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Pros & Cons: Wood Chips for Playground Surfacing

Playground with Wood ChipsPicture the playgrounds you went to the most as a kid. They were covered in mulch, right? Mulch and its cousin, wood chips, have ruled the playground world for decades — but those responsible for playground upkeep (such as elementary school administrators, daycare directors, church managers, etc.) now have innovative new playground flooring options to consider.

Let’s take a closer look at using wood chips for playgrounds to see how they measure up to their competition in terms of safety, cost, and quality. 

Safety 

Wood chips have a degree of shock absorbency. However, one reason rubber playground surfacing has risen in popularity is because of the drastic difference in critical fall height requirements. It takes a 9-inch layer of wood chips to allow a child to safely land from a 10-foot fall, according to American Standard Testing Methods (ASTM), the institution that sets industry safety standards. On the other hand, just 4.5 inches of poured-in-place rubber surfacing provides a surface on which a child can safely land from a 10-foot fall.

Other potential concerns with wood chips include:

  • They can obscure hazards, like broken glass from glass beverage containers.
  • They can develop insect or mold problems.
  • Their ability to be choked on or swallowed by young children.

It’s important to note that while wood chips meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) for playgrounds that require surfacing that lessens the impact of falls, this option does not meet ADA requirements for surfaces that allow for mobility devices, such as wheelchairs.

Cost 

Wood chips are one of the cheapest playground covering options, above only pea gravel and sand in terms of cost. 

However, it’s important to keep in mind that wood chips lose their color and texture over time, and require regular upkeep and addition of new material to continue to meet safety standards and maintain their appearance.

Quality 

Those who choose wood chips as a playground covering often cite their visual appeal: wood chips are a step up from traditional mulch, complement most landscaping, and are available in a range of colors.

Wood Chips - Stock Photo Scaled
A layout of wood chips can vary in level and density across a playground surface area.

One thing to watch out for in terms of color, however, is whether or not the manufacturer uses dyes to enhance the color of the wood. Some of the dyes made for wood chips are known to cause reactions in people with certain medical conditions.

That’s why the materials we use for our rubber surfacing products use only premium rubber made from natural materials, EPDM rubber (which helps the surface resist cracks due to severe temperatures and weather), and SBR rubber (which helps the surface stay flat and supple). 

Next Steps

Now that you’ve learned more about the basics of wood chip surfacing, you probably want to continue to vet options for the playground you’re responsible for. You can read more about the variety of playground surfacing options AdventureTURF offers, and browse our FAQs. We’ve also created a gallery where you can browse some of the awesome playground designs we’ve completed across the country. 

You probably still have questions — please feel free to contact us for answers. Again, we don’t offer to install wood chip playground surfacing (because we don’t think it’s good for kids). 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!