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How much does a poured rubber playground cost?

Poured Rubber Playground Surface Cost | Custom Poured Rubber Playground Design
Playground Rubber Surface

Safety surfaces are great for play areas, but what does a poured rubber playground cost in 2022?

That’s the question we’re answering here. First, we’ll look at poured rubber safety surfaces in general by tackling some frequently asked questions around poured rubber playground cost per square foot. Second, we’ll give you an overview of some of the key features to look for when choosing a rubber surface installer. Finally, we’ll tell you how to start planning for your poured rubber playground.

Rubber safety surfaces are popping up all over Schools playgrounds, daycare centers, recreation facilities, and even places like pool decks, dog parks, theme parks, water parks, and senior centers. Rubberized surfaces (also called “wet pour rubber” or “bonded rubber stone”) are popular for good reason—they are durable, low-maintenance, long-lasting, comfortable to walk on (almost a spongy-like surface), and safe (meets critical fall height requirements as described by ASTM F-1292). Most of our customers don’t need convincing that poured rubber surfacing for playgrounds is a better option than wood chips or recycled tire mulch, but what they want to know is how much will it cost?

Poured Rubber Playground Cost (per Square Foot)

What makes poured-in-place rubber playground surfacing (also called rubber playground turf)  and rubber playground tiles an excellent choice for work and play areas of all sizes is the amount of material and depth of the surface can be completely customized. Each project estimate is based on the exact amount of surface material needed for each project, no matter the size. Depending on fall height requirements, color choices (there’s a wide variety of colors to choose from), the condition of the existing surface, location and a few other factors, the cost of your poured rubber surface for playgrounds 1000 sq. ft. or larger can range from $8 to $14 per sq. ft. installed. For smaller playgrounds, the cost per square foot can be more due to the minimum amount of raw material required and can be cost-prohibitive as compared to using rubber playground tilesGenerally, for wet poured rubber flooring, you will want your surface area to be at least 1000 sq. ft. or more. Less for rubber tiles.  

Need a Poured Rubber Playground? We can install it for you (anywhere in the USA).

Average Rubber Flooring Per Square Foot

Average Cost $8
High Cost $11
Low Cost $14

TIP: Be Careful When Choosing a Rubber Surface Installer

Poured-in-Place (PIP) Rubber Playground Surfacing Installation

When deciding who should install the rubber surfacing (which feels kind of like soft rubber foam granules that are stuck together), you should know that a good poured in place surface installer will work with you early in your planning stages to help you determine things like the following details:

  • What materials will work best for your specific play area or safety flooring area (ex. is recycled rubber, okay to use?)
  • What safety features and fall heights (including any ADA requirements) you will need to adhere to.
  • What kind of budget you’ll need to plan for.
  • How to save money on the project.

We recognize that every playground or safety surfacing project we do ultimately comes down to cost for our customers. At adventureTURF, we want you to have the best and safest poured rubber play surface—one that fits with your budget. So, even if you are in the early stages of researching playground surfacing options, contact us. We’re happy to help with ideas, give you options to consider, help you figure out prices, and even help design the best-poured rubber surface for your exact situation.

Planning For Your Poured Rubber Playground

Designing the optimal poured rubber playground surfacing for a property is something that takes careful planning by a team of experts, There are playgrounds designed for aesthetics, and playgrounds designed for fun. In some cases, there are playgrounds designed from a legal standpoint and still others that place a heavy emphasis on safety. AdventureTurf’s team of playground designers can assist you with all of your rubber surface option needs.

If you aren’t sure about what kind of surface (ground cover/play matting) you would like to use for your commercial playground flooring, you may be interested in reading more about Playground SafetyWood chips, and Proper Playground Maintenance. Poured-in-place rubber is a soft playground surface, yet it’s long-lasting (so you get your money’s worth).

If you are further along in your planning stages and need a free quote for your playground surfacing or other safety surface project, great! We can help with that too.

Use our handy Get a Quote form to tell us about your project and we’ll put together a quote just for you.

Installation of Poured Rubber Playground Flooring
Mixing of Poured Rubber Playground Flooring

Frequently Asked Questions

Depending on fall height requirements, color choices (there’s a wide variety of colors to choose from), the condition of the existing surface, location and a few other factors, the cost of your poured rubber surface for playgrounds 1000 sq. ft. or larger can range from $8 to $14 per sq. ft. installed.

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The cost per square foot can be less than poured rubber flooring due to premade cuts of rubber playground tiles.

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Poured rubber flooring and rubber playground tiles are the safest surface for children and adults alike. Beyond durability, and consistency, rubber flooring ensures that falls end up on a forgiving, shock-absorbent surface. Each poured rubber flooring installation is built to safely handle maximum fall height possible at the site without serious injury.

