Poured Rubber Vs. Rubber Tiles: Which Is Better For Your playground?

Poured rubber and rubber tiles are two leading playground surface materials. Although these are relatively expensive materials, they provide superb protection and are easy to maintain. Choosing between poured rubber and rubber tiles is up to your needs and preferences.

When it comes to our children, safety is always the #1 priority. Whether in school, on the road, or anywhere else they go, parents need to know that nothing can harm their little ones. A playground is one of the places where your child’s safety must be guaranteed because a simple mistake can be fatal. So, do you want to construct a playground, but you are still trying to figure out which surfacing material will work best?  Well, we are here to discuss the two most common used surfacing materials; poured rubber and rubber tiles. We hope this post can help you make an informed decision.

So, poured rubber vs. rubber tiles, what is best for you?  Everything boils down to the safety features, cost of acquisition and installation, and the maintenance level required to keep it in good shape. Rubber tiles are easy to clean, low maintenance, slip-resistant, and easy to repair. However, they are relatively expensive, highly flammable, and low quality. Poured rubber scores high on safety, quality, and accessibility. But, it can become hard over time, must be regularly swept, and require professional installation.

In this blog post, we compare poured rubber and rubber tiles as playground surfacing materials highlighting each material’s pros and cons to help you make an informed decision.

1. Poured Rubber

Poured-in-place rubber, commonly referred to as poured rubber, is usually installed over hard surfaces such as concrete or a crushed aggregate base. Once the base is laid out, a carefully shredded rubber buffing layer is mixed with a binder to create the desired cushioning thickness.

There is the EPDM layer composed of smaller rubber granules mixed with a binder installed on top of the buffing layer. The surface is then hand-troweled to level up everything.

A top view of a slide.
Poured rubber surface allows you to easily modify the thickness of the material if needed.

One of the best things about poured rubber is that you can easily add more rubber buffing if you need a relatively thicker surface. It means that you can easily transition between different thickness levels.

Poured rubber also comes in a wide range of colors and provides you with an endless amount of different design options. Conducting repair work on the surface is relatively simple. In fact, you can buy a complete patch kit that usually covers small square footage and is packed with everything you need to repair a damaged section of your surface.

You can even print custom logos and other letterings on poured rubber, but that may cost you extra money.

When it comes to maintenance, you need to clean poured rubber frequently to keep it in great shape. Consider cleaning it at least twice per day if there is high foot traffic.

Keep in mind that poured rubber isn’t pressed at the factory. Therefore, it will also require topcoat maintenance. A cap coat is highly recommended every two years to allow it to serve you for many years.

Pros of Poured Rubber

Poured rubber can be a good option for you due to the several benefits it offers. They include:

1. Safety

It is relatively safer compared to rubber tiles and wood chips. A significant number of parents usually complain about the injuries caused by the pieces of wood chips or rubber mulching piercing through their kids’ clothes, eyes, and skin. Poured rubber is typically soft, safe, and durable.

A kids smiling while hanging.
Durable poured rubber surface prevents kids from severe injuries.

2. Cost-effective

Although the initial installation cost can be relatively high, the maintenance cost tends to go down over the years. On average, poured rubber may not need any special maintenance before it is ten years old, depending on the amount of footfall on it.

The regular sweeping and mopping are sufficient to keep it in great shape.  Still, the cost of maintenance doesn’t skyrocket after ten years. All you have to do is coat its surface with the weather and wear-resistant materials, and you are good to go.

3. Easy installation

Poured rubber can be installed easily and doesn’t consume a lot of time. The materials used in the installation are usually mixed and spread on site.  In fact, there are a lot of easy-to-follow video tutorials you can follow online.

4. Improved accessibility and no risk of allergies

When poured rubber is used in a playground, parents don’t have to worry about the sensitivity of the chemicals used since none of them is harmful. In most cases, installers use high-quality natural rubber.

Natural rubber helps in keeping the playground flexible and flat and resistant to extreme weather elements. Moreover, poured rubber can easily be accessed by kids on wheelchairs.

Kids on wheelchair playing a team sport,
Poured rubber surfacing makes the playground accessible for the kids with special needs.

