4 Playground Surfaces to Consider

The best playgrounds are the ones that provide safe and sanitary playground surfaces. Not too many years ago, the choice of play area landing surfaces was limited to bark and pebbles. Today there are superior options that fall under two categories: loose fill and unitary. Loose fill is the bark, pebble and mulch fill and spread playground cover. Loose fill requires some sort of barrier to hold it into the play area. Unitary is the platform or solid form style, similar to a driveway or tennis court, requiring no containment support.

1. Rubber Mats-Unitary

Rubber mats are shock absorbing and made from post consumer materials. These come in a variety of surface textures and can be customized for a specific design configuration. Depending on the manufacturer, the stabilizing installment methods vary between a puzzle piece locking type system or a glue application. There are optional edge choices; flush, beveled or aesthetic framed support.  Its features include:

  • Water proof
  • Slip resistant
  • Several colors available to be mixed and matched, patterned or solid applications
  • Rolling resistant, for wheel chair access
  • Provides no loose materials for displacement, kicking, throwing or choking
  • Rated for 4 foot to 8 foot fall height safety ratings, based on the specific tile style purchased

2. Rubber Mulch-Loose Fill

Rubber mulch, also made from post consumer materials, is chopped and or shredded to the same type consistency of wood mulch and then undergoes a mold resistant and color coating treatment. Its features include:

  • A variety of colors including blue, red and green
  • Is delivered in bags like mulch
  • Keeps moisture below the play ground area
  • 4 foot to 12 foot fall height safety ratings

3. Poured Rubber-Unitary

Poured Rubber is a two-layer combination of a recycled rubber mat base, topped with a rubber and polyurethane surface layer. It is poured on site much like concrete. Most colors are available and can be configured to create any horizontal configuration desired. Its features include:

  • Slip resistance
  • Wheel chair friendly
  • Can be poured to fit any lawn configuration
  • 4 foot to 12 foot fall height safety ratings
  • No loose parts

4. Turf Top-Unitary

Turf Top provides the look of natural grass with the longevity of artificial turf.  It is installed with a bottom layer of rubber matting, available in different weights and densities. It is delivered in rolls and can be cut to any size required. It's also made with post consumer materials. It's features include:

  • Two color option: green or black
  • 6 foot to 8 foot fall height safety ratings
  • More affordable option than the rubber variations

All of the rubber and synthetic surfaces listed above require some type of support surface preparation. This must be discussed with the manufacturer when researching price and design. It is important to include the support preparation costs into your budget, since it can be rather expensive and may limit your playground cover options.

The more common surface preparations require either a crushed stone, compacted aggregate (used in preparing road surfaces) concrete or asphalt, with the exception of the rubber mulch.  Rubber mulch may only need a solid packed dirt layer covered with some sort of grass and weed growing inhibitor.