Rubber Surfaces For Playgrounds: Everything You Need to Know

While rubber surfaces are among the most popular options when it comes to playground surfacing, there are some factors you should consider before using this material. Here are some pros and cons of rubber surfaces for commercial and backyard playgrounds.

Choosing an ideal and safe surfacing material for your commercial or backyard playground isn’t an easy thing to do. Playgrounds remain a critical part of childhood, where children learn and develop a wide range of life skills. Therefore, it is critical to create a safe and entertaining environment that allows them to acquire these skills. One of the most popular playground surfacing materials is rubber, thanks to the many benefits it offers.

So, what do you need to know about rubber surfacing for playgrounds? Rubber surfacing works perfectly for both commercial and backyard playgrounds. The material is generally waterproof, slip-proof, eco-friendly, cost-effective, and absorbs shocks and vibrations pretty well. The material is also durable and has a good appearance. In fact, it can easily be customized to suit your preferences.  Rubber surfacing requires minimal maintenance to stay in great shape and is UV stable.

If you are considering installing rubber surface on your playground, you have made the right decision, and you are in the right place. This post discusses everything you need to know about rubber surfaces, including their pros and cons.

What Is Rubber Surfacing?

A seamless rubber surface is usually composed of a poured-in-place layer that is about ¾ -inch thick made of TPV or EPDM granules and crumbed rubber.

Sometimes, crumbed rubber is replaced with rubber tires. The thickness of the surface will mostly depend on the usage of the surface.

During production, the raw rubber particles are usually bound together with polyurethane binder mixed on-site. Once the rubber particles have been poured in place and hardened to the required standard, the surface is fully set, and nothing will shift.

A playground with a rubber surface.
You must keep in mind that rubber surfaces are made of soft pour or wet pour rubber.

A good rubber surface must meet the set standards for safety and wheelchair accessibility. You must keep in mind that rubber surfaces are made of soft pour or wet pour rubber.

Soft pour rubber is usually made by shredding tires into minute pieces known as rubber crumbs. The crumbs are then mixed with polyurethane to bind the crumbs together.

Like wet-pour cement, poured-in-place rubber is usually placed onto a play surface as an amorphous blob. The blob can be smoothed or molded to fit any shape, making it a relatively versatile application.

What Are the Benefits of Using Rubber Surfacing?

Rubber surfacing offers a wide range of surprising benefits that can make your playground unique. So, what are some of these benefits? Let us find out.

1. Rubber Surfacing Is UV Stable

The truth is that UV rays from the sun are harsh and can cause extensive damage on unprotected outdoor surfaces. While some people believe that rubber surfaces won’t do well with intense UV rays, that is not the case.

Generally, when the polyurethane binding is mixed with shredded rubber crumbs, it becomes UV stable making it one of the best choices for outdoor settings.

This is the primary reason why most outdoor playgrounds and even fitness areas choose rubber surfacing.

A colorful outdoor playset.
UV rays do not cause much damage as rubber surfacing is UV stable.

2. Low Maintenance

The biggest problem with most traditional flooring options is that they require frequent maintenance in the form of regular sweeping, mopping, and even weeding to stay in excellent shape.

For instance, the typical concrete floor needs to be swept, mopped, and even weeded frequently since some plants can find their way to it. It also absorbs a lot of water which can only make things worse for children.

However, rubber surfacing only requires basic maintenance to remain in great shape. All you have to do is clean it with a regular cleaning brush and a cleaning detergent. The most important thing is to ensure you are using the right cleaning products.

3. Good Aesthetics

Rubber surfaces are also aesthetically pleasing and can fit in almost every playground theme. It offers a smooth and clean-cut charm to its overall look. Furthermore, it can be installed in different patterns and designs to create an even more enticing play area.

A boy having fun on his toy car.
Rubber surfacing looks fantastic and can easily fit into a variety of playground themes and designs.

4. Easy to Install

Rubber surfaces are also easy to install. Playground experts recommend installing a containment border and some form of fabric filter to structure the play area and prevent grass and weeds from growing through the rubber surface.

Consider using wear mats under your swing sets, slide runouts, and other high traffic areas to provide an extra layer of protection. 

As long as the surface material’s depth is adequate, you can always allow kids to the playground without any worries.

