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Evaluation Criteria

There are a number of different factors to consider when deciding which surfacing material to use for a playground area. The following list examines the seven primary factors that each surface can be evaluated on to help you choose the best one for your needs, budget and environment.


The ultimate goal of playground surfacing is to provide a layer of protection against falls and reduce the severity of head injuries. While all CPSC approved surfaces can protect against serious injury when built to the correct standards, there are several factors that can impact their protection level.

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Keeping children, the surrounding area and nearby buildings clean is a major concern for many.  While most materials are clean when initially installed, choosing a surfacing material that is easy to keep clean matters more in the long run.

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Care & Maintenance

Keeping playground surfacing well-maintained not only helps it look its best but also has an impact on its safety. Maintenance requirements vary significantly but unitary surfaces typically require much less work than loose-fill surfacing once installed.

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ADA Compliance & Accessibility

Commercial and public playgrounds need to be built with accessibility in mind in order to be ADA-compliant.  Although many surfaces are rated as ADA-compliant, some are much better than others.

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Aesthetics & Design

Although judging the design or aesthetics of a playground surfacing is very subjective, it is still an important consideration when deciding which material to use. Each surfacing option has different benefits and design possibilities that can impact the overall look of a playground.

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Installation Cost

Installation costs for playground surfaces take into account the cost of material as well as the labor involved. Unitary surfaces typically require professional installation due to their lengthier and complex installation.

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Lifetime Cost

The lifetime costs of playground surfacing depend on a number of factors. While unitary surfaces typically cost more to install, they require much less maintenance and usually have a much longer lifespan.  It is important to consider these trade-offs when evaluating options.

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Need Help Specifying The Best Surface For Your Playground?

Contact one of our playground surfacing specialists.
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