Winter has ruined my playground rubber surface

If you live in the Northeast or the mid-west you will likely encounter this problem: gaps in your poured in place rubber surface. Some of these will be wide enough to present a tripping hazard or interfere with your ADA compliance. How does that happen? Poured in place rubber surfacing is made up of rubber granules that are bound together by a polyurethane binder. The base layer is typically SBR rubber, the same rubber found in your car tires. The wear layer is made up of either all EPDM or TPV rubber or a combination of EPDM and SBR rubber. Rubber does contract in cold temperatures, and will expand in warmer weather. However, when it contracts, the bond that holds it with concrete walkways or borders will break, and the contraction will continue until a visible gap is seen.

gaps in playground rubber surface

While there is nothing one can do to prevent this from happening, fixing this problem is not that costly. There are patch kits that you can purchase that are made for this purpose. The patch kits allow you to trowel in the required amount of rubber to fix the gaps. The most important thing is to do this early enough, so the kids don’t pick at the edges and make the gaps bigger. The repair kits are do-it-yourself. So they are very easy to apply. We recommend you patch the base layer first using the base layer patch kit, before you patch the wear layer patch it. Pick a dry and warm day to do the repair. Don’t let winter ruin your playground rubber surface. If you stay ahead of the gap getting bigger and wider, this should be an easy fix. If you don’t, the problem might get bigger over time, and you might have to replace the entire wear layer; which is a costly proposition.

Damaged playground surface?

damaged playground surface

Yes. We get this all the time. Tree roots have ripped through my poured rubber surface.  The fence company came to repair the fence and in doing so damaged our beautiful rubberized surface. We had some vandalism in our playground, and as result, we are missing a piece of our synthetic turf surfacing. Someone spilled paint on 5 of our playground tiles. We have heard lots of stories from park and rec personnel to daycare owners. This article should shed some light on how to prevent and easily repair your unitary playground surface. (This article does not deal with loose surfacing material).

Prevention of damage to your playground surface

  • Do not let stiletto heals on your poured in place rubber surface.
  • Do not let maintenance personnel use ladders with sharp bases on the rubber surface.
  • If you have a function on the surface, avoid using metal chairs, as these can go right through the EPDM layer of the poured in place rubber surface.
  • Use a rubber curb, or wooden barrier between synthetic turf and real grass so mowers do not damage the turf.
  • Keep your playground surface shaded. UV rays are very detrimental to poured playground surfaces.
  • Don’t let water sit on your surface. Drainage issues should have been dealt with before the surface was installed, but if you have a drainage issue, it can lead to damage.
  • Make sure your playground is either monitored by cameras or not easily accessible to outsiders that are not supposed to be there.
  • Use a playground rubber surface conditioner or top sealer to make sure your poured in place surface is well bonded together.

Dealing with damage to your playground surface

  • If you have damage to your poured in place rubber surface, you can use a DYI patch kit to do the job yourself. Here is a link to a video that shows you how to do it.
  • If the damage is to synthetic turf, you need to make a clean cut around the area that is damaged, get hold of a piece of turf that matches what you have, buy some seaming tape and binder and simply seam around the area.
  • If the damage is to rubber tiles, make sure you order the right tiles. The thickness and size of the tile has to be the same. If the tiles are of the interlocking type, the job is quite simple. They come apart fairly easily. If the tiles are glued to each other, you will need to cut the area between the tiles with a utility knife and use polyurethane binder to glue the new tiles to the existing one. Make sure that the sub-base has not shifted.

If you have any questions on how to repair your damaged playground surface, please call us at: 203-659-0456 or e-mail us at info@trassig.com

The Importance of Playground Inspections

Appropriate surfacing, partially-bounded opening, impact attenuation, critical fall height, crush and shear, non-entanglement zone, out of service. Do these words sound like the playful language you expect to hear spoken on your child’s favorite play spaces? These serious sounding-words are in every Certified Playground Safety Inspector’s lexicon, and are used when s/he inspects playgrounds. A CPSI’s job is to identify playground hazards in order to protect children aged 2-12 from injury due to the hazards. CPSIs are playground safety experts who apply their experience and knowledge to establish comprehensive playground safety programs that help to prevent and reduce the number of playground-related deaths and life-threatening and debilitating injuries due to falls, impacts, entanglements, entrapments, tripping, crushing, or shearing.

The playground inspection process is time-consuming. Following American Society for Testing and Materials International (ASTM), U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA) standards and guidelines, CPSIs will examine and evaluate playground equipment, components, surfacing, and signage to identify compliant and non-compliant conditions. A CPSI will consider a playground’s site selection, sun exposure, ADA accessibility, age separation, sight lines, activities (passive and active) obstructions, repairs, and modifications.

How frequently should you have your playground inspected? This will depend upon a number of factors: the extent of its use, the type, age, and design of your equipment, and environmental factors. The frequency of inspections depends on your achieving your goal of keeping your playground safe, attractive, and functioning.  High Frequency Inspections are routine and custodial; they are tailored to maintaining, cleaning, and doing remedial repairs on specific sites. Low-Frequency Inspections are seasonal and more in-depth. During a Low-Frequency Inspection, a CPSI utilizes information and documentation in a playground’s “history” file, and looks for changes in conditions. The CPSI will inspect the playground by using the equipment as a child would—running, jumping, twisting, pulling—to a develop a plan of action for repairing, removing, or replacing equipment, for modifying designs, or for taking a playground out of service.

Be pro-active! A comprehensive playground risk management program for your playground should involve parents, staff, board and department members, and a knowledgeable, competent CPSI. S/he will help to minimize risks, remove hazards, and establish a standard of care so that all children can play in safety.

No More Splinters

playground splinters

Kids like to walk around barefoot, especially at the playground where they climb and play on wooden structures. The downside of wooden playground equipment is that, over time, wood splinters as it degrades.  A wood splinter can be painful and needs to be removed, especially as it is organic material and can cause inflammation and infection.  If a splinter is deep and is bleeding, a trip to your child’s pediatrician might be in order; and a tetanus booster might possibly be necessary if it has been more than five years since your child’s last shot.  You can prevent your kids from getting splinters at the playground, at least on their feet,  by having them wear socks and shoes –not slip-ons or sandals– as kids are more likely to keep their shoes on if they  lace-up or have Velcro tabs.

