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playground equipment reviews

10 years 7 months ago #164660 by David Verbeck
Replied by David Verbeck on topic Re:playground equipment reviews
Like most purchases, you get what you pay for. There are a lot of manufacturers competing at price points that are devaluing the longevity of their products which tend to last approximately 10 years before developing major problems. By the time you address the problem, the local rep will either not be of assistance or the part will become obsolete with the express desire that you buy a completely new system.

I found this discussion because I was performing searches on comparisons made of commercial equipment and found next to nothing except advertising. As parents and schools increasingly direct play towards institutional environments, equipment unfortunately becomes a central source for play activity. What we view as a traditional playground is actually less than 20 years in the making. Ask most adults what their early memories of play are and it rarely is described from the perspective of playground equipment.

Equipment manufacturers have an advantage on modern perceptions of play which is limited to very few choices other than the purchase of equipment. Substantially based on fears over safety and liability, manufacturers taut their compliance to safety standards as a major selling point. Standards are important, but they do not protect children when decks rust apart, slides begin cracking, or welded joints begin separating. When equipment begins falling apart, it is in the hands of the consumer to represent the integrity of the product.

I can tell you which manufacturers are best and which ones to avoid, but I feel the best path towards making a choice is to become a very astute consumer. Commercial equipment is sold through regional and local representatives whose primary goal is to sell you new equipment at a 25% commission. Make him earn his commission by advocating for your need to purchase a quality system with the guarantee of product support. Don't settle for a warranty that replaces equipment due to "product failure" which is a description that can be construed, for example, as a clamp that has completely rusted through but somehow still holds up a deck. Any specification made in the warranty that can be misconstrued needs to be clarified by the manufacturer in writing.

The other aspect of purchasing equipment that is not well understood is you can make specific demands as to the preparation of equipment to withstand outdoor weather, especially in harsh environments. Demand that all fasteners are made of stainless steel. Have all painted steel primed with a marine coating and make sure that powder coating is applied twice with a minimum coat of 11 mils. Ask for paints and plastic colorants that will not fade due to intense sun conditions. There will be an upcharge on satisfying these demands, but increased costs are scaled to the level of your ability to negotiate. Above all, don't take no for an answer.

Being your own best advocate, however, is becoming a daunting task since manufacturer's are increasingly less responsive to client needs as they become more concerned about shareholder profits. Smaller companies that once were able to act on customer demands are being consumed by larger companies that thrive on consolidation and simplification of the manufacturing process. Somehow the message has not yet reached the stockholders that consumer needs are not being met as equipment sales continue to plummet. This is mostly an American phenomenon as European products experience a dramatic increase in sales due to improved quality and design innovation.

The other trend not to be overlooked is a return to customized construction of playgrounds by localized builders. As designers, builders, and clients become more astute to safety standards and insurance coverages, playgrounds are returning to their community origins. My recommendation that consumers become more astute to work with manufactured equipment serves well to also attribute the same thoroughness to self-directed playground projects.
13 years 11 months ago #153969 by naterosenthal
You'll also want to take a look at their warranty information and make sure that their playground equipment meets CPSC, ASTM, and IPEMA certification and safety standards. There are other standards to take into consideration as well, but those are a good start. If you're concerned about how much of the equipment is made of recycled materials, that might be another thing worth looking at too. KaBOOM!, a national non-profit organization that helps communities build playgrounds, provides a list of its seven preferred vendors, all of which are reputable manufacturers that hold themselves to the highest standards. Take a look at
14 years 1 month ago - 13 years 11 months ago #153615 by
An internet search can provide you with names of all the top playground companies, and every company can provide you with references. But, what you want to do is consider each product, what are the things that make it different from the other products, and do those differences fit your needs better.

I guess I should say, up-front, that I am the Director of Marketing for Safeplay Systems, but I'll try to keep my response generic. (Our product line is EcoPlay Playgrounds.)

I wrote an article for RELIGIOUS PRODUCT NEWS magazine, that discusses how to choose a playground vendor. The link to that article is:

There are many factors to consider, and the relevant factors differ for each purchaser. For example, another person that responded here mentioned they were located on the coast, and purchasing a playground made from recycled plastic was VERY relevant to them. If you live in California, PVC-FREE may be the most relevant item on your list. (Actually, Phthalate-Free is what is important.) Or maybe your funding process will require a playground designed to be installed in multiple phases, over a period of years. Each situation is unique.

I hope the article helps as a guide for your playground equipment vendor search.
14 years 3 months ago #152941 by jessicaharwell
When my local PTO decided to build a wooden swing set last year, we purchased the equipment from an online company called They gave us free shipping and a fast delivery time. We had a local builder donate the wood to complete the set, and then we donated our time to construct it. We were finished in one weekend and it required very little carpentry skills. It was a great investment of time and money.
14 years 5 months ago #151970 by Will
Replied by Will on topic Re:playground equipment reviews
Our school is located on an island off the coast of Maine. Due to potential weather and durability issues because of the salt air, we selected Play Mart Playgrounds. They make equipment from recycled milk jugs. Our playground looks great and will last forever. Going green by using recyled materials is an extra feature the community is especially proud of! Good luck.
14 years 7 months ago #151306 by Verica Liautaud
Replied by Verica Liautaud on topic Re:playground equipment reviews
At the end of the last school year we replaced a large piece of equipment on the playground. Unfortunately we only had one choice since we had to use the districts playground equipment provider. I would check with your district first before you research others you may not have a choice.
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