Buying an Eco-friendly Outdoor Wood Play Structure: Why I Chose CedarWorks



After our used pressure-treated wood play structure debacle, I began researching options for new wood play structures. I seriously considered six different manufacturers. I searched online for reviews and discussions in parenting forums, drove considerable distances to look at play structures in person, asked salespersons and customer service representatives numerous questions over the phone, and crunched a lot of numbers. Although it was a bit of our stretch for our budget, in the end we chose to purchase a CedarWorks Frolic play set for the reasons explained below.

Why I Chose a CedarWorks Frolic Play Structure



My 4yo and 1.5yo climbing up the ladder to the 5' deck.

1. Safe and Low Maintenance


The most important consideration for me in purchasing a play structure was that I would feel 100% comfortable watching my children play on it, play under it, touch it and then put their hands in their mouths, even eat off of it. I love that the wood in CedarWorks play structures is 100% chemical-free. All CedarWorks play structures are made with Northern White Cedar, a North American wood that is naturally insect-resistant, rot-resistant, and splinter-free. It is not pressure-treated with pesticides and does not even require a sealant.

Play structures made with redwood or “Chinese cedar” come factory-sealed (with a sealant whose ingredients you may not be enthusiastic about) and need regular resealing every year or two to maintain their structural integrity and prevent splintering. This adds a not insignificant annual cost in time and money to your purchase. CedarWorks play structures will last for at least 10 years with no sealing whatsoever, which is comforting to those with good intentions but poor follow through. We may choose to seal the CedarWorks wood with an eco-friendly sealant, either for appearance or to try to extend the life even farther, but we don't have to.

In addition, North American wood means U.S. manufacturing and U.S. jobs (CedarWorks is located in Maine and uses cedar mills in Maine and Canada). Sets made with “Chinese cedar” are manufactured in China. I was happy to be able to support U.S. jobs and U.S. manufacturing with local materials by purchasing from CedarWorks.

No pesticides here! I'm so happy my toddler is grasping
chemical-free wood as she climbs those steps.

2. Really Cool, Custom Designs with Easy Assembly


Frolic sets are based on a unique modular design that allows for incredible customization. This means you can pick exactly the features you want, design it to fit your backyard, and even change or add features later. I look forward to adding or changing some accessories every year or two to keep the set exciting and physically challenging as my kids grow up. You can have a lot of fun dreaming up amazing designs with their user-friendly online design tool.

Although CedarWorks will refer you to an installer if requested, their sets are designed with DIY assembly in mind. Our set was delivered to our driveway in numerous clearly labeled not-too-heavy boxes (my husband moved all of them to our backyard by himself). Our installation was straight-forward and required one long day of labor. The assembly took my medium-handy husband about 9 hours of working alone with a power tool (not required but a big time-saver), plus an additional 3 hours of working with the help of a neighbor for the harder parts like the swing beam.

Assembling the tower. 


3. Sturdy Enough for the Entire Family


I considered less expensive play structures suitable mostly for children under age 10 and below 100 pounds, but in the end my husband and I decided that it was worth paying more to allow as many kids as would fit to play on the set together, and to allow older cousins and even adults to freely play together with the younger kids on the set. CedarWorks Frolic play sets are designed so that the entire family (plus friends and neighbors) can enjoy the set together. If you get the chance to see a set in person, you will immediately appreciate how well-built and sturdy they are.

To give you some idea, our tower has eight 4 x 4 beams (see photo above) where most sets would have only four. And Frolic 4 x 4 beams are the biggest I know of: 3 3/4" by 3 3/4." Pull out a ruler and look at how big that is: these beams are thick!

My husband gripping one of the 3 3/4" by 3 3/4" posts.

4. Superb Customer Service


One of my favorite things about CedarWorks has been their amazing customer service. When you first sign up with CedarWorks  they assign you a Design Expert. This is completely noncommittal -- I first did this when I was just poking around on their website and wanted to see their prices. But as I became more interested, I was often phoning or emailing my Design Expert every couple of days. He responded to my messages in a timely manner, often within the hour. As a SAHM of little kids who dreads making phone calls, it was incredibly awesome to be able to have several back-and-forth emails with him within a day, even minutes. I could always pick up the phone and talk to him in person if I wanted to discuss a topic in greater depth. He was friendly, very knowledgeable about their products, and offered useful insights about design. Often when I grilled him about particular features he was able to speak from his personal experience owning and playing on their sets with his kids.

Customer service representatives were also easy to reach, courteous, and able to answer all my questions (we had a few during installation). I did have one little snafu with one of our set parts (one piece we received was the wrong size), but customer service resolved the problem as quickly as possible and to our satisfaction. A few weeks after we received and installed our set, I also received a follow-up email survey and phone call to ask how I liked my set.

You can rearrange the grips on the climbing wall to create a new challenge.


5. Ten-year Warranty


Many manufacturers of redwood and cedar play sets offer a lifetime or limited lifetime warranty on the wood. CedarWorks offers a 10-year warranty on the wood of their Frolic series play sets. So what's so great about that? The truth is, your warranty is only as good as the company behind it. When something goes wrong with a major beam, will the manufacturer question whether or not you installed it correctly or whether or not you sealed it often enough? I called one company that had a limited lifetime warranty and asked "What does the 'limited' part mean?" The representative didn't know, had to ask someone else, and never game me a clear answer. That interaction did not inspire confidence. Another company flat out told me that if you don't have them professionally install your play set your warranty is basically useless (we wanted to save money by installing our set ourselves). In addition, almost everyone with a lifetime warranty told me that the warranty  was void if I moved the play structure.

