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 or your equipment’s critical fall height, your budget, and the optimal lifetime of the playground. Below are a few different playground surface materials we offer, the general benefits, and a cost guide. 

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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 has a higher initial investment averaging $18-$24 per square foot (installed), 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: higher initial costs, specific site preparation requirements

Rubber Tiles

Rubber Tiles are a versatile and cost-efficient playground surfacing option. They are resilient and accessible when accompanied by proper transition ramps and borders. 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 range in cost.  Those with higher durability and compliance options can be priced similar to poured surfaces. They lack the unique design ability of poured rubber surfacing, but are easily replaced and require less maintenance than engineered wood fiber or other loose fill surfaces. 

playground tiles

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

Cons: higher initial costs,  specific site preparation requirements

Synthetic Grass

Synthetic Grass or Turf provides a great alternative to other unitary surfacing options, such as rubber and wood. It offers a natural appearance and texture, sometimes a cooler surface temperature. Synthetic Turf is available in a variety of color options and densities. It is available with or without infill but proper installation will require infill to help maintain its structure. Artificial playground turf costs can range mid-price to more expensive depending on the type and manufacturer.  It will give your playground a natural aesthetic and feel. It does require more maintenance than poured in place surfacing and may be 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: higher initial costs, specific site preparation requirements

Bonded Rubber

Bonded Rubber is a popular alternative to traditional poured rubber surfaces. It is available in some color options and provides a more natural appearance and texture. Bonded Rubber can be more affordable per square foot than other unitary surfaces because it is a one layer system. It does meet accessibility standards and doesn’t require a lot of continual maintenance. 

bonded rubber

Pros: natural appearance, moderate maintenance requirements, moderate sight preparation requirements, meets accessibility standards, repairable

Cons: lower expected longevity, maintenance required for longer endurance

Rubber Mulch

Rubber Mulch is a loose surface that is a great alternative to the more expensive poured 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. Costs can range from very low to moderate depending on installation methods and shipping locations. It does require frequent maintenance during its lifetime. 

rubber mulch

Pros: moderate initial costs, standard site preparation, does not require professional installation

Cons: routine maintenance required to meet compliance standards

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 is displaced, it will require topping off to maintain compliance. 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 if properly installed, low initial costs

Cons: routine maintenance requirements, frequent displacement 

 

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 COMPARISON 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.