Playgrounds are such an important aspect of your child’s life. Whether on school grounds, in your backyard, or centered in your community for the public, playgrounds are designed strategically for the purpose of child development. Every aspect has a purpose to help grow kids physically, cognitively, and socially. If you are in the process of installing or remodelling a playground, choosing the surface material is just as important as every other aspect of the structure. With several options for material available, you will want to assess your specific needs, budget, and durability in order to make the right choice for your playground.
Things to Consider
When you are choosing the surface top for your playground, there are a couple of factors that you will want to consider in the process.
Safety – First and foremost, when it comes to the kids, meeting safety criteria is of the utmost importance. Regardless of the materials chosen, following the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Handbook on playground safety is a great place to start. This handbook lays out requirements for the surface and gives guideline dimensions for specific area like the “use” or “fall” zones. Following these guidelines is crucial not only in the children’s safety, but for liability as well.
Budget – Like any other facet of life, your project budget is going to play a big role in the material you choose for your playground surface. However, you should also consider your maintenance budget as well, as some materials are meant to last longer thus requiring less time, attention, and finances in the future.
Accessibility – This is an especially crucial factor if you are building a commercial or public playground. In order to provide equal access, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that you meet accessibility standards set up by law. The Accessible Play Areas Guide can help you be sure that your playground is accessible to children with disabilities so that everyone in your community can share in the benefits of the playground together!
Popular Material Choices
Poured in Place Rubber – Poured-in-Place (PIP) rubber is a highly sought after playground surface for many reasons. On top of providing a lot of accessibility ease for those with disabilities, PIP surfaces have other practical benefits as well. While loose fill surfaces have to regularly be added to and adjusted, Poured-in-Place rubber is installed as a unitary surface and remains compacted in place over time. Not only is cleaning and upkeep made easy, but PIP surfaces have an aesthetic advantage as well! While this is surface is among the pricier options, the durability and accessibility tend to be the biggest selling points.
Engineered Wood Fiber – Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF) is a popular playground surface because while it remains one of the most affordable options, it can still meet that ADA standard. One trade off on the price is that EWF, like all loose filled surfaces, has to be raked regularly and topped off on occasion in order to maintain the quality and to avoid decomposition. The installation is also much simpler than that of a PIP surface as well.
Synthetic Turf – Synthetic turf gives your playground a grass like appearance without the inconveniences of natural grass. Supported with a rubber or foam based foundation, kids have an extra layer of padding to fall onto during play time. Easy to maintain and easily accessible to all, synthetic turf offers long term benefits as an investment. Like the PIP option, synthetic turf also has to be professionally installed and typically runs on the higher end of the playground budget.