Proper installation is key to a playground surface. All surfaces and applicable sub-surfaces must be installed exactly to specification over a well drained, properly prepared base, and cover the intended use zone to the specified depth. It is critical that these instructions are adhered to in order to achieve the same performance values the surface material passed for ASTM standards in the lab.
For loose fill surfaces, the use of a geotextile fabric, laid on the ground before the surfacing material is installed, may help decrease maintenance by acting as a weed barrier. Containment curbs must also be used with loose fill materials to prevent them from migrating outside the intended use zone, and to ensure that the proper depth is maintained. Loose fill surfaces can be installed by volunteers; be sure to follow the recommended instructions for depth to ensure your surfacing is installed to protect inadvertent falls from your particular equipment height.
Poured unitary surface installation will require a skilled technical crew that is trained in the proper installation of the material. They are also more reliant on weather conditions and will require a specified range in temperature for the installation to be successful. Playground owners can refer to the specification provided by the manufacturer for details, review ASTM standards, and request a post installation inspection for any surface, to ensure it has been installed to meet that specification. Be sure the surface is properly cured before allowing users on the playground.
Upon completion of a project, obtain a letter of compliance and project specific warranty. Keep these documents in a file, along with other documents pertaining to the job and all future inspection records. Good maintenance is the key to protecting your investment. Your manufacturer or installer should provide you with a maintenance guidebook pertaining to your specific playground surface. Every playground owner is responsible for planning and executing a scheduled inspection plan. Supervision is also key to ensure the playground is being used properly, in the manner in which it was intended.
Inspection and Care Guidelines
The following provides a summary of inspection and care considerations to monitor, based on the type of surface installed. Be sure to contact your supplier for specific guidelines:
► Loose-fill materials
Is surfacing loosely packed and covering all appropriate areas - especially the fall zones surrounding playground equipment? Is surfacing still at the required depth to attenuate falls from the equipment? Are all containment curbs firmly in place?
Heavy Use Areas
During routine inspections, regular raking of material is required under slides, swings, and other concentrated use zones. Just raking may not ensure the area is compliant, so top-off materials may be necessary in order to retain the proper critical fall depths and maintain accessibility. Placement of wear mats in heavy use areas will help reduce displacement.
Rake the play area level. During routine inspection, remove any foreign objects such as glass, rocks, and litter.
If sufficient moisture is retained in material, it will freeze at temperatures below 32°F (0°C). The surface should be checked when the temperature falls below freezing.
To maintain the surface at the recommended depth, you will need to top-off the area as necessary to maintain proper depth, warranty, and accessibility. When the surface compacts or decomposes enough to reduce the original depth, contact your sales representative to order additional material. Installing mats in high use areas will help control displacement. Failure to maintain surfacing at the initial installation depth may result in an injury and void your manufacturer’s warranty.
► Unitary surfaces
For general cleaning, apply a mixture of household detergent and water to the damp surface. Perform cleaning during early morning or late afternoon so that your cleaner will have time to react without evaporating. Be sure to follow the directions for use on the cleaner. Using a garden pump sprayer, apply mixture to an area approximately 4 feet by 4 feet in size. Using a soft bristle scrub brush, clean each 4’ x 4’ section and then repeat this process until the entire playground has been thoroughly cleaned. Once the entire surface has been cleaned, rinse thoroughly using a garden hose with nozzle attachment.
Do not use any steaming or hot water machines for cleaning as this may cause delamination of surface.
Inspect surface for cracking, punctures, or other damage that will require repair. Damaged areas should be patched by a certified installation crew to the same standards of the original installation.
Heavy Use Areas
On heavily stained isolated spots, while surface is damp from hosing, apply a sufficient amount of a mild household or commercial detergent. For adequate coverage, use a hand-held spray bottle to apply, then scrub thoroughly with a soft bristle scrub brush. Repeat as necessary on extremely tough stains. These cleaning procedures provide no guarantee of stain removal. However, a stain may become more difficult or even impossible to remove if not addressed immediately. For difficult stains, refer to the specific maintenance guide provided by the manufacturer.
Use a blower or vacuum to remove loose debris. For outdoor applications, hose off entire playground surface to remove food, drink, sand, dirt, and loose debris monthly.
Poured in place surfacing requires regular roll coating to help promote its vibrancy and longevity. This procedure consists of rolling a thin layer of the same urethane binder used in installation over the entire playground surface. Roll coating should be conducted every 12-18 months.