Thursday, September 30, 2010

Choosing the RIGHT Basketball System

Q: Should I purchase an "adjustable" or "fixed-height" basketball system?
A: If the basketball system will be used by younger players varying in age, an "adjustable" unit is a must. Only an adjustable goal system will adequately accommodate a variety of age groups. An adjustable goal system may also be desired by players who enjoy lowering the basket to dunk. If various goal height adjustments are not necessary, a "fixed-height" goal is the best choice. Most often this is the case when players are old enough to compete strictly at the regulation 10' goal height. However, many of our "fixed-height" systems can be bolted together at heights lower than 10' if required.

Q: What kind of backboard should I select?
A: DunRite Playgrounds offers a broad selection of backboards with each pole system. Backboards are available in tempered glass, clear acrylic, steel, alumium and fiberglass. Tempered glass is used for all competition boards like those found in high schools, colleges and professional arenas across the country. Our Response™ tempered glass provides the best ball rebound off the board. Look for the RESPONSE logo throughout this section to quickly locate packages that include tempered glass backboards. Acrylic backboards provide the look of glass at a more economical price level. Steel boards are vandal resistant. Aluminum and fiberglass backboards have an extra measure of rust resistance. Fiberglass also provides "glass-like" ball rebound, however, for authentic gynmasium ball response, no backboard compares to tempered glass.

Q: What effect does weather have on my backboard?
A: Almost none. Our backboards are designed to be weatherproof and carry full warranty even under the most extreme weather conditions.

Q: Is any one backboard more durable than others?
A: Because most of our pole systems incorporate a unique "direct mount" backboard support design, no matter what backboard you choose, it is virtually impossible to crack or break the backboard when it is mounted to appropriate pole system.

Q: Is there a way to lock my adjustable basketball goal?
A: Adjustable mechanisms can be locked into position by using our optional handle lock.

Q: Can I relocate the unit if I move from my home?
A: Yes. Many goals come with a built-in anchor system that allows easy pole removal if you need to relocate the unit. All other units require our optional ground sleeve to make the post removable. (Sleeves are available for square posts only)

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Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Playground Border

There are many ways to retain the surfacing.  A recessed pit with proper drainage installed does not require an above ground border or barrier, and may result in less of a tripping hazard.  PVC landscape timbers can be utilized in above ground installations. Playground timbers have a long term durability factor and are usually secured with long, galvanized steel stakes with rounded heads recessed into the timbers. While either of these require a greater up front expense, they require less maintenance and upkeep.
I obtain landscape timbers from the local lumber yard.  Bad Choice?
Let math and common sense prevail!  If you must install up to 12” of surfacing in your use zone, then you must have a containment border at a minimum of 12” high.  Lumber yard timbers are usually 3.5” high.  This would require that you stack these timbers four layers high.  Securing these rows of timbers must be done layer by layer.  Using screws, nails or bolts is placing a LOT of known dangers in your child activity area.  Cutting these timbers to proper length breaches the value of the treatment used to preserve it.  The lower rows of timbers are in constant contact with ground water run-off and drainage so there is a high probability of decomposition and failure.  You may now have a very dangerous situation, with instability, sharp edges, sharp protrusions, and failure to contain the surfacing material. Maintaining and replacing this bulging and toppling wall is difficult and labor intensive.  This type of landscape timber is probably one of the worst choices for containment of your surfacing material!  

For more information


Sunday, September 26, 2010

How long does playground mulch last?

