If you’re wondering whether play area bark is a suitable surface for play equipment like swings and slides, we’ve got the answer for you! Play area bark can indeed be used around play equipment, offering a soft and natural cushioning for children as they enjoy their favourite play structures. Not only does it provide a safer play surface, but it also adds a touch of nature to the play area, creating a visually appealing environment that kids will love. So, if you’re looking to enhance the safety and aesthetics of your play equipment, play area bark is definitely worth considering.

Understanding Play Area Bark

What is Play Area Bark?

Play area bark, also known as playground mulch or wood playground chips, is a popular choice for surfacing play areas. It is typically made from chipped or shredded wood, providing a natural and safe cushioning material for children’s play spaces. This type of bark is specifically designed to meet safety standards and provide a soft landing surface in case of falls or accidents.

Benefits of Play Area Bark

Play area bark offers several benefits when used in play equipment areas. Firstly, it acts as a shock-absorbing surface, reducing the risk of injury during falls and providing a cushioned landing. The natural material also allows for better water drainage, preventing puddles and maintaining a safer play area. Additionally, play area bark is non-toxic and does not contain harmful chemicals, making it a safe option for children. Its natural appearance blends well with outdoor environments, creating an aesthetically pleasing play area.

Suitability of Play Area Bark for Play Equipment

Factors to Consider

When considering the use of play area bark around play equipment like swings and slides, certain factors should be taken into account. The depth of the bark is crucial to ensure proper impact attenuation. The recommended depth for play area bark is typically between 15 and 30 centimetres, depending on the fall height of the equipment. It is important to adhere to these guidelines to ensure the safety of children.

Safety Measures

To ensure the safety of children using play equipment, it is important to establish safety measures when using play area bark. The play equipment should be installed on a level surface to prevent any instability. Regular inspections of the play area bark should be conducted to check for any signs of debris, foreign objects, or wear and tear. It is also essential to follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for maintenance and inspections.

Installation Process

Preparing the Ground

Before laying play area bark, proper ground preparation is necessary. The area should be cleared of any vegetation, rocks, or debris. It is recommended to install a geotextile fabric to help prevent weed growth and maintain the integrity of the surface. Additionally, ensuring proper drainage is crucial to avoid water build-up, which could affect the longevity of the play area bark.

Laying Play Area Bark

Once the ground is prepared, the play area bark can be laid. It is important to spread the bark evenly, ensuring a consistent depth across the entire area. Raking the bark periodically can help maintain its even distribution and prevent any uneven surfaces. It is also recommended to install playground borders or edging to contain the play area bark and prevent it from spreading beyond the designated area.

Maintenance and Longevity

Regular Inspections and Raking

Regular inspections of the play area bark should be conducted to identify any worn or compacted areas. Raking the bark periodically helps to maintain its loose and cushioning properties, ensuring its effectiveness in providing a safe play surface. Inspections should also include checking for any signs of deterioration, such as rot or mould, which may require immediate attention.

Replacing and Topping Up Bark

Over time, play area bark may become compacted or worn out, reducing its effectiveness as a safety surface. It is important to replace the bark when it reaches a level where the fall height requirements are no longer met. Topping up bark occasionally can help maintain the recommended depth and ensure the safety of the play area. Regular maintenance and timely replacements contribute to the longevity of the play area bark.

Alternatives to Play Area Bark

Rubber Surfacing

Rubber surfacing, such as rubber tiles or poured-in-place rubber, is an alternative to play area bark. It offers excellent impact absorption and can be customised to fit the desired play area. Rubber surfacing provides a more consistent and even surface, reducing the risk of tripping. However, it can be more expensive than play area bark and may have a less natural appearance.

Wood Chips

Wood chips, similar to play area bark, can be used as an alternative. However, they may be larger in size and less consistent in texture compared to play area bark. Wood chips still provide a cushioning effect and are often more cost-effective. They require periodic inspection and topping up to maintain the desired depth and safety standards.

Artificial Turf

Artificial turf is another alternative that offers a consistent and low-maintenance play surface. It provides a soft landing and does not require replenishment over time. However, artificial turf can become hot, especially in sunny climates, and may not provide the same natural aesthetic as play area bark or other alternatives.

Safety Standards and Certifications

Ensure that any products used are certified to BSEN:1177 to ensure safety standards have been met and approved for use on children’s play areas.

Common Concerns and Misconceptions

Splinters and Injuries

One common concern with play area bark is the potential for splinters and injuries. However, play area bark specifically designed for play areas is processed and screened to reduce the risk of splinters. Additionally, the impact-absorbing properties of play area bark help minimise the severity of falls and reduce the risk of injuries when used at the correct depth.

Maintenance Cost

One misconception regarding play area bark is the perceived high maintenance cost. While regular inspections and occasional topping up of bark are necessary, the overall maintenance cost is relatively low compared to other alternatives, such as artificial turf or rubber surfacing. Proper maintenance and timely replacements can extend the lifespan of play area bark, making it a cost-effective choice in the long run.

Case Studies

Successful Implementations

Several case studies have demonstrated the successful implementation of play area bark in play equipment areas. These studies have shown that when installed and maintained correctly, play area bark provides safe and enjoyable play surfaces. Children have benefitted from the cushioning effect of play area bark, reducing the risk of injuries during falls or accidents.

Challenges and Solutions

Challenges may arise when using play area bark, such as maintaining the correct depth, preventing displacement, and addressing wear and tear. However, through proper installation techniques, regular maintenance, and prompt replacements, these challenges can be effectively managed. It is important to follow manufacturer guidelines and consult with professionals to address any specific challenges that may arise in individual cases.


Play area bark is a versatile and safe option for surfacing play equipment areas. By understanding the benefits, considering factors like safety measures and installation processes, and exploring alternative options, you can make an informed decision regarding the use of play area bark in your play area. With regular maintenance and adherence to safety standards, play area bark can provide a soft and cushioned surface for children to play, ensuring their safety and enjoyment.