Choosing the right surface is an important consideration for any playground. A safe and accessible surface can mean the difference between a minor fall and a serious injury.
There are many options for unitary and loose-fill Playground Surfaces, including wood fiber, rubber tiles, and synthetic turf. Each option provides unique benefits. The most important factors when deciding on a surface are safety, accessibility and ongoing maintenance.
Loose-fill surfacing materials must be maintained on a regular basis to ensure they remain at the correct depth to support equipment height and shock absorption. This involves raking displaced material and monitoring the depth, particularly in high-traffic areas such as under swings.
Understanding the Safety Standards for Playground Surfaces
While loose-fill materials are generally less expensive than unitary surfaces, they can be difficult to maintain and require more time, labor and resources to keep them at the appropriate depth. This is why some play spaces choose to use a unitary surface such as engineered wood fiber (EWF). EWF is all-natural, knits together to compact and creates a smooth, accessible surface. It also offers excellent impact absorption and is more durable than other loose-fill options.
There are several types of unitary surfacing available for playgrounds, including poured rubber and recycled bonded rubber. Both have been tested and found to meet the CPSC’s surfacing requirements for both firmness/stability and impact attenuation. The best choice for a particular facility may depend on the type of equipment, available budget and space constraints. Recycled bonded rubber is the safest, most affordable and least time-consuming of these choices. It is made up of shredded and bound recycled rubber tires that have been processed to remove wires and other sharp objects. It is available in a variety of colors and can be blended for aesthetics.