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engineered wood fiber for playground

Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF): 6 Things You Should Know Before Installing It in Playgrounds

There are hundreds of surfacing options that claim to provide safety for children’s play areas.

Engineered Wood Fiber (EWF) is one such surfacing material made of processed wood.

Unlike wood mulch, EWF is made from wood inside the tree and not its bark. It doesn’t have sharp edges and offers soft surfaces. The fibrous consistency of engineered wood fiber has made it a popular playground surfacing option.

But, popularity doesn’t equal the best choice.

As a play park manager, you should choose the right play area surfacing that offers a hazard-free and safe environment for the little ones.

In this blog post, we will share information related to these six factors when it comes to installing EWF in playgrounds.

1. Safety

Being a soft and loose-fill surfacing material, EWF comes with serious concerns. It doesn’t adhere to American Standard Testing Methods (ASTM) safety standards. It becomes compressed over time and reduces the shock absorbency. As a result, children playing on EWF surfaces may experience a high impact of falls and face critical injury.

Moreover, the material is not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act Standards (ADA). The EWF surfacing restricts specially-abled children from using mobility aids, such as wheelchairs or power scooters. The soft material limits their movement, making EWF an unacceptable choice for accessible playgrounds.

Here are some more safety challenges associated with EWF.

  • Gets displaced within no time, especially in heavy footfall areas. 
  • Spreads to nearby walkways and may lead to potential slipping hazards.
  • Sticks in the hair, eyes, and mouths of children, making them uncomfortable.
  • Pose a potential choking hazard for toddlers below the age of five.
  • Causes microbial or bacteria growth when exposed to even slight moisture.
  • May cause chipping as it is composed of wood inside the tree and not bark.

2. Durability and Quality

Engineered wood fiber has lower durability when compared to other playground surfacing materials like safety rubber surfacing. 

EWF cannot withstand wear and tear owing to its loose-fill texture and splinters within a short span. It may last up to five years when you take the help of local surfacing experts for services like raking, tamping, cleaning, and others. 

Besides, engineered wood is not resilient enough to sustain the high foot traffic. So, even after taking utmost care, the material may fail to serve as a good playground surfacing option. 

3. Installation Cost

The installation cost of EWF is quite less, making it a highly affordable surfacing option. But as play parks are susceptible to wear and tear, playground managers need to invest a great deal of money in the post-implementation phase. 

To meet the ASTM requirements and reduce the impact of falls, play area owners have to add fresh layers of material at regular intervals. They need to maintain a layer with a minimum thickness of around nine inches, to allow the kids to land safely from a ten-foot fall.  

The cost of ongoing maintenance is more expensive than the initial installation cost.   

4. Installation Process

EWF surfacing may seem like it’s easy to install, but it’s not. 

It takes proper layering and playpark measurements for a smooth installation. Installation usually takes a day to complete. Depending on the size and area of the playground, the process may need a couple of days.  

If you are looking for a safety surfacing that’s easy to install, we recommend consulting a playground surfacing solution expert for expert guidance.

5. Aesthetics and Design

Unlike others, EWF surfacing material doesn’t offer various designs and color choices. It comes in a natural rustic color appearance. Hence, as a playground owner, you have limited choices for customization. 

Check out the wide range of EPDM granule colors available to complement your overall design. 


6. Care and Maintenance

Maintenance is an ongoing process when it comes to loose-fill surfacing like EWF. 

Keeping the appropriate depth of material to meet the fall-height standards is the biggest challenge. EWF surfacing needs an extensive amount of upkeep. It may need complete replacement after a year or two. 

What Makes Rubber Flooring a Better Playground Surfacing Option than EWF?

All the top-notch playground owners and daycare directors prefer rubber surfacing solutions due to their high safety assurance and performance. 

Read on to learn why rubber surfacing makes a better choice for play parks than engineered wood. 

  • Safety – Unlike EWF, rubber surfaces comply with ASTM guidelines and provide high shock absorption. The sturdy and resilient rubber surfaces can reduce the impact of critical falls to a great extent. 
  • Durability and Quality – Rubcorp offers premium rubber solutions that are ADA-compliant and highly durable. They don’t splinter even after experiencing high foot, and mobility aids traffic. This quality makes rubber surfaces an ideal option to meet the accessibility requirements of kids using wheelchairs and other mobility devices.
  • Installation Cost – The installation cost of rubber surfacing is much higher than the EWF. But, post-installation, playground owners won’t need to spend money on maintaining the surface. The surface can last in good condition for years. 
  • Installation Process – The installation of rubber surfacing on the playground is quite tricky. It’s crucial to contact a local rubber surfacing expert like Rubcorp to ensure proper installation. Our experienced team takes care of the standard playground surfacing requirements, thus making the process hassle-free.

Check out this video to understand how Rubcorp’s team goes about installing safety rubber surfacing. 

  • Aesthetics and Design – Rubcorp offers plenty of EPDM colors to make the playground attractive and provide a pleasant environment for kids. So, whether you are looking for a surfacing that complements your brand or goes along with the decor, rubber surfacing is right for you. 
  • Care and Maintenance – Unlike EWF, rubber surfaces are easy to clean and maintain. They can last for over twelve to fifteen years without significant maintenance. They only need to be cleaned with a regular solution and mop to prevent sand and dust accumulation.

Summing Up

For playground surfacing, engineered wood fiber has fewer advantages when compared to rubber surfacing. The latter is a clear winner in durability, maintenance, aesthetic appeal, and overall quality. 

The initial installation charge of rubber surfaces is high but worth the investment from a long-term perspective. 

Whether you are a daycare manager or playground owner, you cannot go wrong when selecting the rubber surfacing solution for your play area. 
If you are looking for advice regarding playground surfacing, get in touch with Rubcorp. We offer a comprehensive range of colors and designs that will complement your outdoor decor and create a safe play space for your little members.

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Creative Director, Rubcorp Distribution, LLC

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