5. Safe and Shock Absorbent

This is one of the biggest reasons why many people choose rubber as their preferred playground surfacing material.  In most cases, the rubber crumbs will be mixed with spongy, shock-absorbent padding meant to reduce injury in case of accidental slips and falls.

Depending on the scenario, rubber surfaces can be padded to meet specific height requirements.

Whether for a monkey bar, swing set, slide, or playhouse, rubber surfaces offer a highly safe alternative compared to traditional surfacing materials such as concrete, stone, asphalt, and wood chips.

6. Relatively Cheap to Install

Typically, rubber surfacing will be more affordable upfront. Most of them will cost between $1 and $3 per square foot. However, the overall cost may be slightly higher in the long run, especially if you need to replace it.

Rubber is susceptible to compression and will need to be replenished or replaced to maintain the required depths. High-traffic areas such as slide exits and swings may also require frequent smoothing as part of your weekly or monthly playground maintenance routine.

Remember that you will also require a containment border for your playground to prevent encroachment of grass or weeds from the surrounding areas into your rubber surface.

Cons of Rubber Surfacing

There are also some drawbacks of using rubber surfaces on a playground that you need to know. Most of these drawbacks stem from the fact that the rubber crumbs used in the process are mostly made from recycled tires.

It means that the recycled rubber may contain pieces of wire that are dangerous to children.  Furthermore, if the crumbs are not appropriately hardened, they could present a significant choking hazard.

Below is a quick summary of some of the drawbacks of using rubber as a playground surfacing material.

1. Toxic

Rubber contains some chemicals and heavy metals that can leach into the ground and spread to nearby areas. This can poison the ground and kill nearby plants. The rubber pieces can easily be washed down into nearby water bodies and turn fresh vegetables into a significant health hazard when peeled off.

While rubber crumbs undergo a comprehensive process to remove all the possible hazards, some playgrounds still use uninspected rubber surfaces that can pose a significant threat to kids.

A sand, pebbles, wood and grass.
Although rubber surfacing is an excellent option, it can be more toxic than its alternative materials.

2. Health Hazard

Some rubber crumbs still have some bits of steel belts still embedded in them. Even though the surface will be hardened and smoothened, the small steel belts can be hazardous when digging or keeling.

3. Some People Still Find It Unattractive

While it may be installed in different patterns to create an element of aesthetics, a significant number of people still find plain black rubber surfaces to be boring.

Therefore, if you want to install it on your backyard playground, you may be forced to reconsider your decision if you want to enhance your home’s appearance.

How Do You Maintain Rubber Surfacing?

As mentioned earlier, it is pretty easy to maintain rubber surfacing compared to other forms of traditional playground surfacing such as wood chips and asphalt.

The most important thing is to ensure you clean the surface regularly using appropriate chemicals. Get rid of all the dirt, small stones, moss, or loose sand that may be clogged in the spaces between the EPDM granules. Feel free to use a nylon broom to clean in between the spaces.

When mopping or washing, don’t use harsh detergents or solutions that can easily damage the surface. Avoid chemicals such as xylene that can dissolve glue. You can accomplish routine cleaning using a garden hose pipe, mild detergent, push broom, and a microfiber mop.

You should also keep the surface from sharp objects and reseal it at least once every two years. Resealing helps maintain the top layer that protects the highly fragile cushion layer from constant wear and tear and intense UV light.

A person holding cleaning materials.
Although rubber is a low-maintenance playground surfacing material, it still requires regular cleaning.

Without proper cleaning and maintenance, the top layer, which comprises UV protection, glue, and sealant, can easily wear away.

Lastly, you should know how to tackle stains because they form an integral part of rubber surfacing. The easiest way to get rid of stains from rubber surfacing is through pressure washing with gentle soap.

However, stubborn stains may require special treatment. It is always critical to try and understand the cause of the stain before you start removing it. For instance, a stain caused by harsh chemical spills cannot be removed the same way as another one caused by chewing gum stuck on the surface.

The Bottom Line

Rubber surfacing is becoming more popular as more playground owners learn about it. As mentioned, this type of playground surfacing offers a wide range of benefits and can be used for both indoor and outdoor playgrounds.

We hope you found this post helpful, and the information we have highlighted in it will help you make an informed decision when choosing your playground surfacing material.

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