You can minimize the occurrence of splintering on wooden play equipment by regularly inspecting the surfaces for signs of deterioration.  Equipment constructed from cedar or redwood will stand up better to weathering and damage caused by extreme temperature changes than will sets constructed of pine or other soft woods.  While a set made of pressure-treated lumber is long-lasting, the wood contains arsenic — chromated copper arsenate— a dangerous chemical and a known human carcinogen.

It is important to sand surfaces smooth before applying any penetrating sealant or paint. Wearing a face mask, lightly sand rough spots with medium-grit sandpaper until  the loose fibers and splinters are removed. Apply a coat of outdoor penetrating wood sealant, like the kind used on wood decks, to protect the wood and prevent future splintering. The sealant may need to be reapplied frequently depending on weather conditions and the type of wood.

Trassig’s playground coating systems include Tuff Coat ™,  a simple-to-apply, UV resistant, eco-friendly, water-based, acrylic urethane coating containing non-abrasive rubber granules for aggregate which bonds to all types of wood and forms a skid-resistant layer on surfaces . Tuff Coat ™ helps to get rid of splintering and also minimizes slip and fall injuries.  It can also be applied to slide steps ,  splash pads, and walkways to prevent injuries.

Call Trassig at 203-659-0456 if you have any questions about how to keep your wooden play equipment safe and splinter-free!

Playground Fitness for Teens & Adults

Joining a local health club isn’t for everyone. The cost of membership can be prohibitive for teens and adults and a club’s hours of operation often do not coincide with adults’ busy work schedules. Those excuses, along with just falling into the habit of living a sedentary and inactive lifestyle, are the reasons for the existence of an epidemic of obesity and its related health issues (diabetes, high blood pressure, depression) among today’s teens and adults. Promoting regular physical activity is a #1 public health priority. One way to address this growing public health problem is to make physical activity and fitness equipment more affordable, more accessible, and more enjoyable for teens and adults. Since 2010, outdoor fitness parks have emerged in major cities across the county–New York, Miami, Los Angeles– and research data has shown that outdoor fitness parks can provide people with opportunities to engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity, resulting in happier, healthier people and communities!

“Emerging science suggests that exercising outdoors increases the overall enjoyment of working out, as well as increasing the frequency and length of time spent exercising,” says Stephanie Devine, vice president of a major US recreation company. “Outdoor fitness equipment is free to the user, encourages people to work out together, and is available nearly any time of day.”

Outdoor fitness playgrounds can be located next to public parks, playgrounds, and public trail systems and can be designed to provide a tailored workout for users of any fitness level. Make sure the equipment selected will provide a total-body fitness program that includes aerobic, muscle, balance/flexibility and core fitness. Users can do crunches, leg lifts, push-ups, cycling, squats, and pull-ups while enjoying sunshine, green spaces, and fresh air.

Since 1970, one could find static fitness equipment in community parks: chin-up bars, balance beams, and press benches. But these days, one can also find “gym” equipment: resistance machines, lateral pull-down machines, and elliptical stair-climbers. And, with the implementation of  2010 DOJ ADA laws requiring equal access for all, equipment in parks is also available for the disabled and wheelchair-bound.

When planning for the successful design and siting of your fitness park, there are a few points to remember:

  • Plan for site preparation, surfacing, and appropriate spacing and placement of equipment.
  • Group all equipment in one visible location. This will encourage socialization and deter vandals.
  • Keep the equipment close to a parking lot for easy access. Busy adults like to work-out and leave.
  • Delineate your fitness area by using plantings and distinctive surfacing materials.
  • Make a schedule of preventative maintenance and inspection.
  • Create easy-to-follow instructional signs for each exercise, along with a visual graphic of the exercise that illustrates the muscles being used.

To help generate interest in your $10, 000-$40,000 investment, create community fitness programs and initiatives; make people aware that the equipment exists, that its use is free, and promote its health benefits for teens and adults.

An active community is a happy and healthy community!

Together We Can Solve Hunger in our local school systems

It is estimated that 1 out of 5 children live in households without access to nutritious food. And it is not just the unemployed or homeless who need food but also middle-class families living in our suburbs. The problem of hunger in our country is growing and the number of people who are struggling to put food on the table and are at risk of hunger is increasing. There are many families in our own community who are facing food insecurity. Often, parents and caregivers among us have to make the hard choice between paying their rent and buying food; this situation has detrimental effects on their children by making it harder for them to succeed in school.

Through its work with local clients –particularly daycares, schools, pre-schools–Trassig is aware of the increased number of people in our community, both children and adults, whose critical daily needs are not being met. Our local daycares and schools work hard to provide their students with engaging and challenging educational experiences. But without proper nutrition, kids have a difficult time staying focused in the classroom. Studies show that grades and attendance rise when children have access to regular nutrition and healthy meals. Because members of the Trassig team are parents and former teachers and we are a company whose products are designed for children, we feel compelled to respond to local families in need.

The Trassig Food Program is our way to help fight hunger and to help prevent any child from attending school on an empty stomach.  The Trassig Food Program allows teachers and administrators to nominate a family or child in need;. Trassig will provide each family with a gift card to purchase a month’s supply of healthy and nutritious food. The nomination process is simple and confidential– just send an email to info@trassig.com to get started.

Addressing hunger is one way that Trassig can help to improve the community — by getting food to the people who really need it.

Property Managers and Playground Safety

Property Management Playgrounds

Property managers should treat playground safety very seriously. Property managers are not only responsible for handling tenants, managing leases, and keeping records but are also responsible for the day-to-day physical management of a property, including emergency repairs and routine and preventative maintenance. A property manager’s maintenance duties are not limited to unclogging drains or replacing hinges; s/he must maintain a safe and clean community playground. Managers should routinely check that the communal playground, its surrounding area, and its access pathways are free of litter, dangerous objects, and that all playground equipment is free of damage.

