Compare commercial and residential grade playground equipment. Please remember that residential playground equipment is strictly for residential use. The chart compares the differences in appropriate placement, materials, and safety.

For Use In

In Home Child Care - Commercial & Residential

For in-home child care, either residential or commercial grade equipment is acceptable. Those with a limited budget may prefer the usually smaller and cheaper residential equipment. However, smaller commercial structures are still a viable option.

Daycare Centers - Commercial only

Daycare centers generally opt for commercial grade play equipment. Even small children need space to play, and residential playgrounds are usually not equipped to handle the high volume of children found in daycare centers.

Faith Centers - Commercial only

Faith centers typically look for similar playgrounds to those used by schools. Their budget and needed capacity typically surpass the range of residential playgrounds. Additionally, they often appreciate the themes available for commercial structures.

Government - Commercial only

Government facilities typically require the dependability of commercial playground equipment. Residential products simply aren’t large enough to handle the large capacity needs of their government locations, which are usually open to the public.

Home Owner Assoc - Commercial only

Most home owners associations will want commercial playground equipment. Despite being centered around a few home dwellings, most neighborhoods want the longevity of commercial equipment.

Parks - Commercial only

Parks are usually public, which means that they are open to all children in the area. Often these children have minimal supervision, and can fall under a range of different ages. For these reasons, the durability of commercial playgrounds is important.

Private Homes - Commercial & Residential

Most residential playground equipment is sold to private homes. Since they cost less and take up less space, they are usually a better fit for homes. They also don’t last as long, which makes them appropriate for a single generation of children in a family.

Schools - Commercial only

Schools can’t afford to continually replace their playgrounds, which means that residential playground equipment isn’t ideal. While commercial equipment is more expensive, it pays for itself in the long run.

Public Facilities - Commercial only

Public facilities generally want the size and reliability of commercial playgrounds. Residential options simply don’t offer enough customization options to suit the needs of most public areas.

Common Materials

Pressure Treated Common Lumber - Residential only

Most lumber is not approved for commercial use because it wears down after enough use. Lumber is fine for use in a residential area, where only a few kids will be using it. However, it will not stay in good shape for long if dozens of kids play on it every day.

Kiln Dried Certified Lodgepole Pine - Commercial only

Like most common lumber, Kiln Dried Certified Lodgepole Pine is not resilient enough to handle day to day use by large groups of children. It is best for smaller playgrounds in a backyard or neighborhood setting. It is tougher than most wood, but still not as strong as most metal and plastic commercial grade products.

Heavy Duty Thick Walled Metal Posts - Commercial only

Of course, heavy duty metal is extremely strong and long-lasting. This makes it great for public use on commercial playgrounds. It can last for many years, withstanding weather, horseplay, and even most vandalism. It is usually too expensive for residential playgrounds, who don’t need the added fortification anyway.

Thin Walled Metal Tubes - Residential only

Thin walled metal tubes are naturally weaker than thick ones. This means that they are generally not as good for commercial playgrounds. However, they are still a good building material for residential playgrounds. They are more than strong enough to handle semi-frequent play by a small number of children.

Thick Sturdy Roto Molded Plastic - Commercial only

Thick Roto Molded Plastic is highly durable. Even though it is usually hollow, it is incredibly strong and repels water, which makes it a good choice for commercial areas. For residential playgrounds, this extra strength is an unneeded expense.

Thin Roto Molded Plastic - Residential only

Thin Roto Molded Plastic is more appropriate for residential play areas because it is less sturdy. While it is more lightweight and inexpensive than thick plastic, it is not as durable or long lasting. While it is still resilient and weatherproof, it is less suitable for commercial areas.

Nylon Rope - Residential only

Nylon Rope is a material not frequently used on commercial playgrounds. Although it is good for netting and rope elements, if can become frayed and worn too easily. For this reason it is better when used in residential play areas.

Steel Reinforced Nylon Covered Rope - Commercial only

While regular nylon rope is not sufficiently durable for use on commercial play areas, reinforcing it with steel fortifies it enough that it can be reliably used in climbing nets and other playground structures. Residential areas may prefer rope without steel, as it is cheaper and softer.

Small Guage Swing Chains (2/0) - Residential only

Small Gauge chains are fine for residential areas. With proper supervision, it is unlikely that any child would damage it. However, for commercial playgrounds it might not be thick enough.

Large Guage Swing Chains (4/0) - Commercial only

Thicker gauges of chain link, such as 4/0 are much more durable. They can withstand high amounts of force and support heavy weight, which makes them great for public commercial areas where unsupervised visitors might use them improperly.

Pressure Treated Wood Decks - Residential only

Wood decks are a fine base for residential playgrounds. They are durable enough to easily last until an individual child outgrows the playground. However, for a more long-term commercial area, wood decks are too weak and high maintenance.

Galvanized Punched PVC Finished Steel Decks - Commercial only

PVC finished steel decks are the typical pieces used to create the elevated decks of most commercial playgrounds. The steel makes them incredibly durable, and the PVC is waterproof and helps prevent kids from slipping. However, these decks are usually too heavy for the supports used in residential playgrounds.

General Facts

Must Meet Federal Guidelines for Manufacturing & Safety - Commercial & Residential

Wherever a playground is being installed, it has to follow safety regulations. This is the same for both commercial and residential playgrounds. However, the regulations on playgrounds in public areas is generally stricter.

Made from stronger & more durable materials - Commercial only

Commercial playgrounds are made to be used by a large number of children over an extended period of time. For this reason, they are naturally built to last longer and withstand rougher and more frequent use. Residential playgrounds generally opt for cheaper but less durable materials.

Sold through Large Box Retailers - Residential only

Residential playgrounds can be purchased from department and ‘big box’ stores. These are meant for sale to individual families. Commercial playgrounds are usually too large to be sold in an individual location. Additionally, their customization options are better suited for online orders.

Usually Less Expensive - Residential only

Commercial playgrounds are generally more expensive because they use more heavy duty materials. They are also generally larger, which means that they have to pay for other expenses as well, such as surfacing and installation. Usually only large residential playgrounds will reach the same price range as commercial ones.

Designed to handle large groups of children - Commercial only

Commercial playgrounds are usually larger, and built to accommodate more kids at once. They follow stricter safety regulations and use tougher materials, because it is harder to supervise so many children simultaneously. Residential playgrounds are often made for a single family or neighborhood, where parents supervise their own children.

Wide Variety of Equipment Options & Themes - Commercial only

There are thousands of designs for commercial playground equipment made to fit a wide variety of budgets and clientele. Different schools, churches, parks and other organizations have different needs and specifications for their playgrounds, including theme, color scheme, and accessibility. Residential playgrounds have fewer unique designs, because they typically have a limited price and area range.

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