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Although it plays a bit of a background role, the surfacing material of a playground is actually one of the most important elements. Whether you’re looking at it from the perspective of safety, or creating the most engaging space possible for users, the surface material used is going to have a big impact. There are a number of British standards that relate to playground surfacing to bear in mind, as well as the type and height of equipment, the age of your users and the design and installation that you’re looking for. With all that in mind, these are some of the main surfacing materials to consider for your playground.

Grass – This is an obvious option for playground surfacing as it’s naturally abundant and a lot softer than concrete. It can provide some protection and will also look good. However, natural grass does have some downsides, including the way it changes in weather conditions. For example, it can harden in hot weather or become a mud bath in the rain, both of which can make a playground less safe, aesthetically pleasing and easy to use.

Loose-fill surfacing – Playgrounds with loose-fill surfacing are usually covered in sand, woodchip or pea shingles. This type of surfacing is very easy to lay and quick to install and it can be a good option for surfacing underneath some static play equipment. However, there are challenges with loose fill surfacing, as it’s not designed to stay in one place which means it can become dispersed very easily. It also won’t work at all underneath moving play equipment because it will move with the equipment, rather than remaining a robust, static surface.

Synthetic surfacing materials – Many modern playgrounds have synthetic surfacing materials, as these are designed to meet the usage and health and safety needs of most environments. The initial investment in synthetic surfacing materials might be a little higher but they also tend to be long-lasting and require less maintenance and repair going forwards than other types of surfacing materials. Rubber mulch is one type of synthetic surfacing material that is very popular because it’s very durable and renowned for its safety properties. It is made from shredded car tyres bound in polyurethane and can be designed with impressive aesthetic appeal. Another type of popular synthetic surfacing material for playgrounds is wet pour rubber, which is made of rubber granules that are bound in polyurethane. This type of surfacing is very weather resistant and durable, as well as being highly shock absorbent. It’s also very versatile and can be designed to be aesthetically appealing too.

When you’re looking at surfacing materials for your playground it’s important to consider the challenges and attributes that each one has. It will also be key to bear in mind factors such as budget, the kind of design that you’re looking to achieve, the children who will use the playground and whether there is any protection for the playground against vandalisation (fencing etc). Altogether, these will determine what kind of surfacing materials are likely to be the best option.