Playground Surfaces Options – A New Generation of Safety
Despite rapid technological developments changing the way young people play and interact both at school and at home, one feature remains prevalent in most schools and public spaces: the playground. Swings, slides, climbing frames, monkey bars…you name it!
But, what about the surface upon which this sits?
There are a variety of playground flooring options available enabling you to create bespoke playground flooring specific to your needs. This guide will help you feel informed about which one is right for you. It isn’t just about schools – these surfaces are also perfect for nurseries, council-owned play areas or even caravan parks.
So, What Types of Playground Surfaces are Available?
1. Artificial Grass
Artificial grass is typically made from synthetic fibres which are made to look like natural grass. Artificial grass is usually used on sports fields and back gardens for a more aesthetically pleasing view than that other playground surface materials.
- Aesthetically pleasing – Artificial grass will maintain its attractive appearance in all weather conditions. Adverse weather does not have a direct impact on the quality or appearance of artificial turf, unlike natural grass.
- Low Maintenance – Artificial grass also requires less maintenance than that of its natural substitute or of other playground surfaces. There is no need to water, mow or fertilise your artificial turf, however, you may want to hose or brush your artificial grass down once in a while depending on the appearance you want to achieve.
- Environmental damage – The production of artificial grass could have a damaging effect on the environment. Depending on the production method, harmful toxins could be released into the environment.
- Expensive – Artificial grass is more expensive than other playground surfacing materials.
- Impact Absorption – Artificial grass is not particularly impact absorbing and can cause burns or injury when sliding over the surface.
2. Resin Bound Stone Surfacing
Perfect for playground paths rather than surfacing around equipment, resin bound surfaces are very durable surfaces with porous properties meaning puddles are unlikely to form, keeping your children’s clean and dry whatever the weather!
- Aesthetically pleasing – Resin bound surfaces are modern, seamless and an attractive to the eye. They can enhance the appearance of any environment instantaneously and can blend seamlessly with its surroundings, as well as offer a number of different colour options.
- No drainage needed – Resin bound stone is a porous material that allows water to be absorbed, thus making it SUDS (Sustainable Urban Drainage system) compliant. As such a drainage system doesn’t need to be installed with your resin bound stone playground surface.
- Low cost – Installing a resin bound playground surface is relatively low cost providing the sub base does not need any remedial work. If the area already has a tarmac or concrete sub-base then the costs will significantly reduce, as little to no groundwork will be needed prior to installation.
- Quick installation – Installation of resin bound surfaces are relatively quick and can usually be completed within approximately 2 days.
- Hardness – Resin bound stone, as the name suggests, are hard surfaces made up of bonded stone. As such, although they make very decorative pathways, if there is likely to be any rough and tumble as per a playground, they would not be the surface of choice.
- Maintenance – Resin bound is relatively maintenance free and will prevent weeds from coming through. However, air born seed can rest in the surface and start to germinate. We would recommend a regular moss treatment.
- A reputable installer is key – There are no regulations for resin bound stone installers meaning poorly experienced installers or ‘shark paving companies’ can do a poor job at installing your resin bound surface. It is always recommended to do both market and company research. Alternatively, get in touch with Flexflooring today.
3. Wet Pour Rubber Surfacing
Wet pour floors are perhaps the most commonly used flooring type in playgrounds, outdoor recreational and wet play environments to create a child-safe area!
Typically, the material known as EPDM (a synthetic rubber) is made up of 1-4mm thick rubber granules. It can be installed at between 10-15mm over a tarmac surface or at any depth over 40mm on an MOT type 1 surface.
However, if you install wetpour under play equipment, there are guidelines on to how thick it must be depending on what is called the Critical Fall Height of the Equipment.
Wetpour is installed as one continuous surface, laid on location and offers a softer surface with bounce back to help soften those inevitable falls and reduce those scraped elbows!
- Impact Absorption – Rubbaflex sg (EPDM) is a synthetic rubber and as such will have some impact absorption properties, softening the blow for any scrapes or falls.
- Slip Resistant – Rubbaflex SG has the highest slip resistant of any of the surfaces mentioned in this article, which is probably why it is the most commonly used material in a play ground environment.
- Bespoke Colour & Design – There is a large range of colours available for this type of rubber surface. Depending on your specific needs, it can either complement or even enhance the energy radiating from your playground area. We can also incorporate fun designs such as animals, vehicles or even a school logo. This provides stimulation to children and can transform the surface into an education aid in itself!
