Wood or Metal Swing Sets? The Challenge is On!

Making the decision between a wood and metal swing set is not a simple one! There are so many aspects and considerations that go into the decision, and while each and every structure differs and has its own pros and cons, you will find that wood is overall more popular

When looking for the best swing set, it’s pretty universal to look for something that is first and foremost safe and second, durable. Swing sets can be expensive and hefty to only last for a few years! Therefore, finding the best material is important to ensure your swing set will last as long as it possibly can.

Wood swing sets are often stronger than their metal competition as they are less susceptible to bending or weakening due to rust. This can make wood swing sets stronger and, therefore, safer. However, for those focused on appearance, metal sets can often be more colorful and customized than wood.

There are several factors to consider in the comparison between a wood and a metal swing set. Because there are so many elements to look into, this article will make a comprehensive comparison between each factor that you, as a consumer, may be considering before purchasing your ideal swing set.

Which is Safer Between Wood and Metal Swing Sets

First, safety is the most important factor to consider when looking into different swing set options. Whether you are buying a swing set for young children or teenagers, it’s critical that the swing set you land on can hold the weight and keep all users safe while they play.

A wooden slide.
Both wood and metal playsets can be safe if properly installed and maintained.

It is important to remember that regardless of if you buy a metal or wood playset, both can be safe. Both have their pros and cons, but it is mostly going to depend on the specific playset you buy, less so than the material you opt to purchase. There are safe options in both wood and metal swing sets, just as there are options that will not be as safe to play on.

It is critical to remember this as you are shopping for your swing set because if you assume that all wood is safer than all-metal or vice versa, you may end up with a playset that is not as safe or strong. Instead, be sure to research if the swing set you are looking at has been engineered to meet the recommended safety standards.

Any high-quality manufacturer will follow these safety standards, which will ensure that any playset that is purchased is as safe as possible. If these guidelines are not being followed, it may be that you need to find a new manufacturer rather than a new building material. However, for someone looking for a simple safety decision, wood is generally considered the safest.

Strength Matters in a Swing Set

For example, if you are going to buy a metal swing set, be sure you are purchasing one that is made with heavy gauge steel. If you opt for a potentially cheaper option, it is likely to be made with weaker steel, and therefore you will find that the safety is further compromised. The same goes for a wood playset.

When buying a wood playset, be sure it has thick timbers for both the structure and play surface. If the timber is not strong enough, it will be more likely to rot over time or become weak over the years. This is going to compromise the safety of the whole play structure and impact how long you will be able to utilize the set safely.

A kid on the metal swing.
To keep the kids safe, purchase heavy gauge steel swing set or the one made of thick timbers.

Therefore, when you are looking towards the strength of your set, ask questions about the specific materials used in the building process. Additionally, be sure to look at the swing set and its surrounding structure carefully. Do the materials look thin and flimsy? Or does it look like a sturdy and well-built swing set? You will be able to assess much of this just by looking at the set you like the most.

The Lifespan of the Different Kinds of Swing Sets

In addition, remember that if you are purchasing a metal set, it will likely need to be replaced every 10-12 years. For some, this may not be an issue because you may not be wanting to keep it any longer than that. However, for those looking to put a swing set into a park or area where it will remain for a long period of time, this is an important consideration.

For those looking just to buy a play structure for their kids while they are young, the lifespan of a metal set may fit your needs just fine! And if you are good about maintaining the swing set and ensuring there is no rust or paint chipping off, it could last even longer and potentially stick around for about 15 years.

However, if it does not, keep in mind that a wooden swing set or play structure will generally last between 20 to 40 years. It is not uncommon for them to last even longer; they could last your entire lifetime. The reason some wood structures last longer than others comes down to wood quality.

Top-quality and thick woods will last much longer, and this will be additionally extended if the wood is sealed and stained to better weatherproof the structure. Cheaper woods will not last as long as 40 years but will likely still last longer than a metal set.

Durability Depends on Swing Set Material

The durability of your swing set is highly dependent both on the material you buy and the weather where you will be setting up your structure. First, if you purchase a cheaper metal swing set, it can be more vulnerable to bending or breaking. This is going to be even more likely if the structure rusts.

By looking for a high-quality metal set with thicker gauge steel, you will find that your metal set is less likely to bend, especially if you have people or varying weights using it. These will simply have long term durability and will be safer.

A swing set.
The most durable material for outdoor swing sets is cedar lumber.

The best material for durability if your playset is going to be outside is cedar lumber. This is primarily because cedar is naturally decay-resistant and therefore, will not break down over time as much. This type of wood does not require any harsh chemical use for preservation. This is ideal so that you, your children, and the environment are not exposed to chemicals.

When looking at wood structures, there are others with similar durability; however, you will find that cedar is the best value for the best longevity and therefore, will last you the longest and stay safest the longest.

Appearance is Important, Too

For some, the aesthetic of your playset may be important. If this sounds like you, there are additional considerations when looking for the perfect material for your swing set. Depending on the look you are after, you may be restricted to one material. For example, if you are looking for something with color and design options, metal is for you.

