To start with, there are two principal issues to be dealt with when constructing a playground: providing safe playground flooring and finding necessary equipment. The fundamental issue is much too often neglected, despite the fact that it is the flooring that plays a deciding role when a child is falling down. Falls are the main cause of circumstances on a playground! Grass or natural soil is normally not adequate to cushion the influence of a child’s fall.
The equipment is another portion and here the money should not be spared. Obviously, the current playing equipment can be used if it is in good condition and periodically maintained. When buying new equipment, one should choose a reliable manufacturer whose equipment complies with international safety standards. The manufacturer should inform you which equipment can be installed in a do it yourself manner, and what needs to be carried out by a licensed company.
Assessing the playground area
Let’s start with choosing a safe playground area, which should be large enough not only to fit all the equipment but also to include the impact area, which is where a child can fall. Recognize that the impact area is to be free of obstructions. In order to be able to calculate this area, we need to know the crucial fall height of the equipment. For example, if the maximum height from which a child can fall is 2 m, the ground has to be covered with protective playground flooring approved to attenuate the impact from 2 meters. Moreover, the flooring should reach 1.8 m behind the edge of the equipment in question. The formula to calculate the impact area is 2/3*critical fall height + 50cm.
This means that one should always pave the playground with safety flooring standing 1.5 to 2.5 meters behind the equipment.
Another major safety requirement is that the maximum fall height is 3 meters. So, make sure none of the equipment where a child can stand or climb is higher than 3 m. Finally, let’s not overlook common sense which should guide you in the first place when building a private playground.
Preparing the subfloor
Once you have looked at the location of the existing equipment or installed the new one (following the manufacturer’s instruction) and once you have designed the total playground area, it is time to prepare the subfloor. If you build a playground it is much easier if the subfloor is bound (e.g. concrete, paving stone, asphalt, tiles). In that case, you can lay safety flooring directly on top of it, without the need to prepare the base course. If you choose rubber playground mats which are interlocking, you will not even need to glue the tiles.
If your subfloor is unbound, for example, it is soil, sand, or grass, you need to make it first to make it load-bearing and solid. The best and most economical way is to prepare a grit or gravel bedding. Level the existing area and place a layer of about 15 cm of sharp-edged gravel, which should be compacted and smoothed. Now you can pave the safety playground mats directly onto the gravel bedding. Rainwater will seep through the porous mats and through the gravel layer to the ground. This solution is ecological and very efficient – there will be no pools and children can use the playground in any weather!
Low-maintenance playground flooring
Rubber mats are the most practical flooring solution for a safe playground. Apart from the fact that they are childishly easy to install, they require practically no maintenance. Playground mats are made from a lastingly elastic material (polyurethane-bonded rubber granulate) which means they are absolutely weatherproof. They will not rot or crack, and they will last for about 15 years or more. If there is any difficulty, individual mats can be lifted or replaced.
Other playground materials are either very expensive or difficult to maintain. Especially sand, grass or wood chips need regular support, exchange, and replenishment. The expenses related to this can be overwhelming for a community or neighborhood. Especially that the layer of these loose-fill materials has to be quite thick to provide the necessary fall protection.
With rubber playground mats it is very easy to provide the fall protection necessary on a particular playground. The manufacturer always informs you what the critical fall height for each safety mat is, and which one is suitable for furnishings on the unbound subfloor. Rubber granulate mats are easy to cut on-site and they have small formats to make your work a little bit easier.