Use-  It would seem that more use would deteriorate the life of surfacing. In fact, more use can actually extend the life.  Children playing in the play zone will naturally compact the surface, but they will also rotate it.  Digging, jumping or other activities may rotate the moist underlay to the surface and allow it to dry.  Moisture is one of the biggest causes of decomposition.
      Temperatures- With moisture one of the largest causes of decomposition, temperature plays a big factor in the amount of moisture.  Cool, damp areas from overhead shade may not dry out properly and will cause lower depths to decompose or compost.  Hot, dry spells in the summer with days on end of searing 100 degree days will help dry the area.  This doesn’t mean dry days will completely dry the surfacing down to the ground level.  If the underlying inches of surfacing remain moist, extreme heat on the surface could accelerate compost effects from heat. 
      Rainfall- More water, standing water, long rainy seasons- all contribute to decomposition.  The more water added, the more important drainage and rotation will become.
      Drainage- Once a playground is installed, drainage is difficult to alter.  Above ground and grade installations have a natural advantage to allow rain water to run off.  Below ground installations or “pit” style playgrounds will naturally accumulate water if attention has not been given to this during the design. Playgrounds should always be installed with a grade or slope of less than 2 degrees for safety.  One degree or less of slope to the grade will encourage or allow drainage.  In pit installations, there must either be a drain facility or drain system.  If the average grade of the area is below the grade of the drain area, the pit will simply not drain.   Installation of drainage systems at this point is not cost effective. Frequent rotation is essential to allow maximum drainage and dry out of the lower inches of surfacing. Grade, slope and drainage are specialized issues that landscape designers, architects and drainage specialists have expertise and certifications for.
      Rotation Depending on the factors creating moisture and compaction to the playground, rotation may decelerate the decomposition and extend the life of the playground.  Consider the depth of the surfacing at a maximum of 12” installed.  If the lower 2” of surfacing remains moist, 17% of the surfacing is in compost mode.  Over a period of time, more surface is decomposed than valuable play surface remains. This is costly, but more importantly, a safety hazard to children at play.  Using a long fork, tine or prong tool, pull back a sample of surfacing the height of the cushion.  Examine the lower amounts.  If it is moist, it will decompose more rapidly than when dry.  In your periodic maintenance of the play area, schedule a manual aeration of the surfacing.  A pitchfork placed in the surfacing and pulled back is a simple task but will take time to cover every square foot of the play zone.   
      Perimeter Maintenance- Frequently questions arise of how to prevent grass from growing in play surfacing.  If there is an ample level of dry surfacing, it is hard to grow grass or weed.  Train maintenance personnel to direct clippings away from play area when mowing grass, edging or “weed trimming.”  Train personnel in the use of herbicides and pesticides.  As a basic rule, they should never be used in a playground area.  There are many non-toxic alternatives available.  Read instruction labels for any materials that are utilized in the playground, or adjacent areas.  Most labels have a section explaining use in areas utilized by children and pets.
      With these factors in mind, we can attempt to answer the question.  Customers with well maintained play zones typically call us every 18-24 months.  A full replenishment is usually not needed.  Before replenishment, look at the condition of the surfacing.  Evaluate the life you achieved and consider factors that may have contributed to an early need for replenishment. Even though installed surfacing will compact, having a well knit base of material in good condition will lessen the amount needed for the next purchase.  Topping off the playground in 2 years with 33% of the original volume added means the life expectancy of the surfacing for that scenario is approximately 6 years.  It is hard to calculate an amount or rate without an original fill and subsequent replenishment.  A 33% fill over 2 years average equates to a replenishment budget every year of approximate 1/6th of the total volume purchase.  Less than optimum scenarios are often seen, such as replenishment needed of 25-33% after 1 year. If you find yourself replenishing more often than this you should concentrate on the factors that are probably causing decomposition.  Simply covering up a problem with replenishment may not be the best solution, either.  If you think you have 12 inches of surfacing and the bottom 6 inches have decomposed to earth, the effectiveness of the impact attenuation is severely diminished.    Many times the underlying reason for this question is a simple cost factor.  How much it is going to cost to maintain my playground?  Remember that professional inspections should be utilized to assist in your maintaining a safe playground.  Budget for optimum safety, you can never be "too" safe!  
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Friday, September 24, 2010

Mulch is mulch! So what is the difference?

There are many processes to create “mulch.” Chipped wood often comes from a chipper machine and utilizes reclaimed or recycled materials.  Sharp pieces and contaminants must be removed.  Is it possible to filter through a dump truck load of material looking for a tip of a nail that came from a recycled pallet that has been ground up?  Is it possible to locate materials that may have been contaminated from oil, pesticides or chemicals and remove them from this bulk of materials?  This material may also be called “playground mulch” or “Children Cushion” to further confuse this choice. This type of material is not recommended for playgrounds.
Most often used in your flower bed, and commonly available.  The source of the raw material is usually not known, and it is not certified as contaminant or chemical free.  The process of double shredding causes this product to decompose rapidly.  The purpose of playground surfacing it to attenuate (reduce impact) falls to the surface.  The purpose of mulch in your garden is aesthetic, nutritional and to retain moisture.  This causes the economical choice to become more expensive and more hazardous in the medium and long term scope of use. This type of material is not recommended for playgrounds.
This is the recommended wood product for use in the playground. It is uniform in size, made from pine or hardwoods.  There are no leaves or bark in the mixture. It does not contain pesticides, chemicals or contaminants.  You can only be assured of the safety and quality of your materials in this class of surfacing by appropriate certification.  IPEMA manufacturers follow strict process guidelines, and must have certified testing conducted on their products.
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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Do I Need a Fence Around a Playground?