A good property manager should start with a benchmark inspection on their playground area by a Certified Playground Inspector. A CPSI. The inspection will generate a report that lays out and priorities all the safety hazards found in the playground. The property manager can then decided which non-compliant issues to tackle first based on their priority rating. The manager can work with the playground inspector to develop a maintenance plan that is specific to the site.

Playgrounds are supposed to be fun! Inadequate maintenance of playground equipment can result in serious or fatal injuries to children. The equipment manufacturer’s installation instructions should always be strictly followed and a playground maintenance schedule should be developed. Managers should be on the lookout for cracks in plastic equipment, worn parts, displaced loose surfacing, corroded metals, rot and insect damage, flaking paint, and vandalism. An inspection by a qualified person will discover potential problems and hazards: entanglements which can cause choking, equipment and surfaces exposed to the direct sun that can cause serious burns, protrusions which can tear and lacerate the skin, and trip hazards. All problems should be noted and repairs made as soon as possible.

Managers should also be aware of the intended age groups of their communities’ playground users to ensure that appropriate equipment is installed. Warning signs and labels should be clear, visible, and legible and placed at entry points to the play area to provide guidance to those supervising children–parents, guardians, and caregivers– to alert, warn, and educate them about safe and proper use of playgrounds.

Keeping up with current trends and standards for playground safety will help property managers ensure that their playgrounds are better and safer places for their youngest tenants.

Playgrounds for Pooches

A dog park is just the thing for families and their four-legged canine friends who want to enjoy quality playtime together. Dogs like to walk but also love to run, jump, and climb. There are approximately 1,200 dog parks in operation in the U.S.; some are just are grassy enclosures, others include agility components: tunnels, stairs, hurdles, and mounds. Indianapolis dog-park designer John Sarver says, “the best exercise for dogs is climbing, whether inclines or stairs, their hindquarters don’t get much exercise on flat-surfaces.” Dog playground safety includes equipment that does not exceed 3′ in height, is slip-resistant, and is free of openings that might snag a dog’s nail.

Dog parks help to build a sense of community not only among dogs but among people as as well. While dog parks encourage socialization among dogs, using play equipment is a collaborative effort between a dog and its owner. In addition, people are drawn to communities with dogs parks; they provide open, positive, feel-good green environments for people and dogs of all ages.

Trassig will work with you to design the perfect dog park; our  amenities, from jump-throughs to tunnels to benches and shade structures will fit seamlessly into your outdoor space.

Trassig at the CRPA Conference

CRPA conference

We had a chance to exhibit at the Connecticut Recreation and Park Association annual conference that took place November 23rd and 24th at Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. We had a great time connecting with our existing clients and vendors and had the opportunity to present to potential clients the scope of what we have to offer.

Our booth attracted a lot of traffic. Attendees were very intrigued by our new line of outdoor fitness equipment and senior play equipment. Some who visited were attracted by the simple do-it-yourself poured in place rubber repair kits. Others just wanted to take our card knowing that we offer a turn key solution to playgrounds from design, to repair, to maintenance.

Over all it was a great experience. We’re looking forward to seeing everyone again next year.

Trassig is a commercial playground company that has for years serviced towns and municipalities all over Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts. The company prides itself for having developed a whole line of playground maintenance products that makes the life of a park and rec facility manager a little easier. Two of our most popular products are the poured in place fast repair patch kits designed to repair cracks and gaps in playground rubber flooring easily, thereby saving money, and the poured in place rubber rebinder, a unique aliphatic coating system meant to rejuvenate the playground surface and extend its life. All our products can either be bought as DIY or as a service. We have maintenance contracts with many towns and municipalities in New England. If your town could benefit from such contract, please feel free to reach out to us at 203-659-0456. We would love to come out to your site, assess your need, and come up with a a maintenance product that fits your program and budget.

Poured in place rubber cost

poured in place rubber cost

One of the most frequent questions we get asked about poured in place rubber surfacing is: How much does it cost to install? How much does it cost to maintain? and how much does it cost to repair? In this post, we will try to address all three questions.

How much does a new poured in place rubber install cost

The cost of a brand new poured in place rubber installation project will depend on several factors:

  1. What is on the site now:
    If you have playground mulch (Engineered Wood Fiber) currently on your site, that mulch has to be removed and disposed of either somewhere else on the site or at a dump. Please note that most dumps will treat the mulch as if it were contaminated. check with your local dump first before you make the trip. If you have just grass, that has to be removed as well. Basically, all organic materials have to be removed before the site aggregate is installed and compacted. If you don’t do this step, you will end up with bad surfacing later because air pockets will appear underneath the rubber surface as the organic materials decompose. After your remove the grass, or mulch, you will have to replace it with compacted aggregate. That cost is anywhere from $3 to $6 per square foot based on how much aggregate has to be added to come up to grade. If you already asphalt or concrete on site, you won’t have to add any site prep cost to the install.
  2. How thick the rubber surfacing needs to be:
    As you know the poured in place rubber surface has two layers: a base layer, and a wear layer. The wear layer is always half an inch. (Or this is how we like to install it. There are vendors out there that will go thinner). The base layer, or the impact attenuation layer varies based on the fall height of the equipment. So, for example, if the highest deck on your playground equipment is four feet, a base layer thickness of an inch and a half is usually adequate. The higher the fall height, the thicker the base. Please note that this numbers are not absolute. The way the base layer is installed can make a big difference in its impact attenuation. It’s all in the troweller’s hand. A base layer that is over compacted will not yield a high impact attenuation rate. The opposite is true.
  3. The color combination of the wear layer:
    The most common configuration for the wear layer is 50% black 50% color granules to keep the cost in check. Since color granules are four times more expensive than black granules, going for an all color surface will obviously be a lot more expensive than a 50/50 surface. We don’t recommend going for an all black surface because the surfacing will generate a lot of heat and will be more prone to cracking. Also, the black granules are made out of SBR rubber which is less porous than EPDM, which is what the colored granules are typically made out of. So, they make for a weaker bond setting the whole system for failure within years. So our advise is: Don’t go for an all black poured in place rubber to save money. You will pay the price later.
  4. Aromatic Vs. Aliphatic Glues:
    Finally, your choice of the binder used will greatly affect the cost of the poured in place rubber system. Aromatic binder is amber in color and the cheaper of the two. It’s perfectly fine for a 50/50 mix and is the choice for 90% of poured in place rubber installations. Aliphatic binder is clear and double the price of aliphatic binder. It is usually the binder of choice in splash pads and in 100% light color installations since it will not change the color of the granules and won’t amber over time.

