What Is Under Your Swing Set?

Updated on February 24, 2011
M.E. asks from Collegeville, PA
16 answers

We've ordered a swing set that we'll be putting up when spring finally arrives. The deck height is 5 feet. We don't know whether to just put it up on the grass or put wood chips or the expensive rubber mulch under it. My concern with leaving just grass, besides the safety issue, is that because our yard is pretty wet after it rains, it might be really suggy and mushy around the swing set. With the wood chips, I'm concerned about mold growth because my son is allergic to mold. And with the rubber playground mulch, it's expensive, but also I'm worried that it will leave off color on the kids clothes, shoes, etc. I want a safe, clean option. Any advice/opinions? Does anyone have the rubber playground mulch sold at BJs (made by Kidwise) who could tell me if it leaves off color?

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A.P.

answers from Allentown on

We ordered rubber mulch from a wholesaler online for MUCH less than we could get locally.
We put weed cloth under it (ripped up all the grass first) & it's worked so beautifully (2 yrs old this spring).
We priced everything out & since wood mulch & pea gravel need to be replaced/re-filled every year or so AND since they don't provide as much safety, it was just a better investment in the long-run.

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P.M.

answers from Portland on

Of all the wood products, hemlock is probably the safest. It's extremely resistant to rot and mildews and is not prone to giving splinters. You can rake it out every two or three years and put a fresh layer down.

I don't know about the Kidwise rubber mulch specifically, but some rubber mulches do stain clothing, give off unpleasant smells in hot weather, and become quite hard in cold weather. I would call their customer service line and find out whether they have a guarantee that covers any of these issues.

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L.L.

answers from Rochester on

Well, we started with grass...but trust me, it will get worn away (if the swingset gets the use you want it to get!) and you will end up with dirt, which is what we have now. Every time it rains, then we have mud...which doesn't deter the children. I used to make my daughter stay out of it until it was dry...then, I got wise and designated one pair of tennies as "backyard shoes."

I know there's this great movement towards "safety," but I think it's being taken too far...the equipment itself it really the problem, not what's under it. My oldest (stepdaughter) broke her leg on the monkey bars at school...because she got her leg caught in it, not from falling!

Personally, I'd prefer sand, but there are too many roaming cats in our neighborhood. Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful
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H.W.

answers from Portland on

How about shredded hemlock? We use it in my backyard for puddly areas. Best of all, it is mostly splinterproof, so while you might get a few small slivers over a longer period of time, you won't get those big chunks of wood-type splinters. (and these slivers are easy to pull out. Just give them something else if they want to scoop/fill.)

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S.B.

answers from Kansas City on

ours only has dirt and grass.

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R.J.

answers from Seattle on

For a long time we had the "puzzle piece" rubber MATS.

With more than half the year here being wet, SOMETHING needs to be under sets, or it's just 'all mud, all the time'.

We now have cedar chips. (They're a pain, literally, one needs to wear shoes... but they don't degrade the way mulch does). Can't help with the mold issue. We've never had any mold growth we've noticed... but we live in an area that has more molds than 3 out of the 4 largest rainforests in the world... and don't have allergies specific to mold. ((I take that back... I have sinus infections whenever I'm in Seattle... that disappear as soon as I "cross the mountians" or leave washington at all... but it's not an anaphalxis reaction... merely *constant* headaches, PND, etc))

J.J.

answers from Allentown on

I put a swing set in last summer and opted for just the grass. Both my kids have mold allergies, and so the regular mulch was out. I did have the rubber mulch around our sandbox, but it turned out to be really bad. It is dirty, even the expensive ones. And the rubber mulch just doesn't stay where you want it even with a border and then it ruins other grass. It also is not comfy after a few years it gets really hard and yucky. It gets dragged everywhere on the kids shoes and clothing, so when we put the swing-set in, I opted for nothing under it. After one year the grass still looks pretty good, but I expect in a few years it will be worn, but I don't really think it matters. I would rather deal with a bit of mud after the rain than the mess of the rubber mulch. As a side note, my parents get the most expensive mulch which is supposed to be best for mold allergies and they still get lots of mold and mushrooms it their beds, and need to change the mulch frequently. So I would opt for just grass, and deal with the mud issue when and if it happens. Oh and as far as safety goes, as long as there is no stones or gravel under it, I think grass or ground is just as soft as the mulch, maybe softer. And yes it is slippery after a storm, but all the grass is slippery and kids play on all the grass, that won't be affecting them on the swing set. My 3 year old fell off ours last fall it is a 5 foot one, and he was a bit winded, but fine. So I think you should be fine with just the grass under it. When he fell off the playset at the playground with mulch, he got splinters and cuts on his knees. It was pretty nasty.

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A.P.

answers from Allentown on

We ordered rubber mulch from a wholesaler online for MUCH less than we could get locally.
We put weed cloth under it (ripped up all the grass first) & it's worked so beautifully (2 yrs old this spring).
We priced everything out & since wood mulch & pea gravel need to be replaced/re-filled every year or so AND since they don't provide as much safety, it was just a better investment in the long-run.

