There are a lot of factors to consider when searching for a swing set for the backyard. Ideally, you want a swing set that will last a long time without much maintenance. You’ll want one that looks good and that doesn’t rust. And, most importantly, you’ll want a swing set that’s safe. Of course, there are other factors to consider, like assembly, material, and the possibility of add-ons or customization. Since metal swing sets are widely available, this article will help you learn everything you need to know about metal swing sets so you can make an informed decision.
Are Metal Swing Sets Safe?
Quality metal swing sets are generally considered safe. This does depend largely on the company making the set, so a little research is always a good idea. For the most part, safety lies in proper assembly, surrounding area (is the ground padded?), and proper supervision. However, there are some things to look out for to ensure the safety of the children playing on or near the swing set:
- Plastic coated swing set chains – Chains can pinch little hands, so if the metal said you’re looking at has chains, see if it’s available with the plastic chain coating included.
- Coated Metal to Prevent Burns – When the sun shines on a swing set all day, it can get hot to the touch — especially to small, sensitive hands. Most metal sets come with a vinyl or rubber coating to prevent this, but the best thing to do for a metal swing set is put it under an awning or a shade tree.
- Capped Hardware and Rounded Corners – There’s a bit of a Catch 22 when it comes to any swing set. For a swing set to be safe, it needs heavy-duty fasteners to keep the set from falling apart. But those fasteners pose a risk! Luckily, most swing sets come with special caps for any protruding hardware and rounded corners to prevent injury.
- No Harmful Chemicals – Although this is becoming less common (thankfully), there’s still a chance that some swing sets are coated in chemicals that can be harmful in the long-term. Make sure any set you choose (of any material) isn’t manufactured with any chemicals known to be harmful.
Once you find a swing set that meets your safety requirements, the safety factors then pass on to you. Making sure you prepare the yard and that the swing set is properly installed and has some shock absorbing material placed around/under it is key. Also, adult supervision is essential for swing set safety.
How Long Do Metal Swing Sets Last?
Again, the issue of quality comes into play in how long a metal swing set will last. In general, metal swing sets last around 15 to 20 years when properly installed, cared for properly, and made with high-quality materials. Of course, industrial metal swing sets like you see at public parks can last for much longer – often 30 years.
This is not to say that you should run out and get the cheapest metal swing set you can find, expecting it to last 20 years. Just like any other product, the price is often an indication of how long a swing set will last.
You’ll also want to take these factors into account:
- Age Range – If you get a swing set that’s meant for kids ages 2 to 5 and have older kids playing on it, too, it may affect the lifespan of the swing set.
- Climate – The weather is a big factor in how long a metal swing set will last. Lots of snow and rain can wear down a swing set faster than a more temperate climate.
- Heavy Metal – No, not the music. We’re talking about the gauge of the metal. Most metal swing sets are made with steel, and the heavier the gauge, the longer you can expect it to last.
Tips for Getting a Long-Lasting Metal Swing Set
When shopping for a long-lasting metal swing set, keep these tips in mind:
- Check the Warranty – If you look at nothing else, look at the warranty for the swing set you want to purchase. A warranty indicates how long the set will last. The longer and more comprehensive the warranty, the longer it’s likely to last.
- Get a Set Your Kids Can Grow Into – If you want a swing set that will last for years to come, get one that is ideal for older kids as well as younger ones. The wider the age range, the longer your kids can enjoy the set without it becoming broken or damaged.
- Read the Reviews – There’s no better place to research a metal swing set’s longevity than the reviews. Take all the very good and very bad ones with a grain of salt, and focus on all those in between.
Do Metal Swing Sets Rust?
Metal swing sets all have the possibility of rust, but some metals are more susceptible to this than others. Iron, for example, rusts quickly when exposed to moisture. Luckily, most swing sets aren’t made with iron. Most of today’s metal swing sets are made with galvanized steel, which is ideal for preventing rust.
Steel by itself will rust eventually, but that’s why it’s best to get a set with galvanized steel. The galvanization process protects the steel by covering it in a layer of zinc, which prevents water and air from contacting the steel. If the swing set has a coating of paint or a layer of vinyl material, all the better.
To further prevent a metal swing set from rusting, place it under an awning to protect it from rain or snow. This extra step is best for those in wet climates. If you live in an area that gets a “normal” amount of rain, your kids will probably outgrow the galvanized steel swing set before it rusts. Of course, you may want the awning anyway to prevent the set from getting too hot in the summer.
Can You Paint a Metal Swing Set?
You can absolutely paint a metal swing set. If your metal set begins to rust, you can sand off the rust and paint the set to slow the rusting process. Or perhaps the paint is chipping or faded on your swing set and you want to give it a fresh coat. These are all legitimate reasons to paint your metal swing set.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind if you do decide to paint a metal swing set:
- Sand all the rust and chipping paint off, making the surface as smooth as possible.
