Are you curious about how play area woodchips hold up under the constant onslaught of foot traffic? Well, look no further, because we’ve got all the answers you need. In this article, we’ll explore the durability and resilience of play area woodchips, revealing how they are specifically designed to withstand the wear and tear from energetic little feet. So, if you’ve ever wondered if these woodchips can handle the relentless running, jumping, and playing, keep reading to discover the secret behind their incredible longevity.

Types of Play Area Woodchips

Natural Woodchips

Natural woodchips are made from trees that have been chipped and processed into small, irregularly shaped pieces. These chips are typically sourced from various types of trees. Natural woodchips have a rustic and organic appearance that blends well with outdoor environments. They are often favoured for their natural look and feel, providing a more traditional play area experience.

Engineered Woodchips

Engineered woodchips are manufactured specifically for play areas and undergo a more stringent production process. These woodchips are made from virgin wood materials and are typically uniform in size and shape. They are carefully crafted to meet specific safety standards, including impact attenuation and drainage requirements. Engineered woodchips are often preferred for their consistent quality and reliable performance.

Rubber Woodchips

Rubber woodchips, also known as rubber mulch, are a popular alternative to traditional woodchips. These chips are made from recycled rubber tires and undergo a process that transforms them into small granules. Rubber woodchips offer a unique combination of softness and durability, providing excellent impact absorption and longevity. They are often chosen for their low-maintenance requirements and environmentally-friendly characteristics.

Characteristics of Play Area Woodchips

Cushioning Effect

One of the main reasons why woodchips are commonly used in play areas is their ability to provide cushioning. When a child falls or jumps on a surface covered with woodchips, the chips compress and absorb the impact, reducing the risk of injury. Natural and engineered woodchips have excellent shock-absorbing properties, while rubber woodchips offer even greater impact attenuation.

Drainage Properties

Proper drainage is crucial for maintaining a safe play area, as it helps prevent the accumulation of water and the formation of slippery surfaces. Natural and engineered woodchips have good drainage capabilities, allowing rainwater to seep through the surface and prevent excessive pooling. Rubber woodchips, although they do not absorb water, are designed with drainage channels that quickly remove any moisture from the surface.


Play area woodchips need to withstand heavy use and constant foot traffic without deteriorating or compacting excessively. Natural woodchips can break down over time due to weathering and decomposition, while engineered woodchips are designed for long-lasting performance. Rubber woodchips are highly resilient and resistant to wear, making them a durable option that can withstand frequent use.

Maintenance Requirements

Different types of woodchips have varying maintenance needs. Natural woodchips may require more frequent raking and replenishment to maintain their appearance and safety properties. Engineered woodchips generally require less maintenance, as they are designed to retain their shape and volume for an extended period. Rubber woodchips typically have the lowest maintenance requirements, as they do not decompose or degrade.

Environmental Impact

When considering the environmental impact, natural woodchips are a sustainable choice as they are made from organic materials and can be easily recycled or composted. Engineered woodchips, although less eco-friendly due to the manufacturing process, can still be recycled. Rubber woodchips are environmentally-friendly as they are made from recycled tires and prevent the disposal of waste material that would otherwise take up space in landfills.

Impact of Foot Traffic on Play Area Woodchips

Compression and Compaction

Repeated foot traffic and heavy use can lead to compression and compaction of play area woodchips. Natural woodchips and engineered woodchips may gradually become more compacted, requiring regular raking and levelling to restore their cushioning properties. Rubber woodchips are more resistant to compression and maintain their softness and resilience over a longer period.

Displacement and Redistribution

Intense foot traffic and vigorous play activities can cause woodchips to become displaced and unevenly distributed across the play surface. Natural and engineered woodchips may need to be periodically redistributed to ensure an even and consistent coverage. Rubber woodchips have a more stable surface and are less likely to become displaced.

Wear and Tear

Foot traffic can cause wear and tear on play area woodchips, especially in high traffic areas or under swings and slides. Natural woodchips can break down into smaller particles or decompose over time, requiring regular replenishment. Engineered woodchips have a higher resistance to wear due to their manufactured composition. Rubber woodchips have excellent durability and are less prone to wear and tear.

Effects on Cushioning Properties

With increased foot traffic, the cushioning properties of play area woodchips can gradually diminish. Natural woodchips may become compacted and lose their ability to absorb impact, while engineered woodchips maintain their cushioning capabilities for an extended period. Rubber woodchips retain their excellent impact absorption properties even with heavy foot traffic.

