Oct 1, 2013 - Home Improvement    57 Comments

Stain a Wood Playset to Make it Look New Again

Eight years ago when we moved into our home, there was one big-ticket item that I dreamed about and was ready to make a reality.  A backyard playset.  Once our fence was installed and our landscaping complete I couldn’t wait to purchase one of these monsters.  You know, the kind that are in 10 boxes from Costco, Sam’s club or Rainbow?  We chose the one from Sam’s Club because I liked the brown wood and green accents.  I liked how they blended into the landscape of our yard.  After a week of assembly (yes, it took a full week) the kids couldn’t get enough.

Well eight years later it’s wear was showing and becoming a bit of an eyesore.  I think that most people think that because it was built to be outside, it must weather the elements great!  Or they think “It’s made of cedar, so there shouldn’t be any upkeep.”   Well neither of those are true, even with the nicest wood playset you need to maintain it if you want it to look great in your yard  We knew something had to be done so we had sprayed it with a regular outdoor stain in a pump sprayer in the past.  But this time we wanted to know if we could stain a wood playset and have it last and look amazing.

Here are a few before photos:

How to stain a wooden playset

After a lot of research, it can and should be done.

Check out our playset before and after:

How to Winterize and Weather Proof a Wood Playset

Here is how we did it.  We started out by removing all of the metal hardware and rock climbing holds.  Then with a Mouse sander we sanded the entire playset.  This took about 3 days of a few hours each day but wasn’t difficult.  The hardest part was keeping our 3-year-old off the playset during the staining phase!

Use a Mouse Sander to Refinish a Wood Playset

We chose Behr Premium Solid Stain Weatherproofing in Padre Brown from The Home Depot (this is NOT a sponsored post, I just love the product and highly recommend it).  Because we chose a solid stain, it went on just like paint.  We used a small roller in some places and inexpensive chip brushes from Harbor Freight for the rest.   The stain was a thick solid brown.  It was expensive compared to other stains (even in the Behr line), but it had the longest lasting formula and that was well worth it for us.  Basically 10 years on all horizontal surfaces and 25 on all vertical.  This is important because after all the sanding and then staining, we didn’t want to be doing this again next summer.  Our playset took 2 gallons of the all-in-one stain and sealer.

Behr Padre Brown Solid Stain from Home Depot

The difference is spectacular.  On the left you can see the rock wall where the top 75% is sanded with the remaining 25% untouched.  Then on the right you can see the rich brown stain that makes the playset look new, well, better than new if you ask me.  You can not see the wood grain and I thought that I would miss that variation, but I don’t.  The texture is still visible through the stain and that is enough for me.

How to Stain and Refresh A Wood Playset

Behr has a lot of colors to choose from depending on what your backyard style is, but I love the Padre Brown with the green accents on the playset.

How to use A Solid Stain to Weather Proof a Swing Set

After it was all stained, with two coats and a couple of days later, we added all the green handles and rock holds back on.

Keep a Costco or Sam's Club Playset Looking New

I am loving the playset again.  And the kids are too.  The playset didn’t end up as that big of a “big-ticket” item after you divide out the amount that our kids have used it.  We paid about $1000 for it and I think it is one of the best $1000 we have ever spent.  The imaginary friends, conversations, and adventures that have happened on this backyard swing set are priceless.

Padre Brown Weather Proofing solid stain by Behr

Do you want to come play with me?

Have you stained or painted your outdoor playset, playhouse, or swing set?  Or have you used Behr Weather Proofing stain?  Tell me about it in the comments.

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  • Do you know what brand this swing set is ?

    • Jenny, I am not sure, I know it wasn’t a fancy Rainbow. It was from Sam’s Club eight years ago. I think that the ones from Sam’s or Costco are comparable. It just matters what the footprint is for your yard and the features or in my case the color accents that I wanted.

      • Will like to know what if you happen to have the green color code that you used. I really like the contrast and will like to start painting my playlet.
        thank you for the wonderful tips and photos. If you have brand, color green and if it was at home depo please send me that information.

  • Coming over from TT&J. We bought a Gorilla playset last year and to keep the warranty you have to seal it every year. I thought that was pretty interesting. Great blog post. Now, I know to give it a good sanding in a few years when it needs it.

    • Ashely, Bravo for Gorilla to even mention sealing it! I really think most people, myself included, thought that it would stay nice because it was made of redwood. I’m glad my husband knew otherwise :)

  • Oh gees.. this is exactly what I am suppose to get done before winter sets in. I so need for time, money, and weather to meet.

