Hi everyone I'm just wondering what is the standard for treating playground wood in a safe way for kids such as in this picture? enter image description here

I've done a bit of searching but I can't find anything conclusive.


  • 1
    Where was photo taken? Do you know how long it has been in use?
    – Volfram K
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 5:42
  • Not sure sorry, just taken from the net as an example
    – TMax
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 12:29
  • "just taken from the net as an example" ! Apologies but in that case it was a very poor choice. The (rare, from what I've seen) examples of 'natural wood' in this playground distracted greatly from the main thrust of your enquiry. A more typical/usual playground setup would be have been a much better choice given you were seeking canonical Answers about what's commonly used. Now are we even sure which country the above playground is in?
    – Graphus
    Commented Oct 30, 2021 at 7:30
  • "How is playground wood treated?" Well, based on my observations, it is treated quite poorly, indeed, by all the kids and reprobates in my neighbourhood.
    – user5572
    Commented Nov 4, 2021 at 14:28

2 Answers 2


The equipment in your picture may be coated with a couple coats of an oil-based, penetrating stain. Or it may be just bare wood. Cedar and redwood, for example, stand up to weather very well on their own.

Much other playground equipment is made from regular pressure-treated lumber.

Before the early 2000s pressure treating lumber involved arsenic, but since then arsenic has been replaced with copper compounds which are said to be completely safe according to government and playground manufacturer industry groups, etc.

  • Thanks for the amswer mate
    – TMax
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 0:21

Much construction of playground equipment uses pressure-treated softwood (wood from conifer trees).

Current treatment of choice is ACQ (alkaline copper quaternary) but there is also CA (copper azole), SBX (sodium borate), and MCQ (micronized copper quaternary). In America the species most commonly treated is southern yellow pine. In other parts of the world it is usually other species of pine or fir, in Canada western hemlock is also common.

enter image description here

First clue is that it is 2x or 'two by' material, 1x6, 2x4, 4x4 etc. same as you get from any lumber source. Other than the usual profiles usually you can easily identify such wood by eye because softwood has obvious light/dark grain patterns. And often many knots may be present! This wood may have an artificial greenish or brownish colouring from pressure treatment.

Some elements in the playground photo are made from such material, visible above the round table on the left of the image. Also the blackboard frame.

Other elements in this photo are not pressure-treated wood. The sawn log on the ground 100% because bark is never left on during treatment, but the standing logs are also very unlikely because I think they never treat natural-shaped logs.

The logs possibly are species naturally resistant to decay outdoors, there are a few such species in the US, including white oak, black locust and sassafras.

For dry and hot climates decay-resistant species may not be necessary to give long life because water is needed for decay.

9 mighty woods for outdoor projects

Your Guide to Working With Pressure-Treated Lumber

  • It looks like playground equipment is often pressure-treated after being worked - the colour is even on the end grain, in counterbores for fixings, and cuts for things like steps. This makes it hard to replicate the technique on a small scale
    – Chris H
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 8:08
  • Thanks for the answer very helpful
    – TMax
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 12:31
  • 2
    @ChrisH A lot of pressure treated lumber is treated through its entire thickness; you see the telltale green color in end grain and holes without any additional steps.
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 16:41
  • 2
    @ChrisH Different species apparently take treatment differently; the southern yellow pine that's available around here shows the treatment all the way through, but I understand other species might not work like that. You can buy brush-on sealer that's pigmented to match treated wood, though, so that might be an option.
    – Caleb
    Commented Oct 29, 2021 at 21:32
  • 2
    @ChrisH no wood is pressure-treated after being worked by operator, only after sawing by mill as shown in image.
    – Volfram K
    Commented Oct 30, 2021 at 3:38

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