Buyers guide for Wooden Climbing Frames and Playcentres

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If you are thinking about buying a wooden climbing frame, you could find this guide useful.

Wooden Play equipment offers flexibility, strength and longevity.
Unlike plastic or metal, wood ages and weathers without losing its structural integrity. Natural wood tones with the garden rather than clashing with it, and ages much more sympathetically than steel or aluminium.
While the benefits of wooden play equipment come at a slightly premium price, it is good value in the long term.
Wooden Playcentres use far less energy in their construction than steel, aluminium or plastic, and as they last longer, fewer are needed.

Is wood as strong as steel, aluminium or plastic?
Wood is stronger. We have yet to come across a metal or plastic climbing frame as sturdy and strong as our range of wooden play equipment. This means that the whole family can play without breaking or bending it.

Round or square section timber?
The choice here is an aesthetic one, there is no technical reason to choose one or the other apart from the amount of splitting that will occur.
As a natural product, timber will shrink in the heat and expand in the wet causing some cracking and splitting. This comes and goes as the weather changes and is taken into account when designing the climbing frame and specifying the thickness of wood. It will not affect the structural integrity.
Round log, which is cut from the heartwood of the tree, is more susceptible to splitting than square section timber. This is part of the appeal of the rustic appearance of the round log, so don’t be alarmed if splits as deep as to the centre of the log occur, it is to be expected.

What about ground cover?
Play centres are usually sited on grass. You may want to consider ground cover to prevent muddy patches developing and provide additional protection from a fall, or just to define the boundaries of a play area in your garden and finish it off nicely.
For residential use the best options are play bark, rubber mats or rubber bark.

Playbark has a very attractive appearance and a pleasant forest aroma. It is clean and safe to play on having had virtually all dust and fines removed.
It will settle, so it will need to be topped up occasionally and will benefit from occasional raking. Playbark needs to be laid on a permeable membrane and enclosed with an edging for it to remain clean and safe. It is soft enough for stray pieces not to cause problems with lawn mowers.

Another option is heavy-duty rubber safety mats that are very easy to install and require no maintenance. These allow the grass to grow through and prevent the area turning into a muddy swamp. This can be a cost-effective solution by positioning fewer mats in strategic positions, such as at the bottom of the slide or under the swings, rather than covering the whole area.
As the grass grows through the mats you can run the lawn mower over the top.

Rubber bark (you guessed it…it looks like bark but its rubber) offers the best of both worlds but is the most expensive option.

What about installation?
We can provide a full installation service or, alternatively, instructions are provided if you want to have a go at DIY. If you are experienced in working with timber you should find the construction straight forward, no special skills are required, but you may need to hire some tools and you should allow one or two days for a standard sized playcentre. Installation usually requires two people.

If you are installing it yourself delivery of the play equipment can usually be made within a week or two.
If we are installing it for you, we try to arrange this as soon after delivery as is convenient for you, sometimes the fitters will bring it all with them.
Our fitters are at their busiest in the Spring and Summer months. So book early!

Can you install on Sloping ground?
Please check with us before you purchase, but sloping and uneven ground can generally be accommodated safely when fitting a wooden climbing frame. Different types of equipment have adjustments that can be made while it is being fitted. Our range of inspirational playhouses require a  flat and level surface.

How is the Play Equipment secured?
Different types of Play-centre have different requirements with regard to being secured to the ground. Our Castles or turrets for instance are stable as free-standing structures placed on the grass with no anchoring.
Any type of swing or climbing frame will need anchoring. A smaller swing frame will be secure bolted to Ground Anchors, which are 18 inch galvanised steel bars welded to a flat plate which is screwed or dug into the soil. These are easy to fit and subsequently remove while being very safe.
Climbing Frames and large play-centres usually need to have the main uprights dug into the ground.

What are the maintenance requirements?
A wooden play-centre is a robust structure that requires no specific maintenance, but equipment should be regularly inspected and the bolts and screws tightened, if necessary.
Care needs to be taken to avoid damage to the surface of the timber frame using a lawn mower or strimmer. The annual application of a water sealer for Pine wood will keep the original honey-brown colour of the wood, but this is not necessary for the longevity of the timber.
Some playhouses have exterior grade ply roofs which should be painted annually with a water resistant sealant. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Play-centres, ropes and accessories are usually guaranteed for 12 months against manufacturing defects.
Different manufacturers offer between 5 years and a lifetime guarantee against failure caused by rot or insect attack. There are usually the expected stipulations of the guarantee being subject to correct installation and no surface damage by pets or machines.

How do I choose?
There are many factors that will influence your choice.
Budget, available space, fitting in with the look of your garden, children’s ages.

The Children
They are all individuals and no one knows them better than you. However, there are some generalisations you can make, such as a 3 year old will be entertained for hours with a sand pit, but that’s all getting a bit passé by the time you are 8, when nothing inspires you like a steering wheel, periscope and pirate flag. Older children will enjoy more extreme activity such as climbing walls, monkey bars and commando nets.

Always a hit at every age (Have you had a go recently? I bet you have forgotten how much fun it is) Always go for the biggest swing beam that will fit. The extra cost is small but the extra fun is huge.
Our range of wooden play equipment uses carabinas or spiral hooks to allow for the quick changing of swings, So if you can only fit a single position swing beam with your climbing frame it is still possible to accommodate a baby seat, while having a trapeze bar with gym rings, for an older child who just wants to hang upside down!
If there are space constraints, you may want to consider having a free-standing swing frame separate from the main play structure. Most of the systems we sell cater for this.

Dens and camps
A room designed to fit a child is a magical place because it can be a pirate ship a fairy castle or look out post equally easily. Watch your child’s imagination spark.
Most of our wooden play equipment incorporates a roofed platform or “den”.
If this is what you want for your kids our range of inspirational playhouses includes a castle a rocket a tower and other fabulous structures that look really enchanting in any garden.

Great excersise, and hours of fun for kids. A slide will burn off all that excess energy and give them rosy cheeks. When planning the layout of your play equipment, the slide must run at right angles to a swing beam or monkey bars with swings, and allow plenty of space at the bottom because they will get more and more adventurous with the speed they slide.
Our spiralling tube slide is the ultimate.

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