In This Article You Will Learn...
Bounce Houses in UtahBounce houses are undoubtedly one of the most popular inflatables rented in Utah (or pretty much anywhere else for that matter). On a summer day you will see dozens of them all along the Wasatch front. There are many reasons why they’re so popular: they are big, colorful, and they appeal to a fairly large audience—besides, who doesn’t like to bounce?
The Many Names for Bounce Houses
When set up and monitored properly, bounce houses are very safe. Unlike trampolines, which crater wherever a person is bouncing, a bounce house remains much more stable. When smaller children are bouncing with bigger kids, this is especially important to help keep them from slamming into each other when bouncing. Further, there are no springs to catch a foot or metal frames to break a bone. Bounce houses are just one big soft pillow; its soft, cushy surface helping to protect children when they fall or run into a wall.
Should I Rent?
Depending on your personal preference, you can buy or rent an inflatable bouncer. Obviously, we believe renting is the clear option, but for those who are still trying to decide we have provided a guide to Renting vs Buying a Bounce House. It should help you consider the different factors involved in the decision.
Bounce House Safety
Although we talk a lot more about safety in our Guide to Inflatable Safety, it is important that we hit on the basics here. No matter how much fun everyone is having, when someone gets hurt all of the fun stops. If used properly, it is really hard to get injured on a bounce house. When used improperly…well, anything can happen. Let’s go over a few things that will help protect both the people bouncing and the bounce house.
The first and most important rule for using a bounce house is for adult supervision. Watch the kids. If it doesn’t look right, don’t let them do it.
- No Flips. Ever.
- No food or drink on the bounce house unless you want to pay to have it cleaned, which means your rental price just went up by at least 50%.
- No silly string. Nasty stuff that eats away vinyl and is really hard to get off.
- No face paint. Just as nasty, especially once it bonds to the vinyl.
- Don’t hang on the netting, it is super expensive. As we mentioned above, it was put there to allow the air to blow through and cool things off, and to keep kids from bouncing off of the unit. What it was not intended for is children trying to see how far they could lean out of the unit. Eventually the netting will rip, and when it does, you will be faced with a very hefty repair cost.
- Don’t hang on the basketball hoops (or try to climb through them—yes, this is a popular pastime if you aren’t watching). If they tear off of the pillar, you get to buy us a new unit.
- No shoes. They mark up the vinyl.
- No glasses, jewelry, or anything that might cut the vinyl.
- No preexisting health conditions. Bouncing generally doesn’t help things heal.
Bounce Houses and the Wind
Whenever you have a bounce house running, it is very important to watch the weather, especially for wind. Bounce houses are extremely light compared to the surface area they present to the wind, so they act like a huge sail. And like a ship’s sail they can generate a pretty strong force. That force is easily strong enough to lift a bounce house off the ground, along with any children that are in it.
Always make sure that the bounce house is anchored properly. The best anchors are large steel stakes at least 18” long. The stakes should be driven straight into the ground. If you drive the stakes at an angle, they are much easier for the wind to pull them out. Sandbags are also acceptable as long as they weigh enough. Most bounce houses have four anchor points, one on each corner, make sure that each anchor point is anchored in some way.
Generally, bounce houses can only handle wind up to about 20 miles per hour (the exact rating can be found on a tag at the entrance to the bouncer). Be aware of changing weather factors. For example, homes built near the mouths of American Fork or Provo Canyons often get evening winds during the summer. In Spanish Fork these winds are so strong they have built a windmill farm there. Exposed areas such as the foothills around Bluffdale and Herriman can also get a lot of wind.
If the wind gets too high, turn the bounce house off! When the wind dies down (in Utah it normally takes about twenty minutes for our weather to change), you can turn the bounce house back on and it should be up in a minute. Be safe. It isn’t worth taking a chance just for an extra few minutes of play.
What to Do If a Bounce House Loses Air
If your bounce house suddenly starts to lose air, you will need to act quickly. First get all of the children to exit the inflatable immediately, if they do not respond to verbal commands, remove them physically. When a bounce house loses pressure not only will it lose its bounciness, but the top structure of bounce house may collapse onto the children. This can be a little scary for children stuck inside. Young children who are busy playing may not even realize that the bouncy house is losing air, which is one of the reasons adult supervision is important at all times.
Once all of the children have been removed from the bounce house, it is time to start looking for the reason it deflated. Our Inflatable Safety Guide will help walk you through the steps you need to take next.
Where Did Bounce Houses Start?
Back in 1959, one of NASA’s mechanical engineers named John Scurlock was experimenting in Shreveport, LA with some inflatable covers that he was designing for the US Government.
