Playground surfacing is an important consideration when installing a playground. Safety is the number one priority, and choosing the right surface will help ensure your play area remains safe and comfortable for children. Unfortunately, there are many different options for playground surfacing, so choosing the right one for your area can be a challenge.
Importance of Playground Surfacing
With various surfaces available, from rubber mulch to poured-in-place rubber, choosing one that fits your specific needs and budget is important. But regardless of which option you choose, the importance of playground surfacing cannot be overstated.
It protects kids from serious injuries and gives parents peace of mind. So, the next time you're considering a playground renovation or installation, make sure to prioritize the surfacing for maximum safety and enjoyment.
Playground Surfacing Options: Unitary and Loose-Fill
Unitary and loose fill are the two main types of playground surfacing.
Unitary surfaces are the innovative solutions modern architects are turning to for their durability and ease of installation. Whether it's rubber tiles, artificial turf, PIP, or carpeting, these bound elements are the epitome of efficiency.
Made from recycled tires or synthetic materials, they provide an eco-friendly option and deliver a remarkable aesthetic appeal to any space. Besides, these surfaces are perfect for high-traffic areas where footfall and activities are commonplace.
From playgrounds to sports fields, these tiles and rolled products are finding their way into various settings, making them a sought-after alternative to conventional surfaces.
This is the traditional option that has been used for years. Common choices for loose-fill surfacing include sand, loose-fill rubber mulch, wood chips, and pea gravel. These loose-fill materials provide cushioning against falls and help to keep the area dry.
Loose-fill playground surfaces are often less expensive than unitary surfaces but require more maintenance and can be less durable.
Types of Unitary Surfaces
Synthetic turf has become a popular playground surface material due to its versatility and low maintenance. While it's most commonly seen in athletic fields, it's also ideal for playgrounds and indoor play areas.
With its artificial grass blades and rubber infill materials, synthetic turf creates the appearance of real grass but offers much better impact attenuation. One of the benefits of synthetic turf is that objects won't get lost in the grass, making it an accessible surface option.
However, synthetic turf is more expensive than loose-fill surfaces and may require professional installation. Additionally, static electricity can build up on the surface, but an anti-static solution can easily solve the problem.
Despite the drawbacks, synthetic turf offers a durable and long-lasting playground surface material.
Rubber tiles are also an excellent surfacing choice for playgrounds. They come in various colors and sizes, making them suitable for any theme or design. Rubber tiles are installed individually to create a seamless finish that is easy to maintain. The main benefit of rubber tiles is their shock-absorbing capabilities, reducing the risk of injury from falls.
Rubber tiles are very durable and can withstand heavy foot traffic as well as extreme weather conditions. They also provide a softer surface than concrete or asphalt, making them a comfortable option for children to play on. However, they may require professional installation and can be more expensive than other playground surfacing options.
Poured In Place (PIP)
PIP is a wonderful alternative to traditional playground surfaces, thanks to its various colors and designs that make it visually appealing for children. What's especially great about this material is its smooth surface, making it easier for kids with mobility issues to access playground equipment comfortably.
PIP also offers excellent shock absorption that can make falls less painful and dangerous. However, while this option has a few highly beneficial features, the price tag may be a turn-off for some.
Installing PIP involves skilled professionals pouring rubber on-site, which is costly. In addition, though it typically has low maintenance costs over time, its lifespan is not indefinite, and it can crack or flake after years of use or exposure to weather.
When installed correctly, this surface is a great choice for playgrounds, but the cost may make it a challenging option for small budgets.
Types of Loose-Fill Surfaces
Sand is a popular choice for outdoor surfaces because of its affordability and ease of installation. It's especially great for cushioning falls and providing soft landings for active children. However, sand can also be a mixed blessing.
It's prone to hiding sharp objects, animal waste, and other debris that can pose risks for unsuspecting kids. Furthermore, kids may be tempted to eat or throw sand, while parents may struggle to keep up with the constant maintenance requirements.
And with the potential for pests and other hidden objects, sand isn't the most accessible option for playgrounds or paths. Nonetheless, proper precautions and care can still offer a practical and enjoyable outdoor experience.
Pea gravel is a common choice for homeowners who want an inexpensive, low-maintenance option for their landscaping needs. It has several benefits, including excellent drainage and a lack of appeal to insects.
However, gravel may not be the best choice for families with young children or those who use mobility devices. Falling on pea gravel can provide some cushion, but it can also be hazardous for kids trying to eat or insert tiny stones.
Furthermore, pea gravel requires constant upkeep to keep it safe and clear of debris. Despite its drawbacks, pea gravel remains popular for its affordability and ease of installation.
Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF)
When creating a safe and accessible playground, choosing the right loose-fill material is crucial. Fortunately, EWF (engineered wood fiber) is a fantastic option for those looking for safety, affordability, and ease of installation.
Not only is EWF all-natural, and it knits together to make a smooth, accessible surface that absorbs impact easily. And, compared to unitary surfaces, it is much more affordable.
While EWF requires regular maintenance, especially in high-use areas, it's a small price to pay for the peace of mind of knowing that children are playing on a safe, sturdy surface. Just keep it at the right depth and ensure the location offers proper drainage for longevity.
Things to Consider When Selecting the Right Surface for Your Playground
- Maintenance Requirements
Consider these factors carefully when selecting the right surface for your playground. Then, choose something that will offer a safe, accessible, and enjoyable environment for kids of all abilities.
What Are Some Questions to Consider When Selecting the Right Playground Surface?
- What kind of environment will the playground be in?
- How much use will it receive?
- Is the surface safe for frequent use by children, particularly those with disabilities?
- How durable is the surfacing material, and can it withstand regular wear and tear?
- Is there a risk of the surface becoming slippery when wet?
- Is installation of the surface easy and cost-effective?
- What kind of maintenance is required to keep it looking good?
- What are the long-term costs associated with upkeep and repairs, if any?
- Are there extended warranties or guarantees offered by manufacturers for this product?
Considering these questions, you can decide which playground surface is best for your particular needs.
Trust the Playground Experts'
At Park N Play Design, we take play seriously. With our innovative and proven playground solutions, we have the expertise to help you find the perfect playground surface for your unique needs.
Our dedicated team of knowledgeable professionals is well-equipped to create safe, accessible, and awe-inspiring playground designs that fulfill all your expectations. With us, you'll discover the ultimate playground solution that meets your goals and gives your children a safe, fun-filled space to play for years to come.
Contact us today to bring your vision to life!