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Choosing your playground surface

Posted by Jamie Kavanagh on

If you're building a play area for children, whether at home, work or in a public place, you usually have three options. You can choose grass, wood mulch or rubber mulch. All offer something a little different and all have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Let's take a look at each of these ground coverings so you can decide which is best for you.


Grass has long been the ground cover of choice for anywhere children play. Whether it's playing sports, playing games or in a playground, grass has been the main choice for decades. Looked after well, grass offers a soft landing, attractive surface and a robust place to play.

Pros of grass as a play surface

Grass is everywhere and will grow almost everywhere. It's likely already in the area if it hasn't already been developed. If it isn't, grass or turf is cheap to buy, straightforward to install and soft enough for most uses.

Cons of grass as a play surface

Grass needs a lot of maintenance to keep it looking good. It is also very susceptible to wear and once worn, the cushion effect diminishes significantly. It also stains clothes and harbors bacteria and insects.

Wood mulch

Wood mulch has been used as ground cover for many years and has done a credible job in that time. More effective in landscaping than play area, it can provide a soft landing if deep enough.

Pros of wood mulch as a play surface

Wood mulch is cheap, readily available and easy to work with. As long as it's laid at the required depth it can provide a soft landing from decent heights.

Cons of wood mulch as a play surface

It needs to be laid deep to provide an effectively safe landing, 12" or more in many cases. It also soaks up water, decays, blows away, easily compresses with heavy use, bleeds color and needs a lot of maintenance to keep looking good in play areas.

Rubber mulch

Rubber mulch is the new kid on the block with a point to prove. Made from recycled tires, rubber mulch is currently the safest playing surface around. It's also environmentally friendly and comes in a variety of colors.

Pros of rubber mulch as a play surface

Rubber mulch is weatherproof, does not absorb water, has a very high safety rating, needs little maintenance and can be used in a multitude of situations. It doesn't decay, harbor bacteria, provide a home for insects or blow away in the wind either.

Cons of rubber mulch as a play surface

There's no getting away from the fact that rubber mulch is more expensive to buy than wood mulch but it does repay that investment over the longer term!

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