The CedarWorks Frolic warranty covers pretty much everything except an act of God (hurricane, tornado, struck by lightning). The CedarWorks warranty is good even if I move my play structure myself, which is important to me since I expect to move in the next 10 years (note that the warranty cannot be transferred to a different owner, however). And since CedarWorks play sets don’t need to be sealed, no one will ever interrogate me about how often I sealed my set. In the end, it was really about my level of comfort with and trust in the company. After my interactions with this small 30-year-old company, I feel confident that if anything goes wrong with the structural components of my set in the next 10 years, they will take care of it without any hassle.

So glad I got 3 swings for my 3 kids. The bucket swing (center) is from an older set.
CedarWorks sells a baby/toddler swing (which we tried out when we saw a set in person)
that is much nicer than our molded plastic one.

6. Competitive Price


Of course price was also an important consideration as we aren't operating with an unlimited budget over here. There were some less expensive sets made of cedar or redwood that boasted high weight limits, but they were pre-fab sets that could not be customized, and often wouldn't work in my yard. The Frolic play sets by CedarWorks were the least expensive of the custom redwood or cedar sets that I researched. Our play structure with 3 swings, 5-foot tower, slide, ladder, and climbing wall cost about $3000 (plus shipping). It was a difficult choice to spend as much as we did, and we did not do so lightly, but we're happy that we did and feel that we got excellent value for our money. CedarWorks does not do anything on the cheap (for example, they do not even offer those cheap vinyl roofs that only last a year or two): they use only the highest quality and safest hardware, hardwood, and materials in their play sets.

If you are looking for a slightly less expensive swing set, consider CedarWorks Play-a-round sets. They are pre-boxed and non-customizable, but boast impressive weight limits and are made with the same high-quality Northern White Cedar as other CedarWorks outdoor play sets. 

Finally, take note: CedarWorks currently is running their biggest sale of the year: 10% off outdoor play sets plus two free kid-sized cedar chairs with every outdoor play set order.


The upper deck (covered by wood roof) makes a nice shady secluded spot on a sunny day.


Everyone loves the super speedy double-walled 10' slide!


Click here to see even more close-up photos of our CedarWorks Frolic play set.


Disclosure: This post was partially sponsored by CedarWorks. All opinions are my own. See my full disclosure policy here.

14 comments:

  1. Aw, your kids are so lucky! I'm sure it was a sacrifice to pay that price compared to what you paid for the craigslist one, but it's worth it for peace of mind for years and years to come. And that thing just looks like QUALITY!

    Your making me want to give my kids a backyard! I feel like our boys will be too old to really, truly appreciate and enjoy a backyard by the time we get one. :) Probably not, but it just feels so far off. :)

    Your backyard looks gorgeous, too!

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Erica, you don't need a backyard. You need a friend with a backyard. We could never have bought on the peninsula, that's for sure! Too bad you live so far from me-- a little too far for daily/weekly backyard use :( But come visit our backyard anytime, and then we can go to Happy Hollow or the Discovery Museum afterwards. Let me know when you're ready for a field trip.

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  2. We are getting one of these for our kids next spring! I cannot wait to have one in our own yard!

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    1. It is a wonderful thing! The only time I can have a phone conversation longer than 2 min. is while pushing my kids on the swings. And now I can use my VOIP phone instead of minutes from my GoPhone (while pushing kids on swings at the park). I still love taking my kids to the park, but sometimes I don't want to deal with someone falling asleep on the drive home at 4 pm, y'know?

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  3. Our neighbour put a huge structure in this year, they went with cedar as well.

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    1. The cedar smells incredible, esp. right out of the box, by the way. It's a really beautiful wood.

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  4. I love this post, it has really made me want this playset :-) We have to save quite a bit but I think it will be worth it. I love how the warranty is transferrable!

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Jenny! Just to be clear, the original owner can move the set to a new home, but if the structure changes ownership (you sell it to someone else), the warranty is void.

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  5. Aww...I wish I knew about the company when my kids were little. I went with Toys R Us brand swing set back in the 90's. This wood set looks much nicer and safer! I'll recommend them to my younger gen friends with little kids!

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  6. Our kids loved it Betsy! What a fantastic play structure. Lots of terrific memories to be made there for sure.

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  7. Wow! So glad to have read this. I will be recommending this brand to everyone. US manufacturing, 10 year warranty... can't beat that.

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  8. I'd like to know how this Playset has held up over the years. Especially the rope swings. I'm comparing Cedarworks to Triumph playsets and while Cedarworks has more appealing design, Triumph has what looks to be better swing materials. Thoughts? And Thank you!

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    Replies
    1. I love the swings. They are holding up just fine. No visible wear to ropes, which I personally much prefer to metal chains. Easy to adjust height from ground and no places for little fingers to get stuck.

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  9. Buyer beware on the company actually standing behind the warranty! I purchased a set from them in 2009 and have a MASSIVE amount of splintering across the whole unit. While customer service has seemed great when I didn't have a problem - their warranty coverage isn't quite as advertised. Seems the want the unit to be falling apart in order to do anything. While it's advertised not to splinter or need sealing, they're advising it's customer cost to providing any sanding, etc. that may be needed now. The also state that the wood covered is only the main structure of the unit. If you have any wooden rails, etc. that are attached to the unit - they're not covered (according to the company). Just want folks to be aware that the added cost for the excellent warranty coverage has a LOT of loopholes tied to it!

    ReplyDelete

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