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Engineered wood fiber (EWF) or more commonly known as playground mulch is probably the most popular of all playground safety surfacing options in the U.S. It is fairly affordable (at least initially). You do have to replenish it over time as it compacts and decomposes. What makes it different from other mulch is the fact that it is free from bark and comes from non-recycled materials, such as pallets. So it will not contain other debris and contaminants. It is usually available in landscape yards and is ordered by the cubic yard.
The CPCS hand book recommends a minimum of 9″ of compacted engineered wood fiber to be installed. this means you will need 11″ to 12″ in the initial install, which will compact to about 9″. To figure out how many cubic yards you need, measure your playground area to come up with the total area. So, if your playground is 30’x30′, you have 900 square feet of space. You multiply that number by the depth you are trying to achieve. In this case, let’s say you want to order 9″ of playground mulch. So you multiply 900 by 9, which gives you 8100. You take that number and divide it by 324, which gives you the number 25. So you need 25 cubic yards of engineered wood fiber to get a 9 inch cover in a 900 sf area.
Things to remember about playground mulch:
– You need to keep it raked all the time, otherwise you will have spots that have very little impact attenuation properties.
– Playground mulch can attract insects and vermin.
– Use wear mats under swings and slide exists to stop displacement of the mulch in those areas.
– Always provide for good drainage before installing playground mulch. If you don’t, you will always have soggy mulch, and unhappy teachers and parents.
– If you have a big area, it might be more cost effective to install it via blower truck.
– It’s not recommended you have playground mulch in toddler areas. It’s best to go with a unitary surface such as poured in place rubber, synthetic turf or rubber tiles.
– It is not recommended you install playground mulch on a hard surface such as asphalt or concrete. If you don’t have a choice, and that’s the only area you have, you should install a 3″-6″ layer of crushed stone or gravel first, followed by landscape fabric, followed by the mulch.
– We recommend you get your playground mulch from a source that is IPEMA certified. Ask to see that certification.