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What to Put Under a Swing Set for Maximum Playground Safety

04 Mar 2024
Five kids playing on a medium swing set.

Swing sets should provide joy, laughter and fun for your children. Most of the time, this is the case. 

However, if you don’t take the proper precautions, a joyous swinging experience can quickly turn into a trip to the emergency room. We’re going to help you avoid that unfortunate scenario today.  

In this article, we at gobaplay (a sub-brand of GOBA SPORTS GROUP, which owns Springfree Trampoline) will use our expertise to inform you about one of the most important aspects of swing set safety, which is what to put under your swing set.  

There are multiple things to put under a swing set to offset the impact if your child were to fall off the swing onto the ground.

You will learn about five of the materials to put under a swing set, but first, let’s discuss why it’s crucial to place surfacing under a swing set:  

Why Is it Important to Put Surfacing Under a Swing Set?  

Placing soft surfacing under a swing set helps mitigate the impact of a fall to the ground. While a sturdy swing set will be able to hold up under normal use, accidents do happen and it’s essential to prepare for them.  

While it doesn’t completely eliminate risk, placing the right kind of surfacing under your swing set will ensure that your children are shielded from hitting the ground if they do fall from the swing.   

What to Do Before Putting Surfacing Under a Swing Set 

Before discussing what to put under a swing set, we need to talk about how to install a swing set.  

Here are some points to follow before placing surfacing under a swing set: 

  • Make sure the swing is FULLY assembled and anchored before worrying about surfacing.  
  • Before assembling the swing set, make sure the ground is prepped and level.  
  • When picking a spot for the swing set, be mindful of structures like fences, garages, overhanging branches and electrical lines.  
  • DO NOT install on hard surfacing, like concrete, asphalt, grass or carpet.  
  • Ensure that the clearance in front of and behind the swing is at least twice the height of the swing bar.  
  • Be wary of placing the swing set in direct sunlight. 
  • You must anchor the swing set to prevent overturning. This is a repeat point because it’s that important!    

5 Materials to Put Under a Swing Set  

Once the swing set is assembled and you have a spot picked out for it, you’re ready for the surfacing!  

Important Note: All surfacing material should extend a minimum of 2 metres around the play area in all directions.  

The most common surfacing to place under a swing set is grass. Grass can suffice underneath smaller swing sets (up to 4.5m) and simple swing set structures.   

But for full backyard play structures, the following materials would be safer:  

1. Wood Chips or Mulch

Wood chips or mulch provide a soft surface that can cushion falls. You can typically find wood chips or mulch at garden supply stores, landscaping companies, or nurseries.

Cost: Prices can vary depending on the type of wood and quantity needed, but generally, you can expect to pay around NZ$50 to NZ$100 per cubic meter.

Popular suppliers include
Bunnings Warehouse, Mitre 10, and local landscaping companies.

2. Rubber Mulch

Rubber mulch is made from recycled rubber and offers good shock absorption. It tends to be more expensive than wood chips but is longer-lasting.

Cost: Prices can range from NZ$150 to NZ$300 per cubic meter.

You can find rubber mulch at specialty playground equipment suppliers or landscaping companies such as
Numat Rec.

3. Pea Gravel

Pea gravel provides good drainage and impact absorption. It's relatively affordable and can be found at garden supply stores or landscaping companies such as intelligro and Musgroves.

Cost: Prices for pea gravel can range from NZ$40 to NZ$80 per cubic meter.

Example of pea gravel, courtesy of King Swings:  

Pea gravel.

4. Sand 

Using fine or coarse sand is another surfacing material used to put under a swing set. Sand has its upsides and downsides: The positive of using sand is it typically has a low upfront cost and is relatively easier to lay down. 

However, sand is the least effective impact absorber among loose-fill playground materials, and it can be tedious to maintain. Sand can also be susceptible to inclement weather and may need to be replaced every year.   

Cost: Prices for sand can vary, but you can typically find it for around NZ$50 to NZ$100 per cubic meter.

You can purchase sand from garden supply stores or landscaping companies.

A swing set using sand as the surfacing material, courtesy of The Yard Zone:

A swing set on sand. 

5. Rubber Mats or Tiles:

Rubber mats or tiles offer a stable and cushioned surface. You can find rubber mats or tiles at specialty playground equipment suppliers or companies that specialize in safety surfacing. 

Cost: Prices for rubber mats or tiles can range from NZ$50 to NZ$150 per square meter, depending on the thickness and quality.


What Is Best to Put Under a Swing Set? 

The common materials used for soft surfacing – wood chips, rubber mulch, pea gravel and rubber mats or tiles – all have their pros and cons. What is the best thing to put under a swing set for you?  

Consider the following when deciding what to put under a swing set:  

  • Impact absorption of the material.  
  • Age of your children. 
  • Height of the swing set. 
  • Environment where the swing set is located. 
  • Aesthetic of your backyard.  

Ultimately, you will want to choose a material that provides the most protection if a fall occurs. In that case, rubber mulch will be the best to put under a swing set.  

It also helps that you can customize the color of the rubber mulch, as generic rubber mulch may not look as appealing as wood chips/mulch.  

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