I’ve been doing a lot of reading online about playsets of late. There are a lot of discussion boards across the country with a lot of Mom’s asking each other about cedar outdoor playsets. They ask about specific brands and share information based on their consumer findings, and why they purchased the one that they ended up with.
I saw so much bad information going back and forth. Many purchased based on price, or sales pitch, or what they could view in their area. Many still made poor choices.
No one knows who to ask! A retailer or manufacturer naturally is going to try to convince you that their playset is the best, or the best deal. Consumers have very limited knowledge based on some limited comparison that they were able to do. Neither of these sources know very much about a broad selection of playsets.
So who do you ask??? You should ask not only the most knowledgeable of anyone in the country about a broad range of sets, you also should ask someone who does not have an axe to grind and won’t lose or gain much of anything by the decision that you make. You ask the experienced and knowledgeable installer of these sets that assemble and install virtually every brand there is, from the best to the worst… ME!
There are scores of playset manufacturers, foreign and domestic. I get to assemble them all, bolt by bolt, screw by screw, board by board, top to bottom. Not only that but I have six children and three grandchildren, so I have parental insight and their safety in mind.
After all that, I can tell you that the very best set for quality in this country is CedarWorks. Although they are pricey, if you can afford the best, that’s where you should go. You can customize your set to exactly what you want, and they will ship directly to you.
CedarWorks uses Northern White Cedar in it’s playset construction. This is a heavy and solid wood that is naturally resistant to insect infestation and rot. Each piece is sanded smooth providing a very safe and good looking playset that will last.
In addition CedarWorks playset are not limited to children ages 2-12 like most of the sets that are sold today. Adults of all ages can enjoy it right along with their children.
If CedarWorks just isn’t in your budget, but you like solid, heavy-duty, the look of the unfinished Northern White Cedar, then Triumph Playset Systems is the way to go. Nice folks and a great product. These are not as ornate overall as the CedarWorks sets are, but they are every bit and sturdy and high quality. I am not only an experienced installer but I am an experienced woodworker as well. I greatly appreciated the quality, safety, and durability of these sets.
You will also appreciate that more sections come pre-assembled than any other set that I have seen, including those from CedarWorks. The assembly time is much less, virtually half the time. Therefore if you use an installer such as myself, you may end up with a better quality set than most of the “Play-Sets-In-A-Box” (that are very time-consuming to assemble), for the about the same price. Triumph Playset Systems also uses Northern White Cedar in the construction of all of their sets
NOTE: I highly recommend that you get the wood roof upgrade.
MADE IN CHINA
Most of the “Play-Set-In-A-Box” sets that are sold in Costco, Sam’s Club, Home Depot, Lowe’s, WalMart, BJ’s and others, are made in China. These are mass marketed and sell in large quantities due to much lower price than the much higher quality American made sets. They are good looking sets, and the average consumer buys “pretty” over quality as a general rule.
These Chinese playsets are often stated as being made from Cedar. What is being touted as “Chinese Cedar” and is sometimes called “China Fir” is actually a type of “Cypress” (Cunninghamia Lanceolata). Don’t just take my word for it, read this article at Building-Products.com on ‘A Closer Look at Cedar from China ‘ and then there is this informative article on ‘ Chinese Cedar ‘.
I know when a set is made from this Chinese Cypress as soon as I open the box. It is very aromatic and the smell is usually strong initially, from being closed up in cardboard boxes. My general observations of the wood is: 1.) It looks like fir. 2.) It is a light in weight. 3.) It is not very dense. 4.) It splits relatively easily. 5.) It is usually very dry.
It is wise to pre-drill the smaller or thinner pieces to prevent splitting when attaching with the wood screws provided. This is done by the manufacturer on some sets, or on some components, but very often not.
Because the sets from China are so light in weight, they must be anchored to the ground. Anchors are included with many of the Chinese made sets. But as with all sets, be sure to keep all wood above ground. Both Cedar and Cypress will rot over time if buried beneath ground level. Sometimes when a location is not level, the playsets are set below ground level on one side or another to make the set level. Don’t do it, or allow an installer to do it. You must make sure that the ground is level prior to installation. Be sure all the included anchors are used at the proper or recommended locations.
THE BEST FROM CHINA
If you decide to purchase one of those MADE-IN-CHINA “Play-Sets-In-A-Box” because you have a small budget, but you are still looking for safety and the most bang for your buck, then go with Gorilla Playsets.
Gorilla Playsets are much better made than most of the “Play-Sets-In-A-Box” from China that are sold by most of the big retailers like Home Depot, Lowe’s, Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s, WalMart, etc. We have assembled a lot of Gorilla Playsets. They are full-featured playsets that won’t break the bank, and are generally safe enough for even me to climb all over. If this is your choice, I highly recommend that you purchase one with a wood roof, and not the canvas roofs that do not last.
Some of the Chinese sets are flimsy and scare me. If they shake and move easily under my 180 lbs, what will they do with a lot of children climbing all over it? The Gorilla Playset is a better playset than most of their Chinese counterparts. My favorite feature about the Gorilla Playsets is that the decks are thicker using 5/4″ stock rather the 3/4″ stock that most of these Chinese sets have.
As with all of the known playsets that are from China, their use is limited generally to children ages 2-12. They are just too light weight, and are not built well enough for adult use.
There is another benefit to buying the best quality like CedarWorks or Triumph Playset Systems… Overall the less expensive sets are more costly to have professionally assembled. In fact I charge the same price to assemble the CedarWorks Frolic 2 that currently costs $4,995, as I do to assemble the Highlander Deluxe Cedar Playset which is currently priced at $899 at Sam’s Club. The least expensive sets to assemble overall and best quality for the dollar spent, in my opinion, are the Triumph Playset Systems.