Playground Flooring Buying Guide: Tiles, Turf, Mats and Mulch
Ever wonder what goes underneath a swingset or at the bottom of a play pit? It’s playground flooring – playground flooring specially designed with safety and shock absorption in mind to keep kids active and safe, and parents worry-free.
Playground Flooring is available in rubber tiles, mulch, mats and synthetic turf. If you’re new to playground flooring, it may be intimidating figuring out where to start. Let’s break it down.
Playground Flooring Safety
Safety is always number one.
For playground flooring, we talk a lot about “fall height.” 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.
“Four-foot fall height is the ideal safety for a playground setting, creating an environment that’s substantially safer. It’s a very aggressive fall height for a residential setting.” – Bo Barber, VP ECORE International
The short story is that something like concrete would have almost no shock absorbency – you would not want your (or anyone’s) kid falling from tall playground equipment onto hard concrete!
Thick, shock absorbent playground flooring is specially designed to keep kids safe at varying heights, so there is an option for every need.
The safety, fall height and shock absorbency is determined, mostly, by the thickness of the playground flooring. In short, thicker tiles/mulch = higher fall height, meaning you can use higher playground equipment.
How is Fall Height Tested?
Fall height is determined by testing the shock absorbency of the flooring. Manufacturers perform tests that replicate a child falling from various heights to determine a height that a child can fall from without experiencing a serious injury. This helps the playground owner pair the best equipment with the right flooring to create the safest environment.
Historically, the test has been done by dropping a ball form representing the head of a child onto the center point of a floor tile. However, the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association (IPEMA) recently changed the testing procedure so that the ball form is now dropped on the edge of the tile, the weakest point of the product.
“Tests performed on the middle part of the tile showed higher fall height ratings because that section has the most deceleration and shock absorption characteristics,” Barber said. “When you drop the ball form on the corner, where the tiles come together, the result is different.”
Playground flooring manufacturers must perform six tests and can only list the lowest fall height rating received. Some tests for a product may see a 6’ or even 8’ result, but if any test received a 4’ that is the number that must be reported. This is why a number of playground flooring products have seen a drop in fall height ratings. The important thing that you need to know as the consumer is that nothing has changed about the way the tile has been made, only the testing procedure for determining fall height rating has changed.
Related content >> Playground Flooring Safety: The Ultimate Guide
Fall Height Rating Recommendations
Because playground safety is such a big concern, it’s super important to be diligent and make sure your flooring meets the safety standards. Tiles, mulch and turf each have their own standards and safety criteria.
If a product has a lower fall height rating or has seen a significant drop in its rating, it doesn’t necessarily mean the product isn’t safe. The most important factor when purchasing playground flooring is ensuring that the product is fall height certified at all.
While a 6′ fall height rating is standard for most commercial playgrounds, residential and backyard play areas can get away with a product that has a lower fall height rating, such as 1’ or 2’. Typically, thicker tiles = higher fall height, meaning you can use higher playground equipment.
With playground designs and equipment getting bigger, it may be difficult to find a product that has a fall height rating matching that of the apparatus. For a tile to work up to a 10’ fall rating, it would need a foam backing on it, which Barber says is a challenge for any product. If you have a 10’ apparatus, Barber suggests buying a foam pad separate from the rubber tiles to improve the fall height rating.
What Are Playground Tiles?
Playground tiles are the most popular safety surfacing we sell. These tiles come in many different colors and thicknesses.
Because playground tiles are porous, they allow water to easily penetrate through the floor, ensuring a dry playing surface even after a heavy rain. Maintaining your playground tiles is also a breeze. All you need is a blower and a garden hose or broom to bring them back to their original glory.
Pros of Playground Tiles
- Safety: Playground tiles provide a safe place for children to run, jump, and even fall while at play.
- Looks: No need for gallons of dirt or rocks, playground tiles are a great way to create an attractive play area.
- Comfort: How many times as a kid did you get a rock in your shoe? Rubber playground tiles keep kids comfortable.
Cons of Playground Tiles
- Expense: Rubber playground tiles are expensive, but we feel like safety is worth the investment.
Playground Tile Fall Height Rating and Safety
One of the first things you want to consider when picking a playground tile is the fall height rating. This rating is determined by the density of the tile. It’s also commonly associated with tile thickness. A general rule of thumb is, in most instances, the thicker the playground tile, the higher the fall rating.
What is a fall height rating? Well, that is a rating given to a safety surface and indicates the height in which someone can fall before they get seriously hurt. So what are some typical fall height ratings? Below are typical fall ratings for various tile thicknesses.
|Thickness||Fall Height||Recommended Usage|
|1”||1.5’||Landscape or No Falling Hazards|
|1.5”||2’||Landscape or No Falling Hazards|
|1.75”||3’||Landscape or No Falling Hazards|
|2.25”||4’||Most Residential Playgrounds|
|2.5”||6’||Most Residential Playgrounds|
|2.75”||6’||Most Residential Playgrounds|
|3.25”||8’||Residential and Commercial Playgrounds|
|3.5”||8’||Residential and Commercial Playgrounds|
|4”||10’||Residential and Commercial Playgrounds|
Playground Tile Shipping
So, in shocking news, heavy rubber playground tiles can be kind of a deal to ship. Not a big deal; more like a small deal, but a deal nonetheless. Like I’ve said, we’re not about you spending extra money, which is why we ship out of east coast and west coast locations– to keep your costs and your waiting time as low as possible.
Playground Tile Installation
You’ll definitely want to check the manufacturer’s recommendation for installation, but we also have a great video for how to install playground tiles!
