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Pros & Cons: Using Sand as a Playground Surface

Sand has been a universal element in playgrounds and parks for decades. There are many exciting activities people associate with sand, from constructing sandcastles to leaping around with friends. In recent years, the safety of sand as a playground surface has been called into question. Is sand a really safe option for a playground? Can you use other surface options in place of sand? While we prefer poured-in-place rubber for playgrounds or rubber playground tiles, we still want to provide you with all the information you need to make a decision. We prepared a thorough review of sand for playground surfaces, examining the pros and the cons.

Playground Sand

Sand playgrounds may bring back memories, but should sand be used for playgrounds?

Playground sand brings a natural esthetic often associated with fond childhood memories. It’s smooth and soft to the touch. We all have a general sense of what sand is (a loose granular substance or sediment, generally pale yellow or brown). It’s typically produced by the erosion or weathering of rocks and minerals. The composition of sand can vary based on local rock sources and conditions, making a range of colors like pale yellow, brown, white, black, green, and even pink. Commonly found blanketing beaches, riverbeds, deserts, and playgrounds, not all sand should be used as playground sand (read on to learn more).


Safety and Accessibility of Sand as a Playground Surface

Pros:

  • Sand is deemed an appropriate surface for playgrounds by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) and the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) if you have enough depth. How deep does the sand need to be? It really comes down to fall height requirements and the thickness of the sand. CPSC says that sand should be 9 inches deep for a fall height of 4 feet.
  • With safety in mind, manufacturers of playground sand submit the sand to various measures to protect children’s welfare. First, they wash the playground sand to remove unwanted debris, bacteria, or other minerals.
  • The sand is also water pressurized to round out and smoothen any larger, sharp particles. Then it’s submitted to a sieve analysis to evaluate and assess particle size distribution.
  • Sand doesn’t easily support microbial growth, making one less thing to worry about.
Playground Sand Safety
Playground sand has to be deep enough in order to cushion falls. The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says that sand should be 9 inches deep for a fall height of 4 feet.

Cons:

  • Sand is one of the less effective materials regarding impact absorption.
  • You’ll need more of it to achieve safety requirements. To ensure sand offers proper fall protection for children, the National Safety Council (NSC) recommends maintaining a 12-inch depth in areas where equipment requires a six-foot drop or fall zone. The NSC and CPSC (as mentioned above) requires a 9-inch depth in areas with a four-foot fall height. That’s a lot of sand.
  • Sand also doesn’t meet the Americans with Disabilities Act’s accessibility standards, so you can’t use sand to have an ADA playground.
  • It can be difficult for people with disabilities to navigate, particularly wheelchairs.
  • One of the biggest dangers of sand if you’re not careful about what type of sand you choose for your playground is the possible presence of asbestos and silica. Silica can cause asthma and inflammation of the lungs, where asbestos fibers can cause cancer. The play sand you select should be thoroughly tested by manufacturers. According to the Healthy Schools Network, “The sand used in children’s playground sand boxes may not be natural beach or river sand. Many times play sand is made of crushed rock or crystalline silica. The silica is made from quartz stone and is a known carcinogen. Tremolite, a form of asbestos, another recognized carcinogen, can also be found in some brands of play sand. Dust from play sand can contain these hazardous substances, and weathering and repeated use will lead to further separation of the fibers, producing more asbestos dust.” (as stated in this PDF).

Cost of Sand as Playground Flooring

Sand is a relatively inexpensive option up front, however it does require ongoing replacement and refill costs.

Pros:

  • Sand is one of the cheapest options for playground surfaces.
  • Sand typically costs $1.50 to $3.00 per square foot and you can usually find bulk play sand available at a local hardware store or landscaping company.
  • At $2.00 per square foot, a 2,500 square foot playground could cost about $5,000 for sand.
  • Hiring a professional installer will be an added cost, but it should take less than a full day to install the sand. While you can opt to install it yourself, you don’t get the work guarantee that comes with a pro.

Cons:

  • The lifetime cost of sand can start to add up.
  • You’ll need to replace the sand once a year, especially in high-traffic areas.
  • If you want to keep your playground sand clean and play-ready, expect to pay to refill at least 25% of the sand each year, or about $1,250 or more for a 2,500 square foot playground.

