Feature Article - November 2005
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Handy Solutions to Common Problems

By Stacy St. Clair, Jenny E. Beeh and Kelli Anderson

How To Reduce Site Furnishing Maintenance

It seems nothing hits your park's reputation—or budget—harder than poor upkeep of site furnishings.

Run-down elements discourage patronage and, in many cases, invite vandalism. Conventional wisdom may suggest better maintenance cures the problem, but that's not always the ideal solution. Increased maintenance means more money must be spent on labor and materials, a move that ultimately can hurt the park's overall fiscal health.

Fortunately, the industry has responded to this predicament with several viable solutions:


When choosing site furnishings, the price tag shouldn't always be the bottom line. You also must factor in maintenance and durability. How often does the item have to be replaced? How much maintenance time and money will have to be spent to keep it safe, usable and looking good? Be willing to pay a little more upfront if it means less maintenance in the long run.


A major step in reducing maintenance cost is deterring graffiti. Concrete and plastic structures, for example, easily withstand the rigors of vandalism. Brick and wood, meanwhile, are more vulnerable during the removal process. Dark, rough surfaces deter vandals because their work will not be as visible, thus denying them the thrill of seeing their crime on display. Regardless of material type, all outdoor furnishings should be covered with a protective coating that allows graffiti to be expunged without damaging the paint or surfaces beneath. If graffiti does appear, it should be removed with 48 hours.


When choosing your trash bins, make sure the receptacles are large enough to allow you to dictate your own emptying schedule. If you go too small, you risk garbage spilling out onto the grounds. If your bins aren't big enough, you'll also increase your maintenance staff's workload by requiring them to work frequent trash-emptying trips into their day.


One of the best ways to reduce maintenance, of course, is to select site furnishings that don't require much upkeep. One such option is recycled-plastic components, which boast molded-in colors that never require painting or staining. The products are not only strong, they are environmentally friendly, too. The sturdy material comes in a variety of styles and is used for myriad furnishings, including park benches, picnic tables and trash receptacles. Their durability makes them ideal for heavy-traffic areas such as school playgrounds, ball fields, golf courses and trails.


When building your own outdoor furnishings, consider using plastic lumber and timbers. High-quality plastic lumber and timbers provide a desirable alternative to traditional materials because they can withstand the elements better. Plastic lumber and timbers will not crack, split or splinter, which makes them a good material to use in places where concrete, wood or metal needs to be replaced. Plastic lumber can be cut, drilled and nailed using standard woodworking tools. Unlike treated lumber, it does not leach out chemicals that pollute surface and groundwater. Plastic materials also can be easily disposed of, unlike treated lumber, and can be recycled after use. However, it is not a 1-for-1 replacement for wood because it is more flexible. Check with the manufacturer before purchasing to ensure it will meet your applicable needs.


If you decide to go with wood or another material, make sure you keep it up. Like the old proverb says, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Stain and paint regularly to prevent bigger maintenance headaches from arising.


Consider buying bulk. Having a master plan or park standards can help reduce maintenance migraines. From a practical standpoint, bulk buying makes replacing parts easier and means the maintenance staff won't have to grapple with 42 different types of benches and their individual upkeep needs.

  F O R   M O R E   I N F O R M A T I O N  

Plastic Recycling of Iowa Falls 800-338-1438

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