There’s a lot to consider when buying a swing set. You’ve got to think about everything from color to material and age range to size. Because, at the end of the day, a swing set is an investment. And you want to get as much of a return as you can out of any investment. So one of the most important factors to consider is how long swing sets last.
Swing sets generally last around 15 to 20 years. However, these numbers can vary depending upon what the swing set is made from, the climate, and how much the swing set actually gets used. Wooden swing sets tend to last the longest but require the most upkeep while plastic swing sets have a relatively shorter lifespan in comparison.
Different Swing Set Materials
A swing set is a great addition to any backyard and will provide hours and hours of carefree fun for kids of all ages. Of course, kids can be rough on, well, everything. So many parents are looking at that 20-year number above and thinking “with my kids? I don’t know.” But if you get the right set, you’ll be surprised how long it lasts. If you buy a quality set and provide proper care, you could even see your grandkids playing on it!
But one of the biggest factors when it comes to a swing set’s lifespan is the material it’s made out of. So, let’s look at the average lifespan of wooden, metal, vinyl, and plastic swing sets. We’ll also go over the pros and cons of each!
How Long Do Wooden Swing Sets Last?
There are three major types of wood used to make swing sets today. These are cedar, redwood, and certain types of pine. The overall lifespan of a wooden swing set depends on the type of wood and proper maintenance. But, it’s possible to give you a generalized lifespan for wooden swing sets.
Most wooden swing sets will last about 20 years. With proper care and maintenance, it’s possible to make this number climb, with an upper limit of around 30 years. But, this also depends on other factors like climate, amount of use, and the quality of the wood/set.
Cedar Swing Sets
Cedar is the most popular and cost-effective wood for swing sets today. This is because cedar has natural insect-repellant and rot-resistant qualities. Many people like the look of cedar sets and are happy with the cost when compared to other wooden sets. Cedar sets can last around 15 to 20 years with proper care. This usually involves staining the set every year or two to help prevent rot and warpage.
It’s important to be aware of imitation cedar sets. These are usually made in China out of Chinese fir and marketed as just as durable as a cedar set. If you’re looking for a long-lasting wooden set, stick to one of the woods on this list and stay away from Chinese fir!
Redwood Swing Sets
Redwood swing sets are generally the most expensive of the wooden swing sets on the market. Like cedar, redwood is naturally rot- and insect-resistant, which makes it ideal for swing sets. Modern redwood swing sets will last an average of 20 years with proper care. It used to be that redwood swing sets would last much longer, but most of the redwood used these days is from new growth redwood trees as opposed to old growth redwood trees.
Redwood has a beautiful reddish-brown color that many people love. But since it’s about as durable cedar but more expensive, it’s easy to see why most people opt for cedar swing sets.
Pressure Treated Pine Swing Sets
Pressure treated pine is another common wood used for swing sets today. These types of wooden swing sets are made to be incredibly durable through the pressure treating process that prevents moisture damage, warping, insect damage, and cupping. Pressure treated pine swing sets last (on average) as long as redwood sets – about 20 years.
Pine used to be treated with chemicals that were harmful to humans, but this is not usually the case these days. Still, for peace of mind, it’s worth making sure that any pine swing set you get is certified safe and isn’t treated with potentially harmful chemicals. Many people also opt for cedar or redwood over pine because of the look of the wood. Pine is more of a white in color, whereas cedar and redwood are both a bit darker and more aesthetically pleasing.
Pros and Cons of Wooden Swing Sets
As you read on, these pros and cons will become more apparent because they’re often compared to other types of sets. Still, here are the pros and cons of wooden swing sets.
Wooden Swing Set Pros
- Highly Durable
- Long Lifespan
- Great Natural Look
- Cedar and Redwood are Naturally Resistant to Rot and Insects
Wooden Swing Set Cons
- Sometimes Require Professional Installation
- Require Regular Maintenance
- Are More Expensive Than Metal Sets
How Long Do Metal Swing Sets Last?
Next up are metal swing sets, which is what many parents remember playing on as kids. I know I definitely had a metal swing set in the backyard growing up. Many commercial swing sets in parks and at schools are still made with heavy-duty metal, which will last a long time. Residential sets are a bit of a different story.
Most quality metal swing sets will last about 15 years. There’s a ceiling of about 20 years for the best metal swing sets with proper care and installation. Most metal sets are made from galvanized steel, which helps them resist rust. However, nothing lasts forever, and metal swing sets eventually start to break down and rust. But, metal swing sets don’t require as much maintenance as wooden ones, which is a plus.
Metal swing sets are generally lighter than wooden ones and are therefore easier to install without professional help. Of course, proper installation is one of the keys to a long-lasting swing set. So it’s always a good idea to let professionals handle it if you don’t have any experience in swing set assembly and installation. Also, most metal swing sets have a lower weight limit than comparable wooden swing sets, so as the kids get bigger, they may not be able to play on the set safely.
