When it comes to play area surface, the type of surface used is important. The right surfacing can make the difference between a minor fall and a serious injury. In addition, the right surface can help a person with mobility issues use the playground equipment. The good news is that there are plenty of options to choose from. However, deciding which one to go with can be overwhelming. This article will offer a quick overview of the different types of surfacing available and discuss their pros and cons.
Unitary surfaces are bound elements formed into tiles or a rolled product like turf or poured-in-place (PIP) rubber. These are a great option for schools and municipalities that don’t want to deal with the cost, maintenance or weeds associated with loose-fill surfacing materials. These surfaces are usually made of recycled or synthetic rubber and are designed to be durable and easy to maintain. They also offer consistent impact absorption and look very nice – especially when they’re coated in a colorful design. Because these are man-made surfaces they can be more expensive than loose-fill options, but they also last much longer.
The drawbacks of these surfacing options are that they don’t blend in well with natural surroundings and may get stained easily. In addition, because they are designed to be durable, they can be rough on children’s hands.
Sand, pea gravel and engineered wood fiber are common loose-fill surfacing options. These are usually natural and don’t contain chemicals or binders. They are a safe choice for kids who prefer a more natural feel, but they require regular inspection and raking to remove debris that could cause injuries. It’s also important to keep in mind that these surfacing options are only considered safe when they’re at least 12 inches thick and have been tested to meet ASTM impact attenuation standards.
Another concern with these surfacing options is that they can contain high levels of heavy metals and other contaminants. This has led to some states and cities banning them completely, while others have imposed moratoriums until further testing can be done. If a state or city does allow these surfacing options, they should be covered with a layer of rubber mulch to prevent tripping and slipping hazards. Unlike sand, rubber mulch doesn’t attract animals and it stays cool to the touch, making it a safer alternative for children in the heat. It’s also clean, wire-free and will not leach into groundwater. In addition, it’s an excellent choice for people who have mobility limitations as it can be used with most ADA mobility devices.