Here are some numbers that will help you to calculate your poured in place rubber cost: Assuming the site prep is already done, and you need a two inch system (an inch and a half base layer and half inch wear layer) with 50% color 50% black wear layer using aromatic binder, you should expect to pay around twelve dollars per square foot. This figure will change based on the geographic area you are in as installing poured in place rubber is very labor intensive. You also should expect to pay roughly a dollar more for every extra half inch of base layer.

 

How much does it cost to maintain poured in place rubber?

This is a much easier question to answer. If you are having the surface professionally top sealed, for poured in surfaces using aliphatic glues, you should expect to pay about a dollar per square foot to top seal the surface. For aliphatic glues, you will spend around $1.5 a square foot. This will dramatically changed based on the square footage. The economics of scale dictate that the larger the space the less expensive the square footage price should be. If you want to do this yourself, you will be saving a lot of money. Our poured in place rubber top seal and rejuvenator will cost you less than 50 cents per square foot.  Remember, this has to be done every couple years depending on how much sun the surface is exposed to.

How much does it cost to repair poured in place rubber?

It really depends on the extent of the damage you are trying to repair, and whether it is contained to the wear layer or extends to the base layer. Most of the cost of the damage is in labor. Most companies will charge around $75 per man hour plus materials for repairs. That’s why you will save money if you use one of those poured in place rubber repair kits. 

We hope this helps answer some of your questions about poured in place rubber cost. As usual, if you have any questions, send us an email at info@trassig.com or call us at: 203-659-0456.

 

 

How to repair playground decks

playground deck repair

Metal playground decks are covered with a vinyl coat to protect the metal from corrosion, create a non-skid surface as well as keep the surface cooler under the sun. The coating typically does its job for years, but unfortunately is not immune to cracks and vandalism. When that happens, the metal is exposed and becomes vulnerable to rust. The cuts and tears in the vinyl coating itself become sharp and present a shear hazard to our kids. Repairing those decks become a priority.

Often times, the damage to the playground deck is painted, caulked, and sprayed with off-the-shelf plastisol products. In our experience, those solutions rarely work, and when they do, don’t last that long. The only way to repair the deck, shy of replacing the whole thing is to use a product specifically formulated for playground vinyl coating. We have used many commercial products. The only one we recommend is our own deck repair patch kit made specifically for playgrounds. You can get it at http://www.playgrounddeckrepair.com.

The product is air activated. Which means that it doesn’t need to be torched to bond to the existing deck coating. It comes in 2 and 8 ounce containers with one time application. It also comes in several colors to match the most popular playground decks out there (Blue, Dark Red, Brown, and Black). We can make custom colors for you as well. Just give us a call.

Follow these steps to repair your playground deck:

  • Create a clean cut around the crack or the hole
  • Clean up the area with mineral spirits and cloth
  • Make sure the area is completely dry
  • Apply the patch with a putty knife
  • Let the patch cure for a couple hours.

 

sharp edges on playground decks
The exposed metal on the playground deck can be sharp
playground deck repair
Sometimes the damage occurs around bolts from bad installs
playground-deck-repair
Edge of playground decks are particularly prone to damage
plastisol deck coating can be sharp
The plastisol coating itself can be sharp

How to use a poured in place rubber patch kit

poured-in-patch-kit-instructions

So you have received your poured in place rubber repair patch kit. Now what?

Like anything else. Good planning is key. You have had that unsightly hole on your poured place rubber surface for a while. It has been getting bigger. Kids have been picking at it. You have finally decided to save money and patch it yourself. You received your poured in patch kit in the mail. The first thing you need to do is pick a dry day to patch. A key ingredient in the rubber patch kit is the binder. Like all polyurethane binders, ambient humidity and temperature is what cures it. Rain is really not its friend, and neither is excessive cold. So, you basically need a dry warm day to patch. We recommend temperatures over 45 degrees sustained overnight for the patch to cure well. You also need to plan to close that area of the playground off for the next 24 hours, as you don’t want anyone to touch it or walk on it.

The day you perform the patch, you need to wear clothes that you don’t care about. You might never get the glue on you, but if you do, you will wish you didn’t wear your favorite pants that day. It’s impossible to get that glue off clothes. And while you’re at it, make sure you are wearing disposable gloves throughout the patching process. It’s really not that difficult to patch poured in place rubber, but a little planning and precaution goes a long way.

The following video will walk you step by step on how to patch any poured-in-rubber hole. The key is to do things in the right sequence. Fore example: Make sure you draw the design around the hole before yo cut it. Make sure you prime the edges of the EPDM before you fill. And finally, make sure you don’t mix the binder with the granules until you are ready to trowel. The mix will start to cure the moment you mix it, and if you are working in a hot, humid day, you will have as little as 20 minutes to work with the mix. Of course you can email us at info@trassig.com or call us at 203-659-0456 anytime you are not sure about something or if you need some hand holding. We’ve even face-timed with clients before to show them what to do 🙂

Happy patching.

 

Poured in Place Rubber Repair Instructions Video

Gaps in Poured in Place Rubber Surfacing

Gap in poured in place rubber

We get many service calls every year to fill gaps in poured in place rubber surfacing.  The gap usually appears after 5 years of the initial install between the poured in place rubber surface and the concrete curb adjacent to it. when the gap appears it gets bigger every year creating ADA problems and allowing for weeds to go through. (See picture below).

