Pros and Cons of Engineered Wood Fiber for Playground Surfacing

Choosing the suitable material for playground surfacing is crucial for the safety and enjoyment of children. Among the various options, engineered wood fiber surface has been increasingly popular.

This blog post delves into the pros and cons of using engineered wood fiber (EWF) for playgrounds, evaluating its safety, cost, and quality.

What is Engineered Wood Fiber?

Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF) is a unique loose-fill surfacing material crafted from natural wood fibers, setting it apart from regular wood chips without specialized processing. Specifically designed to meet rigorous safety standards, this material is an optimal choice for environments with playground equipment where child safety is a paramount concern.

Notably, EWF is highly acclaimed for its exceptional shock-absorbing capabilities, making it a go-to solution for mitigating the risks associated with falls or impacts on the playground. Its widespread adoption in playgrounds across various settings attests to its reliability and effectiveness in providing a safe and enjoyable play area for children.

The Pros and Cons of Engineered Wood Fiber

The Pros and Cons of Engineered Wood Fiber

When selecting a surfacing material for playgrounds, engineered wood fiber (EWF) has emerged as a popular choice for its balance between safety, cost, and installation. However, like any material, it has advantages and drawbacks, making it essential to thoroughly understand its properties before deciding.

1. Safety of EWF (Pros and Cons)


  • Shock-Absorbing: One of the standout advantages of engineered wood fiber (EWF) is its excellent shock-absorbing properties, making the playground surface particularly forgiving during falls and thereby reducing the risk of serious injuries. This aspect contributes significantly to its role as a reliable safety surfacing option.

  • Wheelchair-Friendly: When properly installed, EWF offers a playground surface that is compliant with accessibility standards, providing a surface that is relatively easy for wheelchairs and other mobility devices to maneuver on. This advantage highlights its capabilities in wheelchair accessibility.

  • Non-Toxic: Engineered wood fiber is sourced from natural wood materials, ensuring the playground surface is free from harmful chemicals or additives that could pose health risks to children. This feature adds to its reputation as a trustworthy safety surfacing choice.

  • Slip-Resistant: The unique texture of engineered wood fiber acts as a slip-resistant surface, thereby minimizing the likelihood of slips and falls and contributing to a safer play environment.

  • Natural Look: The natural composition of EWF offers a visually pleasing and harmonious playground surface that blends well with outdoor environments, which can be less distracting and more conducive for play. This aesthetic quality complements its safety surfacing attributes.


  • Regular Maintenance: To maintain its safety features, EWF needs to be raked frequently.

  • Wear Mats: Areas under swings and at slide exits may require additional wear mats.

2. Cost of EWF (Pros and Cons)


  • Affordable: One of the standout benefits of engineered wood fiber (EWF) is its affordability, making it one of the more budget-friendly playground surfacing options. The cost per square foot is often significantly lower than many alternatives, making it a highly accessible choice for schools and communities operating on a budget.

  • Bulk Purchasing: When bought in large quantities, EWF can lead to even more significant cost savings, making it a financially appealing choice among various playground surfacing options. Bulk purchasing often results in discounts or reduced rates, making it an even more economical choice for larger projects or institutions with multiple play areas.

  • Low Initial Investment: Unlike some other surfacing materials that require a hefty upfront cost, EWF offers a low initial investment, further cementing its place as a cost-effective choice among various playground surfacing options.

  • Versatility: The adaptability of EWF allows it to be used in a wide range of play settings—from schoolyards to public parks—without incurring additional customization costs, making it a flexible option among the available playground surfacing options.

  • Natural Aesthetic Appeal Without Premium Cost: Engineered wood fiber provides the aesthetic benefits of a natural, wood-like appearance without the premium price tag. It offers a balanced solution for those looking to economize while aiming for visual appeal in their playground surfacing options.


  • Ongoing Costs: Regular maintenance and the need for wear mats can add to the overall cost.

  • Additional Products Needed: Sometimes, you may need to install a fabric weed barrier beneath the engineered wood fiber, which can be an extra expense.