They are durable and will not change their shape or size when they get wet. You don’t need to be concerned about how thick they become because they remain thin enough for children to play safely without any issues. Rubber makes an ideal durable, resilient surface suitable for running and playing but soft enough to cushion against falls.

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What Are the Pros and Cons of Playground Surfacing and Flooring Materials?

The world of playground surfacing options can be vast and complex. You want playground surfacing that does it all: meets safety requirements, fits your budget, and requires low maintenance. Plus, your playground project has its own unique needs and priorities. The question remains: what flooring material is suitable for your playground project? We’ve created an ultimate guide of all the pros and cons of 11 of the most popular playground surfaces.

  1. Pavement
  2. Pea Gravel
  3. Sand
  4. Natural Grass and Soil
  5. Artificial Grass
  6. Bonded Rubber Mulch
  7. Rubber Mulch
  8. Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF)
  9. Wood Chips
  10. Poured Rubber Surfacing
  11. Rubber Tiles

1. Pavement

Pavement Pros and Cons

Pros: The best part about concrete and asphalt pavement surfaces are that they are American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant for ramps and flooring. It is cheaper than other surfacing options and can last 30-50 years without being entirely replaced. While you can DIY a pavement surface installation, it’s best to leave this project to the professionals.

Cons: A significant factor in hard pavement surfaces is the complete lack of shock absorbency, which doesn’t meet American Standard Testing Methods (ASTM) guidelines for fall height. Extra details and stains add to its cost, but pavement can get expensive to repair. Expect costly and complicated repairs of frequent cracks and splits caused by fluctuations in temperatures.

2. Pea Gravel

Pea Gravel Pros and Cons

Pros: At depths of nine inches, pea gravel can sufficiently reduce the impact of a fall from playground equipment and meets ASTM standards for impact attenuation. This relatively low-cost loose-fill material is easy to install by yourself and relatively easy to rake stones back into place.

Cons: Unfortunately, pea gravel only protects falls from up to five feet. Plus, it doesn’t meet ADA safety standards due to its constant shifting underfoot. Did we mention pea gravel is high maintenance, requiring endless raking as kids play on the surface? You will need to replace this non-shock absorbing surface almost every few years as it breaks down into stone dust.

3. Sand

Sand Pros and Cons

Pros: Decades of use in playgrounds designate sand as an appropriate playground surface by ASTM when spread 9 inches deep for a fall height of 4 feet. Sand is one of the cheapest playground surfacing options out there, and it’s easy to find and install. Better yet, it doesn’t support microbial growth. Be sure to buy sand graded for use in playgrounds as it’s rounded to smooth out any large, sharp particles.

Cons: Despite its ubiquity in playgrounds, sand has limited impact absorption and compacts to create an unsafe solid surface over time. Sand doesn’t meet ADA accessibility standards. It’s challenging for wheelchairs or disabled folks to navigate. Let’s not forget about the likelihood of finding animal waste, insects, or weeds in the sand, or, even worse, asbestos and silica in the sand. Not only do you need more sand to achieve a 12-inch depth for a six-foot fall zone, but you also need to replace 25% every year and commit to weekly rankings to keep it safe. 

4. Natural Grass and Soil

Natrual Grass Pros and Cons

Pros: Using natural grass and soil for a playground surface can be aesthetically pleasing and bring natural benefits. The low temperature of natural grass reduces heat island effects. Its root system filters out harmful pollutants before they enter local groundwater systems. Natural grass is also cheap to repair or fill in bare spots.

Cons: The downside to grass? It won’t be green for long. It quickly wears, especially in extreme weather, creating unsafe muddy or uneven bare spots. Speaking of risk, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and ASTM report natural grass and dirt as an inappropriate surfacing for playgrounds. In addition, its high-friction surface makes it difficult for wheelchairs to navigate. While inexpensive to install, the cost of natural grass maintenance can quickly add up. It requires expensive irrigation systems and daily maintenance like blowing leaves, mowing, fertilizing, weeding, and more.

5. Artificial Grass

Artificial Grass Pros and Cons

ProsArtificial grass or synthetic turf achieves a high level of protection and shock absorption compared to natural grass. When installed with proper padding and infill, it becomes ADA compliant and meets ASTM standards. Plus, artificial grass looks natural and comes in various colors and styles. It has both a low lifetime cost and is highly durable.

Cons: A disadvantage to artificial grass is the need for additional padding or underlayment. It can also be very costly to install due to materials, essential ground preparation, irrigation needs, and professional installation requirements. Artificial grass also requires weekly maintenance to avoid dust, sand, and leaves. 

