What To Put Under Playset?


Playset is an awesome outdoor fun zone for the kids. They offer an essential pre-made environment for the children that helps to develop their physical and mental growth. They are built in a way that allows kids of certain ages to play unsupervised. But while having fun in the playset, safety remains the top priority, as they are fragile and can get hurt easily. A playset’s flooring material plays a major role in ensuring your kid has the safest environment to play in. Now you may wonder, what materials should you put under the playset to ensure such a safe environment?

Several materials can be put under the playset, such as wood mulch, rubber mulch, sand, pea gravel, natural grass, synthetic grass turf, etc. While each of them has a series of individual benefits, some have cons too. In this article, we will introduce you to some of the best materials to put under a playset, along with their possible pros and cons. We will also cover which materials you should avoid putting under the playset and the factors behind choosing the right playset flooring material.

Flooring Materials To Put Under the Playset

When it comes to the question of what to put under the playset, there is a lot of option to compare in between. They have individual benefits and disadvantages for individual use. We have separated all the possible such playset flooring materials for you with distinct individual pros and cons. So let’s start:

Natural Flooring Materials

Kids will love to play on a natural playset flooring. This will put a more nature-friendly impression in their mind. That’s why we have put natural options for you in the first place.

1. Wood Mulch

Wood Mulch

Wood mulch is the most common flooring material to put under a playset or swing set. They are small pieces of nicely chipped, shredded wood. They have superb water drainage and weight-fall absorption capacities. Wood mulch color can vary depending on which type of tree it is sourced from. They can be easily found after cutting down a tree with an axe. However, to surface a playset, you will need more than that. So you can contact your nearby wooden sawmill to buy in larger quantities.

Their advantages include:

  • Wood mulch’s natural appearance will easily match most backyard scenarios.
  • They can be easily sourced through DIY methods, from a sawmill, or from a distinct local hardware supplier.
  • Wood mulch is very inexpensive due to its lower demand and lack of usage.
  • They have good shock absorption and anti-slippery capability, which makes them ideal for kids.

Some disadvantages:

  • Wood mulches have sharp edges, which makes the kids vulnerable to getting splinter bites.
  • Wood mulches are basically wood, which makes them vulnerable to mold attack.
  • They will need regular maintenance, such as arranging, replacing, etc. which may be bothersome sometimes.

2. Engineered Wood Fiber

Engineered Wood Fiber

Engineered wood fiber, also known as EWF, is similar to the basic wood mulches mentioned above. They are a further engineered version of wood mulches, which are ever sleeker in shape. Unlike wood mulches, they don’t have splintered edges. It’s also easy to install, which means you don’t have to hire any professionals.

Their benefits include:

  • Engineered wood fiber has a natural aesthetic that blends well with most landscapes.
  • They are less expensive and can be sourced easily.
  • They have better shock absorption capacity than basic wood mulches.
  • EWF are well processed and don’t contain any toxic ingredients that harm children.
  • Doesn’t have sharp edges, which means it’s safer to use than wood mulches.

Some disadvantages:

  • EWF are relatively smaller than wood mulch, which means there is a risk of your kids choking on them.
  • Get can be affected by mold after a year or two if not maintained properly.
  • Can freeze easily in the winter and be vulnerable to snow and rain.

3. Pea Gravel

Pea Gravel

Pea gravel is a common choice for the topsoil of walkways and tree root decorating. They can also be used as playset flooring materials. Pea gravel is made of small, smooth stones and is an excellent choice for areas with high rainfall, as it has superb drainage capacity. Don’t confuse them with crushed stones, which have sharp edges.

Their benefits include:

  • The pea gravel installation process is relatively easy. Just put, spread, and play.
  • They can be easily sourced and are comparably less expensive.
  • Pea gravel can give a naturally aesthetic and clean look to your backyard.
  • They are environment-friendly. meaning it doesn’t house any toxic element or organism.


  • Gravel flooring can be difficult to navigate for people with disabilities and small children.
  • Doesn’t come with much color variation and can fade over time.
  • Need to organize frequently and can be slippery sometimes.

