Climbing Frames Buying Guide 1

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Wooden Climbing Frame Buyers Guide

If you are thinking about buying a wooden climbing frame, you could find this guide useful. We have detailed the main differences in materials, wood types and construction methods in addition to information on surfacing and installation.

Wooden Play equipment offers flexibility, strength, durability and longevity. Unlike plastic or metal, wood ages and weathers without losing its structural integrity. Natural wood tones blend with the garden rather than standing out within it, and ages much more sympathetically than steel or aluminum play centres.

While the benefits of wooden play equipment come at a slightly premium price, this price has been dropping over recent years and it is now possible to get a reasonable quality and specification playset for as little as a few hundred pounds. With this in mind you also have to look out for poor quality imitation sets.  Wooden garden play equipment has become good value in the long term and from an environmental perspective wooden play centres and play equipment use far less energy in their construction than steel, aluminum or plastic, and as they last longer, fewer are needed. 

STRENGTH - Timber v Tubular Aluminum, Steel and Plastic
Wood is stronger and far more durable. All of our wooden climbing frames are tested for strength and maximum weight loads, not surprisingly the wooden play equipment has far greater weight resistance and can therefore withstand more weight meaning more children can play at any one time. In our investigations we have yet to come across a metal or plastic climbing frame as sturdy and strong as a piece of wooden play equipment. A manufacturer such as Backyard Adventures uses 4' x 4', 4' x 6' or 6' x 6' dimension lumber for the uprights on its Treehouse, Mountain and Jurassic range of modular play systems. They also use steel compression clamps to secure all load baring areas of the system. These Backyard Adventures systems can carry the greatest combined weight that we have found. They also have steels strips on all Monkey Bars and Swing Beams, so should the wood ever fail there is a steel spine to prevent total failure.

Round or square section timber?
The choice here is much mote than an aesthetic one. There is no technical reason to choose one or the other apart. Although, you will often find that round beam pressure treated wood suffers from huge amounts of splitting (often from day one). These splits (shakes) are often large and unattractive, they splinter badly and can of course be a danger for finger entrapment. Remember wood is 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. It is commonly agreed that round beam systems suffer in the worst way. Round log, which is cut from the heartwood of the tree, is more susceptible to splitting than square section timber. Some say (normally those who build round wood play systems) that 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 do I build my Climbing Frame on?
Residential Play Centres are most commonly 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.  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 will need to be topped up annually and will benefit from occasional raking. We suggest wood chip play bark needs to be laid on a permeable membrane you keep weeds out and let water run away.

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 Mulch - A relatively new product that has some popular advantages over play bark. Rubber Chipping's does not mulch and it has higher impact absorption. The material comes in a variety of natural colour options and looks similar to natural bark. It is far heavier than traditional bark and lasts years longer. Rubber Mulch resists colour fading and doesn't rot or attract pets or insects. Although initial outlay may be greater than bark, it is less expensive ultimately because of its durability, and because you require far less thickness of coverage.

Wet Pour Rubberised Surface - Is the most expensive solution, and it needs to be laid on an existing hard level surface such as concrete. Due to the cost and time in preparation of surface it is not a preferred choice by our domestic customers.

What about installation?
Selwood Adventure Playsets come with detailed picture based assembly manuals and instructions and are designed for home build, but a full national installation service is available via the Climbing Frames UK register of approved installers should you not think you are up to the job. We recommend you have one of our installers build your Backyard Adventures System, but some more confident DIYer's also fit these themselves. No special skills are required, but you may need some basic tools and you should allow one full day for a standard sized playcentre (for 2 adults).

Can you install on Sloping ground?
Selwood Adventure Playsets Climbing Frames need to be installed on to a flat/level surface, Backyard Adventures modular play systems can accommodate inclines or uneven surfaces. 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.

What are the maintenance requirements?
Our wooden play-centres are robust structures that require little maintenance, but equipment should be regularly inspected and the bolts and screws tightened, if necessary. As with all wooden products treating and sealing the wood annually will protect and preserve and on some systems this is a condition of the manufacturers warrantee. We suggest that you always follow the manufacturer's instructions.

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.  If you have any questions regarding specific playsets or just need some general guidance then please call our customer services team and they will be able to advise you which systems, features or specifications you should be looking at.

Prepared by Andrew Beard of Climbing Frames UK - 0870 241 2880


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