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How To Build A Used Swing Set - Should You Even Buy One?

Should I Buy A Used Swing Set?

We Bought A Used Playground From Facebook Marketplace

Would you buy used underwear? What about used hand tools? Textbooks?

The question of buying new or used is one that is broad. But, certain things are definitely inclined in a certain direction.

Things that aren't gross when used and are likely to have retained their original usage are high up on the the list people often buy used.

What about play-sets?

We asked ourselves this very question when we set out into the marketplace to purchase a new play-set for our children.

The Advantages Of Buying A Used Swing Set

The prospect of buying a used swing set grew as we saw the prices for the swing sets in our ideal size range. They usually started at around $3k and went all the way up to $20k for the really fancy sets.

We eventually took the plunge and purchased a large wooden playhouse/swing-set from Facebook Marketplace for $200.

After all, new play-sets require hands-on assembly as well.

So, the reasons for buying a used swing set for us was:

  • mainly, the more affordable price.
  • Additionally, we were happy to protect the environment by preventing a monstrously big thing from being put into a landfill.
  • Plus, we assumed, like most things, older play-sets tended to be of a higher quality wood and not made of the wispy stuff found on the e-commerce giants.

Why to buy a used swing set?

At first we were not sure if we were wasting our time, money and energy on a used swing set, but, spoiler alert: we got it built and our kids love it!

The following are important lessons we've learned from the process, organized by phase.

Where To Buy A Used Swing Set From?

The most usual online websites to look for used play-sets are

  • Facebook Marketplace
  • CraigsList
  • Ebay
  • OfferUp

On some of these platforms, some will be offering their play-set for free. You'll need to be fast for those ones, and ask few to no questions, to secure them. Be warned, some of the free ones are truly hopeless, so don't commit unless you're pretty sure the transfer is doable.

If possible, we would suggest brainstorming the people you know that may be looking to get rid of a playground. Getting one from someone you know will likely lower the cost (if any), plus, they will be far more likely to lend a hand in the disassembly.

How To Choose A Used Play-Set Online?

Some important aspects to consider when choosing a used swing set:

  • Space - Unlike buying a new swing set from a professional store, buying one used won't be giving you the exact dimensions in the listing. If you are searching for a larger variety or if you have space constraints, be sure to clarify with the seller the exact dimensions.
  • Wear - A thoroughly used play-set will usually be worn-down and dinged up, especially if it's wooden. Try to use the listing's images to find where the damages are and how they affect the overall structure. If you are feeling courageous, ask the owner! With a wooden play-set like ours, pieces near the ground are likelier to be rotted. If possible, inspect the structure in-person before sending over your payment. 
  • Price - Remember, the main reason why most people buy a used playground is the more affordable price. If something is beyond budget then simply move on. On the whole, it's a buyers market with used play-sets. The seller's children have grown out of them and most buyers are afraid to tackle the used play-set challenge. So, be sure to negotiate! I wonder if anyone ever got paid to take a used swing set.
  • Location - To move these play-sets you'll likely need to borrow or rent a truck, which will further add to the transportation time and cost. So, unless you're in the mood for a road-trip in an uncomfortably big vehicle, choose a swing set in close proximity to your home. In the case where upon inspection, you are unhappy with the swing set's quality, you won't feel like you have already committed too much with your time-investment.

What To Do Before Picking Up A Used Play-Set?

So, you've chosen which swing set you want from an online marketplace. Here are some tasks to add to your to-do list before setting out for pickup.

  • Recruit People - Whether you'll be paying a professional or calling in a favor from friends, the handier they are the better. At the very least, you'll need at least one more person to help you disassemble and lug the play-set parts. If you're bold, you can ask the seller for a hand, if they don't offer it on their own.
  • Locate Tools - The need for tools is not only at the assembly, you'll need some to disassemble as well. At the very least, bring a drill with multiple bits, a hammer and a ladder. Or, ask the seller if they have any that you can borrow on-hand.
  • Search for Manual - It's unlikely that the seller kept the assembly manual for their children's entire childhood, but they may have, so it's worth asking. Otherwise, try to learn the model number and the year of production. Armed with that knowledge, you'll likely be able to find the instruction guide online. Following the guide backward will help with the disassembly.
  • Confirm Vehicle Size - It's difficult to perfectly estimate the size your deconstructed play-set will be. Lots will depend on how intact you'll be able to transport it (more on that in the next section). So, be sure to leave yourself plenty of room in the chosen vehicle. I would advise renting a moving truck for some of the bigger sets.
  • Identify Storage Area - Keep in mind, that while we may want to finish this project as soon as possible, it may end up taking an unexpectedly long amount of time (where're my fellow procrastinators?). Find an area on your property that gives ample space for easy organizing and won't get in your (or your neighbor's) way. Unlike a boxed new set, the wood from used swing sets won't be that consolidated.

