart! For the most part, choosing a playset is a matter of personal preference. But after years of installing playsets from all the major manufacturers (including Backyard Discovery; Gorilla Playsets; Cedar Summit; Woodplay, Child Life, Superior & Rainbow, collectively called “Big Beam sets”; and Lifetime), however, the Assemblymen have noticed some key differences between the types.
Here are a few playset comparisons we thought you would like to know:
• Wood quality – the wood quality of the Big Beam sets is superior; Gorilla’s wood is good quality; Backyard Discovery and Cedar Summit wood quality is the least impressive.
• Hardware quality – some Big Beam units come with superior galvanized hardware; Gorilla’s hardware is not galvanized but is good quality; Backyard Discovery and Cedar Summit hardware is of the lease impressive quality.
• Openness of construction – the playhouses for all sets except Backyard Discovery are pretty open, allowing for years of use as children grow into them. Many models from Backyard Discovery have clubhouses that are relatively closed in.
• Features & options – all manufacturers offer a wide range of features and accessories, available interchangeably or just on select units. Gorilla sets, however, tend to have more accessories that are interchangeable among many products.
• Ease of Assembly – Gorilla sets are generally the most straight-forward to assemble. Backyard Discovery sets are typically the most intricate. The other units are of standard difficulty, each with its own set of complications and quirks.
• Each unit has its own projected lifetime, warranties, price and weight and use limitations.
• ALL manufacturers have a duty to make their playsets safe for intended purposes, as outlined in the manuals and specifications for each unit
Keep in mind that getting a backyard swing set is a process. As with all processes, you will find your own unique way of approaching it. Just remember that the shopping phase is the first of several phases to this process. In some ways, the shopping phase may be the most important because everything else depends on the playset you select.
Here are some playset shopping tips we’ve picked up over the years:
1. Involve the children!
2. Embrace both online and in-person shopping. In-store pricing tends to be higher, but a brick-and-mortar store may have a display area where your children can sample the products and give you a better feel for what features work best for them. Try shopping online for sets with features you saw live in the store.
3. Envision your perfect set, identify 3-5 sets that come close to that vision, compare all sets based on factors listed above, then choose a set based on that comparison.
4. Ask the retailer if it performs the shipping/delivery/installation, and if not, ask for information on their service provider(s).
5. Be patient and flexible. Between items being out of stock, delivery delays, HOA approval processes, etc., the process can easily draw out.
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