Oct 1, 2013 - Home Improvement    30 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.

  • 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.

  • 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!

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