- Wipe the set down and let it dry to prevent water from getting trapped under the paint.
- Choose a rust-resistant primer, like Rust-oleum.
- Avoid getting paint on the swings, slide, chains, etc.
Do Metal Swing Sets Need to be Anchored?
You should always anchor a metal swing set. In theory, some A-frame metal swing sets should never be able to flip over or even move very much, but this is a change that’s not worth taking. After all, kids often get very creative when they play on swing sets. They push boundaries and do things you wouldn’t expect. So it’s a good idea to make sure the swing set is properly anchored.
An anchored swing set will not only keep it from flipping over, but will make sure that it is solid and unmoving. If it’s just sitting loose on the ground, it’s more likely to move and sway as the kids play on it. And the more it moves and sways, the more you’ll have to re-tighten the bolts and other hardware to keep the set safe.
Luckily, anchoring a swing set isn’t hard. Most metal swing sets come with instructions on anchoring and/or an anchoring system. If not, you can always buy anchors for a low price. Here are some great swing set anchoring options:
- Twist-in ground anchors
- Rebar stakes
- Galvanized steel poles
What Kind of Metal are Metal Swing Sets Made From?
Most of today’s metal swing sets are made from galvanized steel. This steel comes in different gauges and with all kinds of different coatings. You may also find aluminum swing sets for sale, as well. Galvanized steel is generally the best option for strength and longevity.
Of course, we’re talking about the frame of the swing set. Many of the accessories won’t be made of steel. They’ll often be made of vinyl or other resilient plastics. Sometimes metal swing sets have a steel frame underneath a vinyl shell on the outside.
Wood vs Metal Swing Sets
Most of the backyard swing sets on the market are made of wood. However, there is still a wide selection of metal swing sets available for homeowners. Metal is often used on commercial playground equipment you’ll see at schools and parks, although vinyl is quickly becoming a favorite in these places, as well.
Still most people decide on a wood or a metal swing set. And while this subject deserves an entire article to itself (in fact, there’s one right here), I’ll go over the basics of wood vs metal swing sets.
Many people like wood swing sets because they look more natural. Cedar is often used for these swing sets because it’s naturally insect and rot-resistant. Most manufacturers also coat their wooden swing sets in sealant and paint to prevent moisture and insects from getting at the wood. However, wood is still wood. It can rot over time, and it can splinter, as well.
As you can probably imagine, wood swing sets require some upkeep for them to last a long time. Most quality wood swing sets will last between 10 and 20 years with proper care.
There’s a reason commercial swing sets are made from metal: it lasts longer with minimal upkeep. Unlike wood, metal swing sets require little upkeep. However, there still is the possibility that a metal swing set will rust, eventually. Metal swing sets are also often cheaper than wooden sets, although not by very much.
That said, many people don’t like the utilitarian look of basic metal swing sets. There are, however, lots of options for metal sets as far as color and coating. Metal can be hotter to the touch than wood, and when all else is equal, a metal swing set will last about as long as a wooden one.
Wood or Metal Swing Set?
With such a wide variety and variance in quality, it’s really a personal preference whether you get a wooden swing set or a metal one. If you live in a climate that gets a lot of rain or snow, a metal set will probably last you longer than a wooden one. If you live in an arid climate that gets particularly hot in the summer, wood may be the best option.
No matter which you choose, make sure to look at the warranty, as it’s a good indication of how long the set will last, no matter the material.
Metal Swing Set Cost
Metal swing sets are generally slightly cheaper than wooden or vinyl sets. But, price depends largely on quality, size, and features. You can get a basic metal A-frame swing set with two swings for around $200.
For a metal swing set with three swings and a slide attached, you can expect to spend $300 to $500. For a heavy-duty metal set that’s made for a wide age range, you can easily spend over $500.
When you get into metal playsets instead of swing sets, the prices go up, as you’d expect. The more features, the higher the price.
Disadvantages of Metal Swing Sets
To wrap this up, let’s go over the disadvantages of metal swing sets.
- Can be hot to the touch.
- Generally more industrial or utilitarian looking.
- Can rust eventually — especially if the metal isn’t galvanized or coated.
- Uncoated metal swing chains can pinch hands.
- Available in more basic options than other sets.
Metal swing sets come with their own advantages and drawbacks, just like other swing sets. Hopefully this article has helped you determine if a metal swing set is right for you. There’s a lot of information to consider, but it doesn’t have to be a really tough decision. No matter the material, there are always things you can do to make it safer for your kids and to keep it lasting a long time!