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Archive for Monday, April 27, 2009

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Child’s play: Parents won’t find DIY swingsets too difficult to build

From left, Kara Smith, 9; Vanessa Thomas; Sofia Thomas, 5; Tiffani Smith, 8, and Tristan Thomas, 1, enjoyed an afternoon out on their playset.

From left, Kara Smith, 9; Vanessa Thomas; Sofia Thomas, 5; Tiffani Smith, 8, and Tristan Thomas, 1, enjoyed an afternoon out on their playset.

April 27, 2009

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Prefab vs. DIY playsets

Prefab:

Pros: Convenient for busy parents, says Jack Bowser, owner of Houston-based Jack’s Backyard.com. They’re quick to set up.

Cons: Buyers will pay more upfront for that convenience. Higher-end sets could cost $3,000-$4,000.

Home assembly

Pros: The price is far more modest. A small kit might run $600, although prices can climb into the thousands depending on size and extras, Bowser says. Additionally, DIY kits allow the builders to customize the playsets.

Cons: It might take an entire weekend to construct a home-assembly set, but Glenn Stocker, with swingsetmall.com, says it’s doable with common household tools.

Many families around the country are following the lead of President Barack Obama and installing playsets in their own yards. These sets, which often include a slide, swings and a fort, while witnessing a recent spike in popularity, have enjoyed a consistent appeal with families for several generations.

“The business perpetuates itself,” says Jack Bowser, owner of Houston-based Jack’s Backyard.com, which offers plans for the sets. “People who had swingsets in 1990 are now having kids of their own, and they want to give them something just like they had.”

In addition, backyard sets allow families the fun of play at the park in the comfort of their own home, Bowser says.

“I think that people like to stay home,” he says. “They don’t want to always have to go to the park, and it’s a tireless baby sitter.”

Glenn Stockton, owner of Swingsetmall.com in Bremerton, Wash., feels that the imagination stimulus these sets provide is the key to their popularity.

“Certainly outdoor play is an attractive thing to any family. It creates an environment where kids can have imaginative fun and real fun in their backyards,” Stockton says.

As for families, they often just want a fun play area for their children at home.

“We have a huge yard, and the kids can’t miss it out there,” says Vanessa Thomas, a Lawrence mother of four. “It has enough swings for all of the girls, so they don’t fight over them. They love to be outside with their friends. It’s really a neighborhood thing.”

Families weighing their options for playsets have several options, including pre-fabricated sets or do-it-yourself kits, which tend to cost far less.

This lower cost and adaptability was something appealing to Thomas, who bought a kit with her husband two years ago.

“We had trouble finding reasonably priced sets online without astronomical shipping,” she says. “So we bought a kit at Home Depot, and my husband and father built it.”

While building your own set requires some degree of carpentry skill, most people can build a basic set over a weekend using common household tools, Stockton says.

“It’s not rocket science,” Stockton says. “You can really (build it) with basic tools that most people have, a drill, screwdrivers and a hammer and nails.”

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