Quality and Maintenance of Sand as a Playground Surface

Foreign objects, weeds, bugs, and other misc sharp objects can make sand difficult to maintain for playgrounds.

Pros:

  • Unfortunately, when it comes to outdoor playground flooring, the quality and maintenance of sand don’t contain very many positives other than to say that it can be cheap to replace.

Cons:

  • Sand can be pretty challenging to maintain.
  • It attracts animal waste and insects.
  • Grass and weeds can start growing through it, especially on less-used areas of the playground.
  • Sand is also messy and easily tracked indoors on clothes, hair, and shoes.
  • You should replace the sand every year or more frequently if necessary.
  • As kids play in the sand, it can move around significantly, meaning you need to smooth it out on a regular basis.
  • Plus, you never know when you’re going to find something harmful buried in the sand. Therefore, you should rake the sand weekly into a level uniform surface at a depth of 12 inches and inspect it for (and remove) foreign objects like rocks and twigs.
  • If the area you live in is often dry or windy, you may want to rethink sand. Nobody enjoys dust and sand particles blowing in their eyes.
  • In cold or wet weather, sand tends to compact into an unsafe, more solid surface.
  • Not all playground sand is created equal. Particular sand can contain harmful materials, making it extremely important to select sand explicitly made for playgrounds.

Installation Sand for Playground Flooring

To keep sand in your playground area, you’ll need a fixed border installed.

Pros:

  • One significant positive to sand is that it’s relatively easy to install.
  • You can easily find sand at your local hardware store. Look for Minus 30 play sand, as it’s thoroughly tested and rated for safety.
  • When it comes to site prep sand is one of the more straightforward surfacing options to install.
  • As with most playground installations, ensure the area is level and even, free from rocks and debris, and deep enough to accommodate the fall depth, at least 12 inches in the case of sand.
  • As with most loose-fill surfacing options, you’ll need a retention area or fixed border to keep the sand in place.
  • A sub-grade of about 3 inches of loose-fill pea gravel may also be necessary for drainage.

Cons:

  • Wash plaster sand, commonly used in mason projects, maybe okay for private school or residential playgrounds with minor usage. However, it’s not the best option for a heavily used playground.

Alternatives to Sand for Playgrounds

Playground flooring is an important factor for children’s safety when playing on the equipment, making surfacing material one of the most crucial playground construction factors. While sand might be right for your new or existing playground, it’s not the only surfacing option out there. Consider poured-in-place rubber surfacing or rubber playground tiles for a comfortable, soft cushion for playing and an ADA-compliant option for your playground.

Contact adventureTURF today for premium poured-in-place surfacing designed made to keep your playground safe, fun, and enjoyable for all.

With so many different qualities and characteristics to consider, choosing a playground surface can be bewildering. That’s why we’ve created an ultimate guide of all the pros and cons of 11 of the most popular playground surfaces, from wood chips to recycled rubber mulch.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sand typically costs $1.50 to $3.00 per square foot. At $2.00 per square foot, a 2,500 square foot playground could cost about $5,000 for sand. See more pricing details here.

Sand is deemed an appropriate surface for playgrounds by the American Society of Testing and Materials if you layer the sand to a depth of about 12 inches however, there are various pros and cons of sand safety. To ensure sand offers proper fall protection for children, the National Safety Council (NSC) recommends maintaining a 12-inch depth in areas where equipment requires a six-foot drop or fall zone.

Sometimes they do, but it’s typically not recommended. Why? Because sand is a loose granular substance, it can be dusty and get all over kids clothes. Not all playground sand is created equal. Why? Because sand is produced by the erosion or weathering of rocks and minerals, the composition of sand can vary based on local rock sources and conditions. That means both the texture (how rough or smooth the sand is) and color can vary. For example, you can find sand in a range of colors like pale yellow, brown, white, black, green, and even pink. Should you use it for your playground? See some pros and cons here.

The lifespan of sand as a surface option is fairly short due to numerous maintenance needs. You should replace the sand every year or, depending on the amount of use and weather conditions, more frequently. You should rake the sand weekly into a level uniform surface at a depth of 12 inches and frequently inspect it for (and remove) foreign objects like rocks and twigs.

Pros & Cons: Natural Grass or Dirt for Playground Surfaces

Should You Choose Natural Surface for Your Playground?

