Top 6 Best Material for Playground Surface 2023 Reviewed

Choosing the Best Material for Playground Surface can be a daunting task given the many options available on the market today.

In this article, I will comprehensively discuss all the Playground Surface options. I will help you choose the best according to the safety, cost, maintenance, and age of your child.

So, If you’re wondering what to put under swing set consider these options

  1. Artificial Grass (Turf)
  2. Solid Rubber Surface
  3. Rubber Playground Mulch
  4. Engineered Wood Fiber (Wood playground mulch )
  5. Play Sand and gravel

The above options fall under two main categories

  1. Loose-Fill Materials

Loose-fill materials are granular in nature, thus easy to spread out beneath the swing set surface. They are low-cost and need minimal skill during installation. They include:

  • Engineered Wood Fiber (Wood playground mulch)
  • Rubber Playground Mulch
  • Pea gravel
  • Playground sand
  1. Unitary Surfaces.

Unitary ground covers are more expensive than Loose-fill materials. They require skilled personnel to install. Nevertheless, they’re durable and require little maintenance. They include:

  • Artificial Grass (Turf)
  • Soft rubber surface
  • Tiles

What is the Best Material to put under a Swing Set? – Details

Well, all the playground surface options are great. However, depending on your needs, budget, and preference, you may find one option better than the other one.

I will provide all the relevant and up-to-date information to help you make a good decision for your swing set surface.  Hence, below, I will discuss all the options you can choose for your playground surface.

Types of Playground Surfaces:  Loose-Fill Materials.

1. Engineered Wood Fiber (Wood Playground Mulch)

Engineered Wood Fiber

The good thing about Engineered Wood Fiber is that it’s readily available, economical, durable, and low maintenance.


The Wood playground mulch blends well with almost all landscape themes. It will also blend well with your backyard swing set. It’s visually attractive and provides soft, springy ground.

In addition, the wood mulch is available in various color options like red, black, and brown. Thus, it’s easy to blend it up with your outdoor color theme.


Wood mulch offers a safe option for ground cover. It provides excellent shock absorption and cushioning against injuries. Wood mulch also absorbs moisture and delivers reliable slip resistance.

However, Wood mulch may not be the safest option for your child depending on their ages because of the following issues

  • Wood mulch can cause splinters
  • Can hide hazards like broken glass
  • Choking hazards-, curious kids might put the wood chips in their mouth
  • Can freeze during winter
  • Can host deadly insects
  • May get affected by mold

Nevertheless, if your kids are a bit older wood mulch can be a good choice.


The initial cost of wood mulch may be a bit higher compared to the other playground surface cover. It may cost $10 – $60 per square yard. However, it’s highly durable and may last 5-7 years before you think of a replacement.


Wood mulch is readily available in most regions. It’s easy to find. It’s also a more natural alternative for those that are into eco-friendly products.


Wood mulch scatters easily so it may spread all over during children’s playtime. You may need to clean up regularly and bring it back beneath the swingset. If the much is not brought back together, a child may fall and are injured in those spots that don’t have enough mulch.

However, you can include a funny pad below the slides to provide cushioning against injuries and prevent the mulch from spreading away.

Thus, prepare for regular maintenance while using wood mulch as swingset surface cover.

2. Rubber Playground Mulch

The best material for playground surfaces is rubber mulch. It’s safe, comes in attractive color options, and it’s easy to maintain.

The rubber mulch is highly beneficial under playsets with bigger heights. If the child will jump from high heights consider installing the rubber mulch. This material helps in shock absorbency, thus protects the children from impact.

This doesn’t mean that the other playground surfaces aren’t as effective as the rubber mulch. It all boils down to personal preference and budget.


Rubber Playground Mulch is available in a range of color options. So you’ll definitely find a color that suits the theme of your backyard and swing set.


Rubber mulch is a safe option for swing set surface cover. It offers a soft surface that promotes the children’s safety.

The rubber also provides a pliable, resilient ground cover to help lessen stress on kids’ joints and bones. It also provides excellent impact absorption.

Rubber mulch also meets the standards set by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.


Rubber mulch costs more than the other playground covers during installation. However, over the long term you won’t incur much maintenance cost. It’s affordable and cheap to maintain.

One sack of rubber mulch costs approximately $379 for a 154′ by 154 area and goes three inches deep. The rubber mulch will serve you for over 10 years.


Rubber mulch is readily available. You can find them at Home Depot, Amazon, and Lowe’s. You can place your order and the product delivered to you.


Rubber mulch doesn’t require a lot of maintenance. The initial purchase and installation cost are the only things that are a bit high.

You don’t need to replace the rubber mulch yearly. it’s a durable playground cover. However, the rubber mulch can also scatter around so you’ll need to monitor it closely to ensure enough coverage on the entire play area.

3. Pea gravel

Pea gravel

Pea gravel can also provide a good alternative for playground swing set cover. They are smooth round stones with lighter colors. It offers excellent durability, cushioning, and shock absorption. They are also cheap to install.


Pea gravel delivers a more natural look to a place. They can blend well with your backyard, swing set, and outdoor as a whole.


Pea gravel offers the best shock absorption and protects your kids against injuries while playing on their playset.

However, if you have toddlers or small children the pea gravel might not be the best swing set surface cover. Small children can put these small stones in their mouths creating serious choking hazards.

Pea gravel doesn’t harbor microbial organisms. They’ll serve you for more than 10 years.