6. Bonded Rubber Mulch

Bonded Rubber Mulch Pros and Cons

Pros: The unitary surface of bonded rubber mulch makes it relatively safe and accessible according to ASTM standards, protecting kids from a 10-foot fall if using 6 inches of materials. While its moderate cost can vary based on project scope, bonded rubber mulch is quick and easy to install for professionals. It is made from safe materials free of chemicals and is available in a variety of colors.

Cons: Pieces of the bonded rubber mulch can become loose or unbonded, creating safety issues and degrading the material. The material lasts ten years but requires intermittent patching and maintenance to meet safety guidelines and significant site preparation. Expect to go without stenciled games or designs if you opt for bonded rubber mulch.

7. Rubber Mulch

Rubber Mulch Pros and Cons

Pros: When you correctly install rubber mulch, you can meet acceptable ASTM safety standards. Rubber mulch is one of the safer playground surfaces. It gets extra points for its low-mid price range, ease of installation, and inability to decompose like natural wood mulch. 

Cons: While rubber mulch is a safe surface, it can be difficult for those using a wheelchair or walker to get around. Rubber tire mulch requires frequent inspection. It’s easy for sharp objects, litter, or debris to get buried in the mulch. Plus, rubber mulch requires near-constant replenishment because it is easily washed away or kicked out from frequent activity.

8. Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF)

Pros: The popular surfacing option of engineered wood fiber mulch meets the basic accessibility standards of the ADA. In addition, if tested to ASTM F1292 standards, CPSC names it an appropriate surfacing type. EWF is cheap to install and doesn’t easily splinter like wood chips.

Cons: EWF may be popular, but it does have downsides. For children to safely land from a 10-foot fall, you’ll need a lot of it, a layer of EWF that is 9 inches deep, to be exact. While disabled people can move around on the surface, it’s not navigable with ease. EWF also requires significant maintenance, much like other loose-fill materials, as it wears away or gets kicked around.

9. Wood Chips

Engineered Wood Fiber Pros and Cons

Pros: When it comes to loose-fill surfacing options, wood chips are visually pleasing and cheaper at $3 per square foot and have a degree of shock absorbency. According to ASTM, wood chips meet the critical fall height requirement. Safe landings can be made from 10 feet when using a 9-inch layer of wood chips.

Cons: CPSC calls wood chip mulch an inappropriate surfacing type. Plus, it doesn’t meet ADA requirements for surfaces. Much like other loose-fill materials, it requires much upkeep to prevent severe injuries and keep it looking nice. Watch out for hazards like glass, insects, mold, or splinters if you decide to use wood chips.

10. Poured Rubber Surfacing

Pured Rubber Surfacing Pros and Cons

Pros: Want safe and accessible play for those with physical limitations? Poured rubber surfacing passes both ADA compliance and ASTM standards with flying colors. Made from natural materials and easily customized with color and designs, poured rubber surfacing is durable, soft, and can’t splinter. It can last up to 15 years with regular maintenance, coatings, or a new top layer in high-traffic areas.

Cons: In extremely dry or cold climates, poured rubber surfacing can become hard over time. Every few years, you’ll need to ensure you top it off with a fresh layer, which is a relatively simple process. In comparison, it’s not the cheapest playground surfacing option. However, the longevity of the material and its minimal maintenance create a low lifetime cost.

11. Rubber Tiles

Rubber Tiles Pros and Cons

Pros: If you’re planning an inclusive playground, rubber tiles are ADA compliant and meet ASTM standards. With rubber tiles, you’ll also enjoy low maintenance and low lifetime cost. Thanks to an interlocking system that creates smooth seams, you can easily swap old tiles and install new ones. Rubber tiles come in various colors and boast a porous surface, giving them excellent non-slip qualities in wet environments.

Cons: While the upfront costs are higher, in the long run, rubber tiles are a cheaper option when it comes to low maintenance, especially when you compare them to loose-fill surfacing options. Be sure to hire a professional with the right tools and experience to avoid unnecessary tripping hazards.

Choose The Right Playground Surfacing Material

Each playground project has its priorities, making the playground surface options unique to each project. However, now that you have a better understanding of all the playground surface options available, you can make an educated decision. Contact adventureTURF today for high-quality rubber surfacing material crafted to keep your playground safe, fun, and comfortable for everyone.

Pros & Cons: Pavement (Asphalt/Cement) for Playground Surfacing

Are you considering pavement as a playground surfacing option? Playgrounds are designed to be safe and fun for children to play on, and a significant factor in a playground’s safety is the surface you build it on. Of course, you need a stable surface to support the play structures, but does that mean you can use concrete or asphalt for your outdoor playground’s flooring?

Read on for everything you need to know about blacktop and cement playgrounds.

What is Pavement for Playground Flooring?

