Playgrounds are a beloved destination for kids, but safety and space are paramount. The surface material plays a crucial role in creating a safe and accessible playground.
In this blog, we’ll explore the top 5 playground surface materials.
Importance of Playground Surface Materials:
The surface material is one of the most significant factors in determining children’s safety. Studies show that surface materials can play a significant role in reducing injury risk. The surface material should provide adequate cushioning and shock absorption to reduce the impact of falls. Besides, playground surfaces need to be durable enough to withstand different weather conditions, usage, and the test of time.
Criteria for Selecting Surface Materials:
To ensure the playground surface materials are safe for kids to play on, they should meet certain criteria. The following are some primary criteria to consider when selecting surface materials.
Safety: The surface material should provide some form of fall protection and shock absorption. The guidelines and regulations are laid out by ASTM International, which sets safety standards and test methods.
Accessibility: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) lays down the guidelines and regulations for making playgrounds accessible to children with disabilities. The surface material should be smooth and firm enough to allow wheelchairs, strollers, or walkers to move easily.
Longevity: Playground surfaces require frequent maintenance, and weather changes can impact their durability. A surface material should be weather-resistant and long-lasting enough to reduce the overall maintenance cost.
Maintenance: The frequency of maintenance depends on the surface material used. Choose low-maintenance material that requires minimal upkeep, especially if the playground is in a high-traffic area.
Cost: Budget concerns are critical when choosing suitable surface materials, but it’s important to balance quality, safety, and affordability to meet the budget needs.
Top 5 Playground Surface Materials:
Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF): EWF is made from recycled wood, making it an eco-friendly choice for playground surfaces. It is durable, slip-resistant, and provides good cushioning. EWF requires periodic maintenance to keep the surface clean and safe.
Rubber Mulch: Rubber mulch is made from recycled rubber materials and provides good cushioning and shock absorption. It’s long-lasting, but it does require regular maintenance to keep the surface clean and free of debris. For playgrounds with limited budgets, pebbles can be a cost-effective option. Pebbles provide good drainage and shock absorption, but it does require a lot of maintenance. It’s also not ideal for playgrounds with wheelchair access.
Poured-in-Place Rubber: Poured-in-place rubber is similar to rubber mulch but provides better cushioning and shock absorption. It’s durable enough to withstand weather changes and high traffic, but it requires a professional installation process and some maintenance.
Artificial Grass/Turf: Artificial grass/turf is a great surface material for playgrounds with limited budgets. It’s easy to install and requires minimal maintenance to keep it clean and looking its best. Artificial grass also helps reduce injury risk, as there are no hard edges or infill materials that can cause discomfort or injuries. No matter which surface material you select, make sure to follow the safety guidelines and regulations set out by ASTM International. Additionally, ensure that you have considered factors like accessibility, maintenance, and cost before making your final selection. It’s also important to get the opinions of the children who will be using the playground to ensure everyone is happy with the surface material chosen.
Sand and Pea Gravel: Sand and pea gravel are popular playground surface materials, providing cushioning and shock absorption. Sand is preferred due to its softness, but both require maintenance for cleanliness. Rain can wash away smaller gravel particles if there’s insufficient sand on top. Consider heat from direct sunlight when selecting a material. Ensure the depth of sand and gravel is suitable for easy movement. Regularly check for debris like glass and rocks to maintain playground safety.
Safety Certifications and Standards: ASTM International and CPSC (Consumer Product Safety Commission) provide guidelines and standards for safe playgrounds. Both organizations regularly update and review their regulations to ensure all surfacing materials provide sufficient protection and prevent injuries. Make sure to verify that your playground surface material meets these safety and accessibility standards.
Maintenance Tips: Maintaining a safe playground requires regular surface maintenance. Different materials have varying maintenance needs. Here are some tips:
- Inspect for rips, tears, or hollow spots.
- Clean regularly to remove dirt, debris, and trash.
- Water and mow natural grass surfaces.
- Wash rubber surfaces with non-toxic cleaners and use a leaf blower to clear debris from corners.
When selecting an Appropriate Playground Surfacing Material, an initial cost vs. long-term cost should be taken into consideration. The initial cost of a surface material is important but so is the low maintenance and longevity of its life expectancy. Choosing cheaper surface materials might seem cost-effective initially, but they can lead to higher maintenance expenses and other issues after installation. Research thoroughly, budget wisely, and regularly inspect the playground for safety. With the right knowledge and preparation, you can select a safe playground surface material that is cost-effective and long-lasting. Also, look for the Best Commercial Playground Equipment that has been tested to withstand weather conditions in your area and is free from sharp edges or other hazardous materials.