Effects on Drainage

Foot traffic can affect the drainage properties of play area woodchips. Natural and engineered woodchips may become more compacted over time, potentially reducing their drainage capabilities. Regular maintenance is required to ensure proper drainage. Rubber woodchips, with their designed drainage channels, are less affected by foot traffic and maintain effective water drainage.

Factors Affecting Foot Traffic

Frequency of Use

The frequency of use in a play area significantly impacts the amount of foot traffic the woodchips will experience. Play areas with high foot traffic will require more frequent maintenance and monitoring to ensure the woodchips remain in good condition and provide optimal safety.

Number and Weight of Users

The number and weight of users in a play area can determine the level of impact the woodchips will face. More users and heavier individuals will cause more compression and wear on the woodchips over time. Regular inspections and proper maintenance are essential to address any areas that may become more compacted or worn down.

Age of Users

The age of play area users can also affect the amount of foot traffic and impact the woodchips will experience. Younger children may engage in gentler play activities, resulting in less severe wear on the woodchips. However, it is important to consider that older children may be more physically active and engage in more vigorous play, requiring increased attention to maintenance.

Type of Activities

Different types of activities can have varying impacts on play area woodchips. Swings and slides, for example, can cause more wear and tear in specific areas due to the repetitive motion and concentrated weight. Active games and rough play may also result in heavier foot traffic and increased compacting of the woodchips.

Maintaining Play Area Woodchips

Regular Raking and Levelling

Regular raking and levelling of play area woodchips help ensure an even and safe surface for users. This maintenance practice will redistribute the woodchips and prevent compaction in high traffic areas. Raking also helps remove debris and foreign objects that may accumulate on the surface.

Adding Fresh Woodchips

Over time, play area woodchips may break down or become displaced, leading to potential safety risks. Adding fresh woodchips regularly can replenish the surface and maintain its cushioning properties. This practice helps ensure an appropriate depth of woodchips and a safe playing environment.

Hydration and Watering

Maintaining proper hydration of play area woodchips is essential for their longevity and performance. Adequate watering helps keep the woodchips from drying out and becoming brittle, extending their lifespan and cushioning capabilities. Regular watering also minimises dust and maintains a more comfortable play surface.

Weed and Pest Control

Regular weed and pest control is crucial to maintaining a clean and safe play area. Weeds can compete with the woodchips for moisture and nutrients, potentially causing the woodchips to degrade more rapidly. Additionally, pests, such as ants or termites, can create safety hazards and damage the woodchips. Regular inspections and appropriate pest control measures should be implemented.

Repairing Damaged Areas

Damaged areas in play area woodchips, such as holes or worn spots, should be promptly repaired to ensure the safety of users. Depending on the severity of the damage, the affected woodchips may need to be completely replaced to maintain an even surface and optimal cushioning properties. Regular inspections will help identify areas in need of repair.

Increasing Longevity of Play Area Woodchips

Proper Installation

Proper installation is key to increasing the longevity of play area woodchips. Ensuring the correct depth and appropriate base materials are used during installation helps create a stable and resilient surface. Following manufacturer guidelines and best practices is essential for optimal performance and durability.

Appropriate Depth

Maintaining the correct depth of play area woodchips is essential for safety and impact absorption. The recommended depth will vary depending on the type of woodchips and the fall height requirement specified by safety standards. Regular inspections and adjustments should be made to ensure the woodchips maintain a sufficient depth.

Edging and Bordering

Installing edging or bordering around the play area helps prevent woodchips from spreading onto surrounding surfaces and keeps them contained within the designated area. This practice helps maintain the integrity of the woodchip layer and reduces the risk of tripping hazards or debris entering the play space.

Choosing Quality Woodchips

The quality of the woodchips used in a play area greatly affects their performance and longevity. Investing in high-quality chips made from durable materials will ensure a safer and more durable play surface. Considering factors such as certification, safety standards compliance, and supplier reputation is important when selecting woodchips. Ensure any product used is certified to BSEN:1177 for use in children’s play areas.

Regular Inspections and Maintenance

Regular inspections are crucial for identifying any issues or areas in need of maintenance. By addressing problems promptly, such as compacted woodchips or worn areas, the overall lifespan and performance of the play area can be significantly extended. Implementing a routine maintenance schedule will help keep the woodchips in optimal condition.

Enhancing Foot Traffic Management

Design Considerations

Integrating foot traffic management into the design of a play area can help prolong the lifespan of the woodchips. Placing high traffic areas strategically, providing alternative pathways, and considering traffic flow patterns during the design phase can help distribute foot traffic more evenly and reduce wear and tear on specific areas.