Asphalt is a mixture of dark bituminous pitch and sand or gravel
Asphalt is a mixture of dark bituminous pitch and sand or gravel.

Pavement is a common term for outdoor flooring that is often used interchangeably with asphalt or concrete. Asphalt is a mixture of dark bituminous pitch and sand or gravel. Concrete is a material made from a mix of stone, sand, cement, and water spread or poured to form a stone-like mass.

Sometimes stones like flagstone or cobblestone, bricks, tiles, or concrete pavers are used as pavement. You can easily stencil games, shapes, or logos on this type of surface, adding to its versatility. Often you’ll find pavement used on sidewalks, road surfaces, patios, courtyards, and sometimes playgrounds.


Safety of Pavement as a Playground Surface

Pros:

  • While concrete and asphalt playground pavement surfaces are ADA compliant for ramps and flooring, it might be better to use them sparingly under structures.
  • If you’re determined to use playground pavement, opt for a playspace with a tactical experience, adding textures like rumble strips or undulations to concrete or asphalt surfaces.
  • Children with special needs, in particular, can benefit from play that stimulates their sense of touch.
Concrete does not meet ASTM standards for fall height for playground flooring.
Concrete does not meet ASTM standards for fall height for playground flooring.

Cons:

  • Concrete has almost no shock absorbency, nor does it meet ASTM standards for fall height. Without these critical safety endorsements, concrete is unsafe for use directly under play structures.
  • The bottom line is you don’t want kids falling from tall playground equipment onto a hard surface like concrete or asphalt pavement. A severe head injury can occur due to a fall from the equipment.
  • Wear and weather can also create cracks in the surface, possibly causing a child to trip and fall. Using this type of surfacing is dangerous.

Cost of Pavement for Playground Flooring

Pros:

  • Asphalt or concrete pavement for playground surfaces is significantly cheaper than other surfacing options.
  • Asphalt can cost $2 to $4 per square foot, although these prices fluctuate with crude oil prices. Concrete can cost $4 to $6 per square foot.
Pavement on playground surface with cracks
The average cost of pavement can increase price up to $15 per square foot.

Cons:

  • If you’re looking for additional finishes, details, and stains, the cost of pavement can increase price up to $15 per square foot, costing nearly $30,000 to install a 2,000 square foot playground surface.
  • Concrete crack repairs are complicated and much pricier than asphalt, although it’s near impossible to resurface concrete.
  • Concrete slab repairs alone can cost $50 for a small crack and up to $500 to $800 to mudjack or raise and stabilize sinking or cracked uneven surface.
  • A sealing coat for asphalt can cost $.14 to $.25 per square foot, costing about $280 to $500 for a 2,000 square foot playground. Sealing asphalt should be done every three to five years.
  • Generally, it costs $1 to $3 per linear for filling small cracks in asphalt. The repair cost can range between $100 to $125, but it depends on the severity of the damages and the labor required.

Quality and maintenance of Pavement for Playground Surfacing

Pros:

  • Concrete is more durable than asphalt pavement, offering up to 50 years of use, whereas asphalt offers about 30 years of service.
  • As for maintenance, concrete requires occasional degreasing. However, if installed correctly with proper site preparation, you shouldn’t have issues with drainage.
Four square painting on pavement surface
Concrete is more durable than asphalt pavement, however repairs are harder and pricier than asphalt repairs

Cons:

  • While concrete is more durable, concrete repairs are harder and pricier than asphalt repairs.
  • Asphalt will need occasional resurfacing and resealing every five years, but you can avoid expensive repairs with proper maintenance.
  • Over time, concrete and asphalt surfaces can crack or split, causing tripping hazards. These cracks or splits become a haven for weeds. It would be best if you patched the gaps in the surface as soon as possible to extend the life of the paved area.
  • Concrete can crack from constant freezing and thawing in cold weather, while rock salt will eat away at the asphalt.
  • Hot temperatures can create a mess with asphalt, causing it to soften, stick to shoes, clothing, and wheelchair tires.

Installation of Pavement Playground Surfacing

Pros:

  • It’s easy to find concrete material at your local home improvement store. However, it’s best to hire professionals to do the work with a big job like this.
Concrete pavement surfacing installation
It’s best to hire professionals for concrete pavement surfacing installation

Cons:

  • Leave asphalt and concrete pavement surfacing to the professionals. There’s too much that can go wrong, and it’s well worth working with a team of professionals to tackle this type of playground surfacing.
  • Asphalt and concrete pavement require similar site prep as other surfacing options: demolition and removal of existing surface and then grading and sloping for drainage.
  • The installation process for both surfacing options can get tricky.
  • With asphalt, you need an additional compacted sub-base to serve as a frost barrier and provide durability. Next, you lay a binder layer mixed with oil.
  • Finally, the asphalt is added and later rolled smooth. For concrete pavement, you’ll need ready-mixed concrete via truck for such a big job. Suppose you don’t correctly install and grade the base surface. In that case, you could have to demo the entire surface in a year after it cracks and begins the process over again.

