Keeping your play equipment will help make it last as long as possible and also ensure it is safe for your children. We would advise checking over your child's play equipment at the start of the season (when your children are likely to start using it most). If they use it all year round then regular checks are advisable (at least once a month).
Follow our checklist below to make sure you keep your climbing frame or play equipment well maintained:
Wooden Climbing Frame Parts
Check for splinters
Inspect for other structural defects
Please Note: as wood is a natural product it will expand and contract with differing levels of moisture. The small splits or cracks caused by this are usually nothing to worry about. Round timbers are prone to cracking or splitting more than square timbers.
Climbing Frame Accessories
Check swing hooks are correctly attached
Ensure Carabiner hooks are fully closed and sitting correctly
Inspect swing ropes for any excess fraying - where any fraying has occured, open the strands to make sure the main filaments are not broken
Make sure any safety straps on baby seats are still intact and attached to the seat correctly
Hang your full body weight onto each rope, or sit on each seat if appropriate - just for a few seconds. If any of the swing hooks or hangers sqeak, you can lubricate with olive oil or any other vegetable oils.
Check any slides, specifically looking at where they attach to the platform. Make sure you look at the underside as well as the top. Also check to make sure there is nothing protruding or any opening where strings, hair ties or other pieces of clothing may catch.
Keeping your accessories clean with warm water and a mild detergent will help prolong their life. If you have a particularly dirty slide or plastic swing seat, you could use a hose or pressure washer to clean these - making sure you avoid the timbers and metal attachments and screws.
Climbing Frame Fixtures and Fittings
Check all screws, nuts and bolts to make sure they are tight - be careful when tightening not to over-tighten. This is especially important when tightening directly into wood as being too vigorous may crush the timber around the screw or split the wood.
Check swing hooks, hangers and corner brackets for excessive rust. If rust has eaten through any part of the metal then it will need replacing. Most climbing frame parts are made from galvanised steel, but this is not always the case so double check and try to buy galvanised if you can.
Inspect where all the bolts and fixings are around the frame to make sure there are no sharp parts sticking out. If bolt covers have come off, this may reveal sharp bolts so it is important to make sure these are covered or replaced. If you find any sharp edges of timber you can sand these down
If your climbing frame is anchored into the ground with metal anchors, check these to make sure they have not been dislodged. Move them if necessary
If your climbing frame is concreted in, check each hold around the uprights to make sure it is still solid, over time the ground around the concrete may wear away slightly making the upright less stable. Replace or renew the upright footings if necessary
Treating Your Wood
Retreating your timber product is a good idea if you want to keep your timber looking great and it will ultimately help make it last much longer.
We would recommend a water based transparent treatment suitable for play equipment. You need to look for one that conforms with toy safety regulations EN71 parts 2 & 3. This would also be one NOT containing cadmium, chromium, lead, mercury, selenium, arsenic, barium and antimony.
A fast drying treatment is advisable as you will need to ensure it is completely dry before children use the equipment again.
Can I use varnish, oil or wax? You can use any of these - but these are treated as a 'top-coat' and not as a preserver for the wood itself. They will all provide a waterproof coating for the wood but they won't sink into the wood to help prevent rot. Some wood preservers include a wax which provides the top coat and preserver in one.
Varnish and some oils and waxes can make the wood slippery which isn't a good idea for areas that are designed to be gripped by children - you could make the surface too shiny and therefore dangerous.
Can I use a wood stain? Yes, you can if this is a preserver with a colour. Many preservers aren't clear and have a slight tint or even a full colour like some fence and shed treatments. Make sure you patch test a small area on the underside of the play equipment if you do want to colour the wood. You don't want to end up with an unattractive result!