What are the advantages and disadvantages of Wood, Vinyl, Metal, and Plastic playsets?

Outdoor playsets are a staple of childhood. They not only encourage kids to explore the outdoors, but promote physical activity and imaginative play. 

Four primary materials are used to build playsets for backyards and parks: Cedar, vinyl, metal, and plastic. Since getting a backyard playset or swing set can be a pretty significant investment, you want to make sure the choice you make when it comes to what it’s made of will protect that investment and your family.

What Should You Choose for Your Outdoor Playset- Wood, Vinyl, Metal, or Plastic_

One important thing you must remember during your decision process is what kind of environment your playset will live in 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. You need to consider this, especially when you live in Phoenix with the dry, hot summers and almost 300 days of sunshine a year. 

This handy guide will show you how to make the best choice regarding what your backyard playset should be made of to stand the test of time on even the hottest of Arizona summers. 

Playset Comparison Chart

Cedar Playset Advantages

There are many reasons why a playset made out of cedar might be the right choice for your family and your backyard. Some of these reasons are:


When it comes to aesthetics, cedar will beat plastic or resin every time. With its distinct appearance and invisible wood grain, cedar can complement any backyard design. Nothing looks more like a treehouse or a fort built in the woods like cedar. It also ages well and is resistant to rot. Additionally, it smells fantastic and continues to smell that good for years down the road, no matter what weather it’s endured. 


If you care for it properly, cedar can survive many years of wear and tear in all kinds of weather. When exposed to Phoenix’s 300 days of sunshine, most materials will fade. Cedar’s big advantage is it can be re-stained to bring out its natural beauty. You can easily breathe new life into an older set with a little touch-up here and there of sanding and staining. A cedar playset can look like it just came off the showroom floor many years after the original purchase.


Although cedar is a softwood lumber, it is exceptionally durable thanks to its unique cell structure. That means your family can enjoy years of fun and adventure on a cedar playset, which will still look much like it did when you first bought it. Cedar does not naturally splinter or rot, making it a clear choice for outdoor swing sets. 

Natural Insect Repellent

One thing that will destroy wood quicker than anything is an insect. While humans enjoy the aroma of cedar, bugs and insects, do not. Its natural ability to repel insects is why it is often the recommended material for clothing storage to keep moths at bay. Your cedar playset will also be naturally resistant to termites, beetles, and other insects.  


If you’re looking to reduce your carbon footprint and choose a playset that will be more environmentally friendly, cedar is your best choice. Since it’s natural wood, it will biodegrade faster and better than other synthetic materials. 

Flexibility and customization (see below)

If you know what kind of look you want your set to have, cedar is the most flexible material to make that vision come true. It can be completely tailored to the feel you want your backyard to give. Adding stain color, attachments, and various accessories can guarantee a unique piece of fun in your backyard.

PLUS, a wooden playset is a great gift for kids and grandkids.

Discover more advantages of cedar playgrounds and playsets.

Cedar Playset Disadvantages


Any backyard Mesa, AZ playground set will require some sort of maintenance, and cedar is not an exception to that rule. You should seal your swing set yearly and give it a coat of stain as needed. If you buy from All About Play, we also offer maintenance plans that include a thorough inspection and tightening of all hardware, professional cleaning and staining to take that burden off you as a busy homeowner. 


Because of all the advantages of cedar, it can be the higher-end option when it comes to price. Depending on the size, design, and features you want it to have, the price will vary but will still be more expensive than plastic or metal options.

What about Vinyl?

If ongoing maintenance and durability are a concern for you, then vinyl might be the best option for your backyard playset. That is, at least when compared to plastic and metal. 

Vinyl playsets are constructed first out of wood and then coated with PVC. That means it can be a lot more durable than people may know. Here are some more advantages and disadvantages of choosing a playset made of vinyl.

Vinyl Playset Advantages 


You’ll get a wider variety of choices regarding the color of a vinyl playset than you will with wood. Vinyl playsets are also smooth and shiny, which can help with the curb appeal of your home. 


Vinyl is relatively low maintenance since it doesn’t require staining or repainting. However, they can get dirty faster when out in the elements. This low-maintenance aspect often attracts buyers to this material for an outdoor product. 


Since vinyl playsets are first constructed out of wood, they are incredibly durable without much upkeep. Because of its PVC coating, the wood doesn’t cause splinters, and your family won’t be exposed directly to stain on the wood. 


The durability of a vinyl playset doesn’t beat that of a cedar playset, but it’s still a solid piece of play equipment. While the wood used for the construction is subject to rotting, a well-built vinyl playset is a durable option to keep your family safely entertained for years. 

Vinyl Playset Disadvantages 


Because of the materials they’re made of, vinyl playsets tend to be the most expensive option. They can even be more costly than traditional cedar playsets. Vinyl playsets are also highly customizable, changing your costs as you choose what “bells and whistles” you want to be included. 


