8 Types of Playground Surfacing
When it comes to playground surfacing, there are many different types to choose from, each with its own strengths and weaknesses.
When creating a stimulating environment for children to play in, whether it’s at a school, nursery or public playground, it’s important to incorporate different textures and surfaces.
Deciding upon the type of surfacing to install often comes down to budget. However it’s important to choose a surface that will prove to be a good financial investment by standing the test of time, not just to go with the cheapest available option now.
When planning any form of playground, safety should be the top priority and, of course, each form of surfacing provides a different level of shock absorption and abrasiveness.
Before taking the plunge, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of each form of surfacing, in order to find the ideal material.
Today, we are going to be looking at the different options available when planning a playground. We’ll consider 8 types of surfacing, along with some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.
1. Wet Pour
One of the safest types of surfacing for playgrounds and nursery schools is wet pour.
Wet pour is a continuous rubber surface that is ‘poured’ onto an existing surface, such as MOT type 1 or tarmac, and then applied using a trowel.
There are typically two layers to a wet pour surface; a wearing course, consisting of EDPM rubber, and a base course, typically formed using recycled black rubber, which provides the shock absorption associated with wet pour surfacing.
There are several advantages of using a wet pour surface.
Firstly, the finished surface has a soft underfoot feel, which can help to cushion the impact of trips and falls within a playground environment. It is also a porous surface, which prevents any standing water from accumulating on the playground.
It is available in an endless variety of colours and designs, and you can even incorporate additional features, such as snakes and ladder games, number patterns and intricate graphics, which can enhance the educational experience for the children using the playground.
One of the downsides to wet pour surfacing is that it can be expensive, particularly when applied over large areas.
That’s because there are several layers of aggregates and rubber that need to be applied, making the process rather labour intensive.
Tarmac is a commonly used surface for creating playground areas in schools and nurseries.
This is mainly because it is one of the most cost-effective solutions available, particularly over large areas, for where it is the go-to option in most school and playground applications.
Tarmac can also be porous, which offers the advantage of preventing standing water, which can be cause the surface to become slippery when wet or when puddles of water freeze over during the winter months.
It can also double up as a surface suitable for vehicular traffic, which is a big advantage for schools or nurseries that are short on space.
Tarmac, however, isn’t the most attractive looking surface, particularly in a school or playground environment, and generally it won’t enhance the playground environment.
In addition, Tarmac doesn’t offer any shock absorption, and the finished surface is also abrasive, meaning that trips and falls will often result in cuts and grazes.
Rubber tiles, with very similar properties to wet pour, are another popular playground surfacing option.
Rubber tiles are typically installed to a concrete sub-base using a specialist adhesive, and are generally quicker to install than wet pour.
Tiles are also anti-slip and have good shock absorption qualities.
They are available in many different colours, but there is a limit to the different patterns and styles that can be achieved.
4. Loose Rubber Mulch
Rubber mulch is formed from shredded recycled rubber and, again, is available in a variety of colours, as well as sizes.
It has excellent absorption qualities and is mainly used in play areas with climbing equipment or small play pits.
Rubber mulch is a cleaner alternative to play sand, with the added advantage of being less appealing to the local cats, too.
As this type of surfacing is very quick and easy to install, it makes it one of the most cost-effective on our list.
Installation depends upon the level of usage but, for small play areas, the installation process typically only involves the removal of an existing surface, then the installation of a weed membrane, followed by the rubber mulch, making it a very quick process.
A disadvantage of loose rubber is that it can be very difficult to walk on, making it a poor choice for large areas, and there is also a high level of maintenance required, as the surface will need regular raking to ensure an even, level coverage.
5. Bonded Rubber Mulch
Bonded rubber mulch involves mixing loose rubber mulch with a specially formulated PU binder, which is then laid onto solid, compacted ground.
It has very similar absorption and non-slip properties as wet pour surfacing, making it a good choice for playgrounds containing items of play equipment.
Compared to wet pour, the installation process is much quicker and easier, as this type of surfacing does not require a sub-base to be installed prior to the finished surfacing. This cuts down on the overall costs dramatically.
It is available in a wide range of colours and shapes, which can be combined to form different patterns.
The finished installation thickness depends upon the application and the height that potential falls may occur from.
If opting for bonded rubber mulch, it is vital that you choose good quality rubber and binder materials, as inferior products can potentially cause the surface to break up, with heavy use.
6. Artificial Grass
In recent years, one of the most popular types of playground surfacing has been artificial grass.
One of the major benefits it has over the other types of surfacing on this list is that it is far more natural-looking.
Children love playing on artificial grass, as it feels good to touch and looks just like the real thing.
Unlike real grass, however, it can be played on all year round, as there is no mud or mess to worry about. It’s completely porous, too, allowing rainfall to drain freely through the backing material.
It also provides the best performance in terms of shock absorption, as a foam underlay can be installed directly underneath the turf to provide an ultra-soft underfoot feel, whilst also protecting children from trips and falls from height.
Its non-abrasive nature will prevent cuts and grazes, too.
There are different colours, styles and pile heights to choose from that will suit any environment, large or small.
For something a little more quirky, many schools and playgrounds are now incorporating different coloured turfs, such as blue, red or yellow, creating further interest.
7. Bark Mulch
Loose bark mulch provides an alternative to rubber mulch.
Bark mulch is a natural material that provides a very cheap form of playground surfacing. The installation process is the same as for its rubber mulch cousin; simply remove the existing surface, if necessary, then install a weed membrane and, finally, spread the mulch on top.
Natural bark mulch differs from rubber in that it does not provide such a soft surface to play on.
It is ideally suited to natural areas, such as woodlands and around trees, to create a natural environment for playing.
Maintenance tends to be fairly high, as the mulch will need regularly raking to prevent it from migrating away from the intended area.
It is not recommended for use in areas where there is the risk of falls from play equipment.
8. Resin Bonded Gravel
In recent times, resin bonded or resin bound gravel has become a more popular choice for a wide range of applications, including playgrounds.
This form of surfacing involves mixing gravel with resin in a forced action mixer and then hand-trowelling the material onto, typically, a permeable asphalt surface.
Once again, there is a wide variety of shapes, sizes and colour aggregates to choose from and you can combine different styles to form a wide range of patterns.
The major disadvantage is that is a fairly abrasive surface and offers nothing in the form of shock absorption, making it unusable in areas where there is the risk of falling from height.
It is, however, a permeable surface that is also suitable for vehicular traffic, ideal for schools and nurseries that are short on parking space.
If you are planning a new playground or a revamp of an existing playground, whether it’s at a school, nursery or public playground, you’ll find that you are spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing the finished surfacing.
When choosing the best surface, it’s important to consider the pros and cons of each, as well as budget, so it’s often wise to price up different types of surfacing.
In our experience, the best way to create a stimulating and educational environment for young children to play in is by incorporating different types of surfacing to provide different textures and interest.
If you are interested in our range of artificial turf that’s perfect for schools and playgrounds, you can view our products here.
You can also request your free samples, so you can see for yourself just how realistic our synthetic turf is, and how great it feels.
If you have any questions on artificial grass for playgrounds, please leave them in the comments section below or call us today on 01245 931200.