Pros & Cons of Using Sand as a Playground Surface
April 20, 2022
Depending on the era in which you grew up, when you think about your childhood playground, it’s likely to include some memory of sand. Regardless of whether those memories are good or bad, and is a staple in playground construction. While we at HK Contractors don’t recommend it for every application, it does have its place in the lexicon of playground fun. What we do recommend is to take a full inventory of the benefits and limitations of using sand, and then make a call based on your needs. Here are some things to take into consideration.
There are some obvious, and some not so obvious, benefits of using sand in playground construction. While this isn’t an exhaustive list, these affirm what’s positive:
- Playground sand is one of the least expensive and readily available options for playground surfacing. At an average price of $1.50-$3 per square foot, you can usually find bulk options at most hardware stores or at your local landscape company.
- The installation of sand and the prep of your playground area is straightforward and easily accomplished. You prepare a containment area with a border, lay down an initial layer of aggregate (usually pea gravel) to help with water drainage, and then apply the sand. Most sources say that you should reach an average depth of about 12 inches of sand to provide an adequate cushion for falls.
- Manufacturers of playground-grade sand have typical procedures that they put their sand through for safety purposes. The sand is washed to remove contaminants, water pressurized to remove sharp edges, and analyzed to check its size.
- The makeup of sand makes it a poor place to promote microbial growth, which is one less thing that you need worry about as a safety precaution.
As is the case with any product, sand also has drawbacks that you need to consider before it’s used.
- Sand isn’t the most suitable playground material for impact absorption. Depending on the height of the playground equipment that’s towering overhead, you’ll need a lot of it to achieve baseline protection standards.
- In the spirit of accessibility, sand can be a difficult substance for people with disabilities to traverse, especially if those disabilities impact their physical movement, as in the case of wheelchairs.
- Although we’ve mentioned that sand is a cheaper option, the lifetime cost of sand maintenance can add up quickly. For highly trafficked playgrounds, you might find yourself replacing the sand as much as once per year.
- On the health side of things, not all sand is created equal. If you’re not careful about the kind of sand you choose, you can end up with a playground surface that contains asbestos and/or silica. Some less reputable manufacturers make sand from crushed rock or crystalline silica (as opposed to real beach or river sand), both of which can contain carcinogenic properties and wreak havoc on people with respiratory diseases like asthma.
The moral of the story here is that you need to do your research and make note of your priorities as you plan to build out your playground. This could lead you to selecting a well-researched sand option that works great for you, or it could mean that you settle on a rubberized product that better suits your project. In either case, give us a call and we’ll be happy to get you organized, provide you with material or, the best-case scenario, get the project done for you the right way.