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Making a Playground

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  1. #1
    1K Club Member Gooner's Avatar
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    Default Making a Playground

    I have a big backyard that is near-level, relatively empty, and full of weeds. My father-in-law (who is an excavator) offered to come down next weekend (long weekend) to level out the backyard and make way for paths and a playground we have been plannikng to build.

    Thats all great, but means I have one week to plan all of this. So I want to see if I can get some quick answers here.

    After leveling out the place, we want to reserve an area about 8m x 8m for a playgound.

    Questions.

    1. What's the best proceedure for this considering I want the top surface to be bark? E.g, Weedmat, crushed rock, bark?

    2. Where can I get the type of bark used in suburban parks? Typical bark seems "dirty". The type used in suburban playgrounds seem much cleaner and chunkier. (I'm in outer eastern Melbourne).

    Thanks.
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  2. #2
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    In Sydney we use a product called Soft Fall Bark , (check out local suppliers) has to be 250 mm deep, got a link here, Bark & Compost - Soft Fall Bark

  3. #3
    Senior Member Ashwood's Avatar
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    "Bark" which are clean and chunky, perhaps you are talking about woodchips rather than bark per se. Try redgum chips or pine chips. See link

    http://daisysgardencomau.melbourneit..._task=purchase

  4. #4
    1K Club Member Gooner's Avatar
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    Thanks guys. I found a local place (Bark King) that sells "softplay" bark for playgrounds. I am sure it's the same kind of 10mm graded bark as other places sell though. In quantities I need (over 20 m^3) they can do it for around $42 per m^3 incl delivery.

    Now I need to figure out whats the best way to place it down. I was going to put down a weed mat under all the bark, but I have read it may be a waste of time and money. I believe a 30cm covering of the bark should stop all weeds from growing anyway.

    Anyone have any ideas about this?
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  5. #5
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    Are you putting a border around the playground area? If so, what will it be (pine, jarrah, bricks etc)?

    My advice would be, step by step.

    1. Get the excavator to clear your area (you say you have flat and level ground to start with right?).

    2. Mark out the area with stringline or spray paint for the playground.

    3. Lay down some black plastic (Bunnings or pretty much anywhere sell it, much cheaper than weedmat, cheaper still would be to use newspaper) making sure it overhangs a bit on each side outside your marked area.

    4. If you are using stringline (my recommendation) and using timbers as a border, timbers go exactly in line with the stringline and peg the timber or nail the timber in place. Put down crushed rock, if you explain it is for an 8x8 area and you will be wanting around 20-30mm coverage they can help you with pricing and quantity.

    5. Soft roll the crushed rock or get a few large mates with some wood and pack it down that way. If your father in law is competent and still there with his machine, he can use the bucket on the excavator.

    6. Bark on top, I would think around 4 inches minimum if you are going the black plastic & crushed rock option.

    Weedmat eliminates the need for black plastic and crushed rock. I get what you are asking by why not just chuck down the bark, but, if you put the bark straight on top, the weeds will come through.

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gooner View Post
    Now I need to figure out whats the best way to place it down. I was going to put down a weed mat under all the bark, but I have read it may be a waste of time and money. I believe a 30cm covering of the bark should stop all weeds from growing anyway.

    Anyone have any ideas about this?
    No need for Weed mat, those weeds don't stand a chance with that depth of cover.

  7. #7
    Senior Member Ashwood's Avatar
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    Go to any retail or office building, and ask the building mgr if you can have some of the hundreds of cardboard cartons that they chuck out daily. bring your trailer and you'll have plenty to line the ground underneath the mulch.

  8. #8
    1K Club Member Gooner's Avatar
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    Thanks again. And thanks Gumbymum for the suggestion.

    I will probably use plastic from bunnings or see if I can get newspaper or cardboard in large quantities. I need to cover 78m^3.

    Is the purpose of the newspaper to last long enough to stop and kill the weeds from growing? I assume the newspaper will deteriorate relatively quickly. Won;t the weeds return?

