Backyard mansions: 21st century playhouses

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-11726960442315.jpg’, ‘Photo by Doug Halberstadt’, ‘These new sets are, in many ways, far superior to the old ones. One way is the materials that go into building them. These new sets are made from a combination of redwood and imported China cedar. The two woods allow for maximum strength and durability.‘);

Most people remember them as plain old swing sets. Almost every back yard had one. They were usually composed of a couple of metal or wooden seats suspended from a rusty chain, a rickety metal slide, possibly a glider, and if you got the really deluxe model, a teeter-totter.

Times have changed, and so have swing sets. They have evolved into what are now known as “Backyard Adventure Play Sets.” Based on the complexity of the systems and the cost involved, you won’t find one of these in every back yard on the block. They come with everything from covered forts, simulated climbing walls, and some even have enclosed spiral plastic slides. The largest one I saw on display was priced more than $15,000.

These new sets are, in many ways, far more superior to the old ones. One way is the materials that go into building them. These new sets are made from a combination of redwood and imported China cedar. The two woods allow for maximum strength and durability. The lumber is 100 percent naturally chemical-free and has a non-toxic stain applied. This is hugely different from the lead-based paint model I grew up playing on.

The heavy-duty chains are powder-coated, 1/4-inch steel. My guess is, they’ll never rust. These sets don’t end up on the curb for garbage day. They actually come with a limited lifetime warranty. They’ll probably be passed on from generation to generation, or sold as an add-on with the homes whose yards they occupy.

These new hi-tech “swing sets” are on display at Backyard Adventures of Northern Illinois. They are in the Gymnastic Academy of Rockford Sports Complex, 6630 Spring Brook Rd., Rockford. A variety of sets are on display in their indoor showroom. If you’d like to meet with a play set designer, set up an appointment at (815) 654-9769.

From the Feb. 28-March 6, 2007, issue

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