  • I was just looking for color combos and I’m so glad I saw your post. I’m in the middle of staining our set and are using the exact same Stain but in tugboat (which I love the color!) we had our deck redone and this was the product the painters used so I thought it would be good enough for the playset…sounds like its one of the better choices. Glad that’s what I’m using!

    • Yay Stephanie! I’m glad we found each other! Send me a pic of your finished playset in “tugboat”, I’d love to see it.

  • Just wondering how the Behr has lasted? The main paint stores here in Denver tell me to use an oil based stain to penetrate the wood and last longer. I know Behr makes great claims and is highly recommended but wanted to see how it is working for you?

  • Hello! I was just given a playset (in pieces) that I need to install. I also wanted to restain it. Your blog was the first item listed in my Google search and coincidentally, the playset I have is the exact same as yours! Thanks for the staining advice! Any possible chance you kept the instalation manual? I have a good idea on how to install it, but could use some direction on which size lag screws go where… Thanks!

    • Ryan, unfortunately I don’t. Have you checked online to see if there is a pdf? And how awesome is it that you were given that playset? Good luck putting it together :)

    • Ryan I know it is probably a little late but I happen to have the manual for this set.

      • Ben, wondering if you still have the manual or the model for the installation guide? I am in the same boat as Ryan, we were given this exact playset and it is in pieces. Hopefully you still have it! Thanks.



        • Oh please tell me you still have this manual?! We were given this set and we are looking for a manual to assemble the structure. Even if you could take a photo of the manual and we could google the make/model and find an online manual it would be helpful. I lost the manual while cleaning my house….guess I won’t clean again…..Lol.

          • Hello Everyone,

            I recently purchased a home with this exact play set. As others have requested, can you tell me the name of the play set, it’s worth and possible PDF for the installation? All I have found on the Play Set is the emblem “Leisure Time Products”.

            Feel free to respond to “geburns888@gmail.com”


  • Looks nice, unfortunatly that stain is not very good. Looks nice, but it will not last. Do some homework for the next time you will have to restain it. By the time I am writting this it very might be that time. Messners stain is a very good choice, or TWP. Even Cabots is one you can find in stores that will outlast this behr junk. Its just the same as their paint. But unfortunatly now that its on there, you will have to strip the rest after it peels and start new. Not trying to be mean here, just stating facts from someone who knows. Good luck.

    • Interesting analysis Justin, I’m not sure where you got your information or what you mean by “someone who knows”. Behr usually gets the highest Consumer Report ratings and I found great reviews of this particular product. I was not paid or compensated in any way to write this post, I just found it to be the best one for me. It has been through a tough winter and has held up beautifully. I’ll keep everyone posted on the status of the stain as time goes on.

  • Love this color! I bought a similar playset at Sam’s Club 4 years ago and I feel like it is already in need of refinishing. I actually bought some Thompson’s stain and sealant in semi transparent brown yesterday, but now I might be taking it back!! One question though, does it seem like the playset gets hotter since you have a darker color on the wood? I’m worried that if I go to the darker brown instead of a cedar color that it would make it too hot, then the kiddos wouldn’t be playing on it midday.

    • Annelisa, I think it probably does get hotter since it is a darker color, my play set happens to get shade most of the day so it hasn’t been a problem. That is a tricky one if yours is in a sunny spot.

  • Did you power wash before or after you sanded? I’m going to start this project and just wondered if it was necessary to powerwash?

  • Thanks for the tips. We got the same set and just painted it today. We used the same color and looks great.

    • Awesome Molly! I hope your family loves yours as much as ours do. BTW, ours has held up fantastic with the stain!

  • We’re getting ready to do this , but I’ve come across people expressing concerns with peeling. Unfortunately our set gets lots of sun and I see that yours does not. How is your set holding up now almost a year later?

    Thank you!

  • I just took all the metal parts and other accessories off my Gorilla playset. I used Rustoleum on the metal parts and they look great. I stained the wood set and it looks great. However, the rocks are almost completely white. I soaked them in white vinegar and baking soda all night but that didn’t cut the film. I noticed the rocks from your “before” picture were turning white. What did you use to cut the white film?
    Thanks in advance for your help.

  • Nice post, I like it quite a bit and am looking to do a very similar thing myself. There is only one thing I’d change…I have to agree with Justin.

    For anyone looking to do something like this…it looks like a wonderful procedure…just DON’T EVER USE BEHR PAINT OR STAIN!!!

    I wouldn’t use Valspar either but Behr is by far the worst.

    I am not a painting professional myself but I have painted many houses/garages/barns AND my next door neighbor is a general contractor who builds new houses, my father in law has been a handyman for 40 years, my brother was a professional house painter and two of by best friends are contractors as well. I generally listen only a little bit to negative reviews as I find many of them are by people who just don’t know what they are doing…HOWEVER, when it comes to Behr paint, the review is 100% the same across the board from all of these “professionals.” When that is the case, it must be true.