Vinyl is in many ways a superior material for durability, but it has one disadvantage: Wood rot. Most vinyl playsets are constructed out of pine. Pine is a wood that will quickly rot unless treated, and treating the pine with its PVC coating is impossible. The vinyl’s tendency to trap moisture inside can further exacerbate this rot. Also, vinyl fades in the sun, especially if it doesn’t have a UV protective coating. With an average of 300 days of sunshine, Phoenix is not the ideal environment for a vinyl playset to keep its good looks for more than five years. 


Sure, it doesn’t splinter, and it’s pretty durable, but rotting wood can sneak up on a vinyl playset, meaning the durability can change at any moment. Additionally, vinyl traps heat. And we all know that Phoenix has a lot of that!


Typically, vinyl playsets are just not as flexible when it comes to customization when compared to a cedar playset. Yes, you can customize vinyl but unique layouts and adding other elements are usually not as easy with vinyl as they are with cedar.

What About Metal?

If you’re a parent now shopping for a playset for your family, chances are you grew up playing on a metal playset. With their heyday in the 70s and 80s, metal sets are typically painted steel anchored by concrete. They might be less common now, but they’re still widely popular and readily available. Here are some considerations for you if you’re looking at going this route.Popular Cedar Playsets All About Play Mesa, AZ

Metal Playset


Generally speaking, no matter the materials, size, or features chosen, a metal playset is going to be the most affordable option of the bunch. They are much less expensive than wood or vinyl, which make them a popular choice for families who want to have some outdoor fun but are on a budget. 


Metal swing sets are widely available and can go from store to backyard in an afternoon. Any store like Walmart, Lowe’s, or Home Depot will have a variety in stock from which you can choose. Need more convenience? You can even get them shipped to your door from Amazon. 


You might need a little WD-40 now and then on a squeaky hinge, but for the most part, metal swing sets are low maintenance. They really can be “set it and forget it.”  

Metal Playset Disadvantages


How durable your metal playset is depends vastly on what kind of metal is used to make it. But overall, you’re not going to get the same level of durability you would out of a cedar or vinyl set. Since it will also spend its entire life outdoors, you will also be combating rust which is absolutely a safety concern when it comes to your family. 

Free Assembly

Because you can pick up a metal playset at any big box store, you will not get professional free assembly for the set. This means you might not have the same level of safety since it is a DIY project. Additionally, you’ll need to anchor them in concrete when you install them, which makes removal from your property very difficult. 

Weight Limits

Since metal can’t support a great deal of weight, you will need to consider how many family members will be enjoying the playset at one time. Depending on what kind of metal is used, it might be necessary for children to take turns using the playset so that its weight limits aren’t surpassed. 

How Does Plastic Hold up?

Plastic backyard playsets are usually targeted toward very small children. These sets tend to be smaller in scale and size, making them ideal for small children but not older ones. If you’re shopping for your young children, here are some more advantages and disadvantages of a plastic set. 

Plastic Playset Advantages


Plastic playsets are by far the easiest to find and tend to dominate the outdoor swingset market when it comes to internet availability. You can often find them at a chain store, a members-only wholesale warehouse, or even on Amazon. If you have small kids, you won’t have an issue finding an appropriate plastic playset for your yard. 


Because they’re made from plastic, they can come in a variety of colors that will suit any backyard aesthetic. Additionally, they can continue to look nice with regular cleaning to keep them free of dirt and debris. 

Plastic Playset Disadvantages


Do you know the saying “You get what you pay for?” That definitely applies to plastic sets. They are going to be your least durable option out of the many ones available. They will look great when you put them up, but they won’t last for very long, often coming with just a 1-year warranty. That’s why they’re mainly targeted to small children and toddlers – they’re little and not too rough on them, and they won’t be playing on it long before upgrading to a bigger kid option. 

Free Assembly

Because they are easily picked up in a neighborhood store, plastic sets also do not come with professional free assembly. That means you’ll have both the hassle of DIY free assembly along with the possibility of not installing it correctly. 

Looking for a High-Quality Cedar Backyard Playset?

When it comes to outdoor play and giving your family the backyard of their dreams, the team at All About Play is the expert. We are passionate about giving your family a space to play together, and we make that the centerpiece of everything we do. 

If you’re looking for a new backyard playground and swingset for your Arizona backyard, visit our showroom today, and let us show you around. We can show you all of the options available to you and help you choose what will be right for both your family and your budget. 

Contact us today and take advantage of our expertise and free delivery and assembly in the Phoenix metro area. 

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All About Play – Backyard Playground Equipment

7931 E Pecos RD #113,
Mesa, AZ 85212

 623-986-7529 (PLAY)