Wood vs. Metal Swing Sets: Which One Is Right For You?


Deciding on the different features and designs you want for your backyard swing set is hard enough. Deciding between wood and metal can be even harder. When considering wood vs metal swing sets, you’ll want to look at a few factors such as cost, durability, maintenance, safety, aesthetics, assembly, and longevity. 

As we explore the pros and cons of each material, you’ll get a clear picture of which is right for you: wood or metal swing sets.

Wood vs. Metal Swing Set Cost

Generally, when comparing wooden and metal swing sets with similar features, you’ll find that the wooden sets are a little more expensive. Of course, this depends on what type of metal and wood the sets are built with, the size of the set you’re looking for, and how much room you have.

For example, it’s possible to get a basic metal A-frame swing set for $100 to $300. The same basic style for a wooden swing set will be between $200 and $500. Of course, the more features and higher quality, the more expensive they tend to be. For a high-end swing set with lots of different features, it’s possible to spend upwards of $5000.

It’s also possible to find a drastic difference between a small swing set made out of thin, cheap metal, and a set made out of durable material like cedar. Another factor to consider is upkeep. While metal swing sets can rust and bend with too much weight, wooden swing sets can require re-sealing and occasional sanding.

Durability

Ideally, you’ll want to purchase only one swing set for your kids. A good swing set should last many years and require very little maintenance and replacement parts. 

Depending on where you live, your swing set will have to face a combination of rain, snow, sun, insects, and fungus. Consider the normal weather during the year where you live when purchasing a set. 

Since the whole point of having a set in your back yard is to entertain the kids, you’ll want to make sure the set you buy is durable. Plus, it’s inevitable that the swing set will be used in ways that it wasn’t designed for. Kids tend to get creative with their playtime. So, all the more reason to purchase a durable set. 

Wood Swing Set Durability

The most popular woods used for outdoor swing sets are cedar and redwood. Others include spruce, pine, and fir. While each kind of wood has its advantages, cedar and redwood are widely used because they’re both naturally strong and resistant to fungus, insects, and rot. 

However, not all cedar and redwood are equal. For the most durable construction, you’ll want to make sure that the main components are made out of solid cedar, as opposed to thin planks or chips compressed or glued together. Good swing sets with components made out of solid cedar or redwood tend to hold up much better than sets constructed with any other kind of wood. 

Metal Swing Set Durability

Metal swing sets tend to be used in public parks and schools, because they require little maintenance. They tend to be more durable than wood sets when they’re made out of thick, strong metal, with the correct kind of coating.

Generally, the thicker the metal, the longer it will hold up. The most durable metal swing sets are made with 8 or 10 gauge steel, with the less durable sets coming in at 16 or 18 gauge. 

Another aspect to consider is whether the metal has been galvanized on both the inside and the outside of the pipe. Many sets are galvanized on the outside but not the inside, which can lead to rust and wear over time. 

In addition to the galvanized coating, you’ll want to make sure the metal set has some sort of additional protective coating. For protection against the elements and rust resistance, powder coating works well, but will usually fade over time and allow the metal underneath to rust. 

A big factor of durability is longevity. It’s good to know how long a metal swing set should last and how wood swing sets compare. A warranty (or lack thereof) is a good way to tell how much confidence the manufacturer is willing to put into their set, whether it is metal or wood. Anything less than a 10-year warranty is probably worth staying away from, if you’re looking for a long-lasting swing set. 

How Many Years Do Wooden Swing Sets Last?

It’s impossible to make an accurate general statement about how long wooden swing sets last. As a general rule, the longer the accompanying warranty, the longer it will last. A decent wooden swing set should last anywhere from 10 to 20 years. Of course, these numbers also depend on climate, minimum upkeep, type of wood it’s made of, and how much it is used.

How Many Years Do Metal Swing Sets Last?

Again, this is hard to say because there are so many options available on the market. If you’re looking for a cheap metal set, it’s possible to get one that lasts only a few years. The more you spend, the longer your metal set should last. 

A solid metal set, made with thick steel that has been powder-coated, should last anywhere from 15 to 20 years. But, industrial-grade metal swing sets, like those used in public parks and schools, can last longer than 30. 

Maintenance Requirements

Swing set maintenance is a determining factor for many on the search for the perfect set. You should ask yourself how much maintenance is too much. Checking on your swing set once a year? Twice? Or do you want to simply set it up and leave it be? 

Both metal and wood swing sets require some kind of maintenance to keep them safe and help them last as long as possible. But there are some small differences that could be a determining factor for you.

During the winter months, when the set isn’t in use, it’s a good idea to cover it with a tarp or canvas. While this isn’t mandatory, protecting your swing set from the elements will help it last longer and require less maintenance. This goes for both wood and metal swing sets. 

Wood Swing Set Maintenance

Quality wood swing sets are usually made out of cedar or redwood. They come pressure treated, factory-stained, and sealed to resist the elements, fungus, and insects. However, for best results, wooden swing sets should be re-sealed once a year, and re-stained every 2 or 3 years. Staining and sealing your wood set regularly can also help to prevent splintering. 

It’s also a good idea to check any nuts and bolts once a year. With enough play and subtle movement on the set, bolts can get a little loose. Regular bolt tightening can help ensure that your swing set is enjoyed for many years. 