We are happy fix the poured in place gaps, but for budget conscious clients, we recommend our do it yourself poured in place repair kit. The kit ships with the binder and rubber you need to fill the poured in place gap and avoid costly repairs. You might have to prep the area by getting rid of all the weed growth and removing objects that are now stuck in the gap. You then prime the edges with the same glue you receive in the package, mix the contents, and start troweling. Beside the instructions you receive with the repair kit, we have produced a video on how to use a patch kit that can be seen here.

You might have to use a base layer patch kit for the bottom of the gap first before you use the wear layer kit. If the gap is outside the use zone of the nearest play equipment, you might be able to fill the gap just with the wear layer patch kit to save time.

Poured in Place Rubber Gap before patch
Poured in Place Rubber Gap before patch

 

 

Poured in Place Rubber Gaps Filled
Poured in Place Rubber Gaps Filled

 

The whole process takes an hour or two for 30′ to 40′ linear feet of gap. To estimate how many patch kits you need to order, you will need to measure the linear feet of the gap, figure out how many square feet you have based on the width of the gap, and divide that by 4. For example, if you have 8 square feet of gap, you will need two patch kits to complete the job. Do the same math for the base layer if you need a base layer as well. You can buy your poured in place rubber patch kits here. 

All about sandbox covers

all about sand box covers

Children aren’t the only ones who love the sand…so do insects and animals. Once installed, a sandbox should be maintained; it should be raked regularly to remove leaves, debris, clumps, or other foreign material. Sand boxes should also be covered when they aren’t in use. If the play sand gets wet, it should be thoroughly dry before you cover it. Use a cover made of permeable woven material rather than a rigid cover or plastic tarp, both of which encourage the growth of bacteria and mold.
Another very important reason for covering your sandbox is to avoid infection from the parasite Toxoplasma gondii . Your neighbor’s, and wild felines regard your backyard sandbox as a litter box. Cat feces often contain the parasite Toxoplasma gondii , a single-celled protozoan that lives and reproduces only in cats who hunt or who are fed raw meat. Children, who explore by touching and tasting everything around them, including sand, may ingest the parasite by eating clumps of sand or simply touching their mouths while playing with sand that has come in contact with infected cat feces. Covering your sandbox will help to prevent infection. When a child becomes infected with T. gondii, the parasite forms cysts that can affect almost any part of the body including the brain and the heart and cause serious complications. T. gondii can cause serious complications for children whose immune systems are undeveloped. Symptoms of toxoplasmosis can include muscle pain, blurred vision, fever and headache which can last for weeks though, fortunately, all can be treated with medication.
By code, you have to cover your sand box. Sand box covers come in many shapes and types. Ultimately, the one you want is the one that will work for you. Here are a few tips to help you select a good sand box cover:

  •  Pick a sand box cover that is easy to put on and off. Some covers have lots of fasteners which means it take a lot of time to install—ultimately, that might discourage its use.
  •  Pick a sandbox cover with a mesh top so water doesn’t accumulate, making the cover heavier and harder to remove.
  • A weighted sand box cover stays in place on windy days.
  • Avoid cheap tarps. They never work.

You can order a custom-made weighted sandbox cover or you make one yourself using nylon thread, sufficient yardage of woven plastic fabric, a large embroidery needle, and four lengths of heavy chain (the chain is used to weight the edges of the cover). A fabric sandbox cover like this is easy to install and store and will provide you and your children with clean, safe, and happy sandbox playtime!

Geofabric in playground construction

geo-fabric in playground construction

Geofabric, or landscape fabric plays a big role in a playground setting. It separates playground mulch and rubber mulch from dirt and prevents weed from growing through the safety surfacing. It also helps stabilize aggregate However, the wrong install of geo-fabric can present problems of its own in your playground area if a few simple rules are not followed, leading to tripping hazards and loose spikes. Geofabric in playground construction is key to the overall health of the safety surfacing system.

You should avoid using narrow geo-fabric as that introduces more seams than necessary in the surface. We like to use at least 6′ wide geofabric. But we prefer 12′ wide heavy duty fabric. When covering the playground area, ensure that there is plenty of overlap between two fabrics and avoid using staples. We use glue to bind two fabrics, as spikes can come loose and become a hazard to the kids later on.

Another weak point for the geofabric is around the posts of the playground. More work has to be done in those areas to ensure that the fabric doesn’t come lose and present a tripping hazard to the kids.

Finally, only use commercial quality geofabric. This usually tends to be thick and rated. There are all types of geofabric available on the market these days. Make sure you source the ones that have a track record out there and used commercially by reputed landscapers.

How important is site prep in playground surfacing?

Playground Site preparation

Playground site preparation is one of those topics that are rarely discussed when installing a new playground surface. All safety surfaces need some type of site preparation. For a complete list of available safety surfaces please read my “playground safety surfacing guide“. Even playground mulch needs good drainage to last longer and stay dry and not freeze in winter. Rubber tiles are best installed on concrete or asphalt, but can be installed on the right compacted aggregate with appropriate bordering. Poured in place rubber, bonded rubber, and synthetic turf will need good site prep to last. While these systems can be installed on concrete and asphalt, the cost can be prohibitive. So, a compacted aggregate surface is opted for.

Whatever safety surface you opt for, do not neglect the site prep needed for that particular surface. I have seen that way too many times. Clients spend a lot of money on pouredin place rubber, but neglect to spend some of the budget on making sure the area drains well. One of the most important aspects of most site preps is the removal of existing loose surfaces. It is important to remove all organic material from the site before the aggregate is hauled in and compacted. If the area has mulch, a lot of the times, only the mulch is removed, but the decomposed materials are left there to continue on decomposing, creating problems later on. If short cuts are made, parts of the surface will eventually cave in and you will end up with a wavy surface soon. The surface also has to have the right pitch. A 2% in the right direction will prevent water accumulation and ensure long years of use for your surface.

