When you are planning to install a new playground at a park, school, church, or any other public location, you may be surprised at the price difference between playground equipment for the commercial market versus a residential play structure for a home.  After all, isn’t it all just slides and swings?

While some of the equipment may look similar, there are significant reasons for the cost difference.  Keep reading to learn how investing in the commercial variety can benefit your play space and why there is value in the higher cost.

Commercial Playground Equipment Is Made for More

When you install a swing-set in a backyard, it is usually just the family and friends that play on it.  There are usually only a handful of kids swinging, sliding or climbing. The equipment is made to be strong enough to accommodate those children safely.  It is also assumed that they are playing on it a couple hours a day.

Playground equipment that is made for a commercial space – like your park, school or church- is made with even stronger and tougher materials that are meant to accommodate a large number of children at one time and over longer periods of time.

Commercial equipment is designed to handle more aggressive play and more touches per day.

Play spaces are usually larger in a public setting, and the equipment is also made on a larger scale.  For example, you usually don’t see the high swings that you see on a playground in someone’s backyard!

Playground Equipment Made Stronger for Longer

At-home playground equipment is designed to be used by the children of one household.  They assume that the children will play on it for a number of years and then outgrow it.  The materials used are meant to last with this one generation in mind.

Commercial equipment assumes that there will always be a new group of children to replace the ones that outgrow it.  This type of equipment doesn’t get to “retire”.  Therefore, it is built with stronger materials that are meant to handle this constant stream of children over a longer period of years.  The hope is that many generations of children will get to play and enjoy this space and the materials used are meant to last longer.

Both residential and commercial play spaces are subject to the elements of weather.  They are both designed to withstand tough conditions- from icy cold snowstorms to sweltering heat and sun.  However, due to the idea that a residential playground will only have to hold up through one generation, the materials used are usually only made for that number of years of extreme weather.  Commercial equipment is made with materials that can withstand the elements for many more years.

Playground Equipment Manufactured Tough Commercial Playground Equipment vs Residential playground equipment

Here is a list of some of the different types of building materials that are used in commercial vs. residential playground equipment:


  1. Heavy-duty thick walled metal posts and poles
  2. Thick molded plastic
  3. Steel-reinforce nylon rope
  4. Large gauge swing chains

RESIDENTIAL PLAY EQUIPMENT:Local playground equipment

  1. Thin-walled metal posts and poles
  2. Thin molded plastic
  3. Nylon rope
  4. Smaller gauge swing chains

Costs are obviously going to be higher for commercial play equipment due to the need for more expensive parts that are used in building the play structures.

More Playground Equipment Options = More Fun

Residential playground options are usually available for sale at big-box stores or online.  They are typically pre-packaged with no options for additions or replacements.  When planning a public play space, you get to design and choose any type of structure that you can dream of (within your budget, of course!).

Commercial playground equipment is available in a wide variety of colors and themes and can be formed in any configuration that you desire.  There are pieces that can be added or replaced.  A playground can blend in with the natural surroundings or made to stand out bright like a carnival or even a pirate ship!

For inspiration, check out the Midstates Recreation gallery of projects! https://midstatesrecreation.com/project-gallery/all-projects/

You get to be more creative when designing a commercial play space.  There are few limitations when it comes to the choices. Some of the most exciting trends are outdoor musical instruments and technology-driven interactive equipment.

Safety Matters

Residential and commercial playground equipment differ in that commercial equipment must adhere to specific guidelines set forth by ASTM and CPSC as designated for commercial use.

Due to the increased safety measures, the materials used are more expensive. There is more testing done to make sure the equipment will not cause harm. Surfacing requirements are also held to a higher standard which can also increase the overall cost of a project. Residential equipment is commonly seen with little to no safety surfacing whereas commercial playground equipment is required by ASTM and CPSC guidelines to have safety surfacing.

Inclusivity = Fun For All

Lastly, a commercial play space should be designed to include more than one family’s needs.  It should be planned with everyone of every ability in mind.  Commercial play equipment has made great strides in planning and designing equipment that can accommodate people of all different sizes and ages.

Not only can it be created for children and people with physical disabilities and medical equipment, but also for more than one person- like a caretaker or a parent to help.  Imagine a place where an elderly grandparent can play alongside a young grandchild or kids of all ages and sizes can go down the same slide.

To learn more about inclusivity on the playground, visit https://midstatesrecreation.com/inclusive-play/

The bottom line is that commercial playground equipment IS more expensive than its residential counterpart.  However, there are a lot of differences in the type of equipment available and the quality of the materials that make it more valuable and worth the investment.

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