Alternatives to Concrete for Playground

If you’re planning your playground flooring, our professionals are ready to get the job done right and with suitable surfacing. So why not try something safe like poured-in-place rubber surfacing material?

Soon enough, kids will safely enjoy a new or improved playground at school or a public park. Contact adventureTURF today for high-quality rubber surfacing material crafted to keep your playground safe, fun, and comfortable 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.

FAQ

Asphalt can cost $2 to $4 per square foot, although these prices fluctuate with crude oil prices. Concrete can cost $4 to $6 per square foot.

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Often you’ll find pavement used on sidewalks, road surfaces, patios, courtyards, and sometimes playgrounds.

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Asphalt and concrete pavement require similar site prep as other surfacing options: demolition and removal of existing surface and then grading and sloping for drainage.

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Pros & Cons: Using Pea Gravel for Playground Surfacing

Are you considering pea gravel as a playground surfacing option? When constructing a playground, you often need to make many decisions. For example, there are infinite playground surfacing options. How do you know which one is right for you? You want your playground surface to be safe, effective, withstand regular use, and not break the bank.

You’ve likely seen pea gravel used in playground surfaces and wondered if it might be an option. Here, we broke down the pros and cons of pea gravel, so you don’t have to go searching the annals of the web to find the information you need to make a decision.

What is pea gravel?

pea gravel close up image
Pea gravel is a versatile hardscaping material, but should pea gravel be used for playgrounds?

Pea gravel consists of small stones, typically found near water, and has a smooth surface due to weathering. The round stones are the size of peas, ranging from ⅛ inch to ⅜ inch. Depending on the rock source, pea stone gravel comes in all kinds of natural colors like rust-brown, shades of gray, white, and even translucent.

It’s an eco-friendly, raw material landscape fabric, so it doesn’t bring any synthetic chemicals or dyes to the playground. You’ll find this versatile hardscaping material covering driveways, water drains, paths, patios, filling spaces between pavers, and even in playgrounds.


Safety of Pea Gravel as a Playground Surface

Pros:

  • Believe it or not, pea gravel, at depths of nine inches deep, can sufficiently reduce the impact of a fall. But that’s where the safety advantages of pea gravel surfaces end.

Cons:

Pea gravel as playground flooring with slide
While pea gravel meets ASTM standards, it has to be at least 9 inches deep to protect a 5 foot fall.
  • While pea gravel is tested and meets ASTM standards for impact attenuation, it can only protect up to five feet at a nine-inch depth.
  • It can be problematic when using high-height playground equipment.
  • Plus, falling on the stone doesn’t exactly have much appeal.
  • Pea gravel also readily shifts underfoot, making it hard for wheelchairs and folks with limited mobility to navigate.
  • Since it doesn’t meet the basic ADA safety standards, commercial and public playground spaces are out. You may want to leave this surface to private playgrounds and backyards.
  • If your playground is for toddlers, you may also want to avoid pea gravel. Children tend to put small pea stones in their mouths.
  • Over time, the gravel rock will naturally compress (at least 25%) under its constant use.
  • It becomes hard and creates a non-shock absorbing surface that can make injuries more common.

Cost of Pea Gravel as Playground Flooring

Pros:

Pea gravel for a playground surface
While pea gravel is relatively low-cost, it will have to be replaced every few years.
  • Pea gravel is a relatively low-cost loose-fill material.
  • The material alone typically costs $30 to $50 per ton, costing you about $3,000-5,000 to fill a 2,500 square foot area with a minimum 9-inch depth.
  • While you can do it yourself, it may cost more as you need to add in the cost of a header or edging and crushed rock for the base layer.
  • In comparison, contractors often have access to manufacturer discounts, and their work often comes with a guarantee.

Cons:

  • While the costs of pea gravel material are low, when you’re replacing it every few years and keeping it maintained, those costs can start to add up.

Quality and Maintenance of Pea Gravel as a Playground Surface

Pros:

Pea gravel mound for playgrounds
While pea gravel can prevent water build up and prevent weeds, depending on the weather it can become quite hard as well as form “stone dust” when breaking it apart.
  • Pea gravel suppresses unwanted weed growth, retains moisture, and doesn’t decompose like grass or mulch.
  • It prevents rainwater buildup thanks to its adequate drainage.
  • Plus, pea gravel keeps burrowing rodents at bay, and other animals tend to leave it alone.
  • You can easily maintain pea gravel by raking stones into place, but the frequency of maintenance is another story.