4. Sand


Sand is a simple, cheap, and common option to put under a playset. Often, you don’t even need to add additional barriers or surface development to put them on. They are as versatile as they are. There are several types of sand, and luckily, you can use any of them for flooring under a playset. They can be easily sourced, are the least expensive, and are surely the best water-draining substances out there. They are also easy to manage.


  • One of the most popular playing materials among children. They just love it.
  • Sand has a fair amount of shock-absorbing capacity, which makes it suitable for playground use.
  • Affordable for all and doesn’t require much attention to install.
  • Sand offers a natural aesthetic and matches most landscapes when kept clean.


  • Having sand in children’s possession can make them dirtier quickly.
  • Needs frequent maintenance, replacement, and rearrangement.
  • Hot weather can make them fly, which is harmful to kids’ eyes, ears, and skin.

5. Natural Grass

Natural Grass

Grass is the most natural element you can imagine putting under a playset. Grass is considered an inappropriate playground surface type by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission due to its lack of impact-absorbing capacity.


  • Fits all types of backyard terrain.
  • Suitable for walking, running, and jumping in bare feet.
  • Can be sourced easily by growing them yourself or purchasing them at a minimum cost.


  • Lack of impact-absorbing capability.
  • Gets worn off in places of frequent use.
  • Requires a lot of maintenance to be in shape.

Can house insects, molds, or other harmful organisms.

Artificial Options

Apart from the natural resources to put under your backyard playset, you can undoubtedly go for these artificial flooring options too.

1. Rubber Mulch

Rubber Mulch

Rubber mulch is the best material to put under a playset. It is a popular choice for parents, as they are built to keep children’s safety perimeters checked. They are made of recycled plastic but are processed in a way that ensures their acceptance for children’s playground use. They have a similar shape and appearance to wood mulches but with different color variations, and they are much softer than anything else in their class.


  • Better shock-absorbing capacity than its main competitor.
  • Rubber mulch is available in different colors and works as a decorative flooring item too.
  • They are durable and require very little maintenance.
  • Rubber mulches are insect- and mold-resistant.

Some disadvantages:

  • Their first-time sourcing can be expensive, as it will take a lot of such rubber mulch.
  • Rubber is made of hazardous materials, so it may contain toxic elements.

2. Artificial Turf

Artificial Turf

Artificial grass turf can be another great addition to a playset. They look like grass and act like grass, but come with better facilities. All of these make them suitable for putting under a playset and as playground flooring material.


  • They are easy to install, and you can install them yourself.
  • They are made of durable materials, which makes them capable of handling high traffic flows.
  • Artificial grass turfs require less maintenance compared to natural grass. They will save a lot of money on water bills alone.
  • The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission stated that synthetic grass turfs are toxic-free and safe to use.


  • Artificial grass turfs are expensive. So they will raise your initial expenses for sure.
  • They have a lower heat absorption capacity, which makes them hotter under the sun’s heat.

3. Rubber Tiles or Mats

Rubber Tiles or Mats

Playground rubber tiles are considered to be one of the best among the unitary surface options. They are made of rubber and can come in square, rectangular, round, or other customized shapes. They are generally set side by side on the floor, just like placing ceramic tiles in your house.


  • Smooth rubber tile surfaces make the play area accessible to kids with disabilities.
  • Unitary surfacing, such as rubber tiles, is easy to install and make patterns with.
  • Rubber tiles don’t get shifted. Hence, it greatly reduces the risk of accidents.
  • Routine cleaning and maintenance can make them last for years.


  • Rubber tiles are prone to warping in locations that have extreme temperature fluctuations.
  • Debris and waste may get stuck between the tile gaps, making the place unhygienic.
  • The gaps between the tiles can make it tough for wheelchair users to move around.
  • After a period of time, rubber tiles tend to lose their aesthetic appeal.

4. Poured-In-Place Rubber

Poured-In-Place Rubber

Poured-in-place rubbers are another rubbery method to put under a playset. If you are looking for stunning colors and patterns, opt for poured-in-place rubber surfacing. Due to their smooth appearance, customizable coloring options, and safety, using poured rubber as your playset’s flooring material can be a wise decision.


