Know about Wood


Wooden Climbing Frames and Swing Sets: Know about Wood

In recent years timber has become a popular choice for outdoor toys.  For reasons of affordability and the environment, softwood rather than hardwood is used by the majority off wood playset manufacturers.  Over the last few years there has been a move towards wooden playsets being manufactured in China, these play sets use a timber called China Fir, which is from the cedar family.  You can choose between wooden climbing frames and wooden swing sets constructed with round timbers or square cut timbers. When making your choice, you should be aware of the differences between them.


Wood: an organic material 

Each piece of timber is unique, bearing its own knots, cracks and variations in colour.  This is part of its beauty. However, as a natural organic material, it will change over time, as it reacts to variations in atmospheric conditions.  Softwood will expand and contract with fluctuations in temperature and humidity.  In warm, sunny weather timber will shrink.  In wet weather it will expand.  As these physical changes do not take place uniformly throughout the wood, stresses are set up which result in cracks and splits opening up.  These cracks can be both wide and deep and are more likely in round wood than square wood, although they will occur in both.


Round wood: characteristics and maintenance advice

Round timbers from smaller trees contain heartwood surrounded by sapwood .  They are subject to significant cracking.  Whilst this can sometimes seem alarming, the wood playsets (wooden climbing frame and wooden swing sets) are dimensioned and designed to ensure that this has no effect on their structural integrity.  However as a result of this characteristic, you should be prepared to check your wooden climbing frame or wooden swing regularly so as to identify any splintering or lifting of the surface layers of the wood.  Any affected areas can be rubbed down using coarse sandpaper to restore a smooth, safe surface.



Square wood: characteristics and maintenance advice 

Wooden climbing frames and wooden swing sets made from square cut timbers will contain less heartwood than the round timbers.  This will reduce instances of cracking and splitting when compared with round wood but cracks and splits will still occur.  Again, you can be reassured that wood playsets are dimensioned and designed to ensure that this has no effect on their structural integrity.  Just as with round wood, your wooden climbing frame or wooden swing must be regularly checked.  Any areas affected by splintering or lifting should be rubbed down with coarse sandpaper to restore a smooth surface suitable for wood playsets.


Square wood:  pine and china fir

As already mentioned the majority of wooden climbing frames are manufactured using pine.  There are different grades of pine, the better quality grades will have less knots, be less likely to split and the timber will be more dense.  The higher the density, the stronger the timber and the more it weighs giving a more stable product.  Creative Playthings and Playtime Series are both manufactured using a grade 1 southern yellow pine, which is the highest grade.  Tp, Plum Products and All Out Play also use a pine although we do not know which grade.

Climbing frames manufactured in China will use china fir some call this a Cedar because it is from the hard wood family.  This timber is not pressure treated but does have a water repellant stain applied at the point of manufacture.  The china fir is not as dense as pine so will weigh less than pine. Plum Products smaller playsets are made from china fir.