Climbing frames are great pieces of outdoor play equipment for keeping kids active and entertained. Most include a range of exciting features like swings, slides, and climbing walls, providing lots of different opportunities for little ones to develop their creativity and motor skills.
Already sold on the benefits of climbing frames for children? If you’re at the stage of choosing one to buy, you may be wondering which is better: wooden climbing frames or metal climbing frames?
These are the most common materials used for outdoor climbing frames, though plastic is popular for toddler climbing frames and inflatable play centres. When it comes to installing a sturdy climbing frame permanently in your garden, you’ll want to weigh up the pros and cons of wood vs metal.
To help you make an informed decision, this blog explores the advantages and disadvantages of each type of climbing frame material below.
Advantages of wooden climbing frames
Wooden play equipment is the more traditional choice, familiar to most people and providing a classic look thanks to its solid timber construction. Natural wood has a timeless aesthetic that blends into garden spaces well, helping children to feel closer to nature while they play.
Wooden climbing frames are usually the premium option, being larger structures with a more significant visual impact. They’re able to extend as far as your space allows, with a variety of add-on features to choose from – such as towers, bridges, monkey bars, and multiple slides or swings.
Wood also has the advantage of being a renewable natural resource, making it a more eco-friendly material, especially when it’s FSC-certified from responsibly managed forests. When maintained properly, hardwearing wooden play equipment can last up to 15 years or more.
As the structure will be outdoors, you also have to consider how the weather might affect its safety. Wood is less conductive than metal, meaning that the climbing frame won’t be too hot to touch in the summer or freezing cold in the winter.
Disadvantages of wooden climbing frames
One of the biggest drawbacks of choosing a wooden climbing frame over a metal one is that it’s likely to be more expensive. However, it’s important to invest in a high-quality structure if you want it to last for a long time and look good in your garden, so this may not be a dealbreaker.
Another issue is that wooden structures are typically made of thicker beams, which – while making them robust – also means they occupy a bigger footprint. It’s possible to find small wooden climbing frames for gardens with limited space, but they’ll have fewer features.
Wooden play structures also might not be ideal if you prefer less maintenance, as wood needs to be treated annually with a preservative varnish to prevent it from rotting or splintering. It’s especially important to keep up with this maintenance in a rainy place like the UK.
Advantages of metal climbing frames
Climbing frames made of metal are a popular alternative to wood for many reasons. To start with, they’re usually more compact, making their sleek design easier to fit into smaller outdoor spaces. Depending on the colour, their minimal design shouldn’t stand out too much.
Being smaller and costing less to manufacture, metal climbing frames are often cheaper to buy, making them a budget-friendly option. However, this doesn’t mean that they aren’t as durable as their wooden counterparts – metal is an extremely strong and long-lasting material.
Metal outdoor play equipment generally requires less maintenance than wood, too. If you opt for a frame with a rust-resistant coating, you won’t have to worry about moisture damage. At worst, you may have to repaint powder-coated metal frames after a few years if it fades or chips.
Additionally, metal frames are far easier to assemble or take apart than wooden beams, meaning that installing your climbing frame will likely be much faster. This can come in handy if you want to move its position in your garden or take it with you when moving to a new home.
Disadvantages of metal climbing frames
One of the primary reasons that metal frames are often seen as the less impressive cousin of wooden models is that they’re simply not as aesthetically appealing. That said, you may prefer the slimmer look, but painted metal frames can still be a distracting eyesore if they feature bright colours that clash with the rest of your garden décor.
You also have to make sure that you choose a high-quality metal frame that’s been treated to resist corrosion, as compromising on craftsmanship for a cheaper price can lead to rusting and the structure becoming unusable much sooner than it should.
You’ll still have to look out for rust spots or loose screws to maintain the metal frame over time. Plus, you’ll need to get into the habit of checking the temperature of the metal before letting children play on the equipment – in severe weather during the summer or winter, it could get hot or cold enough to cause injuries.
Which is the best climbing frame material?
As you can see, both types of climbing frame have a fairly balanced set of advantages and disadvantages. It really comes down to what’s best for your child, your garden, and your budget.
If you can invest in a large wooden climbing frame, it can provide more opportunities to delight little kids right through to adolescence – but if you’re price-conscious, even a simple metal climbing frame can keep kids entertained during outdoor playtime.
Similarly, if you want to treat your children with a fun climbing frame but don’t have much space in your back yard, you’ll have the option of a compact wooden climbing frame with fewer facilities, or the metal equivalent which may have space for an extra feature or two.
When browsing for climbing frames, you’ll need to take the measurements of your available garden space and the age, height, and weight of your child or children into account. They should be able to grow with their climbing frame and continue using it throughout their childhood.
Whether you choose metal or wood for your children’s climbing frame, be sure to install it safely and look after it according to the manufacturer’s instructions, and it should still be standing strong and providing hours of exciting play for many years.
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