It is important to check that any wooden climbing frame on your property is safe for your children by carrying out maintenance each year.
Level placement and anchoring
Start with an initial check of the ground to ensure that the frame is still sitting on a level surface – use a spirit level to check this. Next, make sure that the ground anchors are fastened securely; if they are loose or detached, the whole frame is less stable. Either move the frame to a part of the garden in which the soil structure is denser and the anchors are gripped more tightly, or concrete the anchors into place so they cannot move.
Cleaning and preserving timber and fixings
Check that the climbing frame has not become sticky, dirty or slimy; if it has, it will need cleaning before the children start using it again. You can use water and a mild detergent to clean the wood. Take this opportunity to look for any cracked or warped parts of the climbing frame and check that the supporting joints are in good condition.
The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) has some good advice on the safe maintenance of children’s play equipment and points out that, as a natural material, wood is prone to cracking.
There will normally be no great effect on the strength of the wood structure if the cracks are no wider than 10mm; if they are wider than this, they can be a ‘finger trap’ for children, as they may try to use the cracks as grips to help them climb. This particularly applies to climbing frames for older children, in which case you may wish to purchase a replacement from a supplier such as http://www.niclimbingframes.com/climbing-frames.
It is often difficult to tell whether wood has rotted simply by looking at it, as the outer wood may appear sound while the inner wood has rotted. Tap the wood with a rubber hammer or simply knock on it – decayed wood will sound hollow. You will then need to probe the area with a thin steel spike, such as an awl, and pick out some fibres of wood to examine them. If decay seems a probability, this part of the structure must be replaced to ensure the structural integrity of the climbing frame.