It may seem like the ground surface options for your playground area are endless, with options ranging from natural grass and dirt to poured-in place (PIP) rubber. Each option has its own maintenance needs, expected longevity, accessibility ratings, and installation requirements. Naturally, we think your best option is poured-in-place surfacing. Still, we also place great value in making a well-informed decision. That’s why we created this thorough review of natural grass, examining the pros and the cons.

Natural Grass Playground Surface
Natural Grass Playground Surface

Natural Grass or Dirt for Playground Surfacing

Note that in this post, we’re not talking about artificial grass for playgrounds. Natural grass (example: rolls of sod) and playground dirt are exactly what you imagine them to be. Now you might be wondering why someone would use grass for a playground or dirt. Sometimes it comes down to cost or whether it’s for a backyard or school playground.

What type of grass is used for playgrounds? In addition to artificial grass, two of the most popular options are spreading grass seed or using pre-grown sod (it’s grown by farmers and then cut in rows and sold as rolls of sod). Other than parking lots/driveways, most space around buildings is already made up of natural grass, so the easiest option is to not care about playground ground cover at all. But is that the best option?

Safety and Accessibility of Natural Grass for Playgrounds

Pros:

  • Using natural grass and dirt has a significant benefit of cooler and softer surfaces. Natural grass reduces heat island effects in urban and suburban areas, which some other playground surface types can cause.
  • Certain artificial surfaces can reach temperatures 50-60 degrees above natural grass. Its lower temperatures lead to less risk of skin burns or other injuries often associated with harder, chemical-based playing surfaces.
  • Playground ground surfaces with natural turf or grass can also serve as a buffer to their communities. The grass can act as a filter to trap harmful pollutants in its dense root system and capture contaminants before they end up in groundwater systems.
natural grass and dirt below playground swings
Natural grass can quickly turn into worn-out dirt, which turns to mud.

Cons:

  • The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says that dirt and grass are “inappropriate surfacing” types for playgrounds.
  • While grass looks nice at first, it quickly becomes worn out and can have uneven spots, increasing the risk of tripping.
  • Natural grass may be soft enough for a picnic, but it’s not ideal for landing when you jump from a swing. Playground grass doesn’t provide as much impact absorption compared to other surfaces, meaning children can get seriously injured if they fall. You can’t manipulate the thickness or add underlayment to meet fall height safety regulations with natural grass.
  • Takes longer to dry than most artificial surfaces. The kiddos will have to wait until the puddled water dries up before playing.
  • ASTM, the American Society for Testing and Materials, has even considered marking natural grass as unsafe for playgrounds.
  • Some studies state well-maintained grass with about six inches of subsoil may be a suitable surface for falls up to six feet. However, dry or freezing weather will make the surface significantly harder, negatively affecting the impact level.
  • Playground grass also isn’t easy on wheelchairs, unlike other surfaces such as playground rubber tiles. The high friction surface of grass requires a lot of effort to push, making it less than ideal for an Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, accessible playground.
  • It’s also prone to pests and can be a haven for allergy-causing weeds and bacterial buildup.

Cost of Natural Grass for Playground Flooring

Pros:

  • The best part about natural grass is that it won’t cost much to repair. As long as you replace grass in smaller patches, it’ll cost $0.50 per square foot for seed or $2 per square foot for sod (though to get that price for sod, you’ll likely have to buy more than 1 square foot).
  • If you need to replace the whole playground area, check out the installation’s total cost below. Your playground grass can also earn you LEED points for heat island reduction.
Cost of Natural Grass & Playground Dirt
Keep in mind that you need to look at the ongoing maintenance cost, in addition to the initial installation cost of natural grass/playground dirt.

Cons:

  • Before you install your grass, you’ll need to consider irrigation. An irrigation system or sprinkler system can cost an average of $2 per square foot, equating to $2,000 for 1,000 square feet of grass.
  • While easier to install since sod is pre-grown, the sod comes with a higher price tag, starting at $3.50 per square foot with a professional installer. A 1,000 square foot residential playground grass area with sod installation could cost $3,500 or $5,500 with irrigation.
  • In comparison, a commercial playground area of 5,000 square feet with natural grass or sod could cost $17,500 or $27,000 with irrigation. The more affordable option of seeding natural grass will cost about $0.05 per square foot if you do it yourself, or $50 for a 1,000 square foot area.
  • You’ll need to thoroughly water the seed for the first eight weeks for it to grow correctly, creating an additional cost for irrigation.

