Surfacing is the most important decision you will make for your playspace.The right surfacing helps to ensure your playspace is safe and accessible. More than 70% of playground injuries are due to falls on unsafe surfaces.* Investing in a safe surface will go a long way toward creating a safe playspace overall. An accessible surface is also the first step toward creating a playspace everyone can enjoy (children must be able to get to your structures to play on them).
Playground surfacing materials vary widely in terms of safety, accessibility, cost, and maintenance requirements. The following provides basic information to get you started.
New technology has made the surfaces available for playspaces safer and more accessible than ever before. In addition to basing your decision on safety and accessibility, plan for how your playspace will be funded and maintained. If you will not have access to or money for ongoing maintenance, you should consider a surface material that won't need to be raked every week to stay safe and accessible.
|Rubber Poured-in-Place||++||ADA compliant +++||$$$$$$$$+||$||periodic|
|Accessible Turf||++ or +||ADA compliant +++||$$$$$||$||periodic|
|Rubber Mats and Tiles||+||ADA compliant ++||$$$$$$$$||$||periodic|
|Bonded Wood Chips||+||ADA compliant +||$$$$||$||periodic|
|Engineered Wood Chips||+||ADA compliant||$||$$$||weekly|
|Shredded Rubber||+||ADA compliant||$$||$$$||weekly|
|Sand or Pea Gravel||UNSAFE under play structures|
|Asphalt or Cement||UNSAFE under play structures|
|Grass and Soil||UNSAFE under play structures|
$ = $1 per square foot**
Four main organizations publish standards for playground surfacing. You should be familiar with all of them. Playground manufacturers and other people who have built playgrounds can often help you understand how the various standards apply to your playspace.
|ADA||Accessibility, primarily, and also considers safety|
|CPSC #1005||Safety, primarily, and also considers accessibility|
|ASTM F2223-04||Overall guide to applying the ASTM playground surface standards|
|ASTM F1292-04||Minimum performance requirement of impact attenuation of surfacing|
|ASTM F1951-99||Determining accessibility of surface systems under and around playground equipment|
|ASTM F2075-04||Minimum characteristics for engineered wood fiber as safety surface under and around playground equipment|
|ASTM F1487-05||Consumer safety performance specifications for playground equipment|
|State-by-state||Safety and/or accessibility|
Different surfaces can accommodate, signify, and enhance various types of play. Poured-in-place rubber provides a great surface for riding and bouncing toys, and is also safer under climbing structures.Consider diverse pathway surfaces to demarcate play areas. Provide a smooth transition between distinct surfaces so wheelchairs can easily maneuver between spaces.
Surfacing material can provide tactile stimulation to children, enhancing the play experience. Children like and benefit from playing with various surfacing under their feet. Consider adding textures like rumble strips and undulations to the concrete or asphalt surfaces. Also, the transitions from one type of surfacing to another can signify different areas of the playspace.
*** Access-Board Research. (2004). Stabilized engineered wood fiber for accessible playground surfaces. http://www.access-board.gov/research/play-surfaces/report-surfaces.htm
ASTM. ASTM F2223-04. Standard Guide for ASTM Standards on PLAYGROUND Surfacing. http://www.astm.org/cgi-bin/SoftCart.exe/STORE/filtrexx40.cgi?U+mystore+bfhy4039+-L+PLAYGROUND+/usr6/htdocs/astm.org/DATABASE.CART/REDLINE_PAGES/F2223.htm
ADA Guidelines for Play Areas, Part 4. (Oct 2005). What are the requirements for accessible routes? http://www.access-board.gov/play/guide/part4.htm
Christoph, Nancy. Planning Accessible Play Facilities. http://asumag.com/mag/university_planning_accessible_play/
**Estimated surfacing costs from: Corson, Cheryl. (June 2005). Under the swings. American School Board Journal. http://www.asbj.com/Search.aspx?SearchPhrase=under+the+swings
KidSource Online.(2000).Playground surfacing materials: CPSC Document #1005. Retrieved from http://www.kidsource.com/CPSC/playground_surface.html
National Safe Surfacing Initiative.(2006).Why purchase rubber tile surfacing provided by the National Safe Surfacing Initiative (NSSI)? http://nssi-usa.com/Playground_Safety_Surfacing/Surfacing_Selection_Criteria/
*Skulski, J. (December 2005). City of Detroit sets strict specs to ensure new playground surfaces are safe and accessible. Bloomington, IN: National Center on Accessibility, Indiana University. http://www.indiana.edu/~nca/making-the-grade/detroit.shtml
Spencer, Anne-Marie. (2006). From the Ground Up: Surface Materials Provide the Foundation for Playground Safety. schoolconstructionnews.com