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Choose Slide Equipment by Shape and Material

The art of play is a delicate one.  Who are we kidding?  Play is fun and easy and shouldn’t be the cause of anyone’s stress.  That being said, the creative engineering behind playground slides alone can be a headache for investors simply looking to provide recreational activities for kids in their communities.  Design, safety, and material regulations loom like rain clouds over the planning and construction phases.  And, as anybody that’s ever spent time on a playground installation site can tell you, rain is the enemy.

Rather than getting bogged down with choices and consequences, let us walk you through the big decision points in constructing a safe slide that’s fun for all ages.

Shape

When choosing a playground slide, consider the many shapes and sizes available.

Freestanding slides are structures entirely on their own, but most slides these days are incorporated into larger playsets. Keep in mind that a 10-foot slide requires must begin at a platform of at least 5 feet.

Most smaller slides are single piece molds that vary amongst straight, curved, or wavy paths  Sectional slides are big playground slides made of several sections in place of a single continuous piece, allowing for creative curves.   Spiral slides are very popular as well.  Almost any slide can be constructed either open or enclosed in a tube.

Material

For the many shapes and forms slides come in, there are relatively fewer options when it comes to the materials for construction.  Typically, slide component are made of steel, plastic, or fiberglass.

Steel is the classic option for a playground slide.  It’s durable and slick, which lets kids reach higher speeds.

Plastic isn’t quite as durable are steel, but it’s cheaper and much safer.  This is the preferred material for the modern commercial-grade playground.

Fiberglass slides are most commonly used for large slides at water parks or high-end commercial establishments.  It’s rare to find fiberglass slides in a backyard or community playground.

Slides for playgrounds are usually supported by steel posts near the exit which anchor the slide to the ground.  Anchoring prevents vandalism and ensures greater stability to a wider range of weight and size.  Backyard slides do not always include such support, as the same anchoring techniques are not required by any standard.  

Safety

ASTM standards cover all safety issues down the smallest details.

The “Use Zone” is an important concept in understanding these regulations.  This is how much space is required around a structure to assure safety of its users.  These regulations vary with regards to the age of the child, as well as the general playground design.  Refer to the CPSC’s publication for in-depth descriptions on the required use zones for your play slide.