Is Playground Rubber Mulch Worth the Cost?

Playground rubber mulch is a popular choice for playgrounds because it’s safe, durable, and versatile. The mulch is made from recycled tires, so clean-up is easy, it helps control dust and errant spills, and it’s quiet when you walk on it. Here we take a look at whether or not playground rubber mulch is worth the cost.

Let us face it: Some of the best memories your children have are most probably those made in your backyard or local playground as they jump, run, swing, climb, mold, and engage in all sorts of activities. Unfortunately, not everything about a playground is good. Sometimes, children experience nasty falls that may lead to injuries. Such falls will only lead to traumatic memories, something you don’t want your little ones to experience. That is why it is important to have a surface cover material such as rubber mulch to reduce the risk of injuries in case of a fall. While there are many playground surfacing materials, rubber mulch remains one of the most popular, leading us to a critical question:

Is rubber mulch worth the cost? The simple answer is yes. Unlike other playground surfacing materials such as pea gravel and artificial grass, recycled rubber mulch is highly durable and maintains its appearance for many years. It means you don’t have to buy and install new rubber mulch yearly. Since it is made of pure synthetic rubber, it doesn’t absorb water and is eco-friendly. Furthermore, it doesn’t turn into a compacted/hard surface with frequent use and won’t blow away easily in high winds.

This blog post discusses everything you need to know about playground rubber mulch and why it is worth the cost. Read on to learn more.

What Is Rubber Mulch?

Before we dive into the details of why rubber mulch is worth the cost, let us first understand what it is. Rubber mulch is a type of surfacing material made of recycled tires that are ground into small particles.

It is mostly used as an alternative to traditional wood mulch thanks to its durability and relatively low maintenance requirements.

The rubber is carefully shredded into small pieces, dyed to your desired appearance, and spread over the playing surface.

A close up rubber mulch.
It is mostly used as an alternative to traditional wood mulch thanks to its durability and relatively low maintenance requirements.

The overall thickness of playground rubber mulch will mostly depend on the height of your playground equipment, as well as its usage.

Since it is made from recycled rubber and does not require much maintenance, rubber mulch will remain intact for many years compared to other ground cover materials.

It provides excellent shock absorption and helps to cushion falls, minimizing the risk of severe injuries in case of a fall.

You don’t have to worry about it blowing away in high winds or turning into a compacted and hard surface with constant use.

Furthermore, you can purchase it in shredded or nugget form. However, some planning is required before installation.

For instance, you will have to consider the size of rubber pieces, their color, and the overall thickness required.

Does Rubber Mulch Cost More Than Other Ground Cover Materials?

Compared to other playground surfacing materials such as gravel, sand, and artificial turf, rubber mulch is more expensive. That said, its cost-effectiveness and durability greatly outweigh the higher cost.

Typically, rubber mulch is available in two forms: nuggets and shredded pieces. Nuggets are more expensive than shredded pieces. However, they last longer and need less maintenance over time.

A rubber mulch on hand.
Typically, rubber mulch is available in two forms: nuggets and shredded pieces.

In general, rubber mulch costs between $5 and $7 per square foot (installed), depending on size and color.

To cover unexpected costs, you should consider purchasing 10-15% more material than your estimated requirements.

Why Is Rubber Mulch Worth the Cost?

Now that you know what rubber mulch is and how it compares to other playground surfacing materials in terms of price, let us dive into the reasons why it is worth the cost:


One of the biggest advantages of playground rubber mulch is that it increases safety for children who play on it by reducing the risk and severity of falls, which can help prevent serious injuries.

Keep in mind that kids will always be kids. It means that falls, accidents, and scrapes will always happen, especially when they are playing outdoors.

Whether at home or away from home, your child’s safety is what counts most. Rubber mulch is designed to provide extra springiness for kids whenever they stumble or fall during playtime.

As long as your rubber mulch is properly installed and has adequate depth, the materials will guarantee up to 15 feet of critical fall height protection compared to other playground surfacing materials such as wood mulch and pea gravel.

It also offers excellent shock absorbance compared to other playground surfaces, making it the ideal choice for any playground.

Rubber mulch is fully designed to cushion mishaps and help your kid avoid brain injury, bone fractures, scrapes, and other playground-related injuries.


Another major advantage of playground rubber mulch is that it is incredibly durable and long-lasting.

