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Buyer's Guide for Park Benches

Buyer's Guide for Park Benches Buyer's Guide for Park Benches

Park Bench Buyer’s Guide: What's Inside

  1. Why Park Benches Matter & How to Choose the Right One
  2. Essential First Step: Selecting the Type of Bench
  3. Not Finished Until You Choose a Finish
  4. Hardware: One Simple Rule
  5. Adopt a Bench Programs That Work
  6. Super Simple Installation
  7. Location, Location, Location!
  8. Preventing or Cleaning Graffiti
  9. Stop Skateboarding Damage
  10. What Have You Learned?
  11. Resources
  12. About The Park Catalog
recycled plastic bench in a park Recycled plastic bench in a park. With advances in technology, park benches are more durable than ever.

 

Why Park Benches Matter & How to Choose the Right One

Park benches are underappreciated. They are the ideal setting for reading a book, people watching, catching up with an old friend, or just soaking in nature. Seriously, how many romantic conversations have taken place on park benches in the movies? Way too many to count.

You can thank Frederick Olmsted for the magic that is the park bench. He’s the one who helped design the first park bench in Central Park, paving the way for other architects to design the benches we have today.

Today, park benches encourage guests to visit your business or park more often. Their empty seats are practically beckoning for you to slow down and sit a while. Before you order and install the perfect park bench for your facility, it’s important to learn about the different materials that make up park benches, including:

  • Metal
  • Recycled plastic
  • Concrete
  • Wood

Each type has its own benefits and purposes, which we’ll explain fully in this guide. By the end, you’ll be a park bench expert, just like we are.

If you’re replacing your facility’s current park benches, you might be asking yourself “Do I even need new park benches?” There is a huge difference between a quality bench, and one that is worn out. If you’re thinking your old park benches still have some life in them, carefully consider the following:

Quality benches that are clean and sturdy:

- Give an impression that this is a well-maintained and nice park or facility

- Provide seating at a business for customers who will appreciate extra service

- Add visual impact to any landscape

Inferior and worn benches:

- Pose a danger for people seating on them or kids playing on them

- Give the impression this area is not inviting or maintained

After all, park visitors and visiting customers will have close interaction with these site furnishings, so they should be first-rate.

Essential First Step: Selecting the Type of Bench

While it’s clear your facility may need park benches, what isn’t clear is which type of bench is right for you. Each of the bench materials are ideal for different purposes—make sure you read carefully to find the perfect fit for your space.

Metal Benches

metal benches with thermoplastic coatings Metal benches with thermoplastic coatings

Metal benches, complete with some of the new finishes created in recent years, are some of the most durable on the market. Modern benches are covered with a thick thermoplastic coating or powder coating, protecting the bench from rust damage and weathering, keeping it good as new for years of constant without requiring replacement or repairs.

Steel strap metal benches Steel strap metal benches

Easy to clean, sturdy, and quick-drying (especially if they are perforated or built with a steel strap design), metal benches are also a practical option. Their smooth edges are safer and protect guests from splinters. With a thermoplastic coating they also repel spray paint from vandals and resist fading from brutal UV rays from constant exposure to the sun.

Metal benches also offer a distinctive design. Some of the first metal benches appeared in New York City’s Central Park, and metal benches today resemble a similar Victorian design. During that era, walking through the park was a social event, and the park benches showed it with pride. A metal bench is great for keeping your park classy, yet inviting for all.

 

 

Recycled plastic benches

recycled plastic benches Recycled plastic benches

 

Recycled plastic park benches are great for coastal environments, which are usually very eco-friendly. Many cities now have sustainability departments dedicated to reducing the city’s carbon footprint—recycled plastic benches are perfect for these efforts. Additionally, the benches are known for their strength and durability, resistance to rotting and warping, minimal maintenance, and modern, clean look that resembles classic wooden benches.

But not all recycled park benches are created equally. Some are manufactured from cheap fillers like sawdust, wasting your eco-friendly efforts and weakening your bench. Make sure your recycled bench is made from actual, pure recycled plastic scrap. Additionally, the bench’s understructure is extremely important for maintaining quality and keeping guests comfortable. A metal understructure is the sturdiest option.