    They all say it is by far the very worst paint/stain you can use/buy.

    If you are going to spend this many hours taking apart, sanding and preparing this nice wood for fresh paint…spend the few extra dollars and get something that will actually last…Benjamin Moore and Sherman Williams are the best…but even Glidden is miles better than Behr.

    I’m sure it looks good now but the main difference is that in three years after weathering, aging, etc when you have to repaint it…the Benjamin Moore will still be looking great!! Probably for years to come.

    Behr, Valspar, etc all have this 10-year warranty or whatever it is…THEY AREN’T PRODUCT GUARANTEES, they are insurance policies. Home Depot has no problem throwing you $20 in two years because their crap paint is coming off and/or fading..it’s an insurance policy to make them look good. It doesn’t give you back your 100-1000 hours of time spent to do the work…The high quality paint companies actually guarantee their paint…the paint itself will last!! Home Cheepo will just give you some (more) free (crap) paint or a few bucks.

    • Thanks for taking the time to explain your position. I’ll keep everyone updated on how ours holds up. After year one it looks just as great as it did the day we stained it. My fingers are crossed!

  • Thank you so much for this post!!!! I was actually going to get rid of my kids’ playset and get a new one bc ours is so old and yucky looking (we bought it used on Craigslist about 4 1/2 years ago – and it was 5 years old at the time!) – it is still structurally fine – but the wood looks a lot like your before photos (a little worse, actually!!!) But your after pics are STUNNING!!!!! I am very impressed!!! This is going to be a longer term project for me since I’m pregnant but I am going to bookmark this to start in the Spring. :-) Thanks so much!


  • We recently were giving this same playset it needs a little tlc. Y’all’s gives me hope :) did you paint the handles ? If so what green did you use ? Thanks for your help!

  • I have been in the playset business for 18 years now and we move a lot of sets every year and a lot of them have this kind of stain on it. I can tell you that even know it may look good your set will end up rotting from the inside out. The ends that you didn’t put stain on and the areas where the lag bolts go through are left raw which allows water to seep in and because most of the board has the solid stain on it the water ends up sitting inside and rotting the wood. it’s best to use a semi transparent stain and you can choose any pigment color you want – browns to reds to orange tones.

  • Could you post pictures of how your playset currently looks, now that it’s been a year? I’m looking to stain a playset and love the look of this one, just would like to see how it has held up for you. Thanks!

    • Tracy, I’ll try and post one soon, honestly it looks just as good as it did when we stained it!

  • First, your playset looks awesome. Nice work. I’m in the process of re-staining mine, so I’m looking around for an opinion on stains.

    I felt compelled to post here for the two guys who don’t seem to like Behr paint. Let me say that I’m not a painter, but I’ve painted pretty much everything in my last couple of homes – inside and out. I’ve also hired painters.

    Universally, painters bash Behr. Sorry, but I don’t get it. Even the guys and gals who came out to my house to give me estimates were bashing Behr. Every single one of them recommended Sherwin Williams. Could it be some contract they have with SW? But also universally, these painters using SW warned about potential problems with paint flashing, lines, overlaps, drips…. all kinds of things. Well, I had to go with one of them b/c I was moving in and didn’t have time to do it myself (to be fair, they probably would have used my paint of choice if I had insisted). But I figured, how bad could it be? So anyway, my painter thought just one coat of Sherwin Williams would do it. Well, of course he has problems and has to do two coats in several rooms – not all. It looked so uneven in parts that I later re-did it myself with his leftover paint and it still didn’t look right (but better – tolerable as it was our basement and basement bedroom). I had leftover Sherwin Williams “Emerald” and did an upstairs bedroom. It looked terrible and I have to say I was pissed as this was supposed to be a great paint. I went and bought Behr to cover it up.

    Maybe it has to do with painting style, maybe it’s something else. But when I see painters universally bash Behr and representing that it’s terrible paint, I have to speak out and say something based on my experience, b/c in my opinion, it’s not terrible – it’s pretty darn good. I have never had luck with Sherwin Williams. I’ve tried several other paints as well, but I always go back to Behr. S0 honestly, in response to some of the posts here about Behr paint, my experience has been completely different.

    I stained my playset with Rainbow red stain 3 years ago. I did accents with Sherwin Williams solid wood stain in green. Both of these held up pretty well, but both were also fairly expensive. So, right now I’m looking around and thinking about the Behr stain or some other option that might be a little cheaper than the Rainbow and Sherwin Williams stuff. Thanks.