Quality and Maintenance of Grass Playground Surfaces

Pros:

  • Natural grass is very heat tolerant, with it often 50 to 60 degrees cooler than surrounding artificial surfaces.
  • It initially looks very aesthetically-pleasing.
  • When it comes to repairing problem areas in your playground grass, in most cases, you can fill in bare spots with seed, or in the case of St. Augustine grass, you can add sod or plugs.
  • There may be more benefits to natural grass and soil in the future due to ongoing research to create improved grass types, called cultivars, for playgrounds and public parks.
Browning spots on natural grass surface
Natural grass stays cooler in the sun, but weather conditions can often damage its lifespan.

Cons:

  • Natural grass is one of the highest maintenance options when it comes to playground surfaces. Expect to blow or rake leaves off the grass in the fall and mow the grass weekly.
  • Other maintenance tasks may include: mowing, edging, fertilizing, weeding, watering, and more. If you’re using playground dirt, you’ll have to refill it quite often compared to some other playground surface types (like poured rubber surfacing or rubber tiles).
  • Depending on the weather conditions and use, grass can die, scorch, or become muddy.
  • No grass is frost resistant, but whether frost harms your grass or not depends on the grass species. Some grasses can handle frost better than others.
  • Natural grass can also be a drain on fossil fuels, often requiring fertilizers, pesticides to avoid weed growth, as well as fuel to mow the grass.
Natural Grass Playgrounds Typically Have Dirt Patches
Natural grass playgrounds easily can turn into dirt patches.

Installation of Natural Grass and Playground Soil Surfacing

 Pros:

  • Natural grass is sometimes already in the area where you’re building the new playground.
  • You can plant natural grass by seeding the area or laying down sod.
  • You can easily plant grass seeds yourself but bring in a professional if you choose sod over grass seed.
  • You can find sod and grass seed at any hardware store, or if you prefer, you can call your favorite landscape professionals.
Natural grass and dirt as playground flooring
Natural grass can handle very light foot traffic, but upon installation, it looks great!

Cons:

  • Installation is not as simple as it first appears. Done properly, both natural grass and playground soil should have proper irrigation and ground prep.
    • First, consider installing a new irrigation system and drainage to avoid mud. From there, the steps are about the same for seed and sod installation. Remove stones, roots, and other debris to create a smooth surface.
    • Next, rake the surface until it falls below the desired grade and then install edging. Add a good topsoil base, grade the surface, and add lime for a more alkaline pH.
    • Finally, you can lay rows of sod or spread the seed over the prepared area. For seed, you’ll need to rake the soil to ensure the seed comes in contact with the ground and topdress with a layer of straw to aid germination. For both seed and sod, water three times a day for the first two weeks. Sod will need some starter fertilizer to ensure the grass has the proper nutrients. Using seed will require you to stay off the surface for the first two months until roots are thoroughly established.
  • The installation process will likely take a day or two, mainly doing the site prep, but it all depends on the size of your playground surface.

Alternative Playground Surfaces

Even though natural grass is aesthetically pleasing, it’s typically not the best for commercial playground surfacing. When it comes to ensuring the children on your playground have a safe place to play, you want to be sure the surfacing is a top priority. The surface should provide a comfortable, soft cushion to walk on and, when installed correctly, should be compliant with ADA standards for handicap accessible playgrounds.

Looking for an alternative? Get a free quote today for premium poured-in-place rubber surfacing or rubber playground tiles made to keep your playground safe, fun, and enjoyable for everyone.

With so many different qualities and characteristics to consider, choosing a playground surface can be bewildering. That’s why we’ve created an ultimate guide of all the pros and cons of 11 of the most popular playground surfaces, from wood chips to recycled rubber mulch.

FAQs About Using Natural Grass/Dirt for Playgrounds

There’s multiple reasons why we don’t recommend using natural grass or playground soil, including not having the cushion that artificial playground surfaces can have.

Additionally, the American Society for Testing and Materials, has considered marking natural grass as unsafe for playgrounds.

