An overview of installing rubber mulch for commercial playgrounds

Installing Playground Rubber Mulch

An Overview Of The Process

Playground rubber mulch is an excellent safety surfacing option that provides some of the highest fall height ratings in the industry. It’s also incredibly durable and long-lasting because it doesn’t decay like wood mulch or require the maintenance and repair that unitary systems do. To get the most out of your rubber mulch, it’s important that it is installed properly. We thought it would be helpful to walk through a rubber mulch installation highlighting the primary steps involved including the installation of playground border, geofabric, and swing mats.

Because every playground site is different with unique circumstances, this page is meant as a general overview of a rubber mulch installation on a commercial playground. We’re also assuming here that the fall zones and fall height needed have been determined for the play area. It’s recommended to work with professionals throughout the design, planning, and installation process to make sure the project is installed correctly and safely.

Horse arena footing grading and drainage

Drainage/Grading

Ensuring the playground site has adequate drainage is an important and often overlooked step in the installation process. Poor drainage will lead to pooling water in the playground area which will make it unusable until that water eventually drains or dries out. Rubber mulch doesn’t absorb water and dries very quickly, so making sure that the area containing the mulch drains well will take full advantage of those properties.

In addition to good drainage, the grading and site preparation process also needs to provide a firm base for the rubber mulch. The sod should all be stripped from the area and the ground compacted and even.

Borders installed around playground

Borders

Once the site is graded and prepared, then a playground border will need to be installed to contain and help maintain a consistent depth. The playground borders that we offer are simple to install with a large spike that interlocks and secures them to the ground.

Geofabric installed under rubber mulch

Geofabric

Once the borders are in place, it’s time for geo-textile fabric. Geofabric creates a barrier between the rubber mulch and the soil below. This separation serves several purposes. Most importantly, it keeps mud from absorbing the rubber mulch from below, which can diminish its shock absorbency. It also helps prevent weed growth and blockages in the drainage system.

The type of geofabric that works best with playground rubber mulch is a thick non-woven geofabric. The non-woven option will allow water to easily percolate through it. It feels a bit like felt and acts like a filter, keeping the soil out but allowing water through.

Landscaping staples work great to secure the fabric to the ground. Make sure that seams overlap by at least 3 inches and that staples are used along the seams and in the middle of the roll at regular intervals. The geo fabric should also be secured tightly at the borders and all post and poles of the play structure so it covers the entire area including under the play structure.

Spreading rubber mulch on playground

Spreading Mulch

Now that the geofabric is in place, we can begin spreading the mulch. For this project the mulch was delivered in supersacks and a skid loader was on site to help move them around. This is the quickest way to go about it because the skid loader can lift up the supersacks from the top. The supersack can then be cut from the bottom allowing the skid loader to spread the mulch throughout the play area in large piles. This can also be very dangerous, so make sure proper safety precautions are taken and the skid loader driver is experienced.

If a skid loader is not available the rubber mulch can be wheelbarrowed in, or it can be ordered in smaller bags that are easier to work with by hand.

Once the mulch is roughly spread in piles, then rakes, pitchforks, and shovels can be used to even it out to a consistent depth.

Installed swing mats on playground to prevent erosion

Swing Mats

Swing mats are the finishing touch to a rubber mulch installation. They help maintain a constant depth for areas that are prone to developing depressions and divots, i.e. the spaces underneath swings and slides. They are very easy to install and can be placed directly on top of the rubber mulch in those areas.