Pros and Cons of Metal Swing Sets
Metal Swing Set Pros
- Low Maintenance
- Low Cost
- Can Last as Long as Wooden Sets in Ideal Conditions
- Lighter and Easier to Assemble
Metal Swing Set Cons
- Don’t Look as Good as Wooden Sets
- Aren’t Quite as Durable as Other Sets
- Can be Hot to the Touch in Summer Months
- Lower Weight Limits Than Other Sets
How Long Do Vinyl Swing Sets Last?
Vinyl swing sets are fast becoming popular for several reasons. But, to be clear, they’re not purely vinyl. These sets have a wood frame underneath, which is then covered in vinyl. And while you would think that this combination would make for a long-lasting swing set, you wouldn’t be quite right.
Vinyl sets have an upper limit of about 15 years. This is because the wood frame usually fails before any of the vinyl does. Despite advances in swing set technology, we still haven’t figured out a way to completely keep moisture out of wood. And when moisture inevitably gets into the wood of a vinyl swing set, it doesn’t have anywhere else to go, so it eventually rots the wood.
The big issue with vinyl swing sets is that you can’t see the wood underneath the vinyl. So you can’t tell when or where the wood is beginning to fail. But, keep in mind that vinyl swing sets are often a bit cheaper than wooden sets. And they come with more aesthetic options than wood or metal. For this reason, many homeowners are okay with the slightly shorter lifespan of these swing sets.
Vinyl swing sets don’t require any staining, but they should be cleaned regularly. There’s also no risk of splinters, although the risk of splinters is incredibly low even on wooden swing sets, so long as they’re properly sanded and cared for. Depending on the color of the vinyl, these swing sets can get hot to the touch in the summer.
Pros and Cons of Vinyl Swing Sets
Vinyl Swing Set Pros
- Low Maintenance
- More Color/Visual Options
- Slightly Less Expensive Than Wood
- Ideal for Utmost Safety (no splinter, chipping or cracking)
Vinyl Swing Set Cons
- Shorter Lifespan Than Wood & Metal Sets
- Trapped Moisture Can Cause Rotting
- Can be Hot to the Touch in Summer Months
How Long Do Plastic Swing Sets Last?
Some people may confuse plastic swing sets with vinyl ones, but the two are very different. In general, plastic swing sets are much smaller than vinyl ones, and are made for very young children. Plastic doesn’t last nearly as long as the other materials on this list.
Plastic swing sets will last around 5 to 7 years. You’ll find plenty of swing sets that have plastic components attached to wood or metal frames, but fully plastic swing sets won’t last very long. Plastic degrades in the sun and can’t take much weight, which is why plastic sets are made mostly for toddlers.
(If you’re looking for a swing set for a smaller yard, check out this article!)
But, since plastic is smooth and provides a little give, many people prefer it for their child’s first swing set. Then, as their child or children get older, they replace the plastic set with a vinyl, wood, or metal swing set. That being said, the larger plastic swing sets out there are pretty expensive compared to other sets. You can find sets with one swing and a slide made for toddlers that are fairly inexpensive, but the larger sets get expensive quickly.
Plastic doesn’t require maintenance although it should be cleaned regularly. It’s also very safe, and you don’t have to worry about splinters or hard edges.
Pros and Cons of Plastic Swing Sets
Plastic Swing Set Pros
- Low Maintenance
- Safe for Younger Kids
- Ideal for a Toddler’s First Swing Set
- Easy to Assemble
Plastic Swing Set Cons
- Don’t Last Nearly as Long as Other Sets
- Break Down in the Sun
- More Expensive for Big Sets
- Lower Weight Limits and Age Rangers Than Other Sets
As you can see, most swing sets last almost the same amount of time. Plastic is the obvious exception, as it’s not practical for larger swing sets. Wood tends to last the longest, but this is not a guarantee. For example, if you live in a place that gets a lot of rain, a wood set may not be the best bet. Instead, a metal set that you paint regularly is ideal.
Of course, there are things you can do to make your swing set last longer, like cover it with an awning to protect it from sunshine and rain. Proper maintenance is also a good way to keep your swing set lasting a long time. Plus, installation is a big part of a swing set’s lifespan. Making sure the set is properly anchored and installed can prevent it from premature damage.
The best thing to do if you’re buying a swing set is pay close attention to the warranty. Read the fine print. The better the warranty, the longer your swing set is likely to last. And a lot of quality wooden swing sets come with a lifetime warranty! Anyway, I hope you found this article helpful and that you find the perfect swing set for your backyard! If you’re looking for a quality cedar swing set, check out my review of Gorilla Playsets.