Playground Surfaces: Cost Comparison 

Selecting the right surface for your project is the first step to ensuring that your playground is safe, approachable, and fun! There are numerous factors   to consider when comparing playground surfacing options: the depth of surface needed, your budget, and the optimal lifetime of the playground. Below are a few different playground surface materials we offer, their general benefits, and a cost comparison. To make it easier for you, we’ve listed the options in order of price from highest to lowest.  

Interested in a quote? contact us to learn more!

Poured-in-Place (PIP)

Poured-in-Place rubber offers fantastic durability, high elasticity, and is excellent for high-use areas. It comes in a variety of color options and can be embedded with graphics and designs. Perfect for both indoor and outdoor playgrounds, poured in place rubber is as versatile as it is beautiful. It is the most expensive option averaging $15-$20 per square foot, but it has the least amount of maintenance over time. It is also completely customizable, where you can add uniquely designed permanent features like natural climbing equipment and balancing logs. 

poured in place rubber

Pros: low maintenance requirements, high expected longevity, meets accessibility standards, low lifetime costs

Cons: high initial costs, high site preparation requirements

Rubber Tiles

Rubber Tiles are an incredibly versatile and cost-efficient playground surfacing option. They are easily replaceable, and they encourage accessibility by including edge ramps and offering transition tile options. Depending on the manufacturer, tiles come in a variety of color options, can be embedded with graphics or designs, and can be either interlocking or adhesive. Rubber Tiles are in the middle of the pack on cost, with an average cost of $8-$15 per square foot. They lack the unique design ability of poured rubber surfacing, but are easily replaced and require less maintenance than engineered wood fiber. 

playground tiles

Pros: moderate maintenance requirements, high expected longevity, meets accessibility standards, low lifetime costs

Cons: high initial costs, high site preparation requirements

Synthetic Grass

Synthetic Grass provides a great alternative to the more manufactured surfacing options, such as rubber and wood. It offers a natural appearance and texture, along with a cooler surface temperature. Synthetic Grass is available in a variety of color options and densities. In addition, it is available with or without infill. Artificial playground turf costs can range from $6-$20 and give your playground a natural aesthetic and feel. It does require more maintenance than poured in place surfacing and is harder to repair, but is considered to have low lifetime cost. 

playground

Pros: moderate maintenance requirements, moderate expected longevity, meets accessibility standards, low lifetime costs

Cons: high initial costs, high site preparation requirements

Bonded Rubber

Bonded Rubber is a lower-priced alternative to traditional poured rubber surfaces. It is available in a variety of color options and provides a more natural appearance and texture. Bonded Rubber can cost anywhere from $8-14 per square foot. It is less expensive than turf and PIP rubber, but it isn’t expected to last as long. It does meet accessibility standards and doesn’t require a lot of continual maintenance. 

bonded rubber

Pros: moderate initial costs, moderate maintenance requirements, moderate sight preparation requirements, meets accessibility standards, easily repairable

Cons: low expected longevity, high lifetime costs

Rubber Mulch

Rubber Mulch is a cost-efficient loose surface that is a great alternative to the more expensive one-piece rubber surfacing options. In addition to being 100% recycled, it is also available in a variety of colors, shapes, and sizes. Rubber mulch is most easily compared to engineered wood fiber when considering playground surfacing. It can cost anywhere from $6-$12 per square foot. It does require moderate maintenance during its lifetime. 

rubber mulch

Pros: moderate initial costs, moderate maintenance requirements, low site preparation requirements, meets accessibility standards, moderate expected longevity

Cons: high lifetime costs

Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF)

Wood Fiber is an organic surfacing option that is perfect for eco-friendly playgrounds. It is constructed by spreading wood fiber chips several inches thick across a playground area. As the wood fiber biodegrades, it will require topping off every few years. Although it requires a high level of regular maintenance, it is a great option for playgrounds built with budget constraints. Engineered wood fiber is the most economical playground surfacing option at $3-$5 per square foot.

engineered wood fiber

Pros: low site preparation requirements, meets accessibility standards, low initial costs

Cons: high maintenance requirements, low expected longevity, high lifetime costs

 

As you can see, there are many diverse playground surface options available. The important thing is finding the surface material that best caters to your project’s needs. It is also good to note that all surfaces will require maintenance. We offer maintenance programs to help you maintain your surfacing investment and ensure that your playground will remain attractive and useful for years to come.

Playground Surfacing Comparision Chart

Surfacing Quick Reference Chart:

Comparing Surface Types Chart

“Excerpted from Strong Foundations: Planning, Purchasing and Protecting Playground Surfacing Investments. To order a copy, click here >>

This chart is provided as a basic overview of the various types of surfacing. Statistics can vary based on the product, manufacturer, installation, usage, and maintenance. The accessibility of loose-fill materials is entirely dependent on maintenance.

*Manufacturers must submit their surfaces for testing. Some variation may occur. Please check with your manufacturer for product certification.

*If you’re considering building a set of bleachers near your facilities, please refer to our friends at National Recreation Systems for their bleacher systems.