Looking to spend a little more time with his family, he brought his boys along to the project. Before long, he noticed that they were laughing and jumping on the air bubbles that formed when some large tarps were folded. Scurlock took the idea and ran with it.
The first bouncer was basically a large inflatable pad that had no top or sides. It was similar to the big air cushions used by fire departments when someone jumps out of a window, or by stunt men on movie sets. Both of those were, In fact, John Scurlock’s ideas as well.
In the 1960’s the race to go to the moon was all the rage and everything was named either “Astro-“ or “Space-“ something. So, Spurlock leased a warehouse in New Orleans and started a manufacturing company called Space Walk. In 1966 his wife Frances started the first inflatable rental company with the same name. During the same time, a few students in England copied Spurlock’s idea and used it to make a little extra money, but as they were copying the idea, they couldn’t also copy the name. Inspired by Neil Armstrong’s exaggerated steps on the moon, the young Brits called their units Moon Houses.
Soon a huge problem arose because it was rather easy to bounce your way off of a bouncy house. Spurlock decided to add some sides and an inflatable top to his Space Walk in1967. It was a good idea for safety, but since the sides were made out of the same material as the base the jumper got really hot, especially during summers in the deep south. In 1974 John Scurlock’s son, Frank, redesigned the units, adding the columns and netting that most people recognize today. These changes allowed the air to flow freely through the inflatable and made them much more popular.
Bounce Houses Today
Bouncy Houses have come a long way since those early days. Technologies have advanced in design, manufacturing and materials, so that the bounce houses you see in Utah don’t have any of the issues that used to plague the old moon walks.
Today’s inflatable companies design everything on computers. Computer aided design (CAD) allows design teams to be incredibly creative when turning an idea into a unit. When CAD is coupled with computer-aided manufacturing (CAM), the process becomes seamless and units that used to take weeks to finish can now be done in hours. CAD/CAM has also allowed designers to push the limits of what is possible and make bigger, bouncier bounce houses.
Bounce House Materials
Like everything else, the materials that are used to make a bounce house today are much different than those of even a few years ago. They are lighter, stronger and more durable than anything used before.
The first moon jumps used metal fans to expand the inflatable trampolines. These fans were heavy, noisy and had sharp corners that could cut the early jumpers. Since then, metal fans have been replaced with extruded thermoplastic blowers that are much lighter and quieter. Because they are made of plastic, they are also more resistant to the weather and much safer to use in environments that may have water present (Water Slides, anyone?).
Today’s bounce houses have utilized technical advances in plastics to create new, lighter vinyl composites. A bouncy house you rent today may only weigh half of what a bouncer from ten years ago might have weighed, making them much easier to handle and maintain. This is extremely important considering that some of the larger inflatables weigh over a ton even while using the newer materials.
UV rays attack the chemical bonds in the vinyl, causing them to break. As the bonds break, it causes the vinyl used in the inflatable to fade and wear out more quickly. Modern vinyl is treated to be UV resistant, helping the bounce house to last much longer. Because vinyl and other plastics can burn, a good quality bounce house will also come with fire retardant chemicals blowers added to the vinyl.
Probably the most important developments in bounce house construction have been improvements to their durability. Gone are the days when almost anything could puncture the fabric, and stray rocks and sticks often did just that. Modern textiles have resulted in tougher and more durable cores for the vinyl, which has been enhanced by improvements to the vinyl materials applied to these cores. The result has been the development of new, tougher materials that are much more resistant to abrasion.
Further advances in the vinyl have enabled bounce house manufacturers to customize the surface texture of the vinyl. A rougher, grippier surface is used in areas when people climb, like entryways. A smoother, more slippery surface is used for areas where children slide.
These new materials have been coupled with better joining techniques. Back when John Scurlock started making bounce houses, he did it much like old sail makers used to make sails; he would lay out huge sections of vinyl tarp, trace a pattern for the different panels of the inflatable, cut the pieces out, and then start sewing. Although the sewing machines he used were heavy duty, they were nothing compared to the sewing machines used today.
Modern stitching machines are driven by computers, which assist the operator as they stitch the panels together, this results in straighter lines and no manufacturing mistakes, all at a lower price. Modern stitches are also stronger, using a heavier thread that is better designed to hold up to the rigors of a bounce house. And modern sewing machines are able to sew three perfectly spaced rows of stitches at once, saving an enormous amount of time. All of this has allowed modern designers to add significantly more reinforcements in weak areas than old designs. While old moon jumps would have reinforcements too, the extra manual labor meant that they were much more expensive, so they were used more conservatively.