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C.S.

answers from Chicago on

We have the play chips. They are like the mulch but they are chemical free and don't give the kids splinters. We wanted to do the rubber mulch, but the cost was too high. The good thing about the rubber mulch is that you don't have to add much every year, if at all. And with the mulch, we have to add some every year.

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M.P.

answers from Portland on

We have grass... The animals of the neighborhood pottied in the sand when we had sand.. and pottied in the bark chips when we replaced the sand.. So, now we have grass, Yes we have to mow it but.. no animal surprises are left for us.. :)

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J.B.

answers from Atlanta on

Ours has dirt and grass under it. If we've had a good bit of rain, it's muddy, but we've just never gotten around to putting bark nuggets down. I was thinking about that the other day, and we may do it this year because we're going to be doing some other landscaping down in that part of the yard, but we'll just put regular pine bark nuggets or cedar nuggets down. When we had the playset installed, we priced the rubber stuff and it was just way too expensive -plus -grass and dirt has always been just fine, and I'm a bit "over" the super-safety stuff.

R..

answers from Chattanooga on

Lol. We had a big ol' play house (probably a good 10 feet high) and swing set my dad built us when I was a kid. We had grass under ours. All of our friends with swing sets, trampolines, etc. only had grass too...

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M.M.

answers from Dallas on

I don't understand why grass would be a safety issue. Call me stupid but sports have been played on grass for hundreds of years and it is much safer than turf or any other artificial ground. So...how would grass be unsafe under a play set? It has the give that is needed if they fall. And, if it rains, they just don't play on it for a day. Wood chips cause splinters and you can't walk on them barefooted. Pebbles get stuck in shoes plus they hurt if you fall or are barefooted. Both get tracked into the house. The rubber playground - that's just over the top. One last thing - my kids rarely played on the $3000.00 Rainbow play set we bought - worst money we ever spent.

T.B.

answers from Bloomington on

The school I worked at had the rubber mulch. It is very nice if you can afford it. The black and brown did not bleed on clothes/shoes, but the blue did. Safety wise, I think pea gravel is the 2nd choice. We just have grass because we are cheap! lol!

J.K.

answers from Reading on

Check out www.bestmulch.com. Even though you are in Collegeville, this is a great website that has a calculator on how to determine how much product you need. They do sell Certified Playground Mulch which is ASTM impact tested. I would stay away from wood chips. Also the rubber mulch is not very green. If you decide to remove the playset...you have to think about removing the rubber mulch which would be an additional cost. It is not bio-degradeable. I hope this helps!

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P.M.

answers from Portland on

Of all the wood products, hemlock is probably the safest. It's extremely resistant to rot and mildews and is not prone to giving splinters. You can rake it out every two or three years and put a fresh layer down.

I don't know about the Kidwise rubber mulch specifically, but some rubber mulches do stain clothing, give off unpleasant smells in hot weather, and become quite hard in cold weather. I would call their customer service line and find out whether they have a guarantee that covers any of these issues.

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S.F.

answers from Reno on

Hi there!

When I had a play structure for my sons, we used really small pebbles under our swing set. Bark was out because I'm lousy at removing splinters. Sand was out because I live in Nevada and you can count on one hand the number of days we DON'T have wind. I didn't even consider the rubber stuff.

Our pebbles worked out great! They don't blow around, they don't give splinters and they were easy to dump out of shoes.

When the swing set grew up into a trampoline, the pebbles worked equally as well for the occasional goofball tumble off the trampoline. No broken bones!

Now that both the play structure and tramp have gone to the happy playground in the sky <wink>, I'm going to use my pebbles as ground cover for my new backyard!

Good luck!

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S.B.

answers from Philadelphia on

We have a playset with mulch under it. Our play area is in a shady area. Which is great in the summer b/c it stays cool; however, we get tons of mushrooms of all kinds growing out of it & I imagine that there are a lot of other molds under it. I don't have a problem with this, but my boys don't have mold allergies. If I were you I would not get mulch unless the play area were in a really sunny spot.
Our local playground has black rubber mulch. It is super soft & in cool weather you can walk on it bare foot. But, it gets very hot in the summer & cold in the winter. I don't think its too hard in the winter, just too cold to walk on barefoot. And it is a mess. When we come home from the park the kids hands, shoes, knees/pants are all black. I haven't had a problem washing it out of the clothes. Sometimes its hard to get off their hands. Also, the chips get stuck in their shoes, which doesn't happen with our mulch. Finally, to get play ground grade rubber mulch (there are different kinds,so be careful when purchasing...non playground rubber mulch can have steel left in it from the tires it comes from) is really expensive. We looked into for our play area as well.
If I were you (concerned with allergies) I would pick the sunniest spot in my yard for the play area & try to do without any kind of mulch. If necessary on hot summer days you can put up umbrellas. We use a picnic table umbrella near our sandbox to shade the kids on really sunny days.
Good luck with your decision.

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