Metal Swing Set Maintenance 

Like their wood counterparts, metal swing sets require regular maintenance to ensure they last a long time. While most quality metal sets come galvanized and/or powder treated, you’ll want to apply some sort of protective coating or paint every year or two. 

It’s also a good idea to tighten the nuts and bolts, as well as oil the moving parts on your set once a year. If you see rust anywhere, you’ll want to replace the affected piece as soon as possible to prevent further damage to the set. Plus, kids with rusty hands can make quite the mess!

Wood vs Metal Swing Set Safety

The best thing you can do to keep your children safe on any kind of swing set is to provide proper supervision. Purchasing an age-appropriate set will help to ensure that the dimensions are correct for your children’s age range. Plus, following any safety guidelines and max-weight recommendations that come with the set you purchase can go a long way to keeping your kids happy and healthy while having a blast on the swing set. There are, however, some considerations when it comes to the safety of metal vs wood swing sets. 

Wood Swing Set Safety

While cedar is a naturally insect-repellent wood, some other kinds can make an attractive home for insects, including wasps. Most quality swing sets come pre-treated and sealed to prevent this from happening, but eventually that treatment and seal wear down. This is where regular maintenance comes in. Keeping your wood swing set sealed will keep away pesky insects like wasps. You can also coat your wood in kid-safe insect repellent to help prevent this issue. 

Keeping your wood sealed also helps to prevent splinters from forming on the set, saving little hands from painful pokes. Re-sealing should be done once every year.

Most modern swing sets come standard with plastic-coated chains to prevent pinching, but it’s nothing to take for granted. Make sure the swing set’s chains are properly covered to maximize safety. 

Metal Swing Set Safety

The biggest concern with metal swing sets is the sun. It’s common for metal to get hot to the touch when the sun has been shining on it for hours. This is especially true for metal swing sets with little or no coating on the metal. While purchasing a metal swing set with a thick rubber or vinyl coating can help a little, the best bet is to put the set under an awning or in the shade of a tree.

Like wood sets, proper maintenance, including regular painting/sealing, can help keep metal sets safe for years by preventing rust. As with any set, make sure that if it comes with chains, they’re covered to protect from pinching. 

Swing Set Assembly

There is not really a big difference in assembly when talking about wood vs metal swing sets. A basic backyard swing set should come with detailed assembly instructions and should take a couple of adults no more than a few hours to assemble, whether it is made of metal or wood. 

People consider paying for assembly when it comes to larger sets with more elaborate features. However, most quality backyard sets are easily installed with minimal know-how and construction skills. 

Whether you’re buying a metal or wooden set, check to see if it needs to be anchored with concrete, as this is often the most difficult part. Also, make sure that it comes with all the hardware you need. Knowing what tools you’ll need is also a good way to decide whether to do it yourself or pay for assembly. 

Heres a video detailing the assembly process of a wooden playset.

YouTube video

Wood Vs Metal Swing Set Appearance

Many people prefer wood sets because of how they look. While this may not matter much to the kids who will be using it, it may be an important consideration for those adults living in the house. Wood has a more natural look, and tends to remind people of the sets they played on as kids. 

However, many metal swing sets come with a variety of options that can make them look more natural, as well. While a metal set will never look exactly like a wooden one, they can come pretty close if you find the right one. The best bet is to purchase a set that you and your kids will be happy with for years to come. 

In Conclusion: Pros & Cons of Wood vs Metal Swing Sets

Both wood and metal swing sets have their pros and cons, and the proper buying decision will come down to your particular wants and needs. Wood and metal swing sets will generally last around the same amount of time in similar conditions, while wood sets tend to be slightly more expensive. They both require similar maintenance practices to ensure their proper lifetime.

People tend to like wood for its natural look, but metal swing sets come with a wide variety of coating options. Each come with their own safety issues, such as splinters for wood sets and hot metal for their counterparts. Ease of assembly will depend more on the style of set you get, rather than the material used in construction. 

Wood Swing Set Pros & Cons

Pros
  • Looks Natural
  • Cedar Naturally Repels Insects and Fungus
  • Solid Construction
  • Lasts Longer
  • A Lifetime of 10 to 20 Years
Cons
  • Can Splinter and Rot Without Regular Maintenance
  • Some Woods can Attract Insects

Metal Swing Set Pros & Cons

Pros
  • More Options for Coating and Aesthetics
  • Thick, Galvanized Metal Lasts Longer
  • Doesn’t Rot or Attract Insects
  • A Lifetime of 15 to 20 Years
Cons
  • Can Be Hot to the Touch
  • Can Rust Without Regular Maintenance
  • More Industrial-Looking Than Wood

Overall, deciding which swing set is right for you comes down to your budget, how much maintenance you’re willing to put in, and of course, personal preference. Both metal and wooden swing sets are great options for any home owner in need of an outdoor play area for their kids. Just be sure to weigh the pros and cons of each thoroughly before you buy. It would be a huge disappointment to go through the assembly process and then decide its not really what you had expected!

Justin

Justin Childress is the creator of Sunshineandplay.com. He is also a devoted husband and father of his 1 year old son Gabriel. Justin enjoys spending time with family, reading, and, of course, contributing to Sunshineandplay.com.

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