See more safety pros & cons »

Short answer: a lot. Natural grass is one of the highest maintenance playground surfacing options, even though it might appear to be the cheapest upfront cost. Not to mention that if you don’t replace the grass, the worn out patches will simply be dirt and turn into mud when it rains or snows.

See more maintenance pros & cons »

Installing natural grass as playground surfacing:

  • Plant grass seed and wait.
  • Buy pre-grown grass rolls (sod rolls).

Installing playground dirt/soil:

  • Buy bags of it from a hardware store. You’ll probably need to have it delivered. You’ll then need to spread it out over the playground area.
  • Pay a laborer to install it for you.

Pros & Cons: Bonded Rubber Mulch for Playground Surfacing

Bonded rubber mulch (sometimes called bonded rubber bark or resin bound rubber mulch) looks like traditional wood chips (such as landscaping mulch). But upon closer inspection, you’ll quickly realize that it’s different.

What is bonded rubber mulch? Bonded rubber mulch is an artificial playground surface made of shredded pieces of rubber that are stuck together to form a unitary surface. In other words, this playground surfacing option isn’t loose pieces of rubber mulch or wood mulch. They’re compressed and appear to be “glued” together (which is why it’s sometimes called “resin bound rubber mulch”).

Bonded Rubber Mulch for Playgrounds
Bonded Rubber Mulch playground flooring looks like traditional wood mulch, but is stuck together so that individual pieces can’t be moved

Is Bonded Rubber Mulch the Best Option for Playground Flooring?

Bonded rubber is a popular choice for playgrounds and other recreational surfaces. It provides a comfortable, soft cushion to walk, run, or play on, and complies with ADA standards (PDF) for handicap accessible playgrounds. People who choose this option report the benefits of using it are that it’s easy to customize and the safety of bonded rubber compared to other mulched materials is superior.

But we all know that “popular” doesn’t make something “better.” So, let’s take a closer look at the factors to take into account when you’re considering installing a bonded rubber playground surface.


Safety of Bonded Rubber for Playgrounds

One of the basic and most important considerations for a playground is critical fall height requirements for the surface, which have to do with shock absorbency.

Bonded Rubber Bark is ADA-Compliant
Bonded Rubber Bark is ADA-compliant

Pros:

  • Depending on the exact product used, bonded rubber mulch can require 6 inches of material to better protect a child from a 10-foot fall, according to American Standard Testing Methods (ASTM), the institution tasked by the federal government with setting industry safety standards.
  • In terms of both safety and accessibility by those with disabilities, because it’s a unitary surface, bonded rubber is a better playground flooring choice than common loose fill materials (such as shredded rubber mulch, wood chips, sand, engineered wood fiber, pea gravel, or dirt/grass).
  • Like poured-in-place rubber or tiled rubber playground flooring, debris (such as litter, sticks, etc) is unlikely to get buried in the material.

Cons:

  • Pieces can become loose (think “unglued”).
  • Typically only a single layer of surfacing.

TIP: Bonded rubber is surpassed in safety by poured-in-place rubber flooring, which is the most shock absorbent of available playground surfacing materials, in addition to allowing for the most mobility by kids who need physical aids (like wheelchairs, walkers, scooters, etc).

Cost of Bonded Rubber Mulch Playgrounds
To determine how much an installation of bonded rubber mulch will cost, you’ll need to know the fall height requirements for the equipment on your playground

Cost of Bonded Rubber Mulch Playground Surfacing

Pros:

  • Depending on fall height requirements (depth of surfacing needed), color choices, the condition of the existing surface, location, and a few other factors, the cost of covering a playground 1,000 sq. ft. or larger with bonded rubber mulch can range from $8 to $14 per sq. ft. installed.

Cons:

  • You can expect bonded rubber mulch to last about 10 years before needing to replace it. However, it usually requires intermittent patching up. To ensure the surface continues to meet critical fall height requirements, you may find you need to replace sections of the bound rubber mulch material sooner than what is recommended — especially if the playground is located in an area that does not allow for adequate drainage.

Quality of Bonded Rubber Mulch Playground Flooring

Quality of Bonded Rubber Mulch Playgrounds
How long does bonded rubber mulch last before it needs to be replaced?