A kid on the swing.
If you want to install a colorful swing set, choose the one made of metal.

If you are looking for something more traditional, neutral, earthy, and something that will blend into the nature in your yard, wood is definitely the right choice for you. This is so dependent on whether you want your playset to blend into the background of your yard or stand out as an accent piece.

Metal structures look more modern and can be painted with fun colors or designs to fit your vision, whereas the majority of wood structures will utilize more natural colors on the accessories to blend better with the wood. Therefore, the preference for appearance is very much dependent on each individual consumer.

Customization: Make Your Swing Set Fit Your Life

Depending on what features you’re looking for in your swing set, a wooden piece may offer more customizations. Often, metal sets are sold as pre-designed kits as they are built before purchase. Therefore, you will likely shop from a catalog of kits that you can purchase.

For some, adding a customization may be important. Since wood play structures generally have more options, you may be able to add an extra swing to your set or add a bar attached to play on. You could take a slide off or add one. You could include some monkey bars or add a baby swing if you’re expecting!

Tools used to construct.
If you enjoy DIYing, you may want to purchase a wood swing set that offers more customization.

With easier customizations, you can make your swing set structure more of your own and create your vision from scratch. This may be more suitable for someone who has a lot of kids and wants each to have their own swing or even someone who only has one kid and wants there to be one swing instead of two to reduce costs!

Being able to customize your piece can also help with fitting it into the designated space you have in your yard for the swing set. If you have an oddly shaped yard or a smaller space, it may be that you need to design something that can perfectly wedge into the corner you need the structure to live. Therefore, turning to wood structures will be ideal.

If you do not have requirements for your spacing or for the features of your swing set, this opens you back up to being able to simply buy a premade structure that is made of either metal or wood. This can make shopping easier, but unfortunately, it will not help you in narrowing down which material you’d prefer to use!

A Good Swing Set is Easy to Maintain

Regardless of the kind of set you have, it’s important that you are doing maintenance to ensure it is upholding its safety. At the very minimum, checking your structure every once in a while to ensure all of the hardware is still there and any screws are tight and in place will keep your set as safe as possible.

Apart from routine checks of your structure, there are other maintenance needs to be aware of specific to the material. If you have a metal structure, it will likely not need much maintenance. If you do find a scratch or chip in the structure, it is recommended to get it repainted to avoid any rusting as this can impact stability and strength of the metal.

A swing set with kids having fun.
High-quality swing sets are always easy to maintain.

If you have a wood structure, for some types of wood, you will need to keep up with the staining. This could be once a year up to once every three years. Part of this is very dependent on where you live. If you are in a very rainy climate, you may need to stain your set more frequently. Also, if it fades from the sun, you may want to stain it more frequently.

If you do have a wood set or are looking to purchase one, ask your retailer about how often the wood should be stained. Finding a local wood play structure dealer can help in finding someone to do the maintenance the set requires consistently. If you fail to do maintenance, you will find that your set does not last as long or could fail to keep users safe.

By staying consistent in checking each accessory and its stability, you will be sure not to miss any potentially dangerous faults that you set could have. For example, if a piece falls off or a screw comes loose, this is something that you need to stay aware of and check often.

Installation of a Swing Set Should be Easy

The ease of installation depends on how prepared you are to set it up. Both metal and wood structures can be difficult (or easy) to install, depending simply on your preparation. Some questions to ask before purchasing to ensure your set up is easier include:

  • Are all holes predrilled?
  • Is there a detailed installation instruction manual?
  • How many hours on average will the installation take?
  • What tools are required for assembly?

However, it is recommended to hire an experienced and professional installer so that you can be sure your structure is set up correctly and safely. If you leave it to your own abilities to set up, it may take longer, and you may not have the peace of mind that the structure is completely correct and safe for users to play on it.

A tools used for assembling.
Allowing a professional to install your swing set will keep the kids safe while playing in the area.

Therefore, when you are out searching for a structure, be sure to inquire about set up. Ask if they include setup, if it has an additional cost, and if they do not offer a setup service, how easy it will be for you to set up your own structure. If there is no alternative, but for you to set up your own structure, you may want to look for a different retailer or hire externally.

Additional Cons

To better understand each set, it’s important to talk about any additional cons that each one has since many of the benefits to each have been discussed. Keep in mind that any play structure you decide on will have its benefits and will also have its downfalls. Nothing is going to be absolutely perfect, so instead, try to meet your highest priorities.

Metal Swing Sets

To look a bit deeper at the metal swing sets, it is important to acknowledge that there are a few other cons to these types of structures. It has been previously mentioned that considering your weather is important when you are buying a structure. However, this is even more important when considering a metal structure in a hot climate.

If you purchase a metal structure and you have warm weather all year round, your structure is going to get incredibly hot and could burn those who try to use it. This can cause injury and is an often forgotten danger of a structure such as this. In addition, paint chipping has been mentioned above but not in the context of toxicity.

A metal swing.
Metal swings can get extremely hot during sunny days.