Good playground site prep also takes into considerations the following:

  • boulders that might exist in the site
  • tree roots that might damage the surface.
  • access routes
  • fencing

If you have any questions about your playground site prep, please call us at: 203-659-0456 or e-mail us at: info@trassig.com

 

 

Playground installation check list

commercial playground installation

We often get asked what you need to know before your playground get installed. So here is a check list that will help you ensure that the playground installation process is as smooth as possible. This list applies to installs being done by a contractor. We will be publishing another list for community installs.

  • Discuss the install dates with the playground contractor way in advance. Pick dates that coincide with other school closings for example to minimize down time.
  • Make sure you have secured all the permits (if you need permits)
  • Have you secured all the insurance certificates from the vendor?
  • Make sure you there are no underground utility lines or pipes (Call before you dig)
  • Ensure that the contractor has access to water, electricity and toilets. If there is no access, then arrangements for generators, portable water, and portable toilets have to be made.
  • Talk to parents and other park visitors about the upcoming projects and post signs if needed.
  • Have a plan for the construction process. How are you keeping the construction site safe? access for trucks.. etc.
  • If there is any site prep involved. Where will all the excess stuff going? where is it being stored until it gets hauled off?
  • Where will the garbage generated through the installation process going?
  • Is the place left clean after the install? Are there sharp objects lying around the site?
  • Is the safety surfacing being installed right after the playground set? and if not? how do you ensure kids are not playing on the playground without the appropriate surfacing?
  • Do you have all the age appropriate and surfacing warning stickers for that playground set?
  • Do you have contingencies for bad weather?
  • Is the site safe to leave equipment throughout the install?

 

The different stages of Poured in Place Rubber deterioration

poured in place rubber deterioration

Do you see loose rubber granules everywhere on your poured in place rubber surface? Do you feel the granules come off when you shuffle your feet on the surface? If the answer to that is yes, you are experiencing one of the stages of poured in place rubber deterioration.

In another post, we have explained how poured in place rubber systems are in fact quite simple. They are made up of rubber granules held up by glue. The type of glue used in the installs (and almost all glues) are degraded by UV rays. So the more sun your playground gets, the fastest that process is. So all poured in place surfaces have to be maintained. Just like a granite surface, they have to be sealed using several products on the market. (We offer our own poured in place rubber rejuvenator). We recommend that this is done roughly every two years or so. The frequency is affected by how shaded the playground surface is and how much traffic it gets.

poured in place rubber deterioration
stages of poured in place rubber deterioration

If that is not done, you should expect the following:

 

  • Phase 1: The granules will start getting loose either uniformly or in areas that experience higher traffic and more play impact (slide exists..etc). At this phase, the playground can still be saved through a heavy application of a top seal.
  • Phase 2: Granulation will happen together with small cracks in the system. Though a top seal will help, the cracks cannot be hidden or patched without cutting around them and re-patching. You might also notice small holes here and there. Those holes can still be patched using a do it yourself poured in place patch kit.
  • Phase 3: Granulation and cracks will continue and more holes will appear. The system begins to fail and the kids eventually make the holes bigger by picking at them. This can be particularly dangerous for toddler playgrounds since the loose pieces (not the EPDM granules, but larger chunks that can come off) present a choking hazard.
  • Phase 4: A complete surfacing system failure will occur after granulation has worn down most of the wear layer and it is now too thin to patch or seal. A new wear layer will have to be added to the system, and in areas where the base layer has also been impacted, more base layer will have to be installed.

This is a case where a small problem that is easy to prevent leads to a much more expensive problem. When you install a new poured in place rubber system, make sure you budget for a maintenance program so you get maximum shelf life from it.

Maintaining a poured in place rubber surface

damaged poured in place rubber surface

Poured in place rubber surfacing is NOT a maintenance free surface like some vendors might represent. Worse, it is a an expensive surface to repair. Therefore, maintaining it properly is paramount. Here are a few pointers to help you in maintaining a poured in place rubber surface

– Do not allow sharp objects in the surface area. This includes pointy high heels, pointy ladder legs, pointy chair legs…etc. A good policy to have is to ask parents with any type of high heels to take off their shoes before they go on the surface.

– Do not use metal bristle brooms or metal shovels to clean the surface. These are likely to damage the system and dislodge the granules. Use brooms with nylon bristles or even better: use leaf blowers. They work great on a poured in place rubber surface.

– Resist the urge to power wash the surface. While a professional power washing company can theoretically do it without damaging the bond between the EPDM granules but using a wide angle spray, the risk is too high to even try it. We are called way too often to fix issues that are results of power-washing the poured in place rubber surface.

– Do not use chemicals that dissolve lacquer and glues. (e.g Xylene) There are playground sanitizing products that are convenient and safe to use on a poured in place system. We recommend the following sanitizer to be used to clean poured rubber surfaces.

– Try to protect the systems from the sun if you can. UV rays are the single most damaging factor to the polyurethane binders that keep the granules in place.

– Use a Top Coat sealer to rejuvenate your surface every two to three years. The word “sealer” is a misnomer since it will not seal your surface. It will still be porous.  The sealer  will reinforce the binders lost to UV rays. Top coats should be used as a pre-preemptive measure. It is particularly important to use this method when granulation is noticed in the system. We recommend the Rebinder playground Sealer as it is aliphatic based, so it won’t darken or harden your playground rubber surface.

– Finally, if you see a penetration through the wear layer (EPDM layer) or a crack, patch it immediately before it gets worse. You can buy do it yourself playground rubber surface repair kits here.

 

Maintaining a poured in place rubber surface
Maintaining a poured in place rubber surface is essential to avoid outcomes like this

If you have any questions about your poured in place rubber surface call us at: 203-659-0456 or email us at info@trassig.com.

We are Trassig, the playground people. A commercial playground company based in Connecticut.

What do I need to know about commercial swings?