 

 

 

 

Wooden benches

Wooden benches Wooden benches

Wooden benches are a classic. They are comfortable to sit in, while providing the traditional look that matches its surroundings. As a designated spot for enjoying trees, plants, and grass, the bench feels “woodsy” and blends in with nature.

Remember Frederick Olmsted? He’s the “father of the modern park bench” that we mentioned earlier. One of Olmsted’s strongest held values was that architecture should be secondary to nature. His rustic wooden park benches blended in to draw guests’ attention to the beauty of the park, instead of distracting their gaze towards the park benches.

Unfortunately, wooden benches require a high degree of maintenance, but if you’re committed to keeping your park as natural as possible, it might be worth the extra cost and effort.

 

 

 

Concrete benches

concrete benches Concrete benches

 

Can you think of a heavier material than concrete for making park benches? Not only is concrete extremely durable, it’s also nearly impossible to steal (unless your town’s burglars have a forklift with them!). While not as comfortable as alternative materials, concrete usually provides a simple, minimalist bench for guests that doesn’t distract from the environment or block nice views. Some concrete benches can also be made from grounded glass particles so that they have a sparkle-like surface.

Besides the different types of material that make up park benches, there are also a variety of purposes for the park benches, including:

 

 

 

 

 

Aluminum benches

aluminum bench Aluminum bench

 

As the opposite to concrete, aluminum benches are very light. If your facility frequently moves its benches or needs additional temporary benches for an event, aluminum is ideal since it’s extremely easy to transport. Aluminum is also resistant to rotting or fading—that’s why you’ll see it in bleachers at stadiums across the country! If you’re not fond of the bright silver color, there are some aluminum benches that are painted to resemble wood.

 

 

Other varieties of park benches

  1. Logo benches: Park benches complete with a logo show off pride for your team or business and reinforce your branding.
    memorial bench Memorial bench
  2. Memorial benches: If you look closely, some park benches have inscriptions or plaques along the back. People frequently sponsor a bench “in memory of” loved ones. Other memorial benches are less subtle, with “Class of 2016” etched across the entire back in school colors. There is a huge variety of custom benches available for whatever designs you need.
  3. ADA benches: There are benches that meet Americans with Disabilities Act requirements or guidelines for the handicapped. Section 903 on www.ada.gov indicates the height of an ADA bench seat should be a minimum of 17 inches and a maximum of 19 inches. ADA requirements are based on total number of seats in an area or facility. However, ADA requirements do vary from state to state so check to see if there are other requirements as well. Also check with the United States Access Board for more information.
  4. Children’s benches: Kids are fantastic at climbing and falling off things. That’s why every busy public area should have benches specifically designed for children. It encourages them to use a lower and more accessible bench instead of climbing on one for adults, which can be very dangerous. Many children’s benches also have rounded corners and back panels for extra safety.
  5. buddy bench Buddy bench

    Buddy benches: Designed with schools in mind, buddy benches can be decorated colorfully with messages of inclusion. Buddy benches are designated areas for spending time with new and old friends and encouraging students to mingle. The idea was originally conceived by an elementary school student and is popular in Germany.

    Backless benches: Great for leaving your view unobstructed, while offering temporary seating for visitors on-the-go.

  6. Middle bars: The middle bars on park benches serve two purposes: first, they are an excellent spot for visitors to rest their arm or elbow. Additionally, they can also prevent guests from getting too comfortable by providing a barrier for those trying to sleep on the benches.

 

 

Not Finished Until You Choose a Finish

Once you’ve selected your materials, your job isn’t finished until you select a finish. Modern manufacturing and technology lets you select from a variety of finishes with incredible properties such as being impermeable to paint or resistant to fading from powerful UV rays. To choose yours, ask yourself the following:

  • Do I want a unique color? If yes, select either thermoplastic or powder coat finish.
  • Am I passionate about eco-friendly manufacturing? If yes, get a thermoplastic finish.
  • Do I want ultimate rust protection with a thicker coat finish? If yes, select thermoplastic finish.
  • Am I okay with some maintenance? If yes, powder coat is the way to go.