Depending on the age of the children using the structure, if the paint is constantly chipping all over them and getting in their eyes, mouths, or they are putting it into their mouths, this can be problematic. Not only are many paints toxic, but this can cause other health issues that could otherwise be avoided. Therefore, painted structures can be a downfall of metal swing sets.

Wood Swing Sets

Although with wood, you will not find the heat conduction you will find with metal sets. You will come across other potential issues, such as insects. Many insects such as wasps like to nest in and around wood. Therefore, you may find that there are more wasps around your wood structure than you would have with a different material.

A wooden swing.
Various insects may nest in and around wood swing sets.

This could be a dealbreaker if you or someone in your family is allergic to wasps and could be majorly affected by this. For those who are vulnerable to insects, this con of wood swing sets could be the only con you need to steer towards a metal structure. In addition to insects, the surface of the wood is not going to be as smooth as that of a metal structure.

Therefore, there is a higher likelihood of getting splinters due to the unevenness of the surface. This may or may not matter depending on the type of swing set you get; however, it should be a consideration, especially with any railings or surfaces that will be rubbed on more often.

Making a Final Decision

Some of the categories above are ways in which you can sort through which structure will best fit your needs. However, it can be hard even when considering those factors to make a final decision if you like certain aspects of a metal set while other aspects of the wood structure are intriguing.

Two woman seating and talking on the swing.
To choose the right material for your swing set, you will also need to consider your crowd and budget.

To help you navigate this potential issue, here are a few other things to consider. While it can be difficult at times to compare the two materials, the best way you can make a decision is to first look to your personal needs. In this, you will likely look at how those who are using the play structure will be playing.

In addition, since cost can play a role, it’s important to know exactly how to calculate the total cost of the structure. This will include any routine maintenance or set up costs that come with the initial payment of the structure itself.

Know Your Crowd

Finally, and potentially most importantly, you know your crowd better than anyone. If you are looking for this swing set for your children, neighborhood, school, you are the most familiar with how users are going to play with this piece. By knowing how they like to play outside, you will be able to find a safe and fun structure that’s the best for them to play on.

Therefore, once you know how they are going to play, you will better understand the safety measures you will need to take to keep them from hurting themselves. You will better be able to gauge which features you will need and if you will need to opt for a customized structure or if a prebuilt one will fit your needs.

These considerations are important to identify and will help you hone in on the right structure material for your needs. For example, if you need additional railings on your structure to keep your children safe, you will likely need to get a wooden set since they are more customizable. Therefore, some decisions could easily be made for you simply by identifying your needs.

Pricing Differences

As previously touched on, every material will have a range of pricing options. This is primarily because not all wood is created equally, and the same goes for metal. Some wood structures are made of cedar, which is cheaper, while others are made of redwood, which is just a more expensive wood.

The same goes for metal. Some play structures use less metal and use lighter metals, which will be less durable and cheaper. Others will use a sturdier metal that will come at a higher price point. Therefore, regardless of the material you choose, you will be able to find a variety of price points to fit your budget.

However, it is no secret that buying a wood structure will overall be more costly. This is for a few reasons. First, buying wood, in general, is going to be more expensive than buying synthetic materials and metals. The cost for the building materials will simply be elevated from that of alternatives when you opt for wood.

Calculating Cost

Second, since wood requires more maintenance than metal does, you will find yourself dishing out more money on the structure throughout its lifespan simply for its upkeep and maintenance. Since the wood will likely need to be stained and sealed several more times over its life, it will cost you each and every time you do this.

Whether you do the maintenance yourself or hire somebody, this will be an added cost simply for the materials needed to do the work it requires. For those who are limited by their budgets, getting a metal swing set is going to be the most cost-effective, but also remember that it will not last you as long.

Therefore, if you are hoping to have the structure for 40 years and are comparing prices, you should really be comparing the prices and maintenance of one wood structure against the cost and maintenance of two metal structures to get the most accurate quote. Consider how long you will need it when considering the investment you are willing to make.


Making the decision between a wood and metal swing set is not a simple one! There are so many aspects and considerations that go into the decision, and while each and every structure differs and has its own pros and cons, you will find that wood is overall more popular due to its reputation for being safer and more durable.

While wood is the winner in these aspects, it is also going to be the more costly option; therefore, this will have to come down to once again looking at your priorities and what you are realistically able to afford. If cost is not a problem, you will find that you are better able to compare the two materials side by side.

For those who have special needs due to sizing or elements they desire to have on the structure, wood is going to be the most likely option for you since metal structures are not going to be quite as easy to customize. However, for many who do not want to put the time or effort into customization, you will also find that this will likely save you some money.

By buying a premade structure, you will save time and money on getting the playset to you. Finally, make sure you are prioritizing your own safety when it comes to set up and assembly of the structure. You don’t want to get a structure that requires a lot of set up you are unprepared to complete on your own.

Be sure you inquire about set up and are prepared to either pay for an installation or to follow the instructions to install it on your own. Some of these will be easier to set up than others, but they will all be a big project, and because of this, you may be safer and better off finding a manufacturer that will do the installation work for you. This will maximize your safety and the safety of those playing on the structure.

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