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December 19, 2014 5 Comments

I've been asked many times: "Jay - what's the best type of wood in a swing set?"  

I'll then reply emphatically - that depends.

"Depends on what?" you might ask.  Well it depends on what you are looking for.  Are you looking for durability?  Are you looking for beauty? Are you looking for the best value?  Are you looking for the top of line?

Let's take a look at (in my humble opinion) the 3 best types of woods used in today's swing sets.  Each have their own pros and cons.  I'll do my best to help you decide which is right for you.

Here is the short version, taken from another blog post, with an infographic that sums everything up:

  • If you are looking for overall value, go with a solid Cedar swing set. It’s an excellent, all-around wood.
  • If you are looking for natural beauty and durability, go with a Redwoodswing set.  It will last just as long as a set made with solid Cedar wood, but it will also cost you more.  Redwood sets are usually 100% farmed in America, and it’s an absolutely beautiful wood that in general comes with a lifetime warranty.
  • If you are looking for the most durable wood, go with a Premium Preserved Pine swing set Premium Preserved Pine will last longer than Cedar and Redwood without maintenance.  Its price typically falls between that of Redwood and Cedar and usually comes with a lifetime warranty.

Comparision of the 3 Best Types of Wood in a Swing Set

The agreed upon quality, ranging from best (5 stars) to worst (1 star), of the three woods would be as such:

Cedar - The majority of wooden swing sets today are made from Cedar.  And rightfully so.  Cedar is an awesome wood.  It's naturally resistant to rot, decay and damage.  

It is a highly durable wood, used on decks, playsets and other projects, and remains cost effective as well.

This affordable, but durable, wood will hold up well for years.  Most Cedar sets come with a 10-15 year warranty.  They are generally priced lower than their Redwood and Premium Preserved Pine counter parts.

Most cedar sets are boxed sets, using cedar from cedar trees in the far east. Keep in mind, as long as your set is made from real cedar (not fake cedar, aka Chinese Fir) it doesn't matter where the cedar is grown.

The most important part of finding a quality cedar set is looking at the THICKNESS of the cuts of wood. For more information on that, please see our post The Top 7 Features of the Best Swing Sets.

Not to mention, new cedar sets smell terrific!

Redwood - Most top of the line swing sets are made from Redwood.  There are different types of Redwood trees, however, the most common type of Redwood used in playsets these days is U.S-grown California Redwood. 

Redwood, like Cedar, is naturally resistant to rot, decay and damage because it contains tannin, a natural chemical harmless to humans and animals, but toxic to fungi.  Fungal disease causes decay in other woods. It is also naturally immune to insect damage.

The reddish-brown color of its bark has earned Redwood (by many people's opinion) the title of the most beautiful option for playsets, and it has less volumetric and tangential shrinkage, meaning it stays flat and straight with minimal, warping, cupping, or cracking. In other words, not only is Redwood easy on the eye but it also comes with a natural resistance to wear and tear, so you can enjoy it just as you purchased it for years to come.

Redwood is no doubt a beautiful and durable wood.  However, due to most Redwood lumber today not being "Heartwood Redwood," Redwood sets have slipped a notch in their durability factor.

Keep in mind that almost all swing set manufacturers who make Redwood sets will tout them as the best, when in fact, the quality of Redwood sets have declined in recent years due to the lack of Heartwood Redwood being used.

Another idea to consider is that Redwood from old growth forests (with Redwood trees in the many hundreds of years) is never used anymore in swingsets. Almost all Redwood swingsets today are made from new growth Redwood forests.

The Redwood from new growth forests has not had the same amount of time to develop tannin, nor in many cases does it have the same rich, Redwood color and strength as an old growth tree.

These are some points to consider before throwing in the cash towards a Redwood set.

Nearly all Redwood sets come with a lifetime warranty.

Premium Preserved Pine - If you are looking for the most durable swing set, I would recommend Premium Preserved Pine. (not regular pine) Contrary to popular belief, Premium Preserved Pine playsets, and NOT Redwood, are the most durable of all wood playsets used today because the pine is preshrunk and preserved.

These two processes minimize shrinking, warping, cracking, cupping, and fungal decay.  Pine can withstand harsh weather conditions and can hold more moisture than Redwood and Cedar, which gives Premium Preserved Pine playsets a decades-long lifespan.

Pine is not the prettiest wood, however.  Where as Cedar and Redwood have a darker color and warmth, pine lacks this darkness and warmth.  It is by no means an "ugly" wood, though.

One thing to note: Treated woods, such as Premium Preserved Pine, tend to be looked down upon by some playset dealers and manufacturers. The short reason for this is that - in the past - treated woods were treated by a chemical with trace amounts of arsenic - CCA - a chemical toxic to humans.

Playset manufacturers today that use pressure treated and preserved woods, such as Playnation, however, do NOT use chemicals containing arsenic.  The new treatments are copper based, and are Greenguard Certified. They are 100% safe for playgrounds and children.

Nearly all Premium Preserved Pine playsets come with a lifetime warranty.

Conclusion

Well, there you have it.

These are the 3 types of wood you will find when looking to purchase a new swing set. Which one is best for you is yours to decide.

In most cases, as long as you maintain the wood by staining/sealing each year, each of these woods will last you for many years to come.

Feel free to reach out with any questions using the chatbox at the bottom of the screen, or give us a shout at 201-670-4000.

Best of luck to you!


5 Responses

maureen
maureen

March 12, 2017

is premium preserved pine the same as pressure treated wood?

Ken
Ken

September 18, 2016

Great explanation I used cedar for my swing set .worked out god thanks

Cliff
Cliff

August 28, 2016

Great information! My 10 year old son wants me to design/build an American Ninja warrior type course and this provides me a good understanding of what wood to use. Thanks. Now to figure out what to design. Hopefully I can find an article as helpful as this was.

Jay
Jay

March 08, 2016

You are very welcome Christina!

Christina
Christina

March 08, 2016

Great basic explenation that brings it down to the point for someone who doesn’t know much about this matter (like myself). Thank you!

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