Arch Swing

Swings are a great play activity. The sensation that a swing offers to a child is unique to that piece of play equipment. Beside being fun, research has shown that the swinging action promotes the sense of balance in the child. If you are planning to add a commercial swing to your playground? Consider the following in your planning.

– Place the swing away from other play equipment and away from entry and exit points in the playground.

– Swings need a large use zone. (area that is free of other equipment and obstacles and is covered by safety surfacing). To calculate the use zone of a swing, measure from the bottom of the horizontal beam to the surfacing underneath it and double that distance in front of the beam and to the back of it. Then you will need to add 6′ on each side of the swing. Most commercial swings are 8′ high, and 12′ wide which means the use zone is 32′ by 24′.

– You cannot have more than two seats in any one bay in a commercial swing. And you cannot mix a bucket seat with a belt seat in one bay. You can do that in a T-swing. That’s a swing with the post in-between the two seats.

– If you have loose fill in the use zone of the swing (eg: engineered wood fiber or rubber mulch) it is recommended you use a wear mat to limit the displacement of the surfacing material.

– The swing frame should not be designed in a way that encourages climbing.

Poured in Place Rubber Vs. Rubber Tiles: What’s better for my playground?

playground Rubber tiles

I, as well as our playground installers, get this question quite frequently; Which safety surfacing system is better for my playground? Poured in place rubber, or rubber tiles. Pricing for either can be quite similar these days based on the quality of the tiles and the quality of the workmanship of the poured in place installation. So, it’s not an issue any longer. However, there some factors that can set either one for success or failure. Through this post, I hope I will shed some light on those and hopefully help you in the decision making process.

Let’s start with playground rubber tiles. You can find tiles for every fall height these days. They come in various sizes and shapes. You have your straight rubber tiles that are generally glued on the sides so they adhere to each other. Sometimes, they are not even glued. They are just packed next to each other and glued down on the surface below or bordered with either railroad ties, concrete edging or other types of systems that keep them from sliding away from each other. You also have interlocking tiles that lock on each other. Either way, in my opinion, tiles are best when installed on a hard and flat surface such as concrete, or really smooth asphalt. If the asphalt has cracks that protrude up, it won’t work very well. If the cracks are just gaps in the surface of the concrete; in other words, there is no sudden change in the elevation of the concrete, then it should be fine. All being said, It is better to have them glued down. This will insure minimum lateral movements of the tile. If beveled edges are used (and they should be used to minimize tripping and for ADA access) extra strong binders should be used to install the beveled edges, since those are also acting to block the movements of the tiles.

I know that there are installers out there who will put rubber tiles on packed crushed stones or stone dust. And this is fine if there are no drainage issues and the tiles are well bordered. My experience tells me that if the substrate moves, the rubber tiles will sag and buckle at the corners. This is a choice that the installer should make only after careful inspection of the soil and drainage in the playground site.

Poured in place rubber installations on hard surfaces such as concrete and asphalt are preferred as well. But because this is a hand troweled system, it tends to be more forgiving than tiles if installed on a well compacted substrate. So it can be done when you don’t have concrete on asphalt. Care must be taken to remove all organic material though before starting to pour the rubber. A common mistake we see in the field is remnants of wood mulch are left on the site and the poured in place rubber is installed on top of it. As the mulch disintegrates, it creates a vacuum, causing the rubber on top of it to sag.

Design opportunities have traditionally been more associated with poured in place rubber than rubber tiles, although there are manufacturers today who will have many designs laid out on tiles, and will even make your own design, but that will cost you. Logos and other lettering is easily done with poured in place systems but will generally also add to the cost. So, I can safely say that color and design issues are no longer a factor in why you should go with one vs. the other.

Now, let’s talk about maintenance. A poured in place surface definitely needs more maintenance than a rubber tile surface. Tiles are pressed at factories and don’t need top coat maintenance. Poured in Place rubber surfaces do. Please see my post about Poured in place repair to learn more about this.

Finally, the shape and equipment in your playground can play a big role in labor cost when determining which surfacing system will work better. If you have an irregular shaped playground with a very convoluted play set already installed with lots and lots of footings, this will force the installer to spend a considerable amount of time cutting and fitting the tiles. This will result in waste in material and will take a lot longer to install. So, this would be a perfect application for a poured in place rubber job. If your playground dimensions work with the size of the tiles, so that there is very little waste, and you have the required subsurface. Then Rubber tiles are good candidates.

If you are still confused about which system will work best for your playground , feel free to ask at info@trassig.com
Hal Gourad
Trassig, the Playground People. a CT Commercial Playground Company

Poured in Place Rubber Repair

poured in place repair

One of the most frequent playground question our staff receives, is: How do I repair my poured in place rubber surface once I see the beginnings of a hole forming?

First of all, your poured in place surface shouldn’t come to that stage. If you see severe granulation of the EPDM surface, it is most likely because you haven’t maintained your safety surface well. This is might not be entirely your fault. I am often annoyed when I hear vendors refer to “poured in place” as a maintenance free system. That is simply not true. Here is why: The wear layer of a PIP system is made up of EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) granules mixed together with a Urethane based binder. The EPMD granules will outlast both you and me but the binder itself will degrade as it is exposed to the sun. That’s why it is important to have shade on PIP surfaces. As the binders degrade, they need to be rejuvenated with fresh binders. There are many commercial products out there that do that. They are usually called top coat, top seal.. etc, but they all have one thing in common. They contain a diluted version of a urethane binder. Diluted because the coat needs to be rolled onto the existing surface easily. This application is part of a maintenance program every poured in place safety surface needs to have. How frequent does a top coat or a top seal need to happen? Usually every couple years. But that really depends, like I said above, on how much UV rays your playground gets.

Now, if you don’t do that, you will notice granulation, and then holes will start to appear. You will not be able to apply a top coat before fixing the hole. There are do-it-yourself poured in place repair patch kits that you can purchase to fix the holes. These are available in several colors and come with pre-measured amount of binder that you mix then with.

