Children need the exercise and mental stimulation that an outdoor play set can provide. Parents feel happier when children are outside rather than underfoot. Wooden swing sets themselves are more pleasing to the eye and blend better with landscape design than the more industrial looking metal swing set. The big issue when building a wooden set over a metal set is the price. Wood can push the price of swing sets into thousands of dollars, but careful shopping and a little ingenuity can drop the price quite a bit.
The ultimate question is the amount of work you want to put into your wooden swing set versus the price you want to pay. Delivery or site built sets are the most expensive option. These are the sets that cost thousands, but these swing sets have the least work involved. Pick a site and have the set placed or built. There's no fuss involved.
Kits are less expensive, but they require some work on the part of the homeowner. The amount of work depends on the type of kit. Ready to assemble kits are the most complete. The wood arrives in the kit, precut and drilled for ease of assembly. You buy very little in addition or nothing at all. You don't need to have a workshop. Most ready to assemble kits only need a screw driver and a hammer. These kits are usually the more expensive to buy, but they are the quickest to build. Many will go up in a weekend. The drawback is that the options for these sets are most likely limited to what comes with the set and what add-on packs are available from the manufacturer for additional cost. However, even these limits are not always dead-ends for experienced wood workers.
The next option is build it yourself or ready to build kits. Typically these come with all the hardware necessary to make the base design, with optional add-ons that can be purchased for expansion. Plans offer several configurations that you can choose from for the perfect swing set design. You buy the wood separately, at local prices. This means that you choose the wood you want from among durable hardwoods or pressure treated lumber. It also means that expensive shipping isn't an issue, because the wood is often the heaviest part. The drawback of ready to build is that all of the cutting and drilling has to be done at home.
The third option is do-it-yourself. Do-it-yourself may seem more daunting, but it really is not all that much different in practice from the ready to build kits. Consider it a kit where you find all the parts and plans. That means do-it-yourself has the opportunity to be even less expensive than a kit. A number of companies provide free or low price plans and swing set hardware. Many items may be purchased locally or scavenged from used or unwanted play sets. Wood choices are completely up to the consumer. Options are unlimited. The drawback of do-it-yourself is the same as ready to build. You are ultimately responsible for cutting and drilling all of the pieces. This can take some time depending on the complexity of the swing set that you want to build.
Cost conscious consumers should take kit and do-it-yourself options seriously. It is possible to find a good ready to assemble kit with plenty of play options for under $1000. Deluxe ready to assemble sets may be priced much higher and starter sets may be lower. Ready to build kits are great for people who can't find the swing set hardware locally. Often these hardware kits offer a reduced price compared to mail order hardware and plans purchased at per piece prices. Many ready to build kits are priced in the $100 to $200 price range, with a few below $100, depending on the hardware they contain. Prices may be even lower during sales events.
True do-it-yourself builders can even take advantage of kits from time to time. No rules actually say that the plan that comes with the kit is the swing set that you have to build. Much of the hardware in a swing set kit or even an add-on kit can be adapted for other purposes. Do-it-yourself builders can easily adapt kits and add new options that manufacturers may not have provided. No kit is truly limited. Even ready to assemble kits can be altered somewhat. If the price permits, anything is possible.
Choose the building option that best suits your budget and time frame. Many families make swing set building a big event and may invite relatives to help, which opens up the opportunity for more involved wood working. If you need the swing set in a weekend and you want a lot of play options, a ready to assemble kit in your price range is probably the best way to go. If time is not an issue and ready to assemble does not offer all the options you want for your child's swing set, you may want to look into other kits or plans that are flexible enough to meet your needs.