The way I see it after a decade of installations.
What to know before shopping, buying, and installing.
1) You truly get what you pay for. If a play set has tons of bells and whistles at a relatively “low” price point, then you can bet that their money did not go towards the structural design and materials. Take special consideration of your child's age, activity level, and physical size.
2) You also get what you pay for when hiring an installer. Proper installation can make or break the longevity and fun factor of the play set that you just spent a boatload for, and most installers do mediocre work at best. Don't look for the guys who do it fastest and cheapest. Look for the installer that installs like he would for his own children. Regarding other installers, common complaints from my eventual customers over the years include:
Contacting an installation company and not being called back
Poor communication after initial contact
Overpriced (sometimes double the going rate)
Rude and sometimes intimidating behavior
Improper installation of the play set
Damage to the play set
Trash left behind and/or all over the yard
Lack of follow up
3) The “Do-it-yourself” internet movement of the last five years, has been great for online sales, but generally manufacturers make play set installation sound a lot easier than it is. You can certainly do it yourself, but how much time are you willing to invest to do it properly? Are you willing to give up the entire weekend? Two weekends? That being said, you can often times purchase a set online and have it professionally installed for less than walking into a showroom and paying a luxury car price (Rainbow Play Systems anyone?)
4) In my experience, for many reasons, professional installation equals a happier consumer. Hands down, every single time.
5) Your child’s interest and amount of use when it comes to a play set usually depends way more on the individual child than the features and components of the set. That being said, most people purchase sets that are way too small for their child to stay interested long. Look for a set that includes at least one play deck that is at least 5’ from the ground. If the one and only play deck is 4’ tall, you’ve probably gone too small. There are some great exceptions to this, but your child is growing and becoming more adventurous.
6) Play set maintenance doesn’t need to be daunting or time consuming. The “little bit at a time” approach can work very well if time and weather don’t allow a full-on, all-at-once maintenance assault. Tighten a bolt here, sand a small area there, etc.
7) When contemplating whether or not you should build the play set yourself or hire a professional, remember this - How handy or unhandy you are matters little. A play set is like a huge 1000 piece puzzle. If you have never done one before, you are not as familiar with the scheme and the “language” of the puzzle. It is still very time consuming. Yes, even if you build houses for a living....
8) There are a ton of play set manufacturers out there that sell online. There are a few really good ones. There are a lot of bad ones. If I had to pick just one based on quality, fun-factor, safety, tolerance of uneven yards, and price point, I would have to say Gorilla / Playnation. I’ve put enough of these play sets together to know. I am not an affiliate, I’ve simply constructed many different makes and models. Cedar Summit and Lifetime are also high on my list.
9) When deciding where in your yard to put your new play set, pick the flattest spot in your yard that you can stand. Most play sets are designed on a flat plane. Putting the set on a hill or drastic slope is not only unsafe, but also ensures that some feature(s) of the play set will suffer, and that is usually the swings or the slide.
VERY IMPORTANT - A note about Mulch/ Ground Cover…
If you choose to hire me to install your play set, I must be able to contact solid ground for leveling purposes. Please, please, please do not put mulch down before the installation, no matter what your landscaper tells you. If I have to move four to six inches of damp or wet mulch out of the way to contact the ground, I will more than likely charge a reasonable fee. Play sets cannot be installed and leveled on top of mulch because of how fast it breaks down and washes away. If you’d like to build your timber border ahead of time, then this is acceptable as long as your measurements for the play area are accurate. But have the mulch filled in after the play set is complete, leveled, and anchored.
10) Remember this about initial cost and investment. If you purchase a quality play set, install it properly, and care for it over the years, play sets are very easy to sell when your kids are done with them. There is a huge market for used play sets, and you can easily get some of your investment back.
If you have any further questions, please contact me on Facebook, call, text, or email me.