How to Refinish an Old Playset

The Finished Product
My husband and I wanted to get an outdoor playset for my daughter but when we saw the prices, it was definitely out of our budget.  Then one day, out of the blue, one of our neighbors asked us if we wanted their old play set as their youngest daughter had outgrown it.  Of course, we said yes.

The play set itself was over 20 years old.  I wish I had taken before pictures so that you could see how bad it really looked.  Despite its age, it was solid.  There were a couple pieces we knew we would have to reinforce, but after all was said and done, we spent less than $200 to update it.

Here is what we did.

Step 1: We had to actually take some of it apart to move it to our yard.  With the help of our neighbors and a teenager that we hired, we were able to get the bigger pieces into our yard.

Step 2:  We cleaned it.  The original set was pretty old, dirty, and had some mold on it.  We power washed it.  It is amazing what a good power wash will do to old wood.

Note the now reinforced beam.
Step 3: We replaced damaged boards.  For this case the beam holding the swings did not look as sturdy as it once used to.  We therefore reinforced the beam with a piece of lumber on each side.  I struggled with the decision of getting treated versus untreated wood.  Treated wood has chemicals that are not good for children, but it is treated so it will last longer if exposed to the elements.  I chose the treated mainly because the kids would not be touching it, the rest of the set was likely made with treated wood, and I would be sealing it.




In Progress...
Step 4: We sealed it.  Old wood like this in play sets were treated with chemicals that are toxic for kids so it is even more important to seal it.  We also know that we will have to seal it every year.  We chose a non-toxic stain and sealer, Vermont Natural Coatings PolyWhey EXTERIOR - Acorn Brown - Gallon.  This type of sealer is more expensive than what you will find at Home Depot or Lowes, but much safer for kids and well worth the extra cost.  I found that the cheapest place to get it was actually Amazon because of the free shipping.  If you follow the link above, it will take you to their website.


 

Step 5:  We added some accessories. Both Home Depot and Lowes sell accessories for play sets.  We bought a wheel, telescope, handle bar, and added a small climbing wall to the play set. We also bought new tarps for the roof.  They also sell the hardware necessary for the swings. 

My daughter helping with the staining
We love the finished product and most importantly, my daughter loves it.  As I mentioned before I struggled with the fact that I knew the wood had probably been treated with pretty toxic chemicals.  Old sets like these used to be treated with chemicals that included arsenic which is now banned.  However, I also knew that the play set was a gift and in my book, showing graciousness to someone's kindness is sometimes more important.

We also had been praying to be able to afford something like this for my daughter so when our neighbors offered it to us, we saw it as an answer to prayer.  In my mind, if God gave it to us, I was not going to turn it down.  In the end, careful as I am about what kind of chemicals I bring into my home, I know I will not be able to control everything and I just have to depend on God for my children's health and safety.

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