Cons:

  • On the other hand, pea gravel tends to travel unless you contain it with edging material.
  • It will need to be inspected on an ongoing basis and refilled every four years.
  • If your location experiences cold winters, the cold can make the gravel quite hard, impacting its safety.
  • Snow removal will likely be one of the more significant challenges.
  • It’s hard to avoid disturbing the gravel when shoveling.
  • You’ll need to shovel most of the snow and then leave a thin layer behind, melting the rest with salt.
  • Another factor due to the changing seasons is pea gravel’s tendency to break down into smaller particles.
  • It forms a “stone dust” that creates a hardpan of compacted stone, typically in high-use areas, that becomes dangerous and difficult to break apart.

Installation of Pea Gravel for Playground Flooring

Pros:

Pea gravel on playground floor with toy crane
Due to pea gravels compression, it makes it fairly high maintenance and will need to be reinstalled repeatedly.
  • Great news! Installing pea gravel is relatively easy. You can undoubtedly find it at your favorite hardware store.
  • Work the surface roughly six inches down and install at least three to six inches base layer of coarse base rock or crushed rock to prepare your site.
  • Then, cover with at least a nine-inch layer of pea gravel to meet ASTM’s minimum fill depth standards.

Cons:

  • The downside to pea gravel’s compression and high maintenance is you’ll likely be repeating the installation phase more often than you’d like.

Alternatives to Pea Gravel for Playgrounds

When it comes to ensuring the safety of the children on your playground, surfacing should rank as a top priority. You want a surface with a comfortable, soft cushion to walk on and, when installed correctly, should be compliant with ADA standards for handicap accessible areas.

Where pea gravel may be a let down in some of these respects, poured-in-place playground surfacing excels. Contact adventureTURF today for premium poured-in-place surfacing made to keep your playground safe, fun, and enjoyable for every child.

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

Pea gravel is a relatively low-cost loose-fill material, costing you about $3,000-5,000. The initial investment in pea gravel might be low, but you’ll have to deal with maintenance costs.

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A layer of pea gravel, which is nine inches deep, can sufficiently reduce the impact of a fall. However, because it doesn’t meet the ADA safety standards, commercial and public playground spaces are out.

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Pea gravel is a very versatile hardscaping material. It’s often used for covering driveways, water drains, paths, patios, and filling spaces between pavers.

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To install pea gravel as a surface material, work the surface roughly six inches down and install at least three to six inches base layer of coarse base rock or crushed rock.

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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: Artificial Grass/Turf for Playground Surfacing

When you’re evaluating surface options like synthetic turf or artificial grass for a playground or play area, there’s a lot to consider. You want something robust to withstand heavy use yet safe and accessible to accommodate everyone at play. We’ve compiled a comprehensive overview of using playground surfacing similar to AstroTurf® or fake grass for playgrounds, weighing all the critical factors. While we may be biased about poured-in-place surfacing, we still think you should closely examine all your options before you make a purchase for your organization or business.

Is Artificial Grass or Synthetic Turf the Best Option for Playground Flooring?

padding for synthetic playground turf
Synthetic turf often requires additional padding to achieve proper fall-height rating

Synthetic turf or artificial grass is constructed of synthetic, grass-like fibers or yarn (some call it an outdoor playground carpet). It is manufactured to look and feel like a natural grass playground surface, but without all of the maintenance. Used on sports fields for years, synthetic turf is becoming a more common occurrence on the playground. The fibers are often polypropylene or polyethylene and consist of multiple layers, a backing, cushioning, drainage layers, and infill, usually composed of recycled rubber tires or natural cork. Certain playground grass is made of recycled materials, but some are not, so be sure to do your research.

Safety of Synthetic Turf Playground Flooring

Pros:

Note that there’s ground prep work that needs to be done. The artificial playground turf sits on top of other layer(s).
  • The top factor for a playground surface is the level of fall protection it achieves. When installed with the proper padding and infill, synthetic turf meets the American Standard Testing Methods (ASTM) standards and can provide excellent shock absorption.
  • Artificial turf with a thickness of 2.1-3.1″ achieves a fall height safety factor of five feet, whereas a thickness of 3.3-4.3″ achieves a height of seven-feet, recommended for most residential and commercial playgrounds.

Cons:

  • Certain types of artificial turf may not absorb falls from as high as poured-in-place surfacing.
  • Synthetic turf may need additional padding or underlayment to keep kids safe and achieve the proper fall-height rating.
  • It’s essential to confirm the specific product’s details to ensure it is safe.

Cost of Synthetic Turf as a Playground Surface

Artificial grass can look quite natural, but what’s the cost?

