So, you’re considering wood chips or wet pour rubber for your new playground surface, but you’re a little unsure which type of surface is best to use. Well, you’re in the right place because that’s the question we’re answering today.
A few weeks ago, we put out a video discussing the four most popular playground surfacing options in New Zealand. In that video, we talked briefly about wood chip surfacing and wet pour rubber, exploring both the advantages and disadvantages of each one. If you have not yet seen that video, we recommend you check it out. We also discuss the option of Artificial turf and PVC tiles as surfacing solutions.
In this article, we’re going to do a more in-depth comparison of the two most popular surfaces, wood chips and wet pour rubber. So, what is the best playground surface of the two? Let’s find out!
The simple answer to our question is that it totally depends on your needs and which surface is better suited to your space. Each surface solution has its own strengths and weaknesses, so it really does depend on you. But to make the decision process a little easier we’re going to break down the benefits and features of each one based on the attributes people look for in their surfacing.
There are 8 main desirable attributes people look for in playground surfacing. These are:
7. Surface temperature
8. Initial Cost
When it comes to safety, we consider wet pour rubber to be the better surface over the long term. The reason for this is because wet pour rubber doesn’t move, so there’s no risk of it becoming thinned out and unsafe in places. Wood chips, on the other hand, do move around and can become thin in areas of high use, like around the bottoms of swings and slides, if they are not constantly maintained.
It’s difficult to say which of the two surfaces has the best aesthetic result. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Everyone has a different goal and vision for their playground and different people have different tastes for how they want their playground to look. If you’re looking for a more natural aesthetic, you’ll probably prefer woodchips. Whereas if you’re looking at creating a colourful and vibrant space, wet pour rubber would be the better option due to its range of colour options and designability. If you’re looking for a natural-looking surface with the durability and safety of rubber, you should definitely check out our MulchSet surface solution.
There is a clear winner when it comes to maintenance. And that is wet pour rubber. With its seamless, fixed surface, wet pour rubber requires little in the way of maintenance. An occasional hose down or going over with a leaf blower is really all it takes to keep this surface looking good into the long term. Wood chips, on the other hand, require constant weekly maintenance to ensure the space is properly filled and distributed to ensure it’s safe for use. Another thing to keep in mind is that wood chips compact and degrade over time, so they need to be topped up once a year and replaced every 3 years.
In terms of durability, wet pour rubber performs better than wood chip surfacing. This is simply because it doesn’t need annual topping up and replacement every 3 years like wood chip surfacing does. A high-quality wet pour rubber surface like Pour’n’Play, which is made from Rosehill TPV rubber granules, lasts at least 12 years in most situations and can last up to 20 years in some cases.
For designability, again wet pour rubber comes out on top. Compared to all other play surfaces, wet pour rubber allows the most freedom in terms of designability, which is why playground designers love it. It can be shaped over mounds and complex designs can be poured into the surface during installation. You really can go wild and customise your space to your needs and desires.
It might feel like wood chip surfacing is losing out, but that is not our intention. In fact, we install our, ‘Top Chip’ surface in some of our playground projects when it fits the client’s needs. However, if you are focusing on creating a playground space that is fully accessible and inclusive for users of all abilities, wet pour rubber is the better surface. With wet pour rubber, you are able to create smooth, seamless edges that are easier to move around on from place to place in the playground. Wood chips surfacing is not a very suitable option for an accessibility centred playground.
7. Surface Temperature
When it comes to surface temperature, it’s a win for wood chip surfacing. That’s because wood chip surfacing maintains a low to medium temperature even when exposed to hot sunlight for an extended period. Wet pour rubber, on the other hand, can get uncomfortably hot in sun-exposed locations. As always, we recommend you consider shade options if you are using wet pour rubber in sunny locations.
8. Initial Cost
When it comes to the initial cost, wood chips are definitely the cheaper option. That’s because the wood chips themselves are cheaper than rubber granules and the installation process tends to be faster than with wet pour rubber. There is a caveat here though. While initially cheaper, wood chip surfaces do require annual top-ups and replacement every 3 years, so there are ongoing costs to keep in mind. Over the long term, wood chip surfaces don’t actually come out much cheaper than wet pour rubber surfaces. In some cases, they can end up being more expensive.
If you think wet pour rubber is maybe the best option for you, check out the Pour’n’Play product page. There you’ll find loads of information about our wet pour rubber product Pour’n’Play. Likewise, if you like the idea of wood chips and you know that’s what you want for your playground, you can check out the TopChip product page.