1. Learning Centre
  2. Civil contracting & landscaping

Information you need to find the right playground surfacing

Here are some things to look for when choosing playground surfacing.


Considering a black surface to complement your landscaped areas? Although they are an aesthetic attraction, black surfaces act as heat magnets in summer – similar to asphalt or black piping. This leaves children with limited comfortable play space in the warmer months. It also creates maintenance issues with cracking, warping and gaps created between tiles due to shrinkage from fluctuating temperatures.

Health and safety

Over time, ambient temperature fluctuations put considerable stress on the plastics in artificial surfacing changing their structure. Cracking, warping or shrinkage can be the result of just 2-3 years of New Zealand’s intense sunlight. This can mean artificial surfaces deteriorate  to the extent that they no longer meet the NZ safety standard certification which can, in turn, place children in jeopardy.

When choosing a playground surfacing, a good thing to look for is if the meet NZ safety standards for play. NZS 5828:2015 guarantees the use of safe materials, including playground surfacing. Read more about it here.


Often, artificial surfacing is chosen by schools at the design stage because of a perception that on-going maintenance will be limited. When tiles move or the poured surface tears, artificial surfacing can be extremely costly to repair. Often a certified installer needs to carry out remedial work to ensure the surfacing continues to comply with certification and doesn’t void future warranty.

Discussions with school caretakers around the South Island indicate that most prefer bark as a playground surface because of its ease of maintenance. A quick rake once every couple of months and annual top-ups undertaken during working bees provides for flexible and low-cost maintenance.

Capital outlay

A large outlay of funds can impact negatively on a school’s balance sheet. An installation cost of an artificial surface can be an expensive compared to options like Bounce® bark. This doesn’t include the recurrent cost of reinstallation when the surfacing requires replacement.


New Zealand can experience a range of extreme climates, from the super cold South to the hot North. Artificial playground surfaces are susceptible to freezing over in frosts which creates a safety hazard for children. Unlike bark products with their loose form, which displace in cold temperatures, artificial surfacing freezes hard into an icy layer, providing no impact-protection.