Here is a tip, when you are doing your own poured in place rubber repair, it’s usually better to pick a color that is completely different from your playground surface and design different shapes as you are filling the hole than try to match the exact color of your playground. You can cut out simple geometric shapes, or even create numbers and alphabets and make it look like it was all designed to look like that.

Hal Gourad
Trassig, the Playground People. a CT based Commercial Playground Company

What is engineered wood fiber?

Playground mulch CT

Engineered wood fiber (EWF) or more commonly known as playground mulch is probably the most popular of all playground safety surfacing options in the U.S. It is fairly affordable (at least initially). You do have to replenish it over time as it compacts and decomposes. What makes it different from other mulch is the fact that it is free from bark and comes from non-recycled materials, such as pallets. So it will not contain other debris and contaminants. It is usually available in landscape yards and is ordered by the cubic yard.

The CPCS hand book recommends a minimum of 9″ of compacted engineered wood fiber to be installed. this means you will need 11″ to 12″ in the initial install, which will compact to about 9″. To figure out how many cubic yards you need, measure your playground area to come up with the total area. So, if your playground is 30’x30′, you have 900 square feet of space. You multiply that number by the depth you are trying to achieve. In this case, let’s say you want to order 9″ of playground mulch. So you multiply 900 by 9, which gives you 8100. You take that number and divide it by 324, which gives you the number 25. So you need 25 cubic yards of engineered wood fiber to get a 9 inch cover in a 900 sf area.

Things to remember about playground mulch:

– You need to keep it raked all the time, otherwise you will have spots that have very little impact attenuation properties.
– Playground mulch can attract insects and vermin.
– Use wear mats under swings and slide exists to stop displacement of the mulch in those areas.
– Always provide for good drainage before installing playground mulch. If you don’t, you will always have soggy mulch, and unhappy teachers and parents.
– If you have a big area, it might be more cost effective to install it via blower truck.
– It’s not recommended you have playground mulch in toddler areas. It’s best to go with a unitary surface such as poured in place rubber, synthetic turf or rubber tiles.
– It is not recommended you install playground mulch on a hard surface such as asphalt or concrete. If you don’t have a choice, and that’s the only area you have, you should install a 3″-6″ layer of crushed stone or gravel first, followed by landscape fabric, followed by the mulch.
– We recommend you get your playground mulch from a source that is IPEMA certified. Ask to see that certification.

What exactly is poured in place rubber?

poured in place rubber

Poured in place rubber is a unitary surface often used in playgrounds to provide some cushioning to protect kids from falls. This system has been around for over 20 years but became popular in the last 10 years or so.

The system consists of two layers: The first layer is the base layer, or the impact attenuation layer. It is typically made out of tire buffings. Think about that extra $5 you paid per tire when you changed your car tires. The fee goes to recycle the tire. Car tires usually end up in shredded rubber nuggets that can be used as loose rubber mulch. Truck tires on the other hand can be retreaded. But for the new tread to be added, the old one is shaved down to a smooth surface. The buffings from that process is what we end up with as the cushiony part of the poured in place surface in our playgrounds. The thickness of the base layer goes hand in hand with the height of the playground equipment, and will generally be between an inch to 6 or more inches.

The wear layer is usually made up of EPDM granules (ethylene propylene diene monomer). It’s the colorful granules that sits on top of the base layer. It can also be made up of other materials, such as TPV or other polymers. But the common denominator is that it is an elastic clean rubber that acts as barrier between the kids and the base layer.

The third component of the poured in place system, and probably the most important one is the binder used to bond the rubber granules together. This is typically a polyurethane based binder, and there are two types:

1) Aromatic binder: This binder is amber in color and will change the color of the granules slightly over the years.
2) Aliphatic binder: This binder is crystal clear and won’t amber over the years but is substantially more expensive.

Both the base and wear layer are mixed with binders on site and troweled as a seamless surface. Sometimes logos and designs are embedded in the surface. The system is ideal for ADA access and inclusive play, since wheelchairs are easily maneuverable on the surface. And as a unitary surface, there is nothing to rake or top off. There is however some maintenance involved. Beside removing debris that might land on the surface, the binders holding the granules do deteriorate over time. A top coat is needed every couple years, depending on how much sun the playground gets. (See my post about poured in place repair). In another post, I will be talking about how to maintain a poured in place rubber surface.

Do I choose Synthetic Turf or Poured in Place Rubber?

playground synthetic turf

Which surface should you choose for your playground: Poured in Place Rubber or Synthetic Turf?

First of all, unless the play area has concrete or flat asphalt, both systems need the same site prep. Meaning, all organic materials such as grass and mulch have to be removed. Crushed stone has to be installed and compacted and the right pitch has to be established. If your playground area already has playground equipment with lots of footings, it might be easier to go with poured in place rubber. The system is poured in place and troweled around the existing structure. Synthetic Turf on the hand comes in 15 foot rolls (like a carpet) and it might be cost prohibitive to cut and seam around so many posts. Also, every time you are cutting and seaming, you are technically introducing a weakness in the system.

Dimensions of the area also play a role in making the right choice. As mentioned above, synthetic turf always comes in 15′ wide rolls and in lengths up to 100′. So if your area dimensions is such that multiples of 15′ creates very little material waste it’s the way to go. Dimensions don’t play any role in poured in place rubber since it’s basically rubber granules mixed onsite with a binder.

Impact attenuation is adequately provided by both systems. In the poured in system that’s accomplished through the thickness of the buffing layer and in synthetic turf, the thickness of the padding installed underneath the turf layer determines the fall height.

Longevity is another story though. Both systems will perform for at least 12-15 years but a poured in place system will have to be maintained in order for it to last that long. Because of the fact that polyurethane binders are degraded by UV rays, the system has to be reconditioned every two years or so. Synthetic turf on the other hand needs some basic grooming to keep it in good shape.

If you are into designs, logos, and colors in your playgrounds, poured in place rubber surfaces are definitely the way to go. If you prefer a natural look, then synthetic turf wins. Today’s synthetic turfs look a lot more like grass than they used to do.