Double check that your finish is:

- Moisture, mold and mildew resistant

- Rust and corrosion resistant

- UV ray resistant

- Easy to maintain and clean

Here are the different types to choose from:

SealGuard

(This is a proprietary thermoplastic coating only available from The Park and Facilities Catalog)

  • Durable coating created by special blend of thermoplastic with color and performance enhancing additives
  • More luster than ordinary thermoplastic
  • Resistant to salt, sea, sand and sun
  • Can't be penetrated by paint and graffiti
  • Easy to clean
  • Better UV fade protection than powder coat
  • Won't peel, crack, flake or corrode. Impact resistant
  • Does not use PVCs or phthalates. BPA free
  • 7-year warranty on finish

Thermoplastic

  • Thermoplastic is thicker than powder coat
  • Durable and rugged
  • Ideal for marine areas
  • Won't fade, crack or peel
  • Repaired with heat gun
  • Eco-friendly – does not use PVCs, plasticers or phthalates
  • Available in many colors

Powder Coating

  • Dry powder coating electrostatically applied to metal
  • Harder finish than regular paint
  • Available custom colors
  • Won't rust or corrode
  • Low maintenance - easy to clean

Hardware: One Simple Rule

The hardware is the frame, screws, and necessary equipment to secure your park bench into the ground. When selecting hardware, our advice is simple: quality is key. It’s the one thing keeping your bench secure and your guests off of the ground.  You don’t want bolts that will rust or corrode. Stainless steel is always an excellent selection for long-lasting, quality hardware, but no matter what you select, remember that quality counts.

Adopt-a-Bench Programs That Work

If your budget is thin, how can you still add more benches and improve your park? One idea is to implement an adopt-a-bench program.

We mentioned memorial benches earlier, but there are plenty of others reasons that guests might want to adopt-a-bench. Just wander through Central Park, which has one of the best Adopt-a-Bench programs in the country. Messages on those benches range from “Daydreamers Welcome” to “If we get in a fight you can sleep here.” They are funny, sad, sweet, and every other emotion in between.

More than 4,100 benches have been adopted in Central Park, and several spots in the park are sold out. That’s saying quite a bit since the benches aren’t cheap—they currently run $10,000 and up.

While that price may be a little steep for your facility, find a price that people are willing to pay while still keeping it at a high value ($1,000-$3,000 seems to be the average for most parks). Market your adopt-a-bench program as a meaningful gift with a lasting impact. For optimal response, set up an online payment system to allow your guests to adopt a bench from the comfort of their own home.

A few of our favorite adopt-a-bench programs at parks and botanical gardens include:

  • City of Portland: includes an interactive map with green dots where adoptable benches are located. This encourages engagement as your guests find the dots that are close to their home and at their local parks.
  • Town of Wolfeboro, New Hampshire: Wolfeboro makes it clear that its adopt-a-bench program is focused on replacing aging wooden benches with composite material contoured benches along a path in the downtown part of the city. This emphasis encourages residents to consider donating to chip in for their town’s renovations.

Super Simple Installation

bench installation options Bench installation options - Surface, In-ground or Portable

Most benches are easy to install with three basic options - surface, in-ground and portable. In-ground requires the most work as the bench frame must be sunk into concrete. Portable does not have any mounting so the bench can be moved to different locations on the property.

Location, Location, Location!

After going through all of this work and research to find and install the perfect park bench, if you put it in the wrong place then chances are it will go unused. Real estate agents always say what matters most is “Location, Location Location!” and the same motto definitely applies here. Remember the following when selecting a park bench location:

Steel strap metal bench Steel strap metal bench
  • Shade is key. No one likes sitting and sweating, so make sure you map out the large trees in your facility and place the benches where they will get shade at the hottest time of day.
  • Keep it clean and safe. Keep trash receptacles, restrooms, and cigarette receptacles nearby to keep your benches clean and comfortable. Additionally, have some extra space between the bench and the road in downtown areas.
  • Consider the view. Relaxing on a bench overlooking a green field with a mountain view in the background is much easier than overlooking a dumpster. Visit the spot where you might install the bench and ask yourself, “Would I want to stare at this?”
  • Remember convenience. Think of the tired jogger on a path. Or the parent who wants to just sit for two minutes while their child plays on the playground. Or the dog owner at the dog park. Park benches provide a place for people from all walks of life to relax, but only if they are placed correctly. Keep your guests’ needs in mind and install strategically. For example, placing the benches along the perimeter of your dog park, facing in towards the park is the ideal spot for your dog owners to relax.

