Are you considering artificial grass for your playground area? More and more, backyard play areas and public playgrounds are switching from natural grass to synthetic grass. And for good reasons - no more grass stains! Just kidding, there are many more advantages than that to a good turf surface!
You can customize synthetic grass to be the perfect playground surface. It is softer than the commonly used pebbles or bark chips and has the natural look of green grass without all the hassle and costs of constant upkeep. Turf products have advanced in recent years, with many colors, materials, and styles to choose from. Synthetic turf can be an attractive and low maintenance option for playground grass!
Pros: Artificial turf can be safer than the alternatives like rocks or bark for playground flooring. That is true as long as you choose the right options when you are picking out your synthetic turf.
To make sure the artificial turf you choose is safer than the alternatives, you will want to choose options that meet requirements for proper fall height ratings. That often means making sure the cushioning of the fake grass is soft enough. There are several options you should focus on to achieve this: extra padding, thatch layer, infill material, and pile height.
First, synthetic grass often requires extra padding to make it safe enough to be used as a playground surface. This is often achieved by putting a foam pad or material made from recycled rubber tires below the fake grass. You will want to make sure that the shock absorption is the right level for the height of the playground equipment.
Next, make sure to choose the right options for thatch and infill layers as well as pile height. The thatch layer is the material that is mixed into the fake grass to imitate the dead or dying grass blades in natural grass. The thatch layer adds some cushioning to the artificial grass. An infill layer will also help with shock absorption, so make sure to choose a material that works for your playground area. Finally, the pile height of your synthetic grass is the height of each individual yarn. The yarn is the name for the synthetic “grass” material. For a playground you will want a shorter pile height, around one inch. While a taller pile height can give a more lush, natural look, it does not work well on high traffic areas like playgrounds and could be a tripping hazard.
Cons: One potential con to synthetic playground turf is that fake grass does not absorb water the same way that natural grass does. To avoid that issue, and the risk of slipping on wet surfaces, choose an artificial turf with good drainage. Perforated backing will help achieve this. Perforated backing means that there are holes punched in the backing that will allow for complete water drainage.
Another potential disadvantage to artificial grass is the build up of microbes. Just like real grass, synthetic turf is at risk of growing bacteria, fungus and mold over time. To get around that problem, choose an antimicrobial backing that helps to reduce microbes in your artificial playground turf.
Finally, like any type of plastic, synthetic turf absorbs a lot of heat in the sun and as a result gets much hotter than real grass in the summer. You can decrease the heat absorption if you choose a quality, cooling infill material though.
Pros: The good news is that synthetic turf as a playground surface is actually a cost saver - over time. After three to five years, your initial investment will be less than what you would have paid for natural grass installation and upkeep.
Synthetic turf does not need watering, fertilizing, pesticides, or mowing. So in addition to not needing to pay for those things, and getting peace of mind that you do not have to do constant upkeep - you are also being eco-friendly! You will not need to use fuel for your lawnmower, or potentially hazardous chemicals where children play.
Cons: The bad news is that the upfront cost of installing fake grass is much more expensive than seeding natural grass or laying down sod. Synthetic turf costs anywhere from $6-$20 per square foot for materials plus the cost of installation itself.
There are many types of grass products and some suit play areas better than others. The cheapest yarn is made out of nylon. But nylon is not suitable for playground areas because it is overly tough to the point where it gives legendary turf burns.
While you do not want to see wear and tear on your artificial turf too quickly, you probably also do not want your grass to be able to injure the children when they fall on it. Polyethylene is the best choice for playgrounds and is mid-range in terms of cost and is a high quality product. Polyethylene is durable enough to withstand above average foot traffic in your playground area but not so tough that it could skin knees.
Pros: If accessibility is a priority for your playground area, then you will want to be intentional about several features of your artificial grass. First is pile height, or the height of each individual grass blade. In playgrounds in general, a shorter pile height of around one inch allows for play without the grass getting matted down or destroyed. A shorter pile height also allows for wheelchairs to move around on it easily.
Some children have to avoid outdoor playgrounds, especially around spring, because of allergies and hay fever. When the playground areas are made of synthetic turf instead of real grass, these things will no longer be concerns as fake grass does not contain pollen.
Cons: As far as accessibility on playgrounds with artificial grass, there are not many things to worry about beyond choosing the right pile height to be able to get around safely. One minor concern would be if the artificial turf is not carefully installed, there may be tripping hazards at the seams.
Here are a few additional considerations to make sure you get the right synthetic grass product for your playground area.
To ensure durability, make sure to pay attention to the stated density of the artificial turf. A higher density of the grass yarns will ensure your synthetic grass playground surface lasts longer in areas with high foot traffic.
If attractiveness is more of a concern, know that there are many colors to choose from when it comes to fake grass. Gone are the days of just neon green fake grass yards. Now, some synthetic grass brands even mix different colors of yarns to mimic the natural look of real grass. There are so many color options you can even ensure that the artificial turf you choose matches nearby grassy areas!
When choosing synthetic turf for playground area surfaces in public areas, commercial playgrounds, or daycare centers, be aware that you will have to meet certain requirements. For example, in any area with playground equipment that children could fall from - like slides or swings - the turf and cushion material must be fall height rated. When you decide on a turf installation company, make sure to discuss any concerns you have with them about proper cushioning for your playground area surface.