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Which surface should you choose for your playground: Poured in Place Rubber or Synthetic Turf?
First of all, unless the play area has concrete or flat asphalt, both systems need the same site prep. Meaning, all organic materials such as grass and mulch have to be removed. Crushed stone has to be installed and compacted and the right pitch has to be established. If your playground area already has playground equipment with lots of footings, it might be easier to go with poured in place rubber. The system is poured in place and troweled around the existing structure. Synthetic Turf on the hand comes in 15 foot rolls (like a carpet) and it might be cost prohibitive to cut and seam around so many posts. Also, every time you are cutting and seaming, you are technically introducing a weakness in the system.
Dimensions of the area also play a role in making the right choice. As mentioned above, synthetic turf always comes in 15′ wide rolls and in lengths up to 100′. So if your area dimensions is such that multiples of 15′ creates very little material waste it’s the way to go. Dimensions don’t play any role in poured in place rubber since it’s basically rubber granules mixed onsite with a binder.
Impact attenuation is adequately provided by both systems. In the poured in system that’s accomplished through the thickness of the buffing layer and in synthetic turf, the thickness of the padding installed underneath the turf layer determines the fall height.
Longevity is another story though. Both systems will perform for at least 12-15 years but a poured in place system will have to be maintained in order for it to last that long. Because of the fact that polyurethane binders are degraded by UV rays, the system has to be reconditioned every two years or so. Synthetic turf on the other hand needs some basic grooming to keep it in good shape.
If you are into designs, logos, and colors in your playgrounds, poured in place rubber surfaces are definitely the way to go. If you prefer a natural look, then synthetic turf wins. Today’s synthetic turfs look a lot more like grass than they used to do.