Pros:

  • The lifetime cost of artificial turf as a material itself is relatively low. After three to five years, the costs associated with maintaining natural grass and soil exceed the installation’s high price.
  • Using synthetic grass in a building project can accumulate LEED points for various reasons: water efficiency, recycled or recovered materials used, low emission materials used, and the material composition of the turf itself.

Cons:

  • Overall, synthetic turf is very costly to install. Not only do you have to pay for the turf itself, but the ground prep, irrigation needs, and more.
  • Depending on the manufacturer, prices for artificial grass vary from $6 to $20 per square foot before installation. Installation costs can vary between companies, adding onto the cost.
  • It’s relatively uncommon, but any damage to artificial grass can be cut out and replaced with a new piece, averaging about $12 per square foot (not including installation).
  • A fresh new patch often sticks out as the majority of synthetic grass will look slightly worn.

Accessibility of Synthetic Turf Flooring

There’s a variety of artificial/synthetic turf for playgrounds, from flat AstroTurf®-like playground surfacing to what looks more like grass.

Pros:

  • As long as the artificial grass is firm and a wheelchair can move around it with ease, you can use synthetic grass for accessible playgrounds and ADA compliance.
  • Synthetic turf is also perfect for people suffering from hay fever or other allergies, thanks to its zero-pollen count.

Cons:

  • Synthetic turf surfaces are not immune from bacteria, which cause foul odors and sanitary problems. However, some manufacturers have developed antimicrobial additives built straight into the product or sprays to inhibit bacteria’s growth.
  • Also, if not installed properly, the rolls of artificial grass can create seams in them, adding a tripping hazard.

Appearance and Indoor/Outdoor Use of Synthetic Turf Playground Flooring

Synthetic turf does have color options, however, stenciled images can’t easily be added.

Pros:

  • When considering artificial turf for your playground area, you can choose various colors, styles, densities, and heights or aim for the most natural appearance and texture.
  • You can also use it both indoors and outdoors.
  • The biggest bonus about synthetic turf is the natural look and feel it brings to your playground. This “grass” always stays green.

Cons:

  • The loose rubber granules that are in the artificial grass can be quite annoying, as they tend to get stuck on clothing, skin, in shoes, etc. They can easily be dragged into the school building (or your house) and be messy to clean up. A benefit of using poured rubber for playgrounds is that there is no loose material.
  • Unfortunately, you can’t easily stencil games, shapes, logos, or other graphics into your synthetic turf. If that’s a deal-breaker, we know where you can find surfacing with limitless design options.

Quality & Maintenance of Synthetic Turf as a Playground Surface

Artificial grass has small black rubber pellets/beads that create cushioning. These granules need to be replaced/added to periodically.

Pros:

  • If you compare synthetic turf to real grass, you’ll find it’s much more low maintenance. No watering, mowing, harmful pesticides, or fertilizer is required.
  • It will need an occasional rinse-off, but water drains well off its surface.
  • Playground turf maintains a higher face weight, the amount of material used by the square yard, making it quite durable and able to withstand significant wear and tear.
  • If it does need a repair, luckily, you won’t need to replace the entire turf. Cut out the damage and replace it with new turf.
  • Plus, say goodbye to mud and grass stains.
  • Synthetic turf is UV stable and won’t fade in the sunlight. It is also heat and frost resistant.
  • Creepy-crawlies will be a thing of the past as insects often steer clear of artificial grass.

Cons:

  • When it comes to maintenance, synthetic turf is a bit needier than poured-in-place surfacing.
  • The faux turf requires frequent cleaning, especially if you live in an incredibly dusty locale.
  • Dust, sand, and leaves will accumulate in the fibers, but you can remove them with a blower, rake, broom with stiff bristles, or a garden hose.
  • When the heat rises, so does the temperature of your synthetic playground turf. While there are additional fills to keep temperatures down, artificial grass is generally much hotter to touch than real grass.
  • Also, static electricity may build on the synthetic turf, and the surfaces may need an anti-static solution.
  • No certified manufacturer guarantees artificial grass to last more than eight years. However, it usually endures about 10-15 years, meaning you’ll have to replace it sooner rather than later.

Installation of Synthetic Turf Playground Flooring

Artificial grass being installed.

Pros:

  • The one plus about synthetic turf installation is that it’s relatively easy to find a professional to assist with your project.

Cons:

  • The initial install for synthetic turf has many small details and requires a good deal of planning.
  • Professionals will need to create an initial base surface of flat, crushed stone or gravel to allow for proper drainage.
  • A level surface is an essential step as any issues can create stagnant water or odors. Another important layer is a weed cloth to avoid growth.
  • Besides, most installations require an infill layer to maintain the structure and hold the blades upright.

