The different stages of Poured in Place Rubber deterioration

Do you see loose rubber granules everywhere on your poured in place rubber surface? Do you feel the granules come off when you shuffle your feet on the surface? If the answer to that is yes, you are experiencing one of the stages of poured in place rubber deterioration.

In another post, we have explained how poured in place rubber systems are in fact quite simple. They are made up of rubber granules held up by glue. The type of glue used in the installs (and almost all glues) are degraded by UV rays. So the more sun your playground gets, the fastest that process is. So all poured in place surfaces have to be maintained. Just like a granite surface, they have to be sealed using several products on the market. (We offer our own poured in place rubber rejuvenator). We recommend that this is done roughly every two years or so. The frequency is affected by how shaded the playground surface is and how much traffic it gets.

stages of poured in place rubber deterioration

If that is not done, you should expect the following:

  • Phase 1: The granules will start getting loose either uniformly or in areas that experience higher traffic and more play impact (slide exists..etc). At this phase, the playground can still be saved through a heavy application of a top seal.
  • Phase 2: Granulation will happen together with small cracks in the system. Though a top seal will help, the cracks cannot be hidden or patched without cutting around them and re-patching. You might also notice small holes here and there. Those holes can still be patched using a do it yourself poured in place patch kit.
  • Phase 3: Granulation and cracks will continue and more holes will appear. The system begins to fail and the kids eventually make the holes bigger by picking at them. This can be particularly dangerous for toddler playgrounds since the loose pieces (not the EPDM granules, but larger chunks that can come off) present a choking hazard.
  • Phase 4: A complete surfacing system failure will occur after granulation has worn down most of the wear layer and it is now too thin to patch or seal. A new wear layer will have to be added to the system, and in areas where the base layer has also been impacted, more base layer will have to be installed.

This is a case where a small problem that is easy to prevent leads to a much more expensive problem. When you install a new poured in place rubber system, make sure you budget for a maintenance program so you get maximum shelf life from it.