Kids climbing on outdoor structures need protection from possible falls and injuries. The materials on the surface under the equipment play an important role in keeping children safe. As you construct a play area, explore the different options in playground mulch to learn about the benefits of each one.
Natural Loose Fill
Loose fill may consist of a variety of materials, including wood chips, sand, and pea gravel. As long as the depth conforms to equipment specifications, loose fill can be an effective and economic playground mulch surface. Pea gravel is inexpensive and simple to maintain. This material does not attract animals, and it drains effectively.
However, pea gravel is not recommended for equipment that involves fall heights of more than five feet. Sand is also inexpensive and easy to maintain. Placing sand under a structure also provides children with additional play options. Sand is not recommended for equipment involving fall heights of more than four feet. Wood chips are affordable and readily available. Wood chips are suitable for equipment involving fall heights of up to 10 feet. Any loose fiber materials will need regular upkeep to ensure maintenance of the proper depth. Loose fill can blow away or kids could track it out of the play area.
Engineered fill consists of either shredded rubber or synthetic wood fibers. These materials have been approved for effective impact protection. These materials will not decompose the way natural fill may over time. Depth may need occasional replenishing due to kids tracking it out of the area. If debris such as twigs or glass fall on this surface, it remains at the top. This enables maintenance workers to rake it off easily to keep children safe from injury. Insects will not nest in engineered fill, which helps make it last longer than some natural materials. Rubber mulch comes in a variety of colors to facilitate interesting outdoor designs. Rubber and wood mulch are also wheel-chair accessible.
A pour-in-place system involves the installation of a sub-base with a cushioned layer over the top. This cushioned layer is typically made out of recycled tire rubber, ground into fine granules and held together with a special binding agent. After mixing the liquid, installers pour it in place and trowel it smooth by hand. After waiting for the first layer to dry, installers pour another layer.
A pour-in-place system is wheel-chair accessible, and it comes in a variety of vibrant colors. Maintenance involves periodic cleaning to remove dirt and debris. Use a blower or a vacuum system every two to three weeks to clean the surface. With correct maintenance, this surface should last for many years, although harsh weather conditions can shorten its life significantly. This surface is suitable under equipment with fall heights of up to 12 feet.
Explore your options to determine which playground mulch fits your needs and budget. By installing the best material possible, you can ensure that the kids playing in this area will be safe at play.