If you own or manage a playground, the material under the swings, slides, spinner toys and other equipment should be safe for children of all ages and abilities. Keeping up with the daily, weekly and monthly maintenance of your engineered wood fiber (EWF), synthetic grass and other recreational surfaces will help you create a safe environment by removing tripping hazards for all those who play on them.
Cleaning and repairing your durable, high-quality playground surfaces will help keep them compliant with federal safety codes for recreational spaces. This guide explains the importance of playground surface management and what damage to look for during regular inspections.
What Happens to Playground Surfaces Over Time?
A durable playground surface should last you about a decade or more, especially when you maintain them properly. However, after a few years without maintaining or repairing them, you may start to notice some wear and tear. The edges of mat flaps begin to curl and expose themselves to the elements, causing a potential tripping hazard. Synthetic turf seams can become open and poured rubber surfaces can crack and need to be repaired.
Engineered wood fiber, synthetic turf and poured in place rubber are sensitive to, temperatures so improper drainage can cause a surface to lose its quality and impact resiliency over time, especially after a rainstorm followed by drops in temperature. Any material could develop cracks or holes from harsh weather conditions or wear and tear. Repairing these holes and checking your surfaces as often as possible maintains your playground’s aesthetic appeal and safety.
Causes of Playground Surface Deterioration
Playground surfaces tend to lose their quality over time because of harsh weather conditions, foot traffic and other forms of abrasion. The sun over time will cause synthetic rubber surfaces to harden and become less resilient. Excess moisture or improper maintenance may cause your playground surface to decay. A flawed draining system can allow water to collect under high-use areas and cause deterioration making the landing surface to be uneven despite using a wear mat.
Besides moisture, abrasions from the traffic on a playground can also cause wear and tear on your surfaces. The impact from kids jumping off the swing or coming down the slide could also produce tears or holes.
Dangers of Improperly Maintained Playground Surfaces
Cleaning, inspecting and maintaining your playground surfaces can prevent deterioration that leads to potential safety hazards. These products must comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) to accommodate people with disabilities who use your playground. However, when your mats, or the ground underneath them becomes uneven, all children may find them uncomfortable or challenging to use.
Damaged surfaces can harm a child playing on the playground. When young ones trip and fall on your property, it can be scary for them, and it can cause serious injuries. Falling off equipment and tripping result in many internal injuries, fractures, dislocations and concussions each year. Instead, you can keep each person who uses your playground safe from potential emergency hospital visits by maintaining your mats.
How to Take Care of Your Playground Surface
When taking care of your playground surfaces, you’ll definitely want to follow the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions. Each product is different, so they require a unique level of care. In general, it helps to make a habit of inspecting your playground surfaces at the end of each day or as frequently as possible. Pick up any loose trash or debris you notice and rake any uneven surfaces at high-use areas like slide exits and swing areas with loose fill surfaces like Engineered wood fiber. You can follow these tips to know how to repair and maintain playground surfaces based on what type you have.
For those having multiple playgrounds to take care of, having a plan in place to keep your maintenance crews on task is to have a schedule with a checklist of the various ‘hot-spots’ they need to be checking like proper surface thickness, high use area repairs, and access points like transfer platforms and entrance/ exits of accessible play equipment. Zeager offers a maintenance schedule you can download for free.
Click here to Download our Inspection Schedule.
Engineered Wood Fiber
Engineered wood fiber or EWF is a loose-fill surface that provides great impact attenuation to keep your playground users safe but, because it is loose, will tend to displace in heavy traffic areas like entrances and exits to playground equipment so raking, topping off and compacting are essential to keeping this surface accessible and safe. Pay particular attention to access points like the entrance to the play area. Zeager Tuffmat® Access ramps are a quick and easy way to eliminate maintaining the entrance to your playground and give access to those with disabilities.
Besides raking your EWF surface, you may also want to install surface wear mats around high-traffic areas, such as below swings and slides exits, to prevent unsafe holes and protect the users from falling onto an area with no safety surface. When you’re topping off the EWF fibers, remove the anchor points from your TuffMat® and replace the EWF fibers underneath the mat. Here is a video explaining how to do this. The flaps should be at a 45-degree angle to accommodate accessibility requirements. If the mat or nylon ties at the anchor points have visible holes, tears or vandalism, you’ll need to get new ones. The distance from the surface to play components such as swings, slide exits and transfer platforms should be maintained on a loose-fill surface also. These particular allowances can be found in ASTM standard F1487.
Contact Zeager Bros., Inc for All Your Playground Surface Needs
Our playground products are field-tested, certified through our Protect Plus+ certification program and meet ADA, ASTM, CPSC and CSA standards for playground surfaces, ensuring that the carpets, mats and grass you order from us are safe. The landscape surfaces we offer are all-natural and consistent in appearance, no matter when you purchase them. They’re also easy to maintain, so you can have peace of mind about the safety of your playground.
Request a free quote to start providing a comfortable, entertaining place for kids of all ages to play. You can also reach out to us online or call 800-346-8524 for more information about our products.