Playground Floor Material: A Guide to Understanding It.
Choosing a good surface material to put under your playground equipment is definitely at the top of the to-do list after you finish the installation of your playground.
Having a proper safety surface will spare you from more than one headache, but more than that, it will prevent your children from suffering injuries if they fall or stumble around the playground area.
Did you know that more than 200.000 kids attend the emergency rooms every year due to playground-related injuries?
If you find yourself in a situation where one of your children suffers an accident in the playground area, here is a simple step-by-step guide from de CDC that can come in handy —we really hope you never need it—
If you think it for a second, that is a large number of children, which is why playground safety is no joke at all. At the end of the day, safety should be the number one concern in our heads when choosing surface material to protect our kids.
Playground floor material: the options.
When talking about playground surfaces, we can find two large categories used to classify the different alternatives: loose-fill and unitary materials.
The names of both options are very clear.
The loose-fill kind is the one that does not have any chemicals to bind them together.
The unitary type is the kind of surface like rubber titles or playground turf that is all combined into one piece.
Which option is better for playground safety?
Both options are great to provide shock-absorption, and therefore, to prevent injuries from falling.
The final decision over one or the other will come down to things like the available budget, the number of users for the playground, if it’s for a commercial playground or a residential one, and so on.
Nevertheless, here are some basic takeaways from both playground flooring options:
- Loose-fill material tends to be more budget-friendly.
- Lose-fill requires more maintenance because it can compact or spread over time.
- Unitary materials usually offer more variety of colors from where you can choose. This can further contribute to making the playground look more appealing to kids.
- Unitary materials are not user-friendly. Unless you are Bob the builder, you will need the assistance of a professional crew to install synthetic turf, rubber tiles, or poured in place rubber.
- Unitary materials can heat up a lot during summer times.
- Wooden or rubber mulch:
These are one of the most popular options for loose-fill material because they offer both great absorption qualities and good aesthetics.
However, rubber can contain some undesired chemicals, and wood can have splinters that hurt our children. But you can avoid all these inconveniences if you choose a responsible manufacturer.
Be mindful of the maintenance and do proper inspections every once in a while to make sure the surface can still protect your children from the fall height.
- Sand and Pea Gravel.
These are options that you can find in commercial or school playgrounds mostly. They were popular back then, but the truth is that they are probably the less safe options on the list of protective playground surfaces.
Sand can conceal toxic materials, animal waste, and sharp objects. More than that, it can heat up too much during the summer —kind of obvious considering the places where you can find sand— and it can cause scrapes and intoxication.
Pea gravel, on the other hand, is little rocks put together; little, yes, but rocks nonetheless.
Who would wanna land on a mattress of rocks? That does not sound comforting or reassuring at all.
These options will do the job for sure, but they will require hours and hours of maintenance.
- Engineered wood fiber or EWF.
This is an option that is gaining a lot of popularity over the last few years, and it is because it offers a great range of shock absorption.
Besides that, EWF is an amazing option to complement the aesthetics of an outdoor play area. When buying a playground for our children we are always thinking about how this thing will look in my backyard. Engineered wood fiber contributes beautifully to the overall look of the playground and its surroundings.
In addition, EWF stays in place more easily than other types of loose-fill material.
Options for unitary materials.
- Rubber tiles
Rubber tiles are a great option to create a safe surface for our playground. Their shock absorption qualities are more than secure, and the different color options they usually offer can contribute to creating a fun look for the play area.
But, not all can be rainbows and stars.
Rubber tiles are more expensive than any other type of loose-fill material.
They will require a crew of experts to guarantee the proper installation.
They can bend over time due to weather conditions. Appropriate maintenance is required —this means maintenance labors carry on by professionals—
- Artificial grass or turf.
This option is great if you are looking to keep the natural look of the play area. Besides that, we at Spimbey do not find this option very reliable.
If you ever watched an NFL or Premier League game, you know that grass is not really the most comfortable surface to land on.
Yes, grass and artificial turf offer some level of shock absorption, but they can compact over time due to weather conditions and become even harder surfaces.
And that is a hard no for us.
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