3. Quality of EWF (Pros and Cons)


  • Long-Lasting: One of the critical benefits of engineered wood fiber products is their impressive durability, allowing them to withstand the wear and tear of constant use over several years, making them a wise long-term investment for playgrounds.

  • Consistent Quality: Manufactured through a regulated process, engineered wood fiber products ensure consistent quality, providing peace of mind that each batch of material will meet the same high standards, making it a reliable choice.

  • Easy on the Eyes: With its aesthetically pleasing, natural wood-like appearance, engineered wood fiber seamlessly blend into outdoor environments, a quality attributed to its natural wood fibers, which offer visual harmony that adds to the overall enjoyment of the playground.

  • Good Drainage: Engineered wood fiber products are designed to allow for adequate water drainage, preventing the formation of puddles or water-logged areas on the playground, thus making play areas safer and more comfortable.

  • Low Dust and Particle Fly: The material's composition minimizes the generation of dust and flying particles, a significant benefit attributed to the natural wood fibers it's made from, making it a more health-conscious choice for children with allergies or respiratory issues.

  • Versatile Use: Beyond its playground applications, engineered wood fiber products are versatile enough to be used in other areas such as landscaping and erosion control, showcasing their utility beyond just a surface for play.


  • Decomposition: Being a natural product, EWF will decompose over time and may need replacement.

  • Color Fading: Over time, engineered wood fiber can lose its color, especially if exposed to a lot of sunlight or harsh weather conditions, making the playground look less appealing.

3. Installation of EWF (Pros and Cons)


  • Easy to Install: One of the standout advantages of engineered wood fiber is its ease of installation. It is an ideal choice for do-it-yourself projects or for those who want to ensure the proper installation process without a hefty price tag.

  • Low Maintenance: Once it's installed, engineered wood fiber is relatively low maintenance, sparing you from constant upkeep, which not only saves time but also ensures that the playground equipment remains accessible for extended periods.

  • Flexible: The material is highly versatile, able to fit into irregularly shaped spaces and seamlessly integrate around playground equipment, simplifying the installation process compared to more rigid materials.

  • Quick Setup: Engineered wood fiber offers the benefit of immediate usability post-installation, unlike some surfaces that require a curing period, making it convenient for quick access to playground equipment.

  • No Special Tools Required: The ease of installing engineered wood fiber extends to its lack of need for specialized machinery or tools, streamlining the installation process and making it easier to ensure the proper installation process.


  • Leveling Issues: Over time, the loose fill material can become uneven, requiring adjustments.

  • Initial Volume: EWF settles over time, requiring an initial overfill.

Comparing Surfacing Materials

1. EWF vs. Rubber Mulch

Rubber surfaces like rubber mulch or wet pour are safer for falls and need less upkeep than engineered wood fiber (EWF). But, if you put EWF in the right and keep it at the right thickness, it's just as safe for falls. Plus, EWF doesn't have the health risks of rubber breaking down over time.

2. EWF vs. Pea Gravel

Pea gravel is often seen in playgrounds, but it's less safe than engineered wood fiber (EWF). Little kids could choke on it, and it's not as soft if you fall on it. Also, wheelchairs have a more challenging time moving on pea gravel compared to a wood fiber playground.

3. EWF vs. Play Grade Wood Chips

Play-grade wood chips are made to be safe for kids and don't have big or sharp pieces. But they're not made as carefully as engineered wood fiber (EWF).

Both are safe if a kid falls, but EWF sticks together better, making it a better choice for a playground surface.

Final Thoughts

Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF) is a popular choice for playgrounds because it's safe, affordable, and looks natural, but it also has its downsides like tricky installation and upkeep costs. Consider all these pros and cons to make the best decision for your play area.

If you're looking for a durable and safe surface, look no further than Engineered Wood Fiber Playground Surfacing provided by Simplified Playground. Our team of specialists is on hand to guide you through every step, ensuring you select the perfect material that's not just high-quality but also cost-effective.

Don't miss out on this opportunity to make a meaningful investment in a safer, longer-lasting play area—contact Simplified Playground today!