how much is playground mulch

How Much Is Playground Mulch? + [The Best Type For Playgrounds]

Undeniably, all work without play makes Jack a dull boy. However, nearly 200000 children below the age of 14 experience playground-related injuries per year.

While this number is saddening, there’s hope for dropping it by creating safer play areas for children using safer surfacing.

Mulch is the safest playground surface option, and most people want to know; how much is playground mulch?

Sand and wood playground mulches are the cheapest both costing a maximum of $3.00 per square foot while rubber is more expensive at $18 per yard. You need about 3 inches of mulch for a standard home playground. Rubber mulch lasts up to 12 years, wood 7 years and sand is ideal to replace yearly.

Are you planning to mulch your kids’ playground? Read to the end.

How Much Is Playground Mulch?

The cost of mulch depends on the type, size of the playground, and suitable depth of installation.

Sand mulch is leading in terms of low-cost playground mulch. Typically, the cost estimation is per square foot at an average of $1.50 to $3.00. Fortunately, it’s easily available at any landscaping company or the nearest local hardware store.  

Wood mulch is also another cheaper playground surface option. Generally, the price is at $3 per square foot, however, it can vary considering the color and size you prefer.

Rubber mulch, on the other hand, is the most expensive to buy and install. Depending on the size of the playground, the price also varies. Usually,  $2,000-pound bag costs $315 to cover 17 square yards installed at a depth of 6 inches.  If you don’t want that much rubber mulch, you can opt to get the 40-pound bag at $7. 

How Much Mulch Do I Need For A Home Playground?

Generally, the suitable depth of installation determines how much mulch to use for a home playground. Usually, playgrounds are different in terms of terrains but the standard depth of mulch is around 8-12 inches.

Also, the depth requirements of the playground surface vary with the choice of material and height of the equipment.

Bear in mind that mulch comes in cubic yards whereby 1 cubic yard covers an area of 324-square-foot area with a depth of 1 inch.

So, to calculate the total yards needed for your home playground, use your square footage and multiply it by the desired depth in inches, then divide by 324.

Different playground surfacing materials undergo a thorough evaluation to measure their impact effectiveness. Each material gets the right fall height rating whereby a fatal head injury isn’t likely to occur. 

Despite your choice of playground surface, it should cushion falls from the highest point of a play structure.

What Mulch Is Best For Playgrounds?

There are three types of mulch best for playgrounds- sand, rubber mulch, and wood mulch. A layer of about 8 to 20 inches thick provides a springy and durable surface for shock-absorbing and cushioning falls. 

For most people, the first thing that comes to mind for a safer playground surface is thick, soft grass. Well, you’re not wrong, though; this is just for the beginning. The thick, soft grass that was easy to tumble on tends to shrink after the endless running, roll, and jump.


Sand is everywhere hence an inexpensive and readily available choice for mulch. Also, it has no negative impact on a child’s health.

Unfortunately, sand doesn’t remain clean for so long. In most playgrounds, kids bring their pets along. Still, there’re those stray pets that live outside, mostly in the junkyards or even playgrounds. These pets prefer using sand as their litter box.

Sand also blows or washes away easily; hence not as durable as you’d prefer. Therefore, it leaves you with the tedious task of frequent topping up.


Hardwood trees like oak, chestnut, beech, and hickory produce rigid mulch without fillers. Wood mulch comprises chipped bark or shredded wood. Remarkably, it’s heavy enough hence remains intact during rain and wind conditions.

You can use shredded or chopped pine or cypress for leveled and well-drained playgrounds. As long as the wood doesn’t have anti-decay toxic chemicals, it qualifies as safe mulch for kids.

Therefore, always check the packaging before buying to ensure the wood mulch doesn’t contain harmful chemicals.


Rubber mulch normally comes from old shredded tires. It’s not organic, but it works well for artificial turfs, playgrounds, and golf courses.

Crumb rubber, to be specific, is soft, long-wearing, and provides adequate cushioning against falls. It also drains water quickly through it, resulting in an anti-slip surface.

However, there’s a rising concern that the shredded tires still contain chemicals that make rubber mulch unsafe for children. But there’re no proven studies of the negative health risks of rubber mulch.

How Long Can Playground Mulch Last?

Proper maintenance enables longevity and safety depending on your type of playground mulch. 

Therefore, it would be best to do extensive research for a worthy option for a new project or a replacement on the playground. But, nothing lasts forever.

Check out below several factors that lead to the wearing off of playground mulch.

Weather Effects

Anything that remains outside throughout is vulnerable to long-term weather exposure. In the end, all playground surfaces experience the effects of weather after a while. However, some playground materials are more durable and require little to zero maintenance.

Extreme weather conditions of sun, rain and wind cause wear and tear on playground materials. Therefore, it would help if you considered how your choice of playground surface would endure harsh weather conditions before buying. Besides, endurance equals the level of maintenance you have to apply on the surface. Choose wisely!

Typically, loose playground materials tend to blow or wash away from the playground due to strong winds and heavy rain. On the other hand, rubber playground mulch weakens, fades, and gets hot from intense sun exposure.

