We have long understood that well-designed outdoor play areas are vital. The few hours children spend outdoors each week builds social and cognitive skills which help them to thrive. No matter the space available, our team knows how to create a place where children can grow.
Every type of playground feature needs to be designed right and built right. In our eyes, creating a unique playground that's bursting with opportunity includes the capability to do them all. That's why our playground range contains everything from Activity Frames through to educational numeracy & literacy play panels.
Safety Surfacing – What are the Options for my Playground?
8th December 2021
Does my School need Playground Safety Surfacing?
Playground safety surfacing options vary greatly and often leads to confusion. Here we run you through the options, and offer expert advice on each one.
When considering a playground project, it’s easy to become confused when looking at the different playground surfacing options. There are a number available, and each one has a set of properties to consider carefully.
In this handy guide, we’ve run through the main play surfacing options and discussed the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Should I invest in playground safety surfacing?
Playground safety surfacing helps to cushion the potential fall of a child, minimising impact and injury. Children take a tumble in the playground from time to time, but the correct safety surface means they shouldn’t hurt themselves too badly when they do! All play equipment, especially with a Free Fall Height (FFH) in excess of 600mm, needs installation with an appropriate safety surface.
But there is some evidence that it will not reduce long-bone fractures, especially to the upper body. RoSPA also claims that approximately 30% of falls injuries are in fact related to the play equipment itself, and not caused on impact with the ground. That said, safety surfacing is definitely better there than not!
There are other benefits too – it adds to the drama of the playground with its often-colourful aesthetics, has a long lifespan, works well in all weather conditions and is generally low maintenance.
Considering your play surfacing options
Artificial Grass – the school favourite!
Artificial grass is one of the most popular surfacing choices in schools. It is highly adaptable meaning it is a feasible option in most circumstances. It makes an instant impression on the playground – quickly transforming a drab space into something vibrant and inviting. It is pleasantly soft, and children love playing, sitting and lying on it in the sunshine. Unlike natural grass, it stays lush and green all year round and doesn’t turn into a boggy patch during the winter. You can view our range of realistic Artificial Grass options here.
Artificial grass is also a great sports surface. We have installed many 5-a-side football pitches in playgrounds using our MegaSport grass, where the tightly-curled pile assists fast, uninterrupted ball movement and bounce.
On its own, artificial grass offers little to absorb impact. However, there are underlays available in varying depths that give it the required qualities to use under the highest play equipment around.
Rubber Wetpour Surfacing
Rubber Wetpour is another popular playground surface. Made of rubber crumb granules mixed with resin, it creates a smooth surface with a pleasant bounce underfoot. Wetpour surfacing is available in a range of colours, and laid in patterns and graphics in many creative ways. Numbers, letters, shapes, trackways – you name it! Blending colours creates even more options.
Wetpour is normally a two-layer system, laid onto a firm base. The FFH of any play equipment in the area defines the depth to lay wetpour. First we lay a base course, which is generally black in colour and with a larger crumb. Then we lay a surface course on top. The surface course has colour (or can be black too if you wish) and has a much finer crumb to give a tighter, finished surface. Due to the resin in the mix, laying wetpour is weather dependant and never done in the rain!
Whilst Wetpour is a fantastic playground surfacing solution, it is generally a more costly option than artificial grass.
Rubber Mulch consists of recycled, coloured rubber nuggets coated in resin. The surface has an appearance much like natural mulch. It has plenty of give underfoot and absorbs impact well. It also often requires minimal groundworks, so can be a cost-effective solution.
Rubber Mulch is a popular surface for pathways and nature trails. However, in high footfall areas it can have a more limited lifespan than other surfacing options.
Grass mats are a plastic grid system used on natural grass areas. They allow the grass to grow through them and often used around low-level play equipment or on high-foot fall areas of grass. They help prevent slips and the grass becoming worn through overuse.
Constructed from hard plastic, grass mats are not a safety surface as such, but used to limit the wear to the grass areas.
Cost effective and you can even mow over them!
Tarmac – it’s everywhere!
Asphalt, otherwise known as tarmac, is a trusty playground favourite. Very durable, the two-layered system is fantastic for large, open areas. Whilst not ideal for slips and trips of course, it’s often overlaid with most of the above surfacing options.
In most cases where existing tarmac is crumbling and broken, a fresh topcoat overlay on the playground creating a smooth finish again.
There are ways of getting creative with tarmac too. It is available in various colours and can brighten up with thermoplastic playground markings. These can create games, activities, or simple sports pitch markings, which give great play value for their cost.
Loose fill areas
A loose fill area contains sand, pea gravel, bark or another similar material which is very safe for a child to fall onto. Keeping the materials in place can mean a lot of sweeping, especially on windy days. However, they are very popular with schools who desire a play surfaces with a natural texture.
The other main drawback is that the loose fill material gets messy when spread around an area by little people’s feet and fingers! This also means the loose fill areas requires a top-up from time to time. That said, it is generally a very cost effective solution.
Can I have more than one?
Absolutely! Each surface offers its own textures, colours and qualities that work wonderfully together. Some surfaces are better suited to particular applications than others, but then a multi-play area should include space for zoned activities, and this opens up great opportunity to include as many surfacing options as possible! Nature and Sensory areas are perfect for blending a variety of surfaces.
Playground safety surfacing installation in London and the South East
Playcubed have been creating outstanding play areas in for over 40 years. In this time we have installed many acres of play surfacing, and have grown to become the leading school playground installers across London and the South East. If you are considering installing new playground safety surfacing, please get in touch today and we’re pleased to assist!