When designing a playground, there are several considerations that must be made to ensure kids and visitors of all abilities can safely play. Beyond selecting equipment that will meet critical fall heights and other safety requirements, a playground needs to have the right surface material underneath it all. The type of surfacing you choose will depend on a number of factors, such as your location, budget, and the specific needs of your space.
Generally speaking, safety surface for playgrounds will be soft and cushioned to protect against falls. It should also be durable, non-slip, and able to withstand heavy wear and tear. Additionally, accessible surfacing should be available for kids or visitors who use wheelchairs or other mobility devices. In terms of the materials used to create a safe playground surface, there are many options available.
The most popular option is poured in place rubber, which is also considered an inclusive surface that can be customized for each playground. The solid rubber is poured over a sub-base and allowed to cure, creating a high-quality, cushioned surface that’s perfect for kids. This surfacing is also resistant to abrasion, which makes it a good choice for outdoor playgrounds.
Another popular option for inclusive playground surfacing is rubber tiles. These interlocking squares come in a variety of colors and thicknesses to match the overall look of your space. They’re often installed with a contrasting color pattern that can help visitors who are blind or deaf to easily navigate the surface. Rubber tile also requires low maintenance, which is typically limited to removing dirt between the tiles on a regular basis.
Poured in place rubber is a great choice for high-impact areas such as the area in front of slides and swings. The industry standard for the impact attenuation of these surfaces is two times the distance from the center of a pivot point, meaning the surfacing should extend six feet in front of a slide and 14 feet in all directions around swings.
Loose-fill surfacing is often a less expensive choice, but it requires consistent monitoring and frequent refills. Some loose-fill surfacing options, such as engineered wood fiber or rubber mulch, can attract bugs and need to be regularly raked to prevent insect buildup. Other products, such as bonded rubber, can be more costly but require less maintenance.
When selecting a safe playground surface, it’s important to partner with a reputable supplier who can help you evaluate your space and recommend the most suitable materials based on your budget and use requirements. They’ll also be able to make sure the chosen material meets the impact attenuation standards set by the industry and is installed by a factory-certified installer. A reputable surfacing provider will also be able to answer any questions you might have about maintenance.