Oh, the many hours I spent soaring in the clouds on my old metal swing set. Pretty much the only things that would bring me back to earth was dinner or the siren call of jumping off mid-swing. Sure, sometimes the swing set legs pulled slightly out of the ground but that served as a safety feature – it signaled that I needed to not swing so high.
Forty years ago, metal swing sets were pretty much the only option for us backyard dreamers and our parents. Wooden swing sets and play structures just weren’t available yet. But, today’s parents have more options for outdoor play structures. We’ve already talked about swing set placement. Before buying a swing set, you’ll also have to decide how big it can be and whether it will be constructed of metal or wood.
Few would disagree that wooden play structures look more natural and blend in better with most backyard landscapes. But, even the smallest wooden play set can cost as much as four or five times that of a metal swing set. This is not a case of getting what you pay for. Metal swing sets can be just as safe as their wooden counterparts and still offer parents a less costly alternative.
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Metal Swing Set Construction
Metal swing sets are usually made from powder-coated steel. That makes them super strong and fairly weather resistant. Many manufacturers are also using heat resistant coatings which means they will remain cool to the touch even on hot summer days.
Metal swing sets are more portable. They are easier to put together and the smaller ones can be moved to another yard if your child outgrows it. Larger metal play structures can be taken apart and moved whereas their wooden counterparts can be virtually impossible to deconstruct and often must remain permanently wherever they are built.
Metal Swing Set Stability
Metal swing sets, as a rule, weigh a lot less than wooden swing sets. What they gain in portability can come at a slight cost in stability. That means if the legs are not well-buried or otherwise well-secured, the swing set might rock back and forth with extreme swinging (like mine did) or when there are multiple children swinging at the same time.
Better designed, modern swing sets may come with a broader leg stance to enhance stability. Many of today’s sets also have forts and monkey bars on the ends that greatly increase the stability and strength of the structure.
The safest option, depending upon your intended use might be cement footings to secure the legs.
Read the installation manual carefully and consider the number of children that may play on the structure at the same time or the overall design/footprint of the structure. My own heavy duty swing set had six A-frame style legs and I frequently reached heights exceeding six feet. When it shifted, I knew I was swinging too high – it was like a warning bell for me. A far safer option would have been installing anchors or cement footings.
But, Don’t Metal Swing Sets Rust?
Compare them to an automobile. For the most part, our cars will retain a rust-proof finish as long as the paint remains intact. Scratch off enough paint to expose the metal underneath and rust will form. Same goes with a metal swing set. If you scratch off some of the paint when you build the swing set or raw metal becomes exposed through normal wear and tear, you will need to use an outdoor metal paint to protect those areas from rusting.
Metal Swing Sets and Insects
Insects and other critters tend to like anyplace where they can remain hidden. Metal is not as attractive as wood to insects but any nooks, crannies and corners are.
One issue with metal swing sets is their tubular construction. Metal tubing makes wonderful hiding places for all sorts of insects and snakes. There’s an easy, child-friendly fix though. Invest in a can of spray foam – the stuff that expands and hardens when it comes in contact with the air. Great Stuff makes a great product you can use for this purpose. (Get the smaller can, otherwise you’ll also have to buy a fairly pricy little gun too.) Seal off any exposed openings and you won’t have to worry about insects building their home inside the support structure of your metal swing set.
Do keep in mind that insects may try to make their home under swings, slides and other portions of the play structure as well. Daily checks for unwelcome visitors should be done whether you opt to buy a metal swing set or a wooden one.
Buying Metal Swing sets
Before you purchase any swing set for your backyard, please review our swing set placement guide for tips on everything from sight placement to ensuring there’s enough room for parents to push swingers. If you have limited yard space, you might also want to check out our small swing sets guide.