Rubber Mulch Safety Surface

This article draws heavily on information from an article from ROSPA and the original article can be found here

Rubber mulch as playground surfacing is made from recycling commercial or industrial tyres which are wire free it is shredded and cleaned this can be bonded together. Has a 3.5m critical fall height at 20cm depth which compares favourably with wood bark, sand or grass.

This means using less to cover more means less work surface maintenance. You can choose to use a resin bonding the pieces together this creates a permanent surface. Permanent surfaces are almost maintenance free in that it will take a lot for it blow away or get moved.

Resin bound rubber surfaces allow water to drain through, its often a misconception that these are completely solid creating puddles that will need clearing before play can resume. Assuming that the surface is laid with appropriate drainage it should clear and ready for play when the rain stops unlike grass that maybe water logged requiring some time to be suitable again.

climbing frame with rubber mulch safety surface

Important Checks

The rubber chips and water based coatings are non-toxic and labelled as such, clearly marked by the retailer on these products. Do not be tempted to shred tyres yourself as this will contain toxins and metal that must be removed to make it safe.

If accidentally swallowed properly treated rubber chippings should pass through the digestive system with no ill effect.

However we aren't doctors, so if you suspect nature hasn't taken its natural course or a child is in discomfort do as any responsible parent will do

Benefits of Rubber Surfaces

Low maintenance
Rubber mulch doesn't degrade or compact like bark chippings will.
Many Colours available
It can be coloured limited only by your imagination. You can choose between very bright colours or natural ones that blend into the garden.
Lasts a long time
Years, it will still be functional so long as it's all kept it within the play area. So using a resin bond will help with this.
Fade resistant
It is for a long time. However each product will make claims for a number of years. Check with manufactures to see what they have claimed.
Doesn't freeze
It doesn't absorb water so it wont freeze. This makes it less slippery in cold weather and also remains soft and safe for kids on the climbing frame.
Doesn't retain water
This means it can be played on as the rain stops, or even during if the feeling takes.
Doesn't sustain Or Attract Insects or Animals
Rubber isn't very nutritious not having to worry about insects making a nest will mean less to clean up. Not to mention that its not somewhere cats will look at as a giant toilet unlike a sandpit or bark area.

Rubber Mulch Final Thoughts

Weed suppression blocks out the light so nothing can grow underneath anything over two inches will create this effect. However, unlike natural mulches that can turn to soil quickly if the area did grow weeds this would have to be removed and weeded by hand.

Retaining moisture in the ground, the rubber mulch prevents evaporation so water goes into the ground beneath. The mulch also not block rain from going to the soil which will always be wet, this can cause an issue if your area is flooded prone or has insufficient drainage.

It will last, 10 years or longer it won't break down or decompose which is an advantage until you want to get rid and it also means, unlike natural mulches it won't supply the ground underneath with nutrients. It can also work its way into the ground permanently if a barrier isn't used to prevent this.

It has a high cost to begin with, although it doesn't need replacing if you use resins to set the rubber permanently this increase the time and cost needed to install.

Toxic? Some concerns over the safety and long-term concerns about the ground although safety testing should put your mind at ease.

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