Playground Rubber Mulch
What is Playground Rubber Mulch?
Rubber mulch is usually used as playground flooring to keep kids safe while at play. It’s attractive, comes in many colors, and won’t absorb water or blow away like wood chips. It’s also super easy to maintain. Just blow off leaves, or spray with a water hose to clean.
Pros of Rubber Mulch
- Safety: For kids on playgrounds, rubber playground mulch keeps them safe when they’re being daredevils. Never worry about hurt kiddos with rubber mulch spotting them.
- Looks: Rubber mulch comes in attractive colors that you can choose for your space.
- Long-Lasting: Since rubber mulch doesn’t break down, your playground area will look great all year around.
Cons of Rubber Mulch
- Expense: Rubber mulch is more expensive than wood chips, but it lasts a lot longer.
- Mess: Inevitably kids might play so hard that rubber mulch gets kicked out of the playground area. You’ll want to sweep these back in as that happens.
Playground Rubber Mulch Fall Height Rating and Safety
Rubber mulch can be filled to any thickness. Below are thicknesses and what they are typically used for.
|Thickness||Fall Height||Recommended Usage|
|2”||N/A||Landscape or No Falling Hazards|
|3”||6’||Most Residential Playgrounds|
|6”||17’||Most Commercial Playgrounds|
Playground Rubber Mulch Shipping
If you’re buying rubber mulch in bulk, it’s going to be heavy. Luckily our mulch ships from the east coast, west coast, and midwest to keep the shipping costs down.
Playground Rubber Mulch Installation
In order to install rubber mulch properly, you may need a few extra materials.
What are Playground Mats?
If you’re looking for something durable while your children are at play, our playground mats are the way to go. While children are playing, playground mats have their back as they jump, climb, swing, and slide on their playground.
These mats are primarily used under swings and slides, but can be used anywhere kiddos need an extra surface.
Pros of Playground Mats
- Safety: Not all playground mats are fall height rated, but some are. For the ones that are, these mats add a little extra protection for your kiddo.
- Durable: Rubber playground mats tend to be very heavy. That means once you place it, it’s not going to slide out from under your kid during a hard stop.
Cons of Playground Mats
- Fall Heights: Not every playground mat is fall height rated, so be sure to check the details if you’re looking for extra cushion.
- Surface Area Safety: Even if a playground mat has a fall height rating, the surface area is pretty small for a fall. It’s best to have a bigger surface area to ensure safety.
Playground Mats Shipping
If you’re buying more than one playground mat, it’s going to be heavy. No worries, our mats ship from the east coast, west coast, and midwest to keep the shipping costs low.
What is Playground Turf?
Playground artificial grass often mimics real grasses that are found throughout the United States. Playground turf is super UV stable and also heat and frost resistant. It typically has a higher face weight and more durable fibers than other types of turf. Both of these factors make playground turf extremely durable for the playground.
Playground artificial grass is usually made from polyethylene or polypropylene. This fiber can hold a lot of wear and tear compared to other types of outdoor playground flooring.
Pros of Playground Turf
- Safety: With play padding underneath, your playground turf doubles as a safety zone for your kiddos.
- Eco-Friendly: Artificial grass is made of recycled materials and has a measurable, positive impact on the environment. It requires no watering.
- Maintenance Free: No watering and no mowing, what’s better than that?
- Looks Real: Playground turf also has the added benefit of looking like real grass.
Cons of Playground Turf
- Expense: It’s certainly an investment, but long-term, you save money.
- Heat: As the temperature rises, so does the artificial turf grass. There are ways to keep the temperature down, but artificial grass is hotter to the touch than real grass.
Playground Turf Fall Height Rating and Safety
Playground turf has different fall height safety ratings, depending on thickness and underlayment. The thickness is measured by adding the thickness of your lawn pad or play pad with the thickness of your playground turf.
It is important to note: these are the standard ratings, but playground flooring safety ratings vary by product, so make sure to check out the specs on the specific product you are looking at to ensure it will be safe.
|Thickness||Fall Height||Recommended Uses|
|2.1-3.1”||5’||Most Residential Playgrounds|
|3.3-4.3”||7’||Most Residential and Commercial Playgrounds|
Playground Turf Shipping
Our playground artificial grass ships from the midwest, west coast, and east coast.
Playground Turf Installation
To install, you’re going to need a few accessories. Luckily, we have them available for you to buy now. No website hunting needed!
Playground Turf Accessories:
- Weed Fabric: You don’t want weeds and grass poking through your playground. You’ll need to lay this down first.
- Fill: Fill helps hold your turf down and keeps the blades standing up for a natural look.
- Staples and Nails: Nails are used to hold the edges of the turf down, while staples are great for holding seams together. You’ll need both.
- Seam Tape and Adhesive: If you really don’t want staples, you can always use seam tape to stick turf together. Easy as pie.
- Wonder Edge: Edging can help make your turf look it’s best.
- Lawn Pads or Play Pads: For some extra cushion under your feet, lay down a lawn pad. If you have some kiddos running around, some of these are also fall height rated for safety.
Definitely look twice at your manufacturer’s instructions to make sure you have all the tools you need to make your landscape look amazing.
Recommended Playground Accessories
In order to make sure everyone can enjoy playtime, we offer ramps that both help eliminate tripping hazards and are also ADA compliant.
- Ramps- Typically not ADA compliant but are at the 1” level. Helps eliminate tripping hazard.
- ADA Ramps- ADA compliant. Allow easy access for disabled individuals.
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