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the best wood for swing sets

What Type of Wood is Best for Outdoor Playsets? Find the Best Wood for Swing Sets

Want to build your kids an outdoor playset with slide? Picking the right wood is the first step to creating one they can safely enjoy for years. Pressure-treated wood from the hardware store seems affordable, but it won't last as long outside. Expensive exotic woods look nice but aren't practical.

This article explores common types like pine, cedar, and redwood so you can choose wood that's durable, budget-friendly, and fun for the whole family's outdoor playtime. It also shares tips to make sure your playset wood stands up to the weather and energetic kids!

Key Takeaways

  • Cedar and redwood are the gold standards - their natural sturdiness, beauty, and safety make them ideal for playset frames, decking, and high-contact areas.

  • Pressure-treated pine is an affordable option for concealed foundational parts like posts and supports. 

  • Mix different wood types to balance cost, safety, and ease of maintenance based on playset use.

best wood for playset redwood vs cedar

    What Type of Wood is Best for Outdoor Playsets?

    When selecting the optimal wood for outdoor playsets, cedar, and redwood stand out as the top choices. Both natural woods offer superior properties that make them ideal for playset frames, decking, and high-contact components that children will handle frequently. They provide unparalleled safety, durability, and beauty when used properly.

    Other wood options like pressure-treated pine can fill secondary roles but have limitations that make cedar and redwood the premium materials for crucial playset parts. Different types of wood will be discussed in detail throughout this guide. Read the guide and find out for yourself, what is the best wood for outdoor playsets.

    Cedar Wood

    Cedar is one of the most popular and recommended options for outdoor playsets. The natural properties of cedar wood make it well-suited for withstanding the weather while keeping your children safe.

    Benefits of Cedar Wood

    Cedar has many inherent qualities that make it an ideal building material for playsets:

    • Rot Resistance - The natural oils in cedar contain compounds called thujaplicins that act as natural preservatives, making cedar resistant to decay and insect damage. This rot resistance allows cedar playsets to better withstand exposure to rain, sun, and other outdoor conditions.

    • Insect Repellence - The aroma and oils naturally present in cedar repel moths, ants, termites, and other potentially damaging insects. This helps protect the playset from infestations.

    • Strength and Resilience - Cedar has a high strength-to-weight ratio, making it strong, stable, and sturdy. It can endure years of wear and tear from active children's play.

    • Attractive Appearance - Cedar has a warm, rich red-brown color and natural grain patterns. It adds beauty and visual interest to your backyard—the color weathers to an attractive silvery grey. And has very low maintenance requirements.

    • Safe for Kids - Untreated cedar is non-toxic with no chemicals, making it safe for children. It doesn't splinter easily, reducing the risk of injuries from slivers and splinters.

    Types of Cedar Wood

    There are two main varieties of cedar used for outdoor structures like playsets:

    Western Red Cedar - This wood is native to the Pacific Northwest region of North America. It has a high natural oil content, giving it excellent decay resistance and longevity. The wood is predominantly reddish in color. Western red cedar is lightweight, easy to work with, and moderately priced.

    Northern White Cedar - Also called eastern white cedar, this type comes from the Northeast and Great Lakes regions. While not as rot-resistant as Western red cedar, it is still highly durable. Northern white cedar is paler in color, lightweight, and straight-grained. 

    Both types of cedar have similar benefits and are great options for playset materials. Western red cedar is more commonly used. Choose high-quality, knot-free wood graded for outdoor use.


    Like cedar, redwood is naturally resistant to decay and insect damage. Its exceptional sturdiness and strength also make it well-suited for backyard play systems.

    Benefits of Redwood

    Redwood shares some similar advantages with cedar but also has some unique characteristics:

    • Decay Resistance - Redwood contains tannins and phenolic compounds that act as natural pesticides and fungicides. This gives redwood excellent resistance to rot, mold, and wood-destroying insects.

    • Strength and Stability - Redwood is very strong relative to its weight. Its robust nature makes it capable of handling the rowdy antics of energetic kids.

    • Weather Resistance - Redwood's dense composition helps it withstand exposure to rain, sun, snow, and temperature swings with minimal cracking, checking, or cupping.

    • Attractive Grain - Redwood has a beautiful, distinctive straight-grain pattern with varied color tones of pink, cream, and reddish-brown.

    • Safety - Like cedar, redwood is non-toxic with no chemicals. It is smooth and splinter-resistant for child safety.

    Pressure Treated Wood

    Pressure-treated lumber is the most affordable and widely available outdoor construction material. While not naturally as durable as cedar or redwood, treated wood has some useful qualities when properly maintained:

    Benefits of Pressure-Treated Wood

    • Cost - Treated wood is significantly less expensive than cedar or redwood, reducing playset construction costs.

    • Availability - Treated wood can be readily purchased at any home improvement store or Wood store. Sourcing cedar or redwood is harder.

    • Insect Protection - Treatment chemicals help protect against termites and carpenter ants. This prevents infestations.