Pros:

  • Many manufacturers of bonded rubber mulch guarantee that it is made with safe materials that are free of contaminants and chemicals that could irritate sensitive skin.
  • Bonded rubber mulch comes in a variety of colors that make for an aesthetically pleasing playground or recreational area.

Cons:

TIP: If you choose bonded rubber mulch for your playground, find an installer who uses only premium rubber materials, like EPDM, SBR, and natural materials. You’ll want to know it’s guaranteed to be free of wire, wood, and other contaminants.

Installation of Bonded Rubber Mulch for Playgrounds

Pros:

  • Bonded rubber mulch is on the easier-installation end of playground surfacing choices.
  • Quick for professionals to install. Depending on the size of the playground, professional installers are typically able to complete it in about one day.

Cons:

  • Surface preparation for bonded rubber mulch installers can increase the time (and cost) of the installation.
  • Installation isn’t a once-and-done type of thing. Bonded rubber mulch needs maintenance in order to maintain its safety qualities. If you do not maintain the specific installation depth on a playground, children who fall are at risk of serious injury.
Playground Fun
Kids love slides… especially those with a comfortable landing area

Next Steps

You’ll want to also consider factors such as climate in your area, budget, product availability, and location constraints.

Bonded rubber playground mulch (which we don’t install) isn’t the only rubber playground surfacing option! For larger playgrounds (at schools, parks, daycare centers, and other public playgrounds), we recommend considering a different uniform rubber surface (like poured-in-place rubber or rubber playground tiles). The reason we only install those is because we honestly believe they’re some of the best surfacing options for your playground.

Again, we don’t bonded rubber playground surfacing (because we don’t think it’s the best option for kids or parents). You probably still have questions — contact adventureTURF for answers! We’d love to help you design the safest, most accessible playground surface possible! If you’re ready to take the next steps to choosing the right type of playground surfacing for your situation, reach out to us to request a free quote (for poured rubber or rubber tile playground surfacing). We’d love to help you create a place for adventure!

With so many different qualities and characteristics to consider, choosing a playground surface can be bewildering. That’s why we’ve created an ultimate guide of all the pros and cons of 11 of the most popular playground surfaces, from wood chips to recycled rubber mulch.

FAQ

The cost of covering a playground 1,000 sq. ft. or larger with bonded rubber mulch can range from $8 to $14 per sq. ft. installed.

Learn More

Bonded rubber mulch can require 6 inches of material to better protect a child from a 10-foot fall, according to American Standard Testing Methods (ASTM). Pieces can often become loose, and typically a single layer of surfacing is used.

Learn More

Bonded rubber mulch is quick for professionals to install. Depending on the size of the playground, professional installers are typically able to complete it in about one day. However, installation isn’t a once-and-done type of thing. Bonded rubber mulch needs maintenance in order to maintain its safety qualities.

Learn More

Pros & Cons: Rubber Mulch for Playground Surfacing

When playground administrators have chosen to install loose-fill material, they often find themselves comparing either rubber mulch (also called shredded rubber mulch, tire mulch, rubber nuggets, rubber pellets, recycled rubber mulch, rubber chips, or loose fill rubber), wood chips (such as landscape mulch), or engineered wood fiber mulch (EWF). All of those are considered loose-fill materials. On the other hand, unitary playground surfaces are all connected (ex. poured-in-place (PIP) playground flooring, rubber playground tiles, bonded rubber mulch).

Rubber Mulch is Popular, But is it the Best Option for Playground Flooring?

Recycled Tire Mulch for Playgrounds
Playground rubber mulch (also known as tire mulch or shredded rubber mulch)

Today’s playgrounds look much different than they did even a decade ago. The drive to make playgrounds safer and accessible to children with special needs has led to significant developments in the technology used to manufacture the materials that go into making playgrounds. Playground flooring, in particular, has undergone significant improvements. If they’re not already, playgrounds with asphalt or concrete surfacing will become extinct because they simply don’t make sense anymore. There are plenty of newer, safer, and cost-effective materials to choose from.