Once installed, you won’t have to worry about replacing or repairing your ground cover for a long time due to its weather-resistant properties.

A playground with a colorful rubber mulch surface.
It is also highly resistant to damage from UV rays, making it an ideal choice for outdoor play areas.

Unlike other ground cover materials, rubber mulch won’t get swept away in the wind and will not need replacing as often. It is also highly resistant to damage from UV rays, making it an ideal choice for outdoor play areas.

Additionally, due to its ability to resist heat build-up, playground rubber mulch remains cool even in the hottest of summers.


Compared to other surfacing materials, rubber mulch only needs minimal maintenance to stay in great shape. Once laid down and covered with a weed-proof fabric, it will require very little cleanup or repair over its lifespan. It’s easy to keep free of dirt and debris by simply brushing it regularly with a push broom.


The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has endorsed commercial rubber mulch use on private and commercial playgrounds.

The agency has conducted thorough surface and atmospheric tests on many playgrounds using rubber mulch and found no adverse environmental or human effects.

It means that you can safely use rubber mulch for your child’s playground without worrying about your family’s safety and the environment.

In fact, some states have incentivized the use of rubber mulch as a playground surfacing material due to the thorough process of recycling and repurposing that it undergoes.

Provides Good Insulation

Rubber mulch does a decent job of providing insulation from heat. It can reflect heat and reduce energy costs during hot summer months, making it one of the best playground surface materials available today.

A yellow paint in a rubber mulch.
It can reflect heat and reduce energy costs during hot summer months.

It is the most-preferred playground surfacing material for indoor playgrounds because it doesn’t break down and produce a rotting smell, as is the case with wood mulch and other organic playground surfacing materials.

Keeps Bugs Away

Another benefit of installing rubber mulch on a playground is that it does a great job of keeping bugs away.

The material’s tight-knit structure and small holes make it difficult for insects to burrow or nest near the playground area.

The non-porous nature of the material also makes it difficult for bugs to cling on quickly, further reducing their chances of nesting in the play area. Rubber mulch is ideal for outdoor playgrounds located in areas where bugs are prevalent.

Stays in Place for Many Years

Rubber mulch is relatively heavier than wood chips and pea gravel, and therefore it stays in place for many years.

It won’t get dispersed in the wind like other playground surfaces and can remain safe, secure, and functioning properly for years.

This makes it mulch ideal for playgrounds near busy roads or highways where wind-blown debris is common.

Cons of Rubber Mulch

Although rubber mulch offers a wide range of advantages, it has drawbacks. Some of the most notable cons of rubber mulch as a playground surfacing material include the following:

Contains Chemical Residues

One of the most significant disadvantages of using rubber mulch for playgrounds is the fact that it may contain chemical residues.

This can be due to the tires from which it was produced, or any other contaminants that may have been present during its production process.

The EPA has conducted tests on recycled rubber mulch and found that there are some chemical residues in it, and these chemicals can be hazardous to human health.

However, the EPA has also declared that the levels are not high enough to cause major health risks.


Compared to wood chips or pea gravel, rubber mulch is quite expensive. It may cost twice as much as other playground surfacing materials, making it a less affordable option for some.

Also, rubber mulch requires a particular type of base when installed, which can further increase the cost.

A blue paint on a rubber mulch.
It may cost twice as much as other playground surfacing materials, making it a less affordable option for some.

Therefore, it is important to consider all these factors before deciding on which playground surfacing material you should use.

Rubber Mulch Doesn’t Look and Feel Organic

Despite the many colors in which rubber mulch is available, it still lacks the look and feel of organic surfacing materials. This can be an issue for some playground owners who prefer more natural looks to their playgrounds.

It Is Non-Bio-Degradable

Unlike wood chips or pea gravel, rubber mulch doesn’t decompose over time. This can be an issue if you are looking for an eco-friendly playground surfacing material.

Since it does not degrade, it may eventually accumulate in landfills and can cause environmental problems.

Final Thoughts

Rubber mulch is an excellent choice for playground surfacing due to its safety benefits, durability, and low maintenance costs.

It provides a safe playground environment that your children can enjoy for many years.

Although the initial cost may be relatively higher, the long-term savings in terms of maintenance and replacement is worth it.

Last update on 2023-07-23 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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