- Maintenance – Periodically, you will need to clean litter and leaves off the surface before it becomes ingrained on the surface and becomes harder to get rid of. This is not a major downside but is worth bearing in mind that you’ll need to do a bit of work every now and then to keep the initial beauty of your surface firmly intact.
- Price – We’re very confident that the advantages of wet pour rubber surfacing are clear. However, creating such bespoke and durable designs does mean a slightly higher price. It’s hard to provide an exact quote as every project is unique and depends on factors such as the number of colours, the layout of the installation area, and the depth of Rubbaflex required.Black Rubbaflex is vastly cheaper than coloured Rubbaflex, we would recommend a budget anywhere between £35-80psqm but it’s certainly a long-term investment.
4. Rubber Mulch
Unlike the continuous, congealed mass that wet pour rubber becomes, rubber mulch is formed of loose, individual pieces of recycled rubber mixed with a special high-performance polyutherane. This makes it a type of ‘loose fill’ surface, not too dissimilar to woodchip, apart from the fact it is bound together with a resin.
- Direct Installation – Does not require a structural sub-base, one of the main advantages of Rubber mulch is that it does not require a tarmac, concrete or even stone sub base, and can be installed directly onto a grassed area. Normally installed at a depth of 40mm.
- Natural Appearance – The individual pieces of rubber resemble woodchip and therefore look a little more natural, rather than a manufactured floor. This is great for rural public areas or schools with an emphasis on the environment.
- Cost-Effective – Rubber mulch is cheaper than wet pour rubber, and this largely because you don’t necessarily need a sub-base. If the underlying surface is grass or soil, then you can simply lay the rubber mulch on top so you’re only paying for the installation of your flooring system rather than the additional remedial works to a substrate.
- Easy Installation – Due to the simplicity of the material being manufactured off-site and the fact it simply needs to be placed in the desired area, installation is a far quicker process thus reducing the price further.
- Fewer Colour Options – In comparison to wet pour rubber surfacing, UV light has a more damaging impact on rubber mulch and therefore the longevity of bright colours. Subsequently, your options with this type of material are slightly more limited.
- Get Your Rake Out – Whilst you don’t need to worry about the surface being scuffed, the loose nature of rubber mulch coupled with a swarm of energetic kids means pieces do come loose from time to time. This isn’t too much of a problem if you’re prepared to rake over the surface every once in a while.
- Wheelchair Users – Everyone deserves to have fun, but bear in mind that this type of surface isn’t completely level. It can, therefore, make it difficult for children in wheelchairs to access all of the playground equipment. To get around this, you may need a firmer pathway within the rubber mulch to ensure there is easy access to all swings, slides etc.
Playground Surfacing Materials
Of the list of playground surfacing solutions, Flexflooring offer three types: Wet Pour Rubber Surfacing, Rubber Mulch and Resin Bound Stone surfaces; either of which could be just what you’re looking for!
Why do we offer these playground flooring options?
The safety of children is paramount in the mind of parents and teachers – wherever the playground is located, this is an important decision. Traditionally, tarmac and asphalt surfaces have been the main material used for playground surfaces. However, whilst durable and relatively inexpensive, the risk of injury was greater, including concussions, grazes and breaks.
It is impossible to completely remove the risk of injury – kids will be kids! However, rubber-based solutions are safer in terms of slip resistance and more cushioning upon impact with the ground. The appropriate depth of the surface is calculated using a critical fall height and is based on the height of the surrounding equipment.
If you’re eco-minded, rubber surfaces are perfect for your conscious. They utilise shredded recycled rubber, predominantly from truck tyres. The line markings upon the surface are also non-toxic so our playground surfaces can be a seamless yet reassuring presence in your play environment.
Both of Flexflooring’s playground surface materials are fully porous, which means fast drainage and the removal of standing water. In turn, this helps reduce the risk of bacteria building up on the surface and disease spreading. This is particularly important in an environment with a high volume of children passing through and touching equipment and the floor.
We think safety, good drainage and environmental-friendliness are all crucial factors that should be taken into consideration when deciding upon a playground surface. But, what about choosing between our two types?
We hope the above provides more insight into which type of playground surface is right for you, but feel free to contact us for more information via 01622 747909 or through our contact page.