There are two types of border you will need to consider with a playground.   A border around your play equipment “use zone” will contain safety surfacing.  A fence around the outdoor activity space may corral the little kiddos, pets or keep undesired traffic out.   Fence selection should consider local codes, and meet design requirements for playground safety. 
Many child care regulations address the requirements for fencing, such as a minimum height.   Consider the location of the fence when determining the height.  If there is a requirement for a fence to be 4' high, is that from the inside or outside?   If you place a fence next to your playground, don't forget that you will have surfacing beneath your equipment.   If your children are standing on a 12" high grade of surfacing, a 4' fence may only be 3' above where the kids rest their feet!
At long last, a recent revision of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission document  "Handbook for Public Playground Safety" finally includes a reference to the ASTM fence document.   Be sure your fence meets ASTM F2049 (Standard Guide for Fences/Barriers for Public, Commercial, and Multi-Family Residential Use Outdoor Play Areas).  Many fence contractors are not familiar with this standard, many fence distributors may offer or provide materials that do not meet some of the most basic safety standards in this referenced document.   Playground fencing is NOT the same as swimming pool fencing and has a different opening threshold between vertical or horizontal members.   The ASTM document also address traffic barriers.  A fence may be included in your plans to protect or corral children.  Most fences aren't designed to withstand the force of an automobile gone astray.  
You should review your site plans with a professional. There is more to safe play than only Swings and Slides!
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Sunday, September 19, 2010

How much does SHIPPING cost?

How much is FREIGHT?
Answering this question is somewhat like trying to predict the temperature!   Freight or shipping rates are calculated using complex factors that involve the size, weight and contents of the items shipped.  Many components and playground systems require odd shapes to be arrive at your door.  The issue is further complicated by federal tariff tables and discounts.  Freight carriers then determine another parameter using delivery requirements or options.  Your provided shipping address may be regarded by a particular freight carrier differently than you would expect.  Many times child care centers, churches and schools are regarded as residential deliveries due to the difficulty carriers have in reaching and unloading products at your location.   Some vendors simply ignore these specific issues and provide "curbside" delivery quotes.  Your experience may not be a good one if your product is sitting out in the street in front of your business. A 70' long tractor trailer rig is often unwelcome at schools during hours the children are around.  Many driveways and delivery doors can't be reached by a vehicle of this size and weight.  In most cases we prefer to handle freight on a case by case basis.  This means extra work on our part and possibly a delay on your end.  We would rather tell you this up front and create the proper answer for you rather than have problems or confusion at delivery time.  The bed of a delivery truck can often be four feet off of the ground.  Unloading a book or television from this height is not nearly as difficult as an eight foot long slide weighing in at several hundred pounds. An entire playground might weight in at several tons.  Some of our competitors have automated freight pricing and quotes on their website.  Often these are inflated rates to compensate for inevitable issues.  We would rather install the extra fact finding step in the process and work with our carriers to obtain the best rates and most accurate parameters.  Ultimately your savings and experience will make up for this delay. 
First of all, are you kidding?  Consider the price of the fuel, the wage of the truck driver, and the cost of a freight truck.  There simply is no such thing as FREE FREIGHT.  Someone is paying for it, and it is built into the cost of your product or added on.   We ran a "Free Freight" special and calculated what the average cost would have been for each of the sale items.  Just as easily, we could have offered a good sale price to you, or percentage off.   There is a well known process with many retailers to raise a price before they put it on sale.    It all becomes SMOKE and MIRROR and viewed by our company as DISHONEST.   Ask us pointed and direct questions and we will walk you through the math and "line-item" the freight price so you can see where the bottom line price came from. 

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Friday, September 17, 2010

Where is the Price?

Pricing is not displayed in many catalogs and websites for various reasons.  The purpose (at least in our case)  is not to trick you.  Pricing requires a complicated formula with variable components.  The first issue is the most complicated and volatile.  Fuel prices in recent history, spiked to a 150% increase, then decreased nearly an equal amount after about a year.  Steel prices had a sharp increase of several hundred percentage points and has not decreased like fuel.  With variable costs from our manufacturers, pricing may change daily.
There are questions that need to be answered before accurate pricing can be determined.  Freight to send a component or complete system to you will vary, depending on where you are located.  Freight companies have a complicated table of tariff rates coupled with surcharges for various situations.  A commercial delivery differs from a residential delivery.  Many freight companies regard locations that should be commercial as a residential delivery and add a fee.  If a location doesn't have a freight dock and forklift, the commercial carrier  may impose a fee to deliver, a fee to unload and a fee for a delay in time.  Churches, daycares and neighborhood parks are a commercial operation yet are sometimes considered residential.  Shipped items may be packaged differently, depending on the items you select.  Shipping a 20 pound cardboard box differs from the crate that is built to ship a 3000 pound play structure.   While this seems cumbersome and archaic, it is!  If we sold book and video tapes, flat rate would be more appropriate and faster to calculate.  
Another factor to consider is your total package, or the big picture.  If you see a price for a playground and set budget, you might be disappointed when you learn it will be an additional cost for installation, freight or other necessary items.  Installation will vary based on more than a handful of reasons.  You may also need surfacing, containment border or other equipment to conduct a safe installation.  When comparing vendors, retailers or manufacturers you are looking at safety, quality, reliability and dependability along with other factors.  While these are most important, you need to look at all of the associated costs to make an accurate comparison.
 With a variety of variable costs, some manufacturers and retailers will post prices with all of the various factors added in to the displayed price.  To properly budget and plan your play and recreation areas we don't want to propose a price that includes a lot of features that you don't need.  There are discounts that might be applied if you purchase more than one component.  Shipping two of the same items is usually cheaper than the freight costs associated with shipping them individually.  Catalogs, warehouses and websites with bottom line computed prices probably do not reflect volume or consolidation discounts.  After years in business we are very familiar with the concept of posting these bargain prices, thereafter hitting you with surcharges to complete the transaction.  
 If you are trying to shop by price, and who isn't-  call or email us and we will discuss the options with you and offer pricing based on your specific situation.  You may see a close match with a structure we have already designed.  We can take that and add or change components to create the unique result that fits your needs.  We consider that a step above and beyond catalog pricing. No extra charge, only extra service!