Improper Maintenance

How long do you want your playground surface to last? Maintain it regularly. Nonetheless, various playground surfaces have different ways of maintenance.

Rubber playground mulch can last up to 12 years with the least maintenance efforts. Depending on the rubber surface, others like bonder rubber require cleaning and frequent inspection. Still, the poured-in rubber surface requires following strict maintenance guidelines for the manufacturers.

With proper maintenance and installation, wood fiber can last for eight years. Preferably, you should top off wood fiber yearly to maintain the proper depth of the height fall standards. Plus, you can add playground mats on the high traffic areas for proper playground maintenance.

Additionally, synthetic grass can stay for 6-8 years depending on the level of maintenance. Occasionally, it would be best to splash water on the synthetic grass to clean allergens and dirt. You can also use a leaf blower to remove the leaves, paper, and pine needles from the surface. Also, check out for gum and other sticky things and remove them.


There’s quality in everything, and your role is to find value for your preferred quality. Your type of surface’s quality determines its endurance in wear and tear when it comes to playground surfaces.

So, how do you establish good quality?

Even though expensive doesn’t always mean quality, there’s truth in cheap is expensive. Usually, low-cost materials require frequent replacements and renovations because their ability to hold up is weak.

Furthermore, you should research the best brands and top manufacturers to find a favorable choice.

Choosing the Best Playground Surface

No playground surface fits all requirements. Sometimes, a playground can have different surfaces where one part benefits from a certain type and another from a different kind.

But what’s common is the overwhelming search for a suitable playground surface. The choices are way too many.

Above all, some factors help make the right decision on the best playground surface to choose. See below;


The first thing you should evaluate in your choice of a playground surface is its safety. Usually, safety means the fall height rating, which determines the safest height for a fall without any injuries.

How do you determine the fall height rating?

Experts use different tests on various absorbent materials to protect a child from sustaining injuries from a high fall. The concrete surface has a zero fall rating since any uncontrolled fall likely results in injuries. But rubber, on the other hand, has a fall rating of six feet hence a much safer option.

Additionally, the safety rating of any playground material should consider the height of play equipment on the playground. Using materials with a higher fall height rating for tall structures would be best.


First, there’s the cost of the desired material and installation costs. Most surfacing materials require installing experts, which greatly affects their longevity and maintenance.

In the installation costs, the upfront costs are crucial. Ideally, loose-fill materials such as pebbles, sand, or wood chips are cheaper to buy and install than surfaces like rubber or turf per square foot.

Preferably, get several quotations from different companies that sell and install playground surfaces before settling on one that suits your budget.


Proper maintenance also has a cost after installation. Normally, maintenance costs are in the time you spend on upkeep.

Different types of surfaces feature various time requirements and repair costs if necessary. A unitary solution would be a great option for those who lack adequate time for frequent maintenance since it requires little to zero upkeep.

Conversely, loose-fill surfaces need high maintenance and repair since they’re naturally compact with time. Once you understand the maintenance requirements for different surface types, rest assured of no surprise costs popping up.


Relative to maintenance requirements, the durability of a playground surface is crucial to know before any replacement. Without a doubt, some surfaces are long-wearing than others and can survive different types of kids’ games.

Therefore, it’s worthwhile to know the life expectancy for the surface before settling on any choice. However, surfaces with high durability tend to be more expensive in buying and installing.  


How the playground surface looks is crucial in all the important factors. You should know that the type of surface you choose determines how your playground appears.

Therefore, look for a choice that matches the playground you desire. Some surface materials are naturally more aesthetic than others hence suitable for the popular kids’ playgrounds.

ADA Compliance

The ADA (Americans with Disability Act) clearly outlines several guidelines and regulations for playgrounds to comply with. Because these guidelines are enforceable by the law, the design of all playgrounds should be ADA compliant to avoid heavy fines and lawsuits.

Moreover, most of the ADA regulations are easily applicable to playground surfaces. Such regulations include the difficulty of children who use wheelchairs in rolling across pebbles and even sand compared to using the easy-to-roll rubber mats or turfs.

Playground Surfaces Risks

Playground surfaces are vulnerable to various risks. Undoubtedly, playground falls are inevitable; however, a safer surface reduces the impact of the fall significantly.

Sadly, falls can cause terrible injuries like cuts, bruises, abrasions, and even head injuries (brain damage and skull fractures).

So, if you want to build a playground, ensure you use a design that has kids’ safety in mind to reduce the high risks of injuries.


What Material Should You Use Under A Swing?

The best material to use under a swing set varies depending on kids’ age using the particular playground. Also, the location and height of the swing set determine the type of material suitable.

Closing Thoughts

How much is playground mulch? As observed, the answer depends on the safety rating and the different types of mulch you want to use.

When you allow your child to play, you open up their happiness and brilliance when they grow. Child play is healthy and mandatory.

But what’s more important is providing a safe play area for the children. Besides, nobody wants to see their children end up in hospitals or with lifetime injuries because of the merry-go-round swing or other games!

Aside from choosing the best and safest playground mulch, also buy the right playground equipment matching the age of the children.

Also Check – How To Put Down Rubber Mulch For Playground

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