Now that you have chosen the best swing set for your backyard, you just need a fall surface underneath it. A shock-absorbent surface will help ensure that your children are safe from serious injuries if they fall while playing.
What (and How Much) Should You Use?
Swing sets are routinely shown assembled over plain grass. However, it is not a safe surface for children to land on when they fall from their play equipment. Due to this, manufacturers recommend putting down some sort of shock-absorbing material to help protect kids against serious fall injuries.
Loose-fill materials, such as sand, wood chips or rubber mulch, are the most popular types of protective surfacing choices. The amount of material needed for your play area is directly dependent upon the size of your swing set.
Your protective surface should extend, at the very least, 6 feet from the swing set in all directions. It should also be filled to, and kept at, the correct depth to properly protect against sudden impact injuriess. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission’s Outdoor Home Playground Safety Handbook lists the minimum depths required for varying set heights.
The specific type of material used underneath your swing set is completely up to you. To help you decide, I have included a list of the pros and cons for the most popular options available.
Popular Protective Surface Materials
Made from 100% recycled rubber, this loose-fill material is the most popular option to use as a protective surface.
- It is a very low maintenance option.
- Provides excellent shock absorption.
- Insects are not attracted to it.
- Rubber mulch is resistant to fungus and plant growth.
- This option comes in a variety of colors.
- It is the most expensive loose-fill option.
- Rubber mulch is a flammable material and can become a hazard if ignited.
- In rare cases, some people may have an allergic reaction to the rubber.
- The human and environmental side effects of using this material are not yet fully known.
You can easily find several rubber mulch options available on Amazon right here.
Wood Chips and Woodchip Mulch
As the name implies, these protective surface materials are made entirely out of wood. Both options are eco-friendly and use wood that would otherwise be considered waste—like tree branches and packaging pallets.
- They are all-natural alternatives to rubber mulch.
- They both cost less than other options.
- Both options are biodegradable and can be good for the overall health of your yard.
- They can both help suppress the growth of weeds.
- Various color options are available for both materials.
- Both options have the potential for causing splinters.
- Some kids may find it entertaining to throw these materials around the backyard.
- They both need periodic maintenance to ensure maximum protection.
- They can both attract insects as they break down over time.
This isn’t necessarily a loose-fill material, but it’s still a terrific option to consider when choosing a protective surface. These are also available on Amazon.
- The mats are a great low maintenance option.
- It is a visually appealing option for your yard.
- A variety of designs and colors are available for this material.
- As with rubber mulch, some people may have an allergic reaction to the material.
- This option is more expensive than others.
- If not placed properly, the mats can move around and become hazards themselves.
This loose-fill material is another extremely popular all-natural fall surface option to consider for your backyard play area.
- Sand is readily available at most home improvement stores.
- The protective surface area also doubles as a built-in sandbox for added fun.
- This is a cheaper option compared to many others.
- It is more visually appealing than other options.
- It can stick to shoes, clothes, skin and hair which makes it easy to track outside of the play area.
- Regular maintenance is required to ensure safety requirements.
- It has the potential to attract cats and, in severe cases, can carry diseases due to cats using it as a “litter box”.
- When it is wet, the surface becomes hard and unable to absorb the shock of fall impacts.
These pea-sized stones have a smooth texture and a fluid nature that makes them great to use as a protective surface.
- The material is 100% all-natural.
- It is a cheaper option to consider.
- This material will last through many years of use.
- It is a visually appealing option.
- Pea gravel comes in a range of natural colors.
- As with sand, this material is easier to track around than others.
- It creates a harder fall surface than other options.
- It requires some routine maintenance to ensure maximum safety.
- Some children may throw the stones outside of the play area.
Creating a fun and safe play environment for your kids will give you peace of mind. Providing them with a shock-absorbing fall surface for their backyard play area is the best way to do that.