Climbing frames can be built out of a selection of many materials as we have already discussed, but one of the most common materials used is wood. The most commonly used wood in Europe is Pine, however there is also a large number of Chinese Cedar climbing frame sets imported and sold. While wood provides a beautiful finish with a very natural color and strong structure, several problem areas can arise and climbing frame or swing kits can rapidly deteriorate if you are not aware of these. We have detailed some of the problems and wooden swingset & climbing frame maintenance routines which you need to watch out for with wooden garden play sets.
Cracks and Splits
Most wood will have natural cracks, splits and checks so this is a very normal occurrence. Climbing frames made of natural timber can be susceptible to this and the type of wood will affect the severity of the problem. The affects of the environment, such as humidity and temperature, can have a damaging affect to any sort of wood. In extreme circumstances seasonal variations can cause warps in the timber of the climbing frames. One solution which may work is wetting the climbing frame in the dry season to reduce the appearance of cracks.
Some climbing frames use rounded sections as the base construction, such as the TP Sherwood Range for climbing frames. Swing sets using round timber tend to use pine wood. This is readily available in Europe and is very fast growing so is one of the cheapest varieties available. These can be very young and fresh cuts of wood and therefore are much more prone to cracks, also know as shakes, occurring. However, the integrity of the structure will remain if they do not crack through to the middle of the logs.
Some climbing structures are made from sawn wood and may suffer a different kind of damage. Lower timber grade will be of a lower quality but will have a high knot count and a rough finish. Higher grade wood costs more but will have fewer knots and a nice, smooth finish. Sawn wood frames are now mostly being imported from China and are made from Cunninghamia lancelota (Chinese Cedar / China-Fir). This wood is very soft and will be prone to rotting if not treated. Manufacturers recommendations vary, but we would advise re-staining your climbing frame annually after summer.
limbing frames are now coated in a preservatives which may leave a green tinge to the wood, such as Tanalith C. This is a water based product which has been replaced the more non toxic solutions used prior to changes introduced in 2004 by the European Union. Prior to these changes wood products were finished in a arsenic based product, but damages caused to the environment ensured regulations were imposed on manufacturers. Wooden swing sets using Tanalith come out with a slight green tinge but this colour fades in time. A green mold develops when the kits are kept in storage so if your set has this when delivered then it’s not a fresh cut timber.
Wooden swings trated with these new pressure treatments are often guaranteed for 10 years. This also has the benefit that you’ll not need to re-seal or re-stain your set as you would with a sawn wood, or square cut playset. These items need re-staining, with either a water based or oil based stain annually.