How to Choose the Best Material for an Outdoor Playground

What You'll Need
Barrier cloth
Tape measure
Playground mulch

An outdoor playground requires some appropriate material as a surface protection to prevent children from injuring themselves if they fall. In older times, there was only one option for such material and it was wood chip playground mulch. But now there is also a rubber alternative. Both wood chip and rubber mulch types are safe for children and if you like DIY projects, you can install the playground mulch yourself.

Step 1 – Testing the Mulch

Keep in mind that many associations and organizations need to test materials before they can be certified it as playground mulch. These certifying associations include the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Canadian Standards Association, the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission and the American Society for Testing and Materials.

Professionals from these organizations test the material to see whether it is appropriate to be accessed with a wheelchair. If you want an outdoor home playground which does not require handicapped access, you should concentrate on basic safety. You should keep in mind that when the CPSC (U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission) tests mulch and certifies it as safe, they do not use dyes or other chemicals.

Step 2 – Selecting the Mulch

If you wish to install mulch for your home outdoor playground, make sure that you do not choose standard wood chip gardening mulch because it is usually dyed as part of the manufacturing process. You will need to buy a special kind of mulch or you can even make the playground mulch yourself.

In case you want to make your very own mulch with wooden chips, find an old Christmas tree and cut it down into chips. Make sure that the size of the chips varies between 1/2 and ¾ inch.

On the other hand, rubber mulch has significant advantages over wood chip mulch. It does not require as much maintenance as wood chip mulch and it is likely to last much longer. You also need to remember that, in most cases, rubber mulch usually consists of recycled tire rubber. Keep in mind that even though rubber mulch is more expensive than wood chip mulch, you can still save money due to the fact that rubber mulch does not break down as time passes by.

Step 3 – Installing the Mulch

The installation process remains the same for both rubber and wood chip mulch. You will need to dig up the ground for the installation of the mulch. The CPSC says it is better to install 9 inches of playground mulch for every 10 feet of structure height. Lay the mulch at an extra 25 percent of the recommended depth because time can lead to decomposition and compression of your playground mulch. For this reason, install about 11 to 12 inches of mulch if you have a structure in your playground which is 10 feet high. Leave a space that measures approximately 5 feet on all edges of your playground equipment. If you want, you can cover the area with a barrier cloth to slow down the decomposition process and to keep unwanted weeds away from your outdoor playground.