The initial cost of pea gravel is low. However, the maintenance is a bit high. You might need to replace it often since the stones break down. The approximate cost of pea gravel on a 27′ by 27′ area is $25 – $35.


Pea gravel is readily available. Most Landscaping companies around the U.S.A deliver to your doorstep or job site. However, you can also order online at Amazon, Home Depot, or any other online supplier.


Pea gravel is a loose fill that can compress and redistribute. Therefore, you need to shovel to prevent cases of injuries. Rake the playground cover back underneath the swing set periodically.

4. Playground Sand 

Playground Surface

Sand has been a top choice for most people looking for the best Material for Playground Surface. It’s cheap, easy to maintain, and readily available. Ensure you buy the coarse grain for your swing set surface cover.


Playground sand delivers a Beautiful classic look. You’ll love how the sand will enhance the swing set surface while providing the safety your kids need while playing.

Sand matches most backyard themes and provides a more natural aesthetic to your yard.


Sand doesn’t provide the best impact absorption compared to the other playground surface covers. Cats can also use the sand as a litter box.


If you’re looking for a low-cost Material for Playground Surface, sand is a great option. It’s readily available and its installation is easy.

However, sand requires regular maintenance to keep it clean and safe. Thus, it might be expensive to use sand as surface cover for your swing set.

Further, you’ll need to replace sand yearly or when it becomes dirty.


Sand is also readily available and you can get it delivered to you at your doorstep.  You can also order sand online from Amazon, Home Depot, and other online stores.


Sand is difficult to maintain. It’s susceptible to insects, animal wastes, and can hide harmful objects. Thus, you’ll need to take your time to monitor the sand closely.

Sand also scatters during children’s playtime, so you’ll need to rake it periodically to prevent injuries.

You’ll also need to replace the sand yearly or every time it gets dirty.

Types of Playground Surfaces:  Unitary Covers

5. Artificial Grass (Turf)

Artificial grass is widely used on soccer fields and delivers a beautiful scene wherever it’s installed. Most people also use the turf for the swing set surface.


Turf doesn’t loose its texture or color. It has a synthetic material that enhances its durability. The turf looks like real grass. It features a rubber infill that’s coated with artificial grass. The turf is attractive and it will enhance the look of your backyard.


Turf provides better drainage than the normal grass, thus, it delivers enhanced provides good cushioning and provides protection against injuries. However, if your swing set is higher, the turf may not provide the impact absorption that’s needed.

If you still feel you need to install the turf as the swing set surface cover, consider getting shock pads to protect your children against injuries.


The installation cost of Artificial Grass/turf is a bit higher especially if you have to cover a bigger surface. You’ll also need to include an anti-static solution on the overall cost. However, proper maintenance will reduce repair cost


Artificial grass/ turf is readily available. Most online stores like Amazon, Home Depot among others do deliveries countrywide. So, you can place your order and get your artificial grass.


Turf requires little maintenance after installation. However, you might need to wash the grass regularly to maintain cleanliness. Also, ensure timely repairs when you notice any damage.

6. Pour in Place/ Rubber Playground Tiles/ Rubber Mat

Another excellent unitary surface option worth using underneath the swing set is the Pour in Place.  This playground cover option provides a safe surface for children of all ages to play with.


Pour in Place is a combination of two layers of rubbers. The good thing about this option is that you get to choose what you want. They are available in various color options, so you get to choose what blends well with your yard’s theme.


With these rubber mats, you don’t need to worry about objects hiding inside or the presence of deadly insects. They don’t allow any harmful things and you can clearly see the whole surface

If you have toddlers, the Pour in Place would be a perfect choice. Note that dark mats can become hot under the sun.


Pour in place or rubber mats can vary in price depending on the producer and quality of the product. The initial cost of Pour in place is high but the maintenance is low. Thus, their prices range around $20 – $30 for every 2′ by 2′ tile.


The rubber mat is readily available. You can order them online at Amazon, Home Depot, or Lowe’s.


Rubber mats are low maintenance and don’t need additional cost to care for them. Washing or swing them periodically is enough. They are also highly durable.

So, what’s the Best Material for Playground Surface

Well, I did my research, thus, the best material to put under your swing set will vary according to the age of the child, height of the swing set, and your backyard.

Nevertheless, the best material for playground surfaces is rubber playground mulch. The rubber mulch provides a safe ground for children to have their playtime

This material accommodates children of all ages except toddlers. Thus, if you have toddlers you can buy rubber mats.

Rubber mulch provides excellent impact absorption, comes in various color options to blend with whatever landscape or theme, and is low on maintenance.

 Which Material Should You Avoid For Playground Surface

Compacted Soil

Packed soil doesn’t provide the needed shock absorption to help cushion the children against injuries. The soil can also attract deadly pests that can cause harm to your kids.

Natural Grass

Using Natural grass as a playground surface for your swing set might not be the best decision. It’s expensive to maintain natural grass. You’ll need adequate water and fertilizer to keep the grass lively.

Furthermore, grass doesn’t provide the required shock absorption against impact. Thus, it may not enhance the kids’ confidence to jump or play on the swing set. In case they fall, they get serious injuries.

Grass can also harbor bacteria and other deadly insects especially if not well maintained or monitored. Thus, your children or pets may be at risk of getting sick.


I hope that this article has provided you enough information on the Best Material for Playground Surface.  However, we recommend that when choosing your playset surface cover safety should always be on your mind.

No child should get hurt while playing. Ensure that the ground cover you choose provides the least risk to your child. Check age-appropriate ground surface covers.

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