Next Steps

There’s a lot to take in when it comes to selecting a surface for your playground area. If you’re still considering your options, we invite you to look at some of our other playground surface pros and cons. If you’re ready to take the next steps with a poured-in-place rubber playground flooring or rubber tiles for playground flooring, contact us today for a free quote.

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 Artificial Grass for Playgrounds

Anywhere from $6-$20/sq ft for the product itself, plus installation costs. See more pricing details here.

There’s a variety of both pros and cons when it comes to synthetic playground grass. For example, some types of artificial turf may not absorb falls from as high as poured-in-place playground surfacing.

The brand AstroTurf® might come to mind. There’s a variety of fake grass for playgrounds, from carpet-like to surfacing that looks like actual grass. Should I use it for my playground? Learn more here.

While no certified manufacturer guarantees artificial grass to last more than eight years. However, it usually endures about 10-15 years, meaning you’ll have to replace it sooner rather than later. And with all that, there’s various maintenance that needs to be done during the time, such as refilling the loose rubber granules in the grass and frequent cleaning.

Wood Chips are Not a Good Surface for Playgrounds (Here’s Why)

As a company that installs poured-in-place playground surfacing and rubber tile playground and safety surfacing, of course we think wood chips should be off of every playground. However, it’s not just about the business for us, we’re parents of small children too! One of the primary reasons we choose to be in this business is we believe it’s important to have safe playground surfaces for our children to play on. We also believe rubber playground surfaces make everyone’s lives just a little easier.

So, allow us to get on our soapbox for just a moment here to say…

No More Wood Chips on Playgrounds!

Replace Woodchips on Playgrounds with Poured Rubber Flooring (Safety Playground Surfaces)
Using wood chips, mulch, or bark dust as playground bedding is a messy and splinter-filled option.

Okay, now that we have that out of our system, here are 5 reasons why you shouldn’t use playground wood chips or mulch:

  1. They are a mess! Every playground we visit that has not made the switch to rubber playground surfacing, has wood chips everywhere. No matter what kind of edging or fencing is used to “contain” the wood chips, they will make their way on to the surrounding grass, parking lots, basketball or tennis courts, ball fields, and everywhere else. Cleaning this up day after day becomes really annoying.
  2. You have to keep replacing them. Wood chips constantly need to be replenished. Every year, wood chips decompose and get removed from the site. Replacing woodchip surfacing on a playground is at minimum an annual expense (in some climates they have to be replenished or replaced more than once a year). This is the case with cedar wood chips, pine wood chips, barkdust, etc. A poured-in-place playground surface is a one-time install and your problem is solved. No annual replacement or replenishment. It’s virtually maintenance-free.
  3. They’re not safe. Wood chips on a playground are a safety hazard. Woodchips are constantly moved or kicked around the playground. As a result, some areas have plenty of chips, but in other areas, there is almost no fall protection. This happens especially under swings and other high traffic areas where children play and can trip or fall. And then there’s the painful splinters that ruin everyone’s day… ouch!
  4. Children with disabilities cannot access your playground. Wheelchairs cannot be maneuvered on a woodchip surface and the loose material creates a built-in tripping hazard for everyone. Wheelchair-accessible playgrounds enable everyone to have fun.
  5. They look ugly. Wood chips are not aesthetically pleasing. Who wants an ugly brown playground? A rubber playground surface can provide you with a virtually limitless variety of different designs, including bright and vibrant colors, logos, and even games right in the surface itself!

BONUS REASON: The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says that CCA-treated wood mulch is an “inappropriate surfacing” type for playgrounds.

Seriously… enough said! The good news is, we can help by . Let’s work together to replace all those wood chips on playgrounds everywhere by trading it for a better alternative…

Alternative to Playground Wood Chips

Better Ground Cover for Playgrounds

Poured-in-place rubber playground surfacing is durable, safe (no splinters!), and doesn’t have to be replaced every year.

We install rubber playground flooring across the entire USA. Serving the USA Contact us for more information or get a free quote.

Playground Ground Cover

Here’s an example of a project we did to replace wood chips with poured rubber playground flooring.

adventureTURF rubber playground flooring experts install playground and safety surfaces all across the country. Contact us for more information or get a free quote for your next project.

Wood Mulch FAQs

The difference is negligible. The terms are typically used interchangeably and the only real difference is that wood chips are typically larger chunks than wood mulch. But everything we’ve mentioned here applies to both mulch and wood chips.

For the initial installation cost, you can generally expect to pay around $3 per square foot for wood chips (installed). That being said, that’s just the initial cost. The long-term cost is greater because of their regular upkeep and longevity. Here’s more info about the cost.

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

Learn More

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

Learn More

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.

Learn More