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Pea Gravel Playground Surfacing - Rubcorp

Pea Gravel: Should You Use It for Playground Surfacing?

With so many electronic gadgets around, it’s easy for kids to engage in the virtual world. 

But still, the key element of their development remains – playing outdoors in the fresh air!

Playgrounds are a big part of a child’s life as they allow them to engage with their surroundings and socialize with other kids in the community. From improved socializing skills, critical thinking, improved immunity to high self-esteem, playgrounds help kids grow. 

Research advocates that children’s brains become 80% of the adult size when they are two years old! Playtime contributes hugely to their overall development. Hence, it’s essential to give kids an ideal play environment.  

Besides creating an engaging environment, it’s important to ensure their safety. But in playgrounds, factors like unsafe surfaces can be a threat to their wellbeing. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control, 56 percent of pediatric injuries treated in emergency rooms happen on playgrounds.

Thus, you cannot afford to ignore playground safety.

There are many choices when it comes to playground surfacing, one of which is pea gravel. 

But is it a safe playground surface?

In this post, we will see the pros and cons of pea gravel. You will also learn how it compares with a poured-in-place rubber surface which is a popular and safe playground surfacing choice today.

What Is Pea Gravel?

True to its name – pea gravel refers to small, round, and smooth stones. They are typically ⅛ inches to ⅜ inches, resembling the size of peas. They are organically found near rivers and water bodies. Their eco-friendliness makes them a good option against synthetic and chemically-fabricated surfacing materials.

Let’s explore the pros and cons of pea gravel surfacing for kids play areas.


  • Pea gravel is a cost-effective loose-fill material. You won’t need to spend a lot to cover a  play area. 
  • Installation of pea gravel is easy, and it’s readily available in gardening stores.
  • The material looks aesthetically pleasing. You can choose various colours of pea rocks to create an attractive play area.
  • Pea gravel prevents rainwater from building up on the ground surface, facilitating drainage. This further prevents the growth of microbial organisms and weeds from taking over the playground.
  • Unlike grass and organic mulch, pea rock doesn’t decompose. However, the size of pebbles may decrease over time. 


  • It doesn’t meet the ADA safety standards (Americans with Disabilities) that are considered for commercial and public playgrounds. For young children with disabilities, gravel is not at all an ideal option because the area is inaccessible to kids using wheelchairs or other walking aids.
  • It meets the ASTM standards (American Society of Testing and Materials Standards) for impact attenuation, but it can’t help beyond five feet at a nine-inch depth.
  • The stones require maintenance in the form of raking or shovelling from time to time to maintain the depth. Thus, pea gravel surfaces aren’t durable.
  • The gravel rock compresses and becomes hard over time. Thus, the surface cannot absorb shock from a fall. This can put the little ones at risk when using high-height playground equipment.
  • Pea gravel is slippery and doesn’t offer stability underfoot, increasing the risk of injuries.
  • The small-sized rock can result in choking hazards to young kids, below five years, who tend to put everything in their mouths.

Better Alternative to Pea Gravel for Playgrounds

Poured-in-place rubber (PIP) or wet-pour rubber, is a popular safety surfacing material. This material comprises two layers – the base and the wear layer. The bottom layer is quite springy and thick, making it resistant to wear and tear and absorbing shock. This makes rubber surfacing a feasible surfacing option for playgrounds.

Poured-in-Place Rubber for Children Safety

Let’s explore the pros and cons of PIP rubber surfaces.


  • The soft poured-in-place rubber is highly durable and lasts for years, making it ideal for high foot traffic play areas.
  • Unlike pea gravel, it doesn’t wear off or splinter. Thus, it offers a skid-proof and stable ground surface for kids to play safely.
  • It complies with the American Standard Testing Methods (ASTM) and provides a shock-absorbent surface with just 4.5 inches of rubber surfacing. Thus, it protects kids from serious injuries following a fall.
  • The quality of rubber can be customized for the best outcomes. For instance, Rubcorp, one of the leading surfacing solution providers, uses PIP rubber made from EPDM and SBR. 

Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer Rubber or EPDM rubber granules make the surface resistant to wear and tear even in high-temperature regions. Styrene-butadiene or SBR rubber granules make the surface soft and supple. These materials are free from harsh chemicals that otherwise cause allergies.

  • It successfully meets the ADA safety standards (Americans with Disabilities), making the surfaces ideal for young children with disabilities.
  • The PIP rubber surfaces look aesthetically pleasing and can complement any outdoor decor.
  • The installation process of the PIP rubber is extremely simple and easy.
  • The wet-pour surface rubber surface can easily last up to 10 years. When cleaned and maintained, wisely, the longevity of the rubber may extend up to 15 years.


  • The cost of PIP rubber surfacing is high as compared to pea gravel. However, since the surface is durable and lasting, it requires little maintenance. So, the surface pays for itself in the long term.
  • The top layer of the PIP rubber may get hard over time under an extremely hot climate. However, this can be easily managed. Just get in touch with our team, who will guide you in such a situation. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Here are a few concerns and questions our clients ask us. We thought of sharing them with you, should they cross your mind.

1. Will Poured-In-Place Protect Children When They Fall?

Poured-in-place rubber complies with the American Standard Testing Methods (ASTM) and provides a strong grip and a shock-absorbent surface. Rubber has a high coefficient of friction, meaning it reduces the risk of slips and falls. 

2. Are There Any Hazardous Chemicals in PIP Rubber?

The PIP rubber surfacing process uses EPDM and SBR rubber granules, which are tested and safe for use in play areas. The children won’t suffer from any health problems while playing on the playground using a PIP rubber surface.  

3. Do the Recycled Tires Used in PIP Rubber Contain Metals?

Not at all! The PIP rubber surfacing mix is devoid of metal. The residue of metals gets filtered out via vacuums in the initial stages of production.

Cannot find your query here? Refer to our comprehensive list of FAQs.


Playing outside can positively impact a child’s growth and development. However, it’s important to give kids a safe environment so that they can enjoy their outdoor time. 

Choosing the right surfacing option for playgrounds can protect them from much harm. When it comes to creating a safe play environment for kids, rubber surfaces stands out as a perfect option, even when compared to the popular pea gravel. If you are considering playground resurfacing with premium-quality poured-in-place rubber, why not get in touch with Rubcorp’s team?

We are the most trusted rubber flooring experts in the US. Call us and our team will provide you with complete assistance on resurfacing – right from choosing the right material to the installation and post-installation maintenance stage!

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Creative Director, Rubcorp Distribution, LLC

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