Maintenance Tips: 7 Ways to Maintain Your Community’s Playground
To keep the community looking and functioning at its best, maintaining the homeowners’ association (HOA) playground should be a top priority for boards during warmer months. Demonstrating good stewardship to the community, well-maintained playgrounds offer a safe place for families to gather and kids to have fun. Read on to learn seven maintenance tips for proper upkeep of your community’s playground year-round.
1. Regularly Examine Your Playground for Potential Hazards
Your board can proactively address issues before they become major concerns by performing routine playground inspections. While the responsibilities of the board vary for each community, it’s best practice to visually inspect your playground weekly. This allows you to allocate maintenance funds accordingly and spread out the cost of repairs. Make sure your playground safety checklist includes these potentially dangerous conditions:
- Unsteady or broken playground equipment
- Uneven sidewalks
- Loose gravel
- Insect nests or hives
- Sharp or pointed surfaces
- Chipped paint
As soon as you spot these dangers, schedule to have them fixed right away.
2. Get a Professional to Inspect Playground Equipment
While it’s crucial to keep an eye out for warning signs of deterioration and hazards, a professional, who’s an expert in how to maintain a playground, can assess potential risks against the Consumer Product Safety Commission standards. A certified playground safety inspector (CPSI) will also know if any local, provincial, or regional regulations have changed and advise on the updates needed to meet those requirements. Depending on what your budget allows and what your governing documents regulate, plan to schedule a professional inspection annually—or even better, monthly.
If your HOA doesn’t already work with a CPSI, reach out to your community manager or visit the National Recreation and Park Association’s U.S. registry to find a certified inspector in your area. You can also ask neighboring HOA board members for recommendations. An honest and trustworthy inspector should offer an unbiased safety report—not service repairs.
3. Refresh the Ground Material
Playground surfaces can become less effective and more hazardous as materials begin to weather and erode. Being a high-traffic area, it’s important to check your playground’s surface material annually. Different types of ground material commonly used for community playgrounds include:
- Wood chips
- Loose rubber
- Composite rubber surfaces
- Pea gravel
Look for dips in ground surfaces, frayed or torn rubber, and unevenly dispersed ground materials. Fix damaged surfaces and ensure the depth of ground material complies with the Consumer Product Safety Commission’s (CPSC) Public Playground Safety Handbook. Generally, loose-fill material should be nine inches deep, and shredded or recycled rubber six inches deep.
4. Ensure Playground Rules and Safety Signs Are Clearly Visible
Safety signs and rules that are visible and easy to read help parents keep their kids safe and ensure the HOA board is doing its part to inform residents of playground best practices. Some standard safety rules most playgrounds display include:
- An adult must accompany children under a certain age
- Improper use of equipment is prohibited
- Do not use playground equipment when wet
- No running, pushing, or shoving
- Proper footwear is required
- No glass bottles allowed
- This playground is designed for children between certain ages
Although the CPSC provides some playground sign guidelines, check for playground safety signage ordinances in your state and local region. And make sure your signage complies with the HOA rules in your governing documents. Regulations on playground rules and labeling may vary for each community.
5. Keep the Play Area Clean
While playground equipment may be sturdy and up to date, the overall appearance of the playground is also a significant factor to consider. Just as residents expect other community areas and amenities to be clean, well-maintained, and welcoming, the playground is no exception. Take the time to check the playground for dirty, rusty, or tarnished equipment that may leave a negative impression of the board and its priorities.
Also, do extra inspections after parties, long weekends, or major weather events to assess the condition of the playground and schedule additional cleaning or maintenance if needed.
6. Make Sure Shade Structures Function Properly
Providing shade enhances the overall playground experience for the kids and families in your community but sail canopies and other shade structures can be impacted by weather and use.
Check that shade structures are still functional and free of damage. Look for:
- Frayed seams
- Leaning or wobbling posts
- Sagging caused by loose cables
- Unsecured clamps or pulleys
7. Schedule Repairs with a Qualified Vendor
Professional service providers play a big part in the stability of your association, so be careful with who you decide to do business—verify credentials, call references, and confirm the vendor:
- Is licensed and insured
- Understands Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility standards
- Provides a service contract
- Is competitively priced
Ensure the vendor can complete the required repairs within the terms outlined in the contract, and be transparent with residents about the maintenance work on the playground—the issues and repairs and what’s being done to fix them. An announcement in your community newsletter or the association’s website is a great way to keep residents in the loop.
Community Maintenance and Successful HOAs
Beyond the playground, board members should schedule regular inspections and take preventative measures to care for all areas of the community. Read our article, “Community Maintenance Tips for Long-Term Success,” for ways to keep operations running smoothly, longer.