Types of Playground Surfacing: Choosing the Best Surfacing for Your Daycare

Safety surfacing is a fundamental and necessary part of a playground. Creating a safe play space is essential and having the proper safety surfacing reduces the risk of injuries from falls. 

There are many different types of safety surfacing, broken into two different categories: loose-fill and unitary. Below we dive into the pros and cons of each surfacing category and how to determine which option is best for your playground.

Loose-Fill Surfacing

Sand, pea gravel, and engineered wood fiber, and wood chips are examples of loose-fill safety surfacing. Loose-fill safety surfacing contains loose particles held in place by a border. This type of safety surfacing is typically more cost-effective to purchase but requires consistent maintenance to ensure the correct depths required for your playground’s fall height are adequate. 

High-traffic areas such as slide exits, below swings, and entrances/exits to the play space are prone to the displacement of loose-fill surfacing and loose materials. These are key areas to inspect and top up as required to maintain a safe and fun play environment.

Loose-fill surfacing typically blends in with the natural environment and can be a great choice for a natural-themed play space. 


  • Cost-Effective
  • Easy to Install (you can DIY to save even more money)


  • Requires constant and regular maintenance inspections to maintain adequate fall protection
  • Debris can be hidden underneath and cause hazards

Unitary Surfacing

Rubber tiles, synthetic turf, and poured-in-place rubber, and other rubber playground surfaces and flooring are all examples of unitary safety surfacing. Unitary surfacing is bounded together and creates superior fall protection and a layer of protection. 

Unitary safety surfacing is generally more expensive than loose-fill but has lower maintenance costs. Rubber tiles and poured-in-place rubber come in a variety of colours and designs that can enhance the aesthetic of your playground. Designs can be configured to create additional play elements using the surfacing - think hopscotch, jumping circles, or connecting pathways/roads.

All unitary safety surfacing is accessible and makes for an excellent surfacing choice to encourage children of all abilities to play together.


  • Long lifespan
  • Low maintenance requirements
  • Accessible
  • Safe choice
  • Usable by children in mobility devices


  • Higher initial cost
  • Professional installation is required
  • Installation is weather dependent

Choosing the Best Safety Surfacing for Your Daycare

The best safety surfacing for your daycare depends on your initial and yearly budgets, maintenance abilities, and accessibility requirements. There are a lot of factors to consider when selecting the best safety surfacing for your daycare: 

  • Initial budget to purchase surfacing
  • Budget to maintain surfacing
  • Surfacing lifespan
  • Surfacing appearance
  • Accessibility of surfacing 

The best safety surfacing for your daycare will meet all of your objectives and needs while encouraging children to play and take developmental risks. 

Browse our safety surfacing options or contact us to determine the best safety surfacing for your playground.


Daycare Surfacing Frequently Asked Questions 

Do I need safety surfacing for my playground equipment?

If your playground has a fall height then safety surfacing is required. Not sure if your playground has a fall height? An easy way to determine this is if a user’s feet will leave the ground, then there is a fall height. 


What depth does my loose-fill safety surfacing need to be at?

The recommended depth of loose-fill safety surfacing is 12 inches or 300mm.


How do I determine what thickness I need for my unitary safety surfacing? 

The thickness of unitary safety surfacing depends on the fall height of the playground. If you are unsure how to calculate the fall height of your playground contact one of our experts.


What safety surfacing is accessible? 

Engineered wood fiber is the only loose-fill safety surfacing that is accessible. All unitary safety surfacing options are accessible.