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A guide to summer playground maintenance

With summer just around the corner, your kids are likely looking forward to evening barbeques and playing on your outdoor playset. Without the proper upkeep, though, this equipment could present dangers, from splinters to rusty swings to loose and protruding screws. No matter what type of material your playset includes, here are several steps to take to keep your kids safe and their play equipment in good condition.

Wash your playset regularly:

The wood pieces can either be hosed down or power washed. If there is more dirt than a hose can wash off, you can try using a soft-bristled brush with soapy water to scrub the wood. Vinyl playsets can also be washed with warm, soapy water and rinsed with a hose.

Stain and seal wooden playsets:

Stain and seal the wood no more than 48 hours after washing it. Staining every two to three years will allow it to stay in better condition for longer and extend both the life and potential resale value of the equipment. Although it can provide a minimal layer of protection, sealing the wood with an oil-based sealant every one to three years is the best way to preserve the wood. This shields the wood from most weather damage, fungus and pests, and it protects your children from getting splinters or otherwise harming themselves from damaged wood.

Tighten screws and bolts:

Inspect all the screws and bolts and tighten any that seem loose before they start to play this summer. Protruding pieces of metal could potentially cause serious harm, and loose screws could put stress on the structure, leaving a risk of the equipment falling apart while your children are playing on it. It is important to check and tighten any loose parts at the beginning of the season and every month while your children are using it.

Discuss safety:

Make sure your children are following the rules of how many kids or how much weight can be on the playset at once. Even if a playset doesn’t immediately break from excess weight, it may experience long-term damage that could cause screws to come apart and pieces to break.

Watch for rust:

Inspect any metal for rust or any other possible issues with chains or ropes that might hold swings. If these pieces are rusty or loose, your children could fall off or cut themselves on the metal. Seal cracked wood to avoid injuries and splinters. Any wood boards that are rotted or damaged beyond repair, though, should be replaced with new ones as soon as possible.

Lay new mulch:

Re-mulching the area below and around the playset is essential to keeping your kids safe. Mulch is much softer than grass or dirt and will more easily break their fall off a swing or ladder, but it becomes compacted over time and loses its cushioning power. If you are mulching the area for the first time, make sure that you initially place at least 12 inches down. Check the depth each year and plan to re-mulch every two to three years to ensure your children stay safe. Your upkeep shouldn’t just include the summer months, though. Any pieces that can easily be detached from the playset should be removed before the winter starts to avoid unnecessary weathering. This can help you avoid plastic parts freezing and breaking or wood warping from snow. Consistent, annual upkeep of your playset can keep your children safe and save you money in the long run by extending the life of the equipment. Having a play set may warrant an increase in your liability coverage, though, so make sure to talk to an independent agent about how your children’s play equipment impacts your insurance policy.