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What Surface Should Go Underneath the Playset for Safety?

Q&A Safety & Set Up Swing Set Materials Swing Set Safety


This Q&A is the latest in a blog series featuring questions submitted by some of the parents (and even grandparents) who reach out to us on a daily basis. We've started documenting our answers and the subsequent conversations for the sake of you and other parents out there who might be asking the same questions about choosing, buying, setting up, maintaining, and enjoying a wooden swing set for their family.


For today's Q&A, Anna Russell, mom of 3, wants to know what surface material she should use for playset safety.

Question: I just purchased a swing set. What surface should go underneath the playset for safety?

- Anna Russell, Mom of 3, 5, and 9 year old boys

Answer: That’s an excellent question! The right surface material can prevent many unnecessary injuries and keep outdoor playsets safer by absorbing much of the impact when a child falls. There are several good quality materials that you can use beneath your swing set, and each has its benefits and drawbacks. Here is a chart that can help you decide which surface material is right for you:

Surface Material

Pros

Cons

Grass/Dirt

  • For minor falls, grass or dirt will cushion a blow.
  • These materials do not absorb the shock of a major fall.

Sand

  • Organic material
  • Softer surface material than grass
  • Can be used as a sandbox for kids to play in
  • This is an extremely cheap alternative
  • Sand is easy to buy, found in most hardware stores and nurseries
  • Self-installed option without the need for a contractor
  • Can be blown away with the wind
  • Sand will get dragged into the house, making a mess
  • Attracts unwanted animals that can carry and transfer bugs and diseases to children

Pea Gravel

  • One of the cheapest alternatives
  • Attractive appearance
  • Easy to find in most hardware stores and nurseries
  • Some shock absorbency
  • Easy and fast installation
  • Gravel will get kicked out of the play area and need to be reined in frequently
  • Gravel can get caught in shoes or clothing items and transferred to the house
  • Not as strong as some other surface materials that can be used

Mulch

  • All natural material
  • Biodegradable and environmentally-friendly
  • One of the cheaper options
  • Easy to find in most gardening or hardware stores
  • Is soft and absorbs shock well
  • Healthy option if playset is positioned right next to grass
  • Can be poured without the need for a professional
  • Can be tracked into the house
  • Needs to be replenished periodically
  • Depending on the climate you live in, mulch can attract undesirable insects

Wood Chips

  • Soft, shock-absorbent material
  • All natural material, so it will look great in an outdoor setting
  • Biodegradable and environmentally-friendly
  • Relatively cheap compared to some other swing set surface material options
  • Healthy option if playset is positioned right next to grass
  • Easy to install DIY
  • May cause splinters (though unlikely)
  • Easy to pick up and toss, making them tempting toys for kids to scatter across the backyard or lawn
  • Not as resilient as the more industrial surface material options

Shredded Rubber

  • Good shock absorbency level
  • Doesn’t attract insects, rodents, or animals
  • Easy to install all on your own
  • Requires little maintenance to upkeep
  • Not a natural surface material
  • Highly flammable material and is toxic if inhaled while burning (not recommended if there is a chance of sparks or possible combustion in close proximity)
  • Not environmentally-friendly

Rubber Mats

  • Resilient
  • Long-lasting
  • Extremely shock absorbent
  • Rubber mats come in a variety of colors to choose from
  • While not the most expensive option, rubber mats are more costly than the above-mentioned surface materials.
  • Sterile, unnatural appearance (synthetic materials such as rubber do not create the serene, rustic atmosphere that many homeowners want from their backyard space)

Poured-in-Place Rubber

  • Resilient
  • Long-lasting
  • Extremely shock absorbent
  • Can be made to look like several surfaces
  • Most expensive option (poured-in-place rubber must be poured out professionally with the right equipment, making it an expensive option)
  • Sterile, unnatural appearance (this can conflict with other more natural elements of an outdoor setting)

 
Which surface material is right for you will depend on your budget, backyard setup, and personal preferences. However, parents should note that under no circumstances should concrete, asphalt, or blacktop of any sort be used underneath any swing set or playground equipment. There is no shock absorption from these materials, and thousands of children are sent to the hospital each year because of falls onto such hard surfaces.

Come visit our Factory Showroom in Atlanta, GA.

We're located at:

The Swingset Co

3641 Clearview Pkwy

Doraville, GA 30340



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