How deep should I put playground material?

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One of the most common questions we are asked is about how deep PlayChips should be put underneath playground equipment.  It's important for child safety to understand the guidelines for equipment height by age group, as well as the corresponding depth of engineered wood fibre required. 

In BC, the Director of Licensing Standards of Practice for Safe Play Space sets these policies and standards.  The SOP says that "A safe and well-planned play space creates an appropriate balance between safety and meeting children’s developmental needs. It should offer activities to encourage the development of perception and physical skills and include opportunities for social, physical, and cognitive forms of play."PlayChips-529x350-300x198

For playground design, the standard lists several considerations that should determine placement of equipment, including:

  • Landscape such as a variety of surfaces, shade, pathways and trees (which also absorb noise)
  • Reduce exposure of the equipment to sun so that equipment doesn't get too hot (especially slides)
  • Avoid noise and environmental pollutants from parking lots if possible
  • Spaces between equipment pieces must be larger than 9 inches or smaller than 3.5 inches to prevent entrapment
  • Guardrails and railings must be included on any stairs, landing, bridges, etc.
  • Equipment should be placed to facilitate adult supervision - separate equipment to ensure open sightlines, and separate busy active areas of equipment with quieter zones. Staff must be able to move through and see the entire play space.
  • The purpose of play spaces is to encourage growth and learning.  A well designed playground will include areas for active play and quiet play.  Perception and physical skills that can be developed on playgrounds include running, climbing, dodging, swinging, sliding, throwing, catching, pulling and pushing. 

So, in terms of safety, what are the recommended equipment heights for children of various ages?  And how does the height of the playground equipment determine the depth of engineered wood fiber surfacing?

We've created an infographic to easily identify the required depths:


Any protective surfacing used must be checked regularly to ensure the depth and adequacy of the material.

Depth guidelines for loose fill material are included in the Standard.  For equipment that is over 45 cm (18 inches) but is less than 1.5 meters (5 feet), protective surfacing is recommended:

  • Minimum of 15 cm (6 inches) for 1.5-meter (five-foot) equipment height;
  • Minimum of 30 cm (12 inches) for 2.3- meter (seven-foot) equipment height.
  • For equipment where children can climb higher than 7 feet, 45 cm 918 inches) is the minimum. 
  • The specific amount of fill will vary within this range, depending on the height of the equipment.
  • These depths are after compaction - the loose material will compact during and after installation, so ensure to calculate for compaction (up to 30% additional for 12" compacted depth) 

Not sure what's best for your playground area? Our experts are available to help!

New playground? Topping up current surfacing? We'd love to help!