As time passes, everything begins to show signs of age – there’s no avoiding it. And, while there is a certain appeal to things “antique”, the last message a playground wants to send is that it is looking “old” or “worn”.
There are many factors that can account for a playground looking worn, such as:
1) Environment – having to do with exposure to sun, wind, rain, heat, cold, salt;
2) Usage – normal wear-and-tear happens with each user, the more users the more wear;
3) Product Quality – poor materials and/or poor construction can cause items to fall apart or break easily, presenting more than just a wear problem, but also creating a potential safety hazard to guests;
4) Trends – styles change and something that is “cutting-edge” today may quickly become “dated”.
The aging process is slow and may not even be all that noticeable to someone who sees playground equipment everyday – until something actually breaks and the worn condition becomes obvious.
The trick to avoiding this is to look at the playground area with a critical eye. And, if the area seems to be less-than-ideal, it is time to consider one of four options to change that situation.
OPTION 1: Ignore the situation and hope nobody will notice. (Not a good choice, but one often justified with, “We’ll fix it when we can afford it.”)
OPTION 2: Remove the equipment. This may be your only option, but then there is one less piece of playground equipment for children to play on.
OPTION 3: Replace the equipment. This may be the only sensible option when dealing with poor quality or once-trendy equipment. This can be an expensive option and should be considered carefully before proceeding.
OPTION 4: Repair/Renovate the existing equipment. This can be an economically wise decision, and is the best choice if the equipment is structurally sound. This option is definitely less expensive than Option 3, and can cost less than Options 1 and 2 also.
Recently a heavily-used, 11-year old play structure was faced with the above options – and they went with Option 4.
All the playground equipment needed was to be “refreshed” – weathered roofs were removed completely and their support posts shortened and capped; slides were removed and replace with new ones in a different color scheme; several play panels were replaced; and where poured-in-place surfacing had been worn (at the end of slides, for example), it was cut-out in the shape of “water splashes”, removed, and replaced in a contrasting color to the original.
The entire “refresh” process cost about 20% of what an entirely new playground would have cost.