Because it is so much cheaper now to sew and make changes, designers can add extra features and designs to make more attractive bounce houses, all while still keeping the price reasonable. The integration of inflating side walls, slides, small obstacle courses and even basketball hoops weren’t a possibility in the old days.
When needed, inflatable manufacturers are also able to use a new heat-sealing technique on their unit. These machines essentially melt one vinyl panel into another, welding them together. This type of seam is perfect for areas that might be exposed to water, as they are completely waterproof. Water is very hard on stitching as it softens the fibers, making them more susceptible to abrasion, Further, unless the inflatable is completely dried (which normally takes several days), moisture can lead the thread to mildew, causing it to rot away.
Basic Bounce House Care
Whether you rent or buy
a bouncy house, you should understand how to properly maintain an inflatable. Maintenance is fast and easy, but it should be done every time your bounce house is used. If you rent, most of these steps are performed by the rental company (at least Fun Day Night does), but some, like sweeping out grass, are still your responsibility. If you plan to purchase a bounce house, these steps will help your bouncer last longer.
The Perfect Location for a Bounce House
Like many things, choosing the right spot for your bounce house is important. A good location will help to keep a bounce house clean and free from damage. You can get a complete list of the things to look for in our Inflatable Safety Guide, but basically you need to find a spot that is level and free of rocks, sticks and any animal droppings. Sticks and rocks can rub holes in the bottom, and no one wants to deal with cleaning off animal droppings.
Ideally you want a location on grass, but make sure that when the bounce house is inflated that the tops and sides aren’t touching anything. As the children bounce, the bouncer will move back and forth. If the bounce house is touching something, like a tree branch, this friction will quickly wear a hole.
Clean the Bounce House
As children use the bouncy house, they will have a tendency to track in dirt and grass. You’ll need to sweep out any grass or dirt that accumulates in the main bounce area. Some people use a vacuum to clean up, but we have found that a slightly dampened (to help control the static) towel is one of the easiest ways to do it. Well, besides getting the kids to help.
Once you’ve swept or vacuumed the bounce area, get rid of stubborn dirt spots by scrubbing them with soapy water and a soft brush. Not cleaning dirt spots can lead to stains. It is best not to use any cleaning chemicals. Leave that for us, if needed.
Sanitize the Bouncy House
After using the bounce house, make sure that it is sanitized before the next use. This will prevent the bounce house from becoming a germ asylum. A variety of sanitizing fluids are available, but some could damage the inflatable’s materials. We use sanitizers intended for use on the materials used in bounce houses. Sanitizing is a relatively simple process. You simply spray the entire unit, especially in the corners, and let it set until it dries. If there is lots of excess in a spot, wipe it off with a cloth. Sanitizers need a little time to work, so don’t wipe them off too soon.
Dry Bouncer Completely Before Storage
Any time water comes into contact with any kind of inflatable, you have to make sure that it is completely dry before putting it away; absolutely, completely, Sahara Desert, bone dry. Once rolled up, it only takes a few days for a little moisture to turn into mold and mildew. If any leaves were rolled up inside the bounce house, the water will cause the leaves to rot as well. The warmer the location where the bounce house is stored, the faster that mold and mildew will develop. Needless to say, the heat from Utah summers can destroy a bounce house stored in a garage in a matter of days.
Mold and mildew can quickly ruin a bouncy house that is otherwise in great shape. As mold and mildew start, they create an unpleasant smell. As the mold and mildew progress they can stain and even rot the materials used to make the bounce house. The thread used in the stitching is especially susceptible because of the way it absorbs the moisture.
Leaving the bounce house inflated helps to speed up the drying process dramatically. Inflating the bounce house exposes the surfaces so they dry faster, as well as forcing air through the seams to help dry the thread more quickly.
Great Game Ideas for Bounce Houses
Bouncer Basketball: This is an easy one as most bounce houses come with basketball hoops built into them. Just get a basketball and put it inside the jumper. You can set rules if you need to, but most kids just figure it out
Bounce House Dodgeball: Just add a few small balls to the bounce house and let the kids jump around. If they are tagged by one of the balls as they and the balls bounce around, they are out.
Moon Balloon: Add two balloons of different colors to the bounce house. The children have to keep their balloon from touching the floor of the bounce house. Whoever is able to keep it up in the air the longest wins.
Tag: Well, it’s just tag with a lot of bounce in its step.
Crack the Egg: One child rolls up in a ball on the floor of the bounce house as the “egg”. The other children bounce around them until they uncurl and thus “crack”.