We know there’s a ton to consider when you’re in the market for a playset – including what it’s made of. That’s why we’re weighing the pros and cons of metal and wood playsets in this guide, so you can make the right choice for your family and get playtime started ASAP!
What is a metal playset?
“Metal playsets” can be a broad range of products from the super-durable commercial equipment at your local playground to the simple swing sets you find in backyards. While both commercial and residential metal playsets are usually made from steel, they still vary greatly in quality and durability. In addition to the size of the playset, the thickness of the metal and the quality of the paint or powder coating (the rust-resistant finish on the metal) are some of the factors that set commercial playsets apart from residential ones.
Pros and Cons: Wooden vs. Metal Playsets
Wear and Tear
Wood: How long do wooden playsets last? With proper care, they can last 10-15 years depending on your climate. Wood playsets usually have the advantage over metal swing sets in terms of durability. Quality wood swing sets are made from rot-resistant wood like cedar, so they can withstand the elements. Over time, some wear and tear such as warping, checking, and weathering are normal and don’t necessarily affect the structural integrity of the swing set. If a wood swing set does begin to rot (usually due to neglect or extreme age), rotting boards will need to be replaced to maintain safety.
Metal: Since most public playgrounds are made with metal equipment, it’s easy to assume that metal is the more durable choice. However, commercial equipment is usually far more resistant to chipping and rusting, the main enemies of the common residential versions of metal playsets.
With residential metal swing sets, you can expect storms and exposure to chip the paint over time. Eventually, these chips result in rust, and without quick repairs, can dramatically shorten the lifespan of your playset. Even more concerning? Because weather-resistant powder coatings are usually only applied to the exterior surfaces of the swing set, much of this rust occurs on the inside of the swing set, where you can’t see it.
Wood playsets will require a yearly coat of water-repellent stain. Metal swing sets require a similar level of maintenance. While you won’t need to apply a stain each year, you will need to be vigilant about noticing and repairing chips in the paint before they can lead to rust. The process for covering chips is similar to repainting chips in your car. If any rust has started to appear, you’ll need to sand it off first. Then, clean the exposed metal and apply multiple layers of rust-resistant primer and paint until the spot is covered and blends in with the rest of the swing set.
When safety and installation instructions are followed, both metal and wood playsets can be safe. Metal playsets have one unavoidable hazard though: temperature. In the summer months, metal playsets can easily be too hot to touch for much of the day (which is never fun to explain to a kiddo who’s ready to climb and swing!)
Versatility & Play Features
Many metal playsets sold for residential use are often simple A-frame swing sets, perhaps with a slide on the side. While you can find metal playsets with features like climbing structures, play decks, playhouse attachments, and tunnels, it’s much easier to find these features in a wooden playset.
Wooden swing sets offer a natural look that blends in well with almost any backyard. Since metal swing sets are painted and often brightly colored, they tend to stand out more. What you prefer is up to your personal aesthetic! Wooden swing sets do offer more chances for customization since they can be easily painted, stained, and decorated to match your style. (Want to see some examples? Check out our Instagram for some of our favorite custom paint jobs on wooden playsets!)
Due to their simple construction and materials, metal playsets often come in at a lower price point than wood playsets. However, if you’re shopping for top-of-the-line metal playsets that are the same quality as commercial playground equipment, you’ll find that they’re much more expensive than most wooden playsets.
Need more info before you commit to a metal or wood playset? Learn the ins and outs of vinyl swing sets too in our Wood vs. Vinyl Playset comparison and get all of our best tips in our How to Choose a Backyard Playset guide!
If you decide that a wooden playset is for you, our line of premium cedar wooden playsets and swing sets has something for every backyard and every budget! Shop now, and let the swinging, sliding, and playing begin!