DunRite Playgrounds


Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Playground Surfacing

Why do I need playground surfacing?

Around 79% of playground injuries occur from falls to the surface. This makes this one of the most important parts of your playground. Unfortunately this is also one of the most neglected areas of the playground.  The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission offers guidelines in their documents on playgrounds: Residential  and Commercial. There must be loose-fill surfacing or unitary surfacing (such as mats) beneath the entire “use zone.” The "use zone" is not only the area below the equipment, it is also the surrounding perimeter extending a minimum of six feet from the equipment, outward, in all directions. 

What type surfacing should I use?
Economy up front doesn't always make sense.  Maintenance costs add up fast, and the expense of replenishment make other options more economical than they first appear.  Wood Chips, Engineered Wood Fiber, Sand, Gravel, Solid Rubber Tiles, Artificial Turf,  Cut or Shredded Rubber or Pour-Place Surfacing are the common options for surfacing.   Each has benefits and concerns that you should discuss with a playground professional and understand.

Some of these options are covered in more depth on our website DunRite Playgrounds.   We have also created posted several calculators to help with your playground measurements:

DunRite Playgrounds
(888) 882 - 1929


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Is a WOODEN Playground Structure Safe?

There is more to playground safety than simply the material selection.   This isn't an easy or simple answer.   Where you are utilizing your playground equipment may suggest that wood is not as an appropriate of a product as those made from other materials.   When considering a backyard playground, DunRite Playgrounds suggests that you review the Outdoor Home Playgrounds Safety Handbook from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) .  Therein you will find a some useful tips:

  • Wood must not be treated or coated with toxic chemicals such as CCA or creosote. 

  • Wood treated with newer, alternative chemicals may not be compatible with equipment hardware.

  • Proper parts should be utilized that have been provided or recommended by the manufacturer. 

  • Assembly instructions should be followed (yes, you should read them!).

  • Unit should be anchored to the ground as recommended by the manufacturer.

  • Surfacing should be installed under and around play equipment.
This leads one to believe that design, manufacture,assembly (installation) and maintenance are important, not only the choice of wood versus metals.    Keep in mind a few other factors:

  • Untreated wood will deteriorate rapidly.  As these products age, stability may become an issue.

  • Wood surfaces must be splinter free.  Given that wood is a product of nature, this is nearly impossible to achieve, and becomes worse as wood ages. 

  • The design of wooden structures often does not meet CPSC requirements for safety, with elevated play surfaces, nails and screws. 
WOOD in Commercial (Public) Facilities?

Many wooden structures are not designed for commercial use, and bring additional risk to children and liability to the owner.  Some guidelines and recommendations state that materials utilized should have a proven durability for commercial play. Many wooden designs will save you money up front, but become short term regrets as replacement and repairs increase.  With many manufacturers and retailers offering wooden products for play, ask for and review specifications.  Does the equipment meet the CPSC recommendations for design and safety?  Review the Public Playground Safety Handbook.  The American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) publishes voluntary stardards for the industry.   Consult a playground professional, such as a Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI).   "The Certified Playground Safety Inspector (CPSI) program is offered by the National Certification Board in coordination with the National Park and Recreation Association and the National Playground Safety Institute.  CPSIs are certified to inspect playgrounds for safety hazards and to ensure compliance with national standards set by the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM) and Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). "
A long way to get to the simple answer: Yes and No.  Consult a professional for guidance.

Robert Haack, CPSI

Robert has worked with retail and commercial sales of playground, sport, athletic and recreation equipment since 1984.  As a playground professional, safety of your children is a top priority.   Robert's home playground structure for his children is made from Redwood. At his family church and  public school the playground equipment is a composite structure made with steel decks and posts, with components and design meeting proper commercial guidelines for playground safety!