Preventing and Cleaning Graffiti

It’s a sad truth, but vandalism happens everywhere. Park benches are a key spot for graffiti, but some material types are cleaned easier than others. For example, when someone etches their initials into a wooden bench, it requires sanding and refinishing the bench to clear away the graffiti.

Other benches are more difficult to write on in the first place. Recycled plastic benches, along with powder-coated and thermoplastic benches, are all tougher for vandals to leave their mark on. But if graffiti does make its way onto your park bench, these materials are easier to clean, paint, or refinish than most other types of benches. If graffiti is major a concern at your location, there are coatings that essentially repel paint and can address that specific issue.

Stop Damage with Skate Stoppers

Skate stoppers for benches Skate stoppers for benches

 

Avoid damage with skate stoppers. When skateboarders use your park benches as a skate park by grinding and doing other tricks on the bench, it isn’t just dangerous for the skaters and those passing by—it can also damage your bench with chips, scratches, and breaks. The Juneau Empire reports that one park in Juneau, Alaska had more than $5,000 in damage in just one park.

Skate tricks belong at the skate park, not on a park bench. Make sure this message is clear at your park with proper signage communicating the consequences if someone breaks this rule. The city of Bristol, England also installed skateboard and skate stoppers, which are small notches that are unobtrusive to guests who sit on the benches, but will prevent skateboarding by breaking up the smooth edges of benches and ledges.

 

Summary

Remember this: park benches leave a major impact on your guests. Whether you run a shopping mall or a community park, your guests will get tired and need a place to sit. A bench that is sturdy, clean and attractive. If they can’t find one then they will leave your facility with a negative, annoyed feeling.

In contrast, clean, accessible, comfortable, and maybe even customized park benches can have a profoundly positive effect on your guests. They feel welcomed, respected, and relaxed. They will definitely come back, and probably bring their friends with them!

Modern technology for recycled and metal benches make purchasing and maintaining a park bench easier than ever. No matter which finish you select or where you place it, take a second to sit and relax on the bench outside. Everybody will agree, the right park bench can create the right experience.

Resources

The Park Catalog, “From Park Benches to Parks, Why Frederick Olmsted’s Influence Still Matters” https://www.theparkcatalog.com/blog/park-benches-olmsted/

The Park Catalog, “Park Benches in Central Park Tell Thousands of Stories” https://www.theparkcatalog.com/blog/park-benches-in-central-park/

City of Portland, Adopt-A-Bench program. https://www.portlandoregon.gov/parks/44413

Town of Wolfeboro, Adopt-A-Bench program. http://wolfeboronh.us/pages/WolfeboroNH_Recreation/adoptabench

Juneau Empire, “Skateboarders stand to lose last legal skate spot downtown” http://juneauempire.com/stories/063003/loc_skateborders.shtml#.V4hlIpMrLRZ

The Guardian, “Bristol skateboarders take on 'skatestopper' defensive architecture” https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2015/oct/07/bristol-skateboarders-skatestoppers-defensive-architecture

Americans with Disabilities Act website - www.ada.gov

United States Access Board website - https://www.access-board.gov/guidelines-and-standards/recreation-facilities/outdoor-developed-areas/background/committee-report/recreation-access-routes?highlight=WyJiZW5jaGVzIiwiYmVuY2giXQ==

About The Park Catalog

The Park and Facilities Catalog is headquartered in Boca Raton, FL. In business since 2001, the company is a national provider of commercial-grade park benches such as metal benches, recycled plastic benches, concrete benches and wooden benches. They also supply specialty outdoor benches such as memorial benches, logo benches, buddy benches (for elementary schools), backless benches, curved benches and others.

The company also supplies other outdoor site furnishings such as bicycle parking racks, picnic tables, aluminum bleachers, lockers, receptacles and other Division 10 and 12 construction items. Our thousands of clients include municipalities, parks, businesses, contractors, architects, schools, universities, multi-family communities, shopping centers and office buildings from around the country.

Contact one of our expert team members to find the appropriate park grills for your needs and location. For more information call 1-800-695-3503 or visit the website at https://www.theparkcatalog.com/benches.