So, is rubber mulch a good option for playground surfacing? It’s certainly popular. But we all know that “popular” doesn’t always mean “best”. Let’s examine the pros and cons of using rubber mulch for playground flooring. Whether you’re installing a brand new playground or resurfacing an existing one, you’re probably wondering about these four topics:


Safety of Rubber Mulch Playground Flooring

One of the basic and most important considerations in playground safety is how its surfacing impacts its critical fall height requirements, which have to do with shock absorbency. The regulations surrounding fall height take into account the vertical distance between the highest-designated play surface on a piece of equipment, and the playground surface beneath it (see this PDF: Public Playground Safety Handbook from the Consumer Product Safety Commission for more details). These requirements come from American Standard Testing Methods (ASTM), the institution tasked by the federal government with setting industry safety standards.

Pros:

  • If using the right type of rubber mulch and installed in a proper manner, rubber mulch can be able to provide an adequate degree of protection to children, meeting acceptable ASTM standards. From the Consumer Product Safety Commission: “There are also rubber mulch products that are designed specifically for use as playground surfacing. Make sure they have been tested to and comply with ASTM F1292.” (source)
  • Experts agree that rubber materials make for the safest playground surfaces.
  • In addition, most manufacturers of rubber mulch utilize safe materials that are mostly free of wire, fiber, plastic, wood, and other undesirable contaminants.
Shredded Rubber Mulch for Playgrounds
Sticks, leafs, stones, and sharp objects can become buried in playground rubber mulch

Cons:

  • It’s easy for litter, debris, and foreign objects to become buried in the mulch, posing a potential safety hazard. The CPSC warns that “Recycled tire rubber mulch products should be inspected before installation to ensure that all metal has been removed.”
  • When in direct sunlight, the surface can get hot.
  • Ask anyone using a wheelchair, walker, scooter, etc and they’ll tell you it’s tough (if not impossible) to get around on tire mulch. So if you’re looking for an accessible playground flooring option that doesn’t cause mobility issues for those with disabilities, you should probably consider something like rubber tiles or poured rubber.
  • You’ll also need to spend time keeping an eye out for insects building homes in the mulch.

Cost of Rubber Mulch as a Playground Surface

Pros:

  • Rubber mulch is in the lower-middle price range of playground surfacing. Installation of rubber mulch playground surfacing varies per square foot, based on factors such as how large the playground is, if you’re outsourcing the installation, product availability in your area, and where you’re buying it from. Your best bet is to shop around online and decide whether you’ll install it yourself or pay someone else to install it. You can expect rubber mulch to have a slightly higher up-front cost than wood mulch, because of the better quality of its materials.

Cons:

  • Amount of surfacing needed. Because of fall-height requirements, rubber mulch requires 6 inches of material to protect a child from a 10-foot fall. Compare that to a poured rubber surface, which only needs 4.5 inches of material to allow a child to safely land from a 10-foot fall.
  • After the initial installment, loose fill materials like shredded rubber, are on the more expensive end of maintenance requirements. Rubber tire playground mulch must be replenished regularly due to the nature of the material. Over time, this type of material is prone to being washed away during storms, and kicked out of the playground by busy feet and other types of activity.
Kid Swinging on Rubber Mulch Playground
Rubber surfacing is good for cushioning falls.

Quality of Rubber Mulch Playground Flooring

Pros:

  • You can expect rubber mulch to last about 10 years before needing to do a comprehensive replacement of the material. (That being said, you’ll have to top off the rubber playground mulch during that time, which can add up.)
  • It’s not biodegradable and does not decompose like natural wood.

Cons:

  • It’s dusty. There’s no way around this. If you or your kids have played on a playground with shredded/recycled tire surfacing, you know how gross you feel after using it.
  • With a loose fill material like shredded/recycled rubber mulch that can wash away, you may find you need to replace or replenish it sooner than what is recommended. That’s particularly the case if the playground is located in an area that does not allow for adequate rainwater drainage.

Installation of Rubber Mulch Playground Flooring

Pros:

  • Loose fill materials are generally easily transported and installed, and the same is the case for tire mulch. While we recommend installation by a professional in any scenario, those on a strict budget may be able to research installation instructions to be able to complete it themselves. You can buy rubber mulch at various places online, as well as at some hardware or lawn/garden stores.

Cons:

  • As mentioned above, the depth of the material needs to be carefully monitored and immediately replenished when it falls under the accepted safety level.
  • You can’t be as creative with designs as you can with other surfacing types, such as poured-in-place rubber, which allows for playground games to be built directly into the surface.
Playground Surfacing
There’s lots of playground surfacing options. We recommend poured-in-place rubber or rubber playground tiles.

