DIY Playground Flooring Installation Guide
By Kayla Haas
Published: August 7, 2019 | Updated: February 19, 2020
Wanting to build the ultimate outdoor playground for the kiddos? Unsure of how to pull it off? We’ve got you covered. In this guide we’ll outline two DIY installations for playground flooring, giving you all the details you need to plan your process. Flex your weekend warrior muscles and finish this outdoor flooring installation in no time.
In this post, we’ll teach you the following:
- How to install playground tiles
- Installing rubber mulch
- How to prep your surface
- The tools and materials you’ll need to consider
Outdoor playgrounds are a favorite when school’s out or for weekend playdates. Believe me, playgrounds are one of the best ways to get kids outside and having fun!
As kids do, they’ll tumble, jump and probably skin a few knees while playing their latest game, but don’t worry! Playground flooring is a great way to keep the kids safe and give a finished look to your playground.
So if you’ve been considering playground flooring, but haven’t been sure if you’re up to the task, stick around with us. We’ll be outlining DIY playground flooring installations to help you feel confident during your weekend project. Let’s take a look at how to install playground tiles or rubber mulch.
No matter which product you’re installing- whether it’s playground tiles or rubber mulch, you’ll want to start with a prepped surface.
If you’re installing tiles on a concrete slab, you can probably skip this section. But if your backyard is mostly dirt and grass, this section is for you!
For the best results, we recommend starting your installation with a level surface, especially for tiles; it creates a smooth surface to lay tiles on. A level surface also ensures that rubber mulch is settled in the depth needed to provide safety.
Here are a few things you need to know:
- Remove Obstacles: If you have any large rocks, tree stumps, or plants you don’t want installed over, be sure to remove them before starting. Sure, you can probably install around a tree stump, but it’ll look better with that removed!
- Level Ground: If your ground isn’t already level, now is a great time to do this step! Here’s a tip: playground tiles install well on a bed of gravel, so if need be, level your surface with some extra gravel and dirt.
- Use Landscaping Fabric: Prevent unwanted plants from springing up between your tiles or growing through your rubber mulch by laying down a layer of landscaping fabric.
- Drainage: If you’re using rubber mulch, we recommend having a slight grade to allow for proper drainage. If drainage could be an issue, it is recommended to install a drain tile system with a 3” base of pea gravel or rock.
How to Install Playground Tiles
In this section, we’ll cover the basics of installing playground tiles including how to plan your outdoor playground and how to cut these thick, rubber tiles.
But first, have a look at this handy video that’ll introduce you to the process of installing playground flooring:
Plan Your Outdoor Playground
If your ground is leveled and ready to go, you’ll want to take the time to plan your playground area. Here are a few suggestions to get started:
- Lay Out Tiles: It’s a good idea to lay the borders of the playground area in order to have an idea of cuts you’ll need to make and any adjustments that will need to happen to make sure the tiles fit the space.
- Start at a Wall: If your playground flooring is going to butt up against an edge or a wall, start by laying your tiles there and be sure to leave a ½” gap for expansion.
- Decide on Ramps: To prevent tripping hazards, or to make your playground more accessible, it’s a good idea to have ramps that lead up to the surface. Decide where those ramps will go.
How to Cut Playground Tiles
In order to cut playground tiles to fit a space, we recommend using a ruler or t-square, a sharp utility knife and a disposable bread knife.
Use the ruler to keep the initial scoring straight, then use the bread knife to cut along the line. The process will look like this:
First, you’ll want to gather the tools you need for installation:
- Utility Knife
- Bread Knife
- T-Square or Straight Edge
- Installation System: dowels or quad blocks (see video above for examples of both)
- Optional: seam sealer
Ready? Let’s get started!
- Layout perpendicular sides of the perimeter like we talked about in the planning section. Be sure to have a ½” gap between the tiles and any walls they might be against.
- Join the perimeter tiles together using either the dowel system or the quad block.