5. High quality

Poured rubber is manufactured from high-quality natural rubber, which allows kids to play on it safely. 

Furthermore, it offers you the freedom to design the playground surface in different shapes, colors, and colors

You can even inscribe your playground logo and other letterings on the surface. The surface is also easy to clean and maintain.

Cons of Poured Rubber

Some of the disadvantages of poured rubber include:

  • The initial cost of installation is relatively high.
  • Natural rubber is flammable. Therefore, you need to implement extra measures to minimize the risk of fire outbreaks.
  • The top layer can become abrasive over time, and its drainage system can easily be blocked when there is particle buildup.
  • You need to be careful about the quality of rubber used. Some installers use low-quality rubber that won’t last for too long.
  • You need to clean and vacuum the surface regularly to avoid the risk of compaction.
  • The risk of tripping can also increase over time as the edges expand or curl over time. The rubber can also become hard over time, increasing the risk of injury.

2. Rubber Tiles

You can find rubber tiles for almost every height. They come in different sizes, shapes, and thickness to accommodate the needs of different kids.  Depending on the type of rubber tiles, they can be glued to the surface, interlock, or glue each tile together side by side.

Typically, if the base surfacing is not 100% level, it will show on the rubber tiles so you can correct it.  Rubber tiles tend to offer more safety and are easy to maintain. They are also durable and can withstand harsh weather conditions.

It is also easy to clean and repair them. Most rubber tiles on the market are designed to be installed over concrete or asphalt. However, if you install them on asphalt with cracks protruding upwards, the surface won’t work well.

A boy riding a toy car.
Easy-to-maintain rubber tiles create a safe environment for kids and last for many years.

The best way to install rubber tiles is to glue them down to ensure minimum lateral movements. If you use beveled edges, be sure to use extra strong binders to install the edges to block unwanted tile movements.

Installing rubber tiles on stone dust or packed crushed stones is a bad idea because it can lead to drainage issues.  If you want rubber tiles to serve you long without problems, ensure you follow best practices during installation.

One of the significant issues you will encounter with rubber tiles is unexplained shrinking when exposed to too much sunlight. The shrinking creates gaps and tripping hazards between tiles.

It also makes it hard to replace the tiles because they are no longer the same size as when they were bought and won’t line up properly next to each other. 

Pros of Rubber Tiles

Here are some of the top benefits of using rubber tiles in a playground;

  • Slip-resistant
  • Relatively easy to clean
  • Easy to maintain
  • Features consistent impact-absorbing qualities
  • Decompose at a much lower rate
  • Available in a wide range of colors and textures
  • Wheelchair accessible
  • They don’t harden or crack.
  • Stays in one place for many years

Cons of Rubber Tiles

Some of the drawbacks of using rubber tiles include;

  • The initial cost of installation is relatively high.
  • Flammable
  • There are still a few quality concerns.
  • They don’t last for many years. Rubber tiles have an average lifespan of ten years.
  • Fine particles can accumulate in their porous openings leading to drainage issues.
  • Can curl over the edges over time, increasing the risk of tripping.
  • Require professional installation.
  • Accumulation of loose particles such as sand and debris on their surface can lead to slip hazards.
  • Require sophisticated cleaning.

Which One Is the Best for You?

From what we have discussed above, you may realize that none of the two options stands out as the outright winner.  Both of them tend to score evenly on quality, cost of installation, and maintenance.  In most cases, choosing between poured rubber and rubber tiles boils down to your personal preferences.

Playground with a rubber surface.
An expert will evaluate your playground site and advise you accordingly.

Before you decide on the type of material to go for between the two, make sure you assess your needs thoroughly and consult a playground expert if need be. An expert will evaluate your playground site and advise you accordingly.

Final Thoughts

The playground surfacing material you choose can play a significant role in ensuring kids’ safety at the playground.  Therefore, it is critical to assess your needs and involve experienced playground professionals in the process.

We hope you found this post useful, and we wish you all the best in your journey of choosing a playground surfacing material. Let us know if you have any questions or suggestions.

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