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Insights on Using Timber in Play Structures

A renewable natural resource

Timber has remained a construction staple for thousands of years and is still a favourite to this day. It is a renewable natural resource, with a life-cycle-balance that outperforms other building materials like steel or concrete. It offers design flexibility, making it one of the most widely used materials, especially for structures exposed as an architectural feature.

Timber is a lightweight product that has superior stability and strength. It can withstand harsh conditions and last for years.

Over the years, timber has proved to be an excellent material for creating playground equipment for children. Apart from the qualities mentioned above, timber is a good material for playgrounds due to its aesthetic appeal, flexibility to fit different shapes and spaces and its seamless fit in outdoor settings. Wooden climbing frames and timber play equipment also helps fulfil the requirements of a playground in being sustainable, engaging and safe yet still challenging.

With such advantages, it’s no surprise that more and more designers and project managers choose timber as a go-to material for building outdoor playgrounds.

Why timber?

Connection to Nature:
When play areas utilise timber structures, it provides children with a certain connection to nature. They are exposed to natural materials that won’t harm them or the environment they’re constructed in. While technology shows no signs of slowing down in dominating children’s early experiences, a connection to nature is increasingly important. It’s also easy to incorporate other natural elements to a wooden playground. Things like sand areas, water channels, or rocky areas will seamlessly fit in with timber play areas and structures.

Aesthetic Appeal:
Of course, everyone has personal opinions when it comes to aesthetics; however because of the unique visual appeal of wood we are seeing demand for timber based designs continually increase. The use of timber is particularly popular in high profile architectural playgrounds and in natural treed settings. More importantly, timber-made play equipment looks engaging to children. Wooden structures, such as tree houses and towers mimic the challenging, exciting appeal of the outdoors.

Another benefit of a timber playground is that it won’t rust when located in seaside or coastal areas. Timber also won’t heat up as much as steel or plastic play equipment. Timber is a relatively low maintenance and long lasting material.

Insights on Using Timber in Play Structures

Flexibility in Design:
Timber provides a greater scope for customisation and flexibility of design. This flexibility allows for designs with large or irregular platform decks, which are excellent for improved traffic flow, accommodation of a large number of users and providing for the needs of users with limited mobility.

Timber is also a suitable material for bespoke, curved wooden structures. With such capabilities, the play equipment design possibilities are endless. You can create timber play structures that fuel children’s imagination and help them explore new things through creative play.

Timber play structures are also a good option if you have a limited amount of outdoor play space as they can be tailored to fit specific dimensions.

Insights on Using Timber in Play Structures

A ‘Greener’ Solution: 
For the environmentally conscious playground purchaser, timber is a logical choice.  Sustainable yield harvesting requires planting at 2:1 or 3:1 ratios which means that going along with usage, there is an increasing level of raw material resource. Furthermore, managed plantation timbers for manufacturing absorb co² during the growing phase thereby reducing gas emissions in the atmosphere. When harvested and processed, timber uses up very little energy compared to steel, which consumes up to 24 times, and aluminium consumes a massive 126 times, more energy per tonne.


What type of timber?

Various types of timber are used in playground equipment; including; Spotted Gum, Ironbark and White Cypress. White Cypress is the most common and is used by adventure+ because of it durability and beautiful aesthetics. While White Cypress is a softwood timber species it shares the same qualities of many hardwoods especially in its durability.  For example White Cypress heartwood has the same in-ground durability rating as Spotted Gum (Reasonably High: 15-25yrs).

Because of this natural durability, it is not treated with harmful chemicals. Natural White Cypress weathers to a rustic silver-grey colour, or alternatively, surface coatings and stains are available to enhance and maintain the beauty of fresh Cypress.

Technical Details

Insights on Using Timber in Play Structures

Maintenance of timber

All playgrounds require regular inspections, checking of fasteners, and the replacement of wearing parts if required, and timber playgrounds are no different to other materials in this regard.  Where the timber itself is left uncoated, it weathers to a beautiful, low maintenance silver-grey.  Apart from washing, very little maintenance is required. 

Of course, timber being a natural product, uncoated timbers may be prone to a degree of surface checking and cracking and many playground owners choose to apply surface coatings to minimise this effect.  A quick recoat once or twice a year depending on the climate of the location will maintain a fresh golden-honey look to the playground.

When specified, adventure+ applies a Quantum brand coating specially formulated for White Cypress timber and requires minimal preparation for recoating.

Insights on Using Timber in Play Structures

The steel & timber combination

Timber and steel are sometimes combined in playground equipment construction to take advantage of the particular advantages of each material, and to create a unique architectural look.  Steel uprights introduce an element of colour and durability, while the timber decks, staircases and componentry provide the softer, greener, aesthetic appeal of the playground.  The best of both worlds! 

The adventure+ spectrum+ hybrid system is an excellent example of this style of playground equipment; with its customisable layout possibilities it is frequently used for playgrounds of architectural distinction, especially where all-abilities access is required.

Insights on Using Timber in Play Structures

Ready to capitalise on the advantages of timber play structures (or timber-steel hybrid equipment), engage children and help them develop vital cognitive and social skills? Partner with adventure+ to get started.

adventure+ has been designing, manufacturing and installing unique playground equipment for over 40 years.  We are available to provide specialised design, playground advice and industry insights. We’ll help you build an outdoor play space that best suits your project requirements and the end users needs.

Get in touch with us for more information.

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