Next Steps

There are pros and cons to every playground surface type. You’ll want to also consider factors such as climate in your area, budget, product availability, and location constraints.

Loose-fill rubber playground mulch (which we don’t install) isn’t the only rubber playground surfacing option. For larger playgrounds (at schools, parks, daycare centers, and other public playgrounds), we recommend considering a uniform rubber surface like poured-in-place rubber or rubber playground tiles. The reason we only install those options is because we honestly believe they’re some of the best surfacing options for your playground.

Again, we don’t install rubber tire chip playground surfacing (because we don’t think it’s the best option for kids or parents). You probably still have questions — contact adventureTURF for answers! We’d love to help you design the safest, most accessible playground surface possible! If you’re ready to take the next steps to choosing the right type of playground surfacing for your situation, reach out to us to request a free quote (for poured rubber or rubber tile playground surfacing). We’d love to help you create a place for adventure!

With so many different qualities and characteristics to consider, choosing a playground surface can be bewildering. That’s why we’ve created an ultimate guide of all the pros and cons of 11 of the most popular playground surfaces, from wood chips to recycled rubber mulch.

FAQ

Rubber mulch is in the lower-middle price range of playground surfacing. Installation of rubber mulch playground surfacing varies per square foot, based on factors such as how large the playground is if you’re outsourcing the installation, product availability in your area, and where you’re buying it from.

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Depending on the installation, rubber mulch can provide an adequate degree of protection to children, meeting acceptable ASTM standards.

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We recommend installation by a professional in any scenario, those on a strict budget may be able to research installation instructions to be able to complete it themselves. You can buy rubber mulch at various places online, as well as at some hardware or lawn/garden stores.

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adventureTURF Announces Partnership with Rainbow Child Care Center

Rainbow Child Care Center has contracted adventureTURF to install poured in place surface on all playgrounds at each of 7 new child care center sites

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Rainbow Child Care Canters | Playground Surfaces | adventureTURF(Milwaukee, WI) Rainbow Child Care Center has recently contracted the services of adventureTURF to install poured in place surfaces on playgrounds at each of the seven new child care center sites they have opened. The surfaces are planned to be installed on the each of the center’s play areas for children age two to five and children age six to 12.

“With the poured in place surface, the play areas will be accessible to children of all abilities and ensure everyone can enjoy and play on the equipment. Our product ensures total accessibility and all safety standards and critical fall heights are met,” stated adventureTURF company president Mike Dallmann. “We are excited to be helping Rainbow Child Care make their facilities even more safe and child-friendly and to keep their costs down.”

There are three playground surface areas being installed in Madison, WI, one in Milwaukee, WI and one in each location in Minnesota, Indiana, and Ohio. The installations are set to be complete by July 30th of 2017.

“Rainbow Child Care Center originally opened in 1986 in Hillsborough, New Jersey and we are excited to be helping this trusted name in child care to update their facilities and help children of all abilities enjoy time outdoors,” continued Dallmann. “Our company, adventureTURF has been installing these safety surfaces for years and we have an experienced crew that handles every aspect of the design and installation process.

At https://www.adventureturf.com/ potential customers can learn about the rubber playground surface installation services offered, as well as the American Recycling poured in place surfacing material used for this project. In fact, it is the manufacturer that recommended the services of adventureTURF directly to the Rainbow Child Care facilities. The expert installation crew at adventureTURF has the ability to travel to the sites across the Midwest for this project. This reduces costs for Rainbow Child Care while ensuring superior results are achieved.

ABOUT ADVENTURETURFadventureTURF | Playground and Safety Surfacing Installation

adventureTURF is a turnkey playground and safety surfacing company that offers customers a number of surfacing options including poured in place and pre-fabricated rubber tile systems. The primary focus of the adventureTURF crew is to install the safest surface possible for both children and adults to work and play. We do this by using only the highest quality playground surfacing material available on the market today. Whether customers need rubber surfacing on a community playground, pool deck surface or rubber safety flooring, the team at adventureTURF can design and install a quality recreation area that fits a customer’s needs and their budget.

Media Contact
Mike Dallmann
Kenosha, WI 53142
Email
Phone: 414-587-8873
https://www.adventureturf.com/