Clear Pathways and Entrances

Clearly defined pathways and entrances facilitate proper guiding of foot traffic within the play area. By creating designated paths, users are less likely to trample on other areas, reducing the potential for compacted woodchips and uneven distribution. Clear pathways also promote a more organised and user-friendly play space.

Appropriate Signage

Install signage throughout the play area to guide users and provide instructions on proper usage of the woodchips. Signs can remind users to avoid littering, stay on designated surfaces, and refrain from harmful actions that could damage the woodchips. Well-placed signage can help educate users and ensure the longevity of the play area.

User Guidelines and Supervision

User guidelines and supervision are essential for encouraging proper use of the play area and minimising potential damage to the woodchips. Educating users, both children and adults, on the importance of safe play practices and maintaining the integrity of the woodchips will go a long way in preserving their quality and safety.

Educating Users about Woodchip Usage

Providing information and educational resources to play area users can increase awareness and understanding of woodchip usage. Sharing tips on safe play, potential risks, and the importance of care and maintenance will help users make informed decisions and contribute to the sustainable use of the play area.

Comparing Woodchips with Other Play Area Surfaces

Artificial Turf

Artificial turf is a synthetic alternative to woodchips that provides a durable and low-maintenance play surface. While it offers a consistent appearance and requires less regular maintenance, artificial turf does not provide the same cushioning properties as woodchips. It may be more suitable for certain activities, such as sports or recreational play areas.

Rubber Mulch

Rubber mulch, similar to rubber woodchips, is made from recycled rubber materials. It offers excellent shock absorption and durability, similar to rubber woodchips. However, rubber mulch tends to be more expensive and may have a different appearance compared to woodchips. Both rubber woodchips and rubber mulch provide a soft and safe play surface.

Poured-in-Place Rubber

Poured-in-place rubber is a seamless play surface made from a mixture of rubber granules and binders. It offers excellent impact attenuation, durability, and low maintenance requirements. Poured-in-place rubber provides a unique aesthetically pleasing look and is often preferred for areas with high foot traffic or increased fall heights.


Sand is a traditional play surface that offers natural cushioning and is widely available. However, sand requires regular upkeep to maintain its cleanliness and appropriate depth. Sand can also become compacted over time and may be less suitable for areas with heavy foot traffic.

Impact on Nearby Environment

Runoff and Erosion Control

Play area woodchips can help control runoff and prevent erosion in outdoor environments. They act as a barrier, reducing the velocity of water flow and minimising erosion caused by heavy rain. By absorbing and slowing down the movement of water, woodchips help protect the surrounding soil and prevent sediment runoff.

Environmental Friendliness

Natural woodchips and rubber woodchips made from recycled materials have positive environmental attributes. Natural woodchips are biodegradable, compostable, and can be reused as organic matter. Rubber woodchips reuse scrap tires, diverting them from landfills. Choosing sustainably sourced woodchips and following environmentally-conscious practices during installation and maintenance further enhance their eco-friendliness.

Dust and Air Quality

Woodchips, especially natural and engineered varieties, can contribute to dust generation in arid or windy climates. To minimise dust, regular watering and proper maintenance are necessary. Dust control measures, such as applying dust suppressants or mulch covers, can help improve air quality and reduce potential health concerns.


Play area woodchips are a popular choice for providing a safe and comfortable play surface. With various types available, including natural woodchips, engineered woodchips, and rubber woodchips, there is a suitable option for every play area. Understanding the characteristics and maintenance requirements of woodchips is essential for maintaining their longevity and performance.

Optimal foot traffic management, regular inspections, and proper maintenance practices will ensure that play area woodchips continue to provide a safe and enjoyable environment for children. By considering factors such as frequency of use, the number and weight of users, age of users, and activity types, play area administrators can maintain the woodchips’ effectiveness and safety.

Comparing woodchips with other play area surfaces, such as artificial turf, rubber mulch, poured-in-place rubber and sand, can help determine the most suitable option based on specific needs and preferences. Additionally, it is important to evaluate the impact on the nearby environment, including factors like runoff control, environmental friendliness, and dust generation.

With proper installation, regular maintenance, and attention to foot traffic management, play area woodchips can provide a durable, safe, and eco-friendly surface for years to come. By prioritising the well-being and enjoyment of users, play areas can enhance the overall play experience and promote a healthier and more engaging environment.