Kids love used swing set!

How To Take Apart A Swing Set That You Plan On Reassembling?

You've made it to the seller's place in your large vehicle. You're armed with tools and flanked by helpers. What's the smartest, easiest and most efficient way to take this play-set apart?

  • Final Inspection - Even if you've already paid, reinspect the play-set and confirm one more time that, in your best estimation, it will reassemble in a way that will make all the time and energy you've spent worthwhile. Climb the monkey-bars! Ride the slide! 
  • Take Photos - In most cases, you'll be reconstructing this playground without complete instructions, so snag lots photos of it in it's built form. These will come in handy as a future guide. Capture all the angles and deconstruction phases. You'll thank yourself for it.
  • Dismantle the Minimum - The dismantling and reassembling of a wooden structure will inevitably weaken the overall integrity of the structure. So when transporting a play-set, only take apart the very minimum that is needed to fit the pieces into your vehicle or to be able to lift its weight with your crew. This will also save you time and energy on both ends.
  • Identify Trash - Even when a play-set is satisfactory enough to be bought, there still may be elements that will need to be replaced. It's helpful to identify those parts as early as possible and leave them with the seller, instead of spending the time and sweat to meticulously disassemble and lug them across the town. Also, this will prevent you from having to find a dumpster to dump this oversized piece of trash. (Some parts that are still workable may be worth replacing, more on that in the next section.)

How To Build A Used Swing Set?

You're back at your place! There's still lot's of difficult stuff ahead but at least you're now on your own schedule and have access to a cupboard of your favorite snacks. Here are some tips on reconstructing that pre-loved play-set.

  • Find Handiness - Some play-sets have a straightforward construction but many do not, they require extra problem-solving and skill. Especially if they're used. The reassembly won't be the cakewalk for by-the-book type people the way building a stool from Ikea is. You'd be well-served with someone who's handy. It can be you, a friend or someone you hire.
  • Level Area - This may seem like a major task that doesn't really matter much and is only for the perfectionists. It's not. Getting the ground underneath your swing set leveled may be the deciding factor in whether this play-set project works, especially if it's a used play-set. Erecting this structure is hard enough without having to struggle against the ground. Use a shovel to lower a region or patio tiles and pebbles to raise one up.
  • Replace Hardware - Due to the age of most used play-sets for sale, many screws and bolts will need to be replaced because of rusting. The screws removed when dismantling will be useless in most cases. We couldn't reuse one of them. 
  • Identify Difficult Parts - Even if a part is still in fine shape, it may be worth replacing if it will make reconstruction easier. For example, the play-set we bought had a really bougie wood-paneled roof which was in decent shape. The thing was, it added lots of weight to our moving process and overall structure, so we opted to replace it with a heavy-duty (but far lighter) tarp
  • Sand and Seal - Don't forget, the sections that you replace with new wood should undergo a thorough sanding to prevent splinters on little fingers. Also, when the entire playground is built and had time to dry, seal it up for extra durability and longevity.
  • Beef It Up - As mentioned, there will be an inevitable weakening to any wooden structure that is disassembled and then reassembled. Reinforce it with additional pieces of wood to create extra strength in potentially vulnerable areas.

Bottom Line On Buying A Used Play-Set

Taking down and then putting up a used play set takes a lot of time and energy, but in the final calculation, we saved ourselves at least $2,000.

Costs of a Used Swing Set

So we would advise anyone with a limited budget or a concern for the environment to undertake this project.

Heck, if you're a handy person and enjoy a challenge, maybe this would be for you as well!

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