  • As a rubbery formation, it has excellent shock-absorbing capability. As per American Standard Testing Methods (ASTM), just 4.5 inches of poured rubber provides safety from a 10-foot fall.
  • Durable yet soft flooring ensures the safety of the users for a long time.
  • A flat surface ensures easy access and usage by toddlers and children with wheels.


  • Upfront poured-in-place rubber pouring is expensive. So your initial cost will be high.
  • Poured-in-place rubber surfacing can get harder, especially in cold and dry climates.

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What is the best thing to put under a swing set?

You can use the same type of materials as are used under a playset to put under a swing set. But as it involves gripping your leg more, you can go for rubber tiles, mates, or poured-in-place rubber. They are durable enough to sustain for a long time and can provide better shock absorption while landing from the swing.

Factors For Choosing Playset Surface Material

It is important to consider some important factors while choosing the right material to put under the playset, as it involves your beloved kids. You have come to know different types of materials for that use, but all of them aren’t equally made. To make your pick from that list, apart from budget, kids age, location, weather pattern, and material availability, you should also consider the following factors:

  • Fall Protection: One of the most concerning factors in choosing the right material to put under a playset is its fall protection and shock-absorbing capacity. It is common for the kids to fall or jump from the playset to the floor. So, to avoid any unwanted accidents, the flooring should be done using the best fall protection material.
  • Matches The Terrain: The chosen material to put under the playset should be well-matched with your backyard’s overall appearance. If the backyard is grassy, you can go for artificial grass. Wooden and rubber mulches are also good options.
  • Durability: You should also focus on the material’s durability factor. They have to be durable enough to sustain longer against children’s intense foot pressure.
  • Affordability: Your chosen material should be overall affordable. Overall, I meant that not only the initial price will be within your budget, but you should also consider what the maintenance cost will be in the near future.
  • Maintenance: Some materials require much upkeep and maintenance. Wood mulch, rubber mulch, sand, gravel, etc. are loose materials, which means they spread quickly. The grass surface requires water and periodic mowing.

What Not To Put Under Playset?

You may have thought of putting some alternative materials under the playset. If it is on the list below, then you should avoid it ASAP.

  1. Concrete: Concrete is durable and doesn’t need any notable maintenance after installation. But this doesn’t justify using them under the playset. Because, along with being durable, they are the hardest surfaces your kid can fall on while playing. You don’t want to imagine the aftermath, do you?
  2. Paved Bricks: Like concrete, paved bricks also possess the similar disadvantage of being too rough. Also, you have to build a separate drainage system, which can add construction and maintenance costs to the existing setup. Paved bricks with uneven surfaces will also make your toddlers fall-prone.
  3. Wooden Decks: Wooden decks may look gorgeous to put under a playset. But they have several drawbacks, such as that they are damage-prone, can raise splinter edges, are not suitable for outdoor use, can be attacked by insects and mold, and whatnot! So they aren’t a viable option.
  4. Smooth Metal Decks: Smooth metal decks are an unusual option to put under a playset. Even if you want to bring them on, you should be aware of their initial setup cost, additional base-making cost, metals becoming rusty, sometimes slippery, and not having any fall protection at all.
  5. Clay: You may think enough is enough! I am going to leave it as is or lay a clay base. It can be a money-saving option, but it is not the safest option if your kid is a toddler. It doesn’t have much fall protection and can become messy after a little use or after rain.

Final Thoughts

The flooring material under a playset is a more concerning factor than you may think. Because the playset setups are made in a way that causes kids to fall, walk, and run on that surface. So, if the surfacing material doesn’t pass certain criteria, then it shouldn’t be put under the playset. Natural materials like wood mulch, sand, and pea gravel are good options to put under a playset. Artificial rubber-based methods and synthetic grass also have the potential to be put under playsets. Each of them has mixed benefits and disadvantages of its own. Choose as per your judgment from the list and by following the factors mentioned above.

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I am Donald M. Beyer and I am backyard enthusiasts. I am a homeowner who has been doing DIY projects in and out of my house for many years. From simple backyard lunches to making an old-school pizza oven in my own backyard, I have a lot of experience in turning my backyard into my and my family’s personal playground.

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