    • Mold Resistance - Treatment provides some resistance to rot, mildew, and fungal damage in damp environments.

    • Workability - Treated wood is easy to cut, drill, and nail like normal wood. Some cedar wood and redwood can be more difficult to work with.

    When selectively used for the right components, pressure-treated pine can be a practical choice for budget-friendly playsets.

    stack of moldy pressure treated wood

    Safety Concerns With Pressure-Treated Wood

    Pressure-treated lumber does involve some safety considerations:

    • Toxic Chemicals - The preservatives infused into treated wood contain pesticides and fungicides like copper and chromium that can be toxic. Taking precautions is important when handling, cutting, or sanding treated wood to minimize chemical exposures.

    • Surface Residues - Newly treated wood may have surface deposits of chemicals that can transfer to hands upon contact. Wash hands after handling. Allow the wood to weather to reduce residues.

    • Splintering - Treated wood is more prone to splintering as it weathers, creating sharp slivers. Choose wood with rounded edges and monitor for splinters.

    • Leaching - Some chemical runoff can leach out of treated wood into surrounding soil over time. Use protective sealants and liners for under-treated components.

    With proper precautions, you can safely incorporate a limited amount of pressure-treated lumber into playset designs while benefitting from its economical pricing.

    Here is a quick comparison of the most popular wood types for playsets:

    Wood Type Durability Cost Maintenance Safety
    Cedar Excellent, 15-20 years Moderate Low Excellent
    Redwood Excellent, 15-20 years High Low Excellent
    Pressure-Treated Moderate, 5-10 years Low Moderate Moderate

    Choosing The Best Wood For An Outdoor Swing Set

    When selecting wood for your DIY or professionally-built outdoor swingset, prioritize decay-resistant species like cedar wood and redwood for all high-contact components. Their natural resilience and splinter resistance keep children safe.

    Use cedar or redwood for:

    • The main frame includes posts, beams, and lateral braces. This provides structural integrity.

    • Swing set decks and elevated platforms. Their strength prevents sagging or collapse.

    • Playhouse parts like walls, doors, windows, railings. Sturdiness withstands wear.

    • Roofs and overhead sections. Weather resistance prevents early rotting.

    • Swings, gliders, climbers. Direct child contact makes safety essential.

    For concealed underground sections like concrete footings, pressure-treated pine is an affordable option. Limit use to avoid chemical exposure.

    Inspect yearly for splintering, cracking, or rot. Refinish with protective sealants. Your swing set is a big investment, so choose wood carefully for safety, longevity, and functionality. Proper construction and regular maintenance will keep it structurally sound for years of childhood fun.

    children playing on the kidkraft castlewood wooden swing set with clubhouse


    Beyond the wood itself, a playset's safety and longevity come down to meticulous construction, secure hardware, and diligent upkeep. Skimping on any element risks your children's well-being. But thoughtfully designed playsets built from quality decay-resistant woods empower imagination and promote healthy activity for years on end.

    If you're ready to choose a pre-designed playset for your backyard, check out our guide to the best outdoor playsets on the market. We cover top brands and key features to help you pick the perfect playset for your kids.

    So take the time to plan each detail, use the best materials, and maintain vigilance. The investment will pay off tenfold as you watch your kids thrive playing outside in the fresh air and sunshine.


    How do I maintain a wooden playset?

    To maintain a wooden playground, you should regularly inspect it for any signs of wear or damage. Clean it with mild soap and water, and apply a fresh coat of sealant or stain every few years to protect the wood.

    Can I use a metal playset instead of a wooden playset?

    Yes, metal playsets are also options for outdoor playsets. However, wood playsets are often preferred for their natural look and durability.

    Can pressure-treated wood be harmful to children?

    When treated wood is properly sealed and maintained, it poses no harm to children. The chemicals used in the treatment process are safe for outdoor use.

    Where can I find the best quality outdoor playsets?

    You can find the best quality outdoor playsets at specialized retailers, online stores, or through swing set manufacturers. It's important to research and choose a reputable brand to ensure the playset meets safety standards.

    Is it better to buy a wooden playset or a metal swing set?

    Whether to buy a wooden or a metal swing set depends on your personal preferences and needs. Wooden playsets have a more natural look and can be customized. Metal swing sets are often more affordable and have a sleeker appearance.

    Previous article Gorilla Playset vs Backyard Discovery: A Detailed Comparison of Two Best Swing Sets
    Next article What to Put Under a Playset - Choose the Safest and Best Materials

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    About The Author

    Andy Wu - Resident Expert

    Andy Wu - Resident Expert

    Andy Wu is the resident backyard products expert and hails from Atlanta, Georgia. His passion for crafting outdoor retreats began in 2003.

    As a fellow homeowner, he founded Backyard Oasis to provide top-quality furnishings and equipment, collaborating with leading manufacturers.

    His main focus is on sheds and generators!

    In his spare time he like to hike the tallest mountains in the world and travel with his family.

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