Choosing the right surface for under your playground equipment is very important. Unfortunately, many times parents forget to consider this issue when they install new playground devices. Here are some tips that can help you decide on which type of surface is best for you.
Generally speaking, the surface under the playground equipment should be thick enough and soft enough to dampen the impact of a child should he or she fall.
For playground equipment such as swings, seesaws, and slides, concrete, asphalt, and blacktop should not be used. Parents should also avoid these materials for all types of equipment that allow for climbing, such as jungle gyms or monkey bars.
Although commonly used, grass, soil, and soft packed-earth surfaces are also not recommended. Weather, as well as normal wear, can reduce their ability to absorb and cushion a fall.
A much safer choice is any surface that is loosely filled with materials like wood chips, shredded rubber, sand, mulch, or pea gravel.
Parents may also want to choose mats that are made of safety-tested rubber or rubber-like materials. These can be especially useful in areas where the likelihood of falling is high.
Some general guidelines for these materials are: Loosely fill the materials 12 inches deep for playground equipment that is up to 8 feet high. Keep in mind that the material should not be packed down as this will reduce its cushioning effect.
When you are laying out your material, the cushioned surface should extend at least 6 feet beyond the equipment. This is a general guideline and you should add to this if needed.
Virtually all of the surfacing materials recommended above can be purchased at home improvement supply stores. The materials are usually very affordable and easy to handle. For many homeowners, the installation of these safety materials is a simple one-day task.
If the playground equipment that you plan to install is large and covers a lot of ground, you may want to bring in a landscape contractor who can offer advice and guidance on the various issues that you are sure to encounter.