As we know, outdoor play is vital for the development of all children, and we need to ensure that their outdoor experiences are as safe as possible. Playground safety surfacing reduces the risk of injuries by providing a cushion that absorbs the impact of a fall.


To provide effective playground surfacing, it’s important to use shock-absorbing materials that are inspected regularly. The most popular safety surfacing options include engineered wood fiber, rubber mulch, poured-in-place rubber, and synthetic turf.


If you choose a loose surface for your playground, you may be wondering about the practical differences between engineered wood and rubber. The Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC) has identified both wood fiber and rubber mulches as “appropriate surfacing” for playgrounds, so it comes down to which option better suits your needs. Let’s take a closer look at both.


Engineered wood fiber is manufactured from fresh wood and provides an all-weather surface. Because of the way it’s processed, the fiber contains no materials or debris that could be harmful to kids. Engineered wood fiber complies with ASTM F 1951 guidelines for public playground surface accessibility and, even though it’s a loose surface, is wheelchair accessible. It’s also among the more cost effective and sustainable playground surfaces available in the market.


Rubber mulch is made mostly from re-processed tires. Studies have shown that, inch-for-inch, rubber mulch offers greater shock-absorbing capacity, and it provides a softer landing than wood. It also lasts longer and requires less maintenance; because the material is denser than wood, it’s less likely to be washed away in heavy rain or to blow away in windy weather. When considering rubber mulch, your budget will be a factor, as it tends to cost more per square foot than wood fiber.


Remember, your playground is a long-term investment, so it’s important to carefully review your options for each element, including safety surfacing. Check your budget and also consider your maintenance schedule, as some options require more maintenance than others. It’s also vital to follow all local laws that pertain to safety surfacing and to have your playground inspected regularly by a Certified Playground Safety Inspector.


If you need more assistance deciding which safety surface is right for you, give us a call at (713) 939-9888 and we’ll be happy to help.