- If using the dowel system, press dowels into the holes located on the side of the tile. You may have to use a hammer if the fit is tight. Connect the tile adjacent to it using the dowels.
- If using a quad block, place the block under the adjacent tiles and step down in order to connect them. Make sure the quad block is positioned so the next row can connect on the other side of the quad block.
- Once the initial tiles have been laid down, start the next row.
- If you come up against a wall or obstacle to cut around, use your straight edge ruler, utility knife and bread knife to cut the tile as shown above.
- When the layout is complete, place any ramps you may be using next to the tiles.
- If you want your playground to be permanent, use seam sealer on the tiles and ramp to adhere them together.
How to Install Rubber Mulch
Rubber mulch is pretty easy to install! It’s probably one of the more DIY-friendly playground flooring installations out there. You only need a few things to get started on your installation. But first, let’s plan.
Plan Your Outdoor Playground
If your ground is leveled and ready to go, you’ll want to take the time to plan your rubber mulch area. Here are a few suggestions to get started:
- Decide on Depth: Before you order rubber mulch, decide what depth of rubber mulch you’ll want for your area. For a 6’ fall height, we recommend at least 3”.
- Create a Box: To maintain depth and keep your rubber mulch contained as the kids run around, it’s a good idea to create a “box” around your playground area. What you use is up to you, but we love these rubber timbers for an extra layer of safety.
- Use Landscape Fabric: Don’t skip out on the landscape fabric for rubber mulch. This will keep those pesky weeds from springing up.
If your outdoor playground area is properly prepped (drainage, check! Landscape fabric, check!) and your area is properly enclosed, there are only a few steps left.
- Loosely compact the rubber mulch to the depth desired.
- Evenly distribute the mulch using a rake.
- Cut off excess landscape fabric for a finished look.
Playground Flooring Installation FAQs
How do you clean playground flooring?
All you need is a blower and a garden hose or broom to bring them back to their novelle glory. For commercial playgrounds, you may want to perform a routine cleaning with a power washer (not to exceed 2000psi) or scrubbing machine and mild detergent (non-petroleum base) to maintain an attractive and long-lasting appearance.
Note: Do not use any solvent or oil-based cleaners such as Pinesol, Lysol, Murphy’s Oil Soap, WD40, paint thinner, etc. These types of cleaners will break down the outdoor playground rubber surface over time.
What is the safest playground flooring?
Rubber playground tiles are among the safest playground materials. They’re durable and stay in place so you won’t have to worry about the thickness changing the way it can with playground mulch. Durable, resilient rubber makes an excellent smooth surface that is sturdy enough for running and playing but cushioned enough to be safe for falls.
How much does playground flooring cost?
Playground flooring ranges in price from under $2/sqft all the way to over $10/sqft. There are many variables that factor into determining cost. Our most popular playground flooring typically runs around $5.50/sqft.
Our rubber mulch costs about $8 for a 39-lb. Bag, or you can buy it in bulk if surfacing a large playground. Rubber mulch and playground mats are priced by the product rather than square footage. Playground mats run from $50 – $150 per mat.
The good news is, rubber flooring is super DIY-friendly so your cost (typically) just comes down to materials and shipping.
What does fall height mean?
The fall height is the highest point a child can safely stand on. If your playground flooring surface is fall height rated for 4′, that means the child can fall from 4′ without serious injury.
Playground Flooring Reviews
Jamboree Playground Tiles- Dan from Hemet, CA
“It has worked out great and the kids love it. Your flooring is a great product and easy to install.”
Rubber Mulch- Bonita Valley Community Church from Bonita, CA
“We are thrilled with the results. Kids took off their socks and it passed the “sock test” none of the mulch stuck to socks. It freshened up our play space tremendously. The green mulch was the perfect choice for us.”
This playground flooring looks great! Love the way it ended up turning out. Looking forward to eventually installing my own when I have the time! Thank you for sharing.