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Playground Surface Material Selection

Below summarizes the CPSC comments regarding various categories of playground surfacing material.  In general, hard materials and soil are not recommended.  Compact materials should only be used under equipment whose maximum height is five feet or less. Organic or inorganic loose materials both provide excellent protection with organic materials providing more protection.

The drawback of organic and inorganic loose materials is that they are effective only if they are properly maintained.  This requires frequent grading and leveling in order to maintain a suggested depth of six inches.  A boundary framework, which helps to keep the material beneath the equipment, will lessen the amount of maintenance required.  These materials also require maintenance to eliminate insects, animal excrement, and other litter.  

Playground Surfacing Materials

Organic Loose

  • (Pine bark nuggets, shredded bark, etc.)
  • Cushioning potential depends on air trapped within and between particles
  • May decompose or mix with dirt over time and lose cushioning properties
  • Cushioning decreased by rainy or humid weather
  • Materials may freeze when wet
  • Wet materials may promote the growth of communicable diseases
  • Frequent grading and leveling necessary to maintain depth.
  • Maintenance is necessary to eliminate insects, animal excrement, and litter
  • Highest cushioning potential of all surfacing materials

Inorganic Loose

  • (Sand, pea gravel, shredded tires, etc.)
  • May combine with dirt or other matter reducing cushioning properties.
  • Cushioning decreased by rainy or humid weather
  • Some materials (i.e., sand) may freeze when wet
  • Some types of rocks re-lease dust and are difficult to walk on
  • Frequent grading and leveling necessary to maintain depth
  • Maintenance is necessary to eliminate insects, animal excrement, and litter
  • Washed round pea-size gravel makes a good surface

Compact

  • (Outdoor rubber mats, synthetics, etc.)
  • Cushioning potential depends upon the foundation or surface over, which the material is installed.
  • Rubber mats generally pro-vide protection from falls 5 feet or less
  • Attractive targets for defacing, ignition, or other vandalism
  • Little maintenance is required
  • Must be used on level, uniform surface

Soil/Grass

  • Minimal protection
  • May freeze and harden
  • Grass is difficult to maintain in heavy traffic areas
  • Better than concrete or asphalt but generally not recommended

Concrete 

  • Asphalt
  • No cushioning potential
  • Varied environmental effects
  • Little maintenance required
  • NOT RECOMMENDED