  • We purchased this exact set off of Craigslist about 2 years ago. I’d like to stain ours as well. How is your set holding up now?

    • Samantha, it is holding up great! Despite the nay sayers, I would use the same stain again in a heartbeat.

  • I have to say I love your tutorial and your playset looks AMAZING! I’m picking up a set very similar to this one this weekend, got it for cheap so it needs some love. Would love to do what you’ve done and am wondering how the solid color stain and paint for the plastic is holding up now? Thanks!

    • Absolutely perfect! NO problems at all. It looks like we just stained it even with the harsh Utah weather with snow and hot summers.

  • I found you on Pinterest and just in time too! We are putting together a new playset and I want to protect it from the beginning. I love the color and the fact that it lasts so long. We are planning on staining everything before assembling so we should be good to go! My husband even wants to re-stain the fence too.

  • LOVE the way your project came out. ENJOYED your tutorial blog. APPRECIATE your following up in comments. Curious about your green rocks and handles- did you clean, treat, or paint them? If so what color was the green? Also, did the roof come green or did you paint it? Thanks in advance.

    • All of the green accents came green. We didn’t repaint any of the green handles. If you want to order replacements for your set, you can order them HERE

  • im just starting mines today… thanks for the pointers

  • just refinished mine the same way and it looks great! thanks for posting!

  • I just got a free playset from the bro-in-law. It’s solid, but very tired looking and I cant wait to freshen it up like you did!

    I will say that I used Behr stain on my front covered porch 10 years ago and it’s finally time to freshen it. Compare that to the Sherwin Williams stain I used on our new deck, which didn’t even last 6 months before it was all peeling up and faded. I’m embarrassed to show people what is one of the nicest features of our house.

    I’m also NOT looking forward to how much work it will be to strip that junk off and re-do. I should have stuck with what worked for me in the past.

  • What color green is that? I actually just restrained ours, but bit sure about what color green to use!

  • What was the step between sanding and staining. Did you have to power wash at all to get the surface clean before the staining ?

  • OMG! I just bought that exact set used! I am
    Researching what kind of stain and what colors to use. Thank you for this post!

  • Just FYI for others planning to use Behr ….

    I used this exact stain and exact color last year (May 2014) on our playset, after reading this post. Stripped the whole thing down, powerwashed, etc. Hand-brushed this stain on the whole set.

    1 year later, any stain that was at all exposed to sun has completely peeled off!! Seriously. And ours has a wooden roof, which is of course completely trashed because of this stain. I have to strip and re-stain the whole thing.

    I am not sure how or why yours is still holding up — maybe it somehow doesn’t get any sun? I’m going to go ahead and believe the folks who’ve posted to never use Behr. I’ll certainly never use it again.

    • John,
      Which product did you go with when you restained this year and how is it holding up to the sun?

  • Hi, I love your new playset. It looks awesome!
    We recently purchased a new playset but it has too much
    red/orange stain color so we were looking for a way to change
    it so that it works well with our fence (which looks similar to your fence
    in the photo) and other elements in our backyard.
    I was wondering if you painted the green roof. If so, could you please
    let me know what kind of color, type and brand you used?
    Thank you! :)
    Jess from Boston

  • We restained our Gorilla set last weekend using the same stain and color. It looks beautiful and it matches our Trexx composite deck. We will see how it holds up. If it peels, I wouldn’t mind sanding and restaining it next year as long as it is only the high traffic areas. We only sanded 50% of the playset. I don’t think the rest needed it. It took us a day and a half. To do everything. I would post a pic but the site isn’t giving me the option. By the way, we live in sunny most of the year Texas, so our rock steps turned from green to blue. I cleaned the residue off using oxi-clean, but it did not turn the steps back green. They do however look new again.

  • We have followed these directions and are using the same product in chestnut. My only question or pickle is that we have rusted areas on the green metal frame parts in some spots, does anyone know how to fix this. I was going to sand those areas only and use a spray paint but cannot match that green color which I thought would be easy. I’m guessing these metal parts are a baked powder coding which isn’t easy to paint. Any help is greatly appreciated!

  • I found this post while scrolling through images for a matching swing set foe a pic I received from someone who has offered me the swing set. I have to drive 3 hours and disassemble and bring home and try to reassemble. Please let me know what brand and model yours is. As far as we can tell there are no stamps or tags on the swing and we need to find out if the company has a manual to mail us or a PDFs file. Any info will be greatly appreciated. Fingers crossed…. That you can help. Thank you
    Sandy Millburn. Martinez, ga

  • We bought the exact baer stain but mixed Chocolate color instead of padre brown. So far it looks good! We have shade trees so hopefully it will last a while.

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