Playground Surfacing

If you’re building a commercial playground, what goes under your playground equipment can be just as important as the equipment itself.

We’re talking about impact attenuating safety surfacing.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 500,000 injuries occur on playgrounds each year, and a number of them are caused by falls. Proper safety surfacing reduces the risk of serious head injury and is required under all playground equipment.

But that’s not all. Surfacing is also important for ensuring inclusivity. The right playground surface can make your commercial playground ADA-compliant, but designing an inclusive playground means going a step above and creating a surface that can be easily navigated by children of all capabilities.

When choosing playground material, you’ll need to consider your budget, the size of your playground, the type of play equipment in your space and how your play area will be used. If you are unsure, the play professionals at Little Tikes Commercial are happy to assist you!

Jump to a specific section to learn more:

Playground Surfacing

Unitary Surfacing

Unitary surfacing material is a more fixed form of ground covering, such as rubber tiles or poured-in-place surfacing. This option is often considered beneficial because it accommodates children and guardians in wheelchairs as well as those who are fully able to get around easily. It also does not move around like loose fill.

No Fault® Pour in Place surfacing is one option when it comes to unitary surfacing materials. No Fault® Pour in Place is made from rubber granules derived from EPDM/TPV and is covered by a layer of material made from polymer and recycled tires. Since it is poured in place at your playground, there are no seams or gaps. In addition, No Fault® Pour in Place offers several benefits:

  • It is designed to offer fall height protection for children.
  • It is flexible and can be used to create different designs and patterns, so your outdoor or indoor playground surfacing design can be used to designate different types of play areas.
  • It is backed by warranty.
  • It offers a seamless surface to reduce the risk of trip-and-fall and slip-and-fall injuries.
  • It is ADA-approved.
  • It can be used for indoor and outdoor playgrounds.
  • It is installed by professionals for a safe finish.

Another option when it comes to unitary surfacing is Interlocking Kid Tiles® surfacing. These interlocking tiles come in thicknesses of 3.5” for added safety and two-foot-square surfaces so you can easily cover your entire playground. This surfacing can offer protection for fall heights of up to 6 feet.

The Interlocking Kid Tiles® surfacing offers several benefits:

  • There are no special tools needed for installation and alignment of the tiles is made easy with self-aligning tabs.
  • Its design reduces the risk of shifting, curling, and gaps in the tiles.
  • It offers fall height protection up to 6 feet.
  • It offers the ability to fully cover your playground area.
  • It is available in multiple colors that you can mix and match, allowing you to create a unified surface or a pattern or design with the tiles.
Landsoft Rubber nuggets

Playground Surfacing

Loose Fill Playground Surfacing

Loose fill surfacing is made up of small components, such as mulch or wood chips. This surface moves around and is not solid like unitary surfacing options. Loose fill is the traditional and budget-friendly option and can be a strong choice for non-traditional playground equipment where unitary surfacing does not offer the best protection.

As long as you are willing to commit to the maintenance to keep loose fill at the proper depth, this can be a strong option for commercial playgrounds.

If you’re considering loose fill, Landsoft™ Rubber Nuggets surfacing is one of the best options. These non-toxic nuggets are delivered in large quantities and come in a variety of colors that can be combined for a unique look or used as one color.

Playground Surfacing

Factors to Consider When Choosing Playground Surface Options

Today’s playground equipment and indoor playground surfacing materials are designed for safety. While playground surfaces like sand, gravel, and even concrete dominated the market in the past, softer surface options are now the go-to choice for playgrounds across the U.S.

How do you know what playground surfacing materials are right for your space? No two playgrounds are the same. Some are positioned on flat lots, while others have areas of hilly terrain to account for. Depending on where the playground is located, you may have to consider factors such as drainage, climate, or sun and shade patterns. All playgrounds have their own parameters.

Choosing the right playground surface for your space involves considering five main factors:

  • Affordability and safety: For any playground project — whether it’s a middle school playground or daycare play area — there are budget specifications in place. Playground surfacing comes in a wide range of prices. It’s important to talk to your playground manufacturer about surface options that are within your budget, but that don’t compromise safety.
  • Appearance: The appearance of your indoor safety surfacing material is also important to consider. The right material can show your attention to detail and tie the aesthetics or theme of the playground together for everyone to enjoy.
  • Availability: Choosing a playground equipment manufacturer who is responsive to your needs is crucial. In case questions arise or your playground surface requires maintenance, you want to make sure a professional is readily available.
  • Accessibility: Passed by Congress in 1990, the Department of Justice established the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) to address the needs of people with disabilities. This law still has a significant impact on how public playgrounds are designed. The ADA outlines that playground surfacing options must be suitable to accommodate all individuals, including those in wheelchairs or on crutches.
unitary pros cons

Playground Surfacing

Selecting a Playground Surface

When choosing what type of surfacing to use for your project, consider the following:

  • Does your budget allow for ongoing care and maintenance?
  • Will the playground surfacing materials you choose fit your playground’s design and theme?
  • What age groups is the playground designed to accommodate?
  • Is the surfacing material soft enough to lessen the impact of a child’s fall?

Playground Surfacing

Pros and Cons of Loose vs. Unitary Materials for Playground Surfaces

Certain playground surfaces can improve accessibility for visitors with mobility challenges and increase the playground’s overall safety. To minimize risk, playground surfaces must be soft and thick enough to cushion the impact of a child’s fall.

When it comes to surface options for your playground, you can generally choose from two options: unitary or loose materials. Before selecting a unitary or loose option for your playground, it’s essential to consider the pros and cons of each.

Loose playground surfacing materials have many advantages:

  • Easy to install
  • Readily available
  • Cost-effective
  • Quality impact attenuation

Disadvantages of loose playground surfacing include:

  • Tendency to compact under high traffic or wet conditions
    Continuous maintenance

Unitary playground surfacing comes with a wide range of benefits:

  • Attractive appearance
  • Grip for safety
  • Durability in all conditions
  • Easy to accommodate ADA requirements

Disadvantages to choosing unitary playground surfaces include:

  • Higher purchase and installation costs
  • Specialized knowledge required for installation


If you’d like to discuss your surfacing options to incorporate with your new playground design or you’re ready to start creating a safer place for children to play on your current commercial playground, find a Little Tikes Commercial rep near you. We can help you with playground design and help you choose the right surfacing options for your playground and your community.

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