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Pros and Cons of Each Type of Playground Safety Surfacing


Playground safety surfacing creates spaces where kids can run and play without getting hurt. This surface lies underneath and around playground structures, swings, slides, climbers and other equipment to protect kids if they fall.

When choosing safety surfacing for your playground, it’s important to review all of your options, as some are better than others depending on your needs. As an example, poured-in-place rubber is a great fit for parks with tall structures, while loose fill options may work best for budget-conscious playground designs.

Below are the different types of playground safety surfacing Cunningham Recreation provides and the pros and cons of each.

EWF Engineered Wood Fiber Playground Safety Surfacing

Engineered Wood Fiber

Engineered wood fiber (EWF) is a popular loose fill playground safety surfacing choice because it’s affordable and versatile. It meets the basic accessibility guidelines of the ADA and absorbs water very well. We recommend EWF for those who need something quick, easy and affordable.

However, there are some drawbacks to be aware of. Engineered wood fiber can be easily displaced and requires regular maintenance of raking and topping off to maintain the proper depth and impact attenuation. Plus, mobility is limited for children with wheelchairs and/or other mobility devices.

Playground Surfacing Company - Poured-in-Place Rubber

Poured-in-Place Rubber

Poured-in-place (PIP) rubber is one of our favorite unitary safety surfacing options. Not only is it ADA accessible, but it is inclusive. It is available in a wide range of colors to match your playground design, allows you to add play value into the surfacing with maps, hopscotch and other games. You can even create unique designs using inlaid shapes, logos and themed graphics. Poured-in-place rubber is also durable, soft and does not displace. Unfortunately, PIP is expensive and will need to be professionally installed. It must also be installed over compacted crushed stone that will need to be certified, concrete or asphalt.

Recycled Bonded Rubber Playground Safety Surfacin

Recycled Bonded Rubber

Recycled bonded rubber is made from lean, recycled shredded rubber tires. It’s safe, accessible to children with special needs and provides an adequate degree of protection to busy children. But like the other surfacing options, there are some drawbacks to recycled bonded rubber. You’ll need about six inches of material to protect kids and a full resurfacing in about 10 years.

Playground Safety Surfacing Companies - Loose Fill Recycled Rubber

Loose Fill Recycled Rubber

Loose fill recycled rubber is available in many different colors to match your playground. It won’t decompose like other loose fill safety surfacing options, and it offers exceptional impact absorbing features. Despite its higher initial cost, loose fill recycled rubber can be more economical than EWF because it won’t decompose requiring less topping off of material. However, you’ll still need a lot of recycled rubber to make your playground safe and borders to contain the loose fill recycled rubber material. The biggest negative for this type of safety surfacing is that it is difficult for park guests with wheelchairs and other mobility devices.

Recycled Rubber Tiles Playground Surfacing

Recycled Rubber Tiles

Recycled rubber tiles is a unitary surface that provides excellent shock absorption, minimal maintenance and extended wear. As with other rubber products, you can handpick the colors and patterns you want - the tiles interlock together forming a solid surface. If there’s an issue, you can easily replace one tile. However, please be aware that these tiles need to be installed by a professional and do have a higher initial investment. Tiles should be installed over a solid surfacing like compacted crushed stone certified, concrete or asphalt adding additional costs to your overall project.

Playground with Turf Safety Surfacing


Last on our list is synthetic turf. Synthetic turf is a low-maintenance, natural looking safety surfacing option that is one of the most durable and visually appealing options available. Turf offers a cooler surface temperature compared to other playground safety surfacing options, as well as excellent draining and impact absorption. While the up-front cost of synthetic turf is relatively expensive and will need to be done by professionals. No watering or mowing required! Turf can also be customized with different design options including logos, color schemes and lining for sports and playground games. Turf will require some maintenance

Contact Us to Discuss Safety Surfacing Options for Your Playground

Now that you know the different types of playground safety surfacing available, you can make an informed decision for your playground. Contact Cunningham Recreation today to learn more about your options for safety surfacing that accommodates your needs and budget.