    Also, wouldn't using plain black plastic cause potential local pooling of water? Wouldn't have thought this would be ideal.

    And lastly, does anybody know of a place where you can get/buy old newspapers in bulk?
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  9. #9
    Lumberlubber Bleedin Thumb's Avatar
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    Don't place plastic under it as you will stuff the drainage. You don't need anything under it.

    NB the idea of the softfall is to prevent serious head and neck injury from falls - not to make it look like a playground. IE the softfall has a specific job for specific locations and needs to be at specific depths to get specific drop-height ratings......lots of specifics hey?

    I'm a playground designer so if you PM me a sketch or description of what you want to put in the playground and what heights the equipment is I can let you know the area and depths go.

    There are other options that are a lot less work than bark BTW
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  10. #10
    1K Club Member Gooner's Avatar
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    Thanks again all for the advice and thanks Bleedin Thumb for your offer of help. If you have any advice, please go ahead and advise!

    Thought I'd update.

    Over the last two days we leveled the playground area site, put up the border and put in the crushed rock. The area is about 80m^2. Made a hell of a mess in the backyard but the playground is looking good, at the expense of a few vertebrae. (Pick, shovel, sledge hammer and wheelbarrow work is always tough).

    Ready for putting up the cubby house and slide next and then putting in the bark. I've got a giant stack of newspaper that I am going to put under the bark to ensure no weeds get through.

    The border is sitting about 20cm off the ground, so we'll put in about 15cm (6 inch) of bark. Later we'll put in the swings and other stuff.

    Got a rough plan of the area in an image below showing the cubby and slide. Cubby will be 1.5 meters off the ground and roughly 2.4m x 2.4m.
    Attached Thumbnails Attached Thumbnails layout.jpg   pg1.jpg   pg2.jpg   pg3.jpg  
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  11. #11
    Lumberlubber Bleedin Thumb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gooner View Post
    T

    The border is sitting about 20cm off the ground, so we'll put in about 15cm (6 inch) of bark. Later we'll put in the swings and other stuff.

    Got a rough plan of the area in an image below showing the cubby and slide. Cubby will be 1.5 meters off the ground and roughly 2.4m x 2.4m.

    150 mm is not adequate to achieve a drop height of 1.5m - your drop height may even be greater if children can climb onto handrails and the roof (very likely).

    The drop height requirement for swing will be determined by the height of the swing _ keep it under 1.8m and you will be OK with a 1.5m rated surface - however say your swing cross member is 1800mm and your seat is 400 mm above ground you need to have your softfall extending 3000mm front and back of the swing x a bit over the width of the uprights.That's an area say 6m x 2m minimum!....you can just fit that in if its close to your cubby.

    These are Australian standards (AS 4685.2 2004) and no one probably follows them in a backyard...but...they are designed to reduce injury so I thought I'd let you know....
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  12. #12
    1K Club Member Gooner's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bleedin Thumb View Post
    150 mm is not adequate to achieve a drop height of 1.5m - your drop height may even be greater if children can climb onto handrails and the roof (very likely).

    The drop height requirement for swing will be determined by the height of the swing _ keep it under 1.8m and you will be OK with a 1.5m rated surface - however say your swing cross member is 1800mm and your seat is 400 mm above ground you need to have your softfall extending 3000mm front and back of the swing x a bit over the width of the uprights.That's an area say 6m x 2m minimum!....you can just fit that in if its close to your cubby.

    These are Australian standards (AS 4685.2 2004) and no one probably follows them in a backyard...but...they are designed to reduce injury so I thought I'd let you know....
    Thanks for the feedback Bleedin. The area which the swing will be located will have about 3.5m both in front and behind it. Something I did take into consideration when laying out the border. Although I don't know the standards, this area seemed sufficient.

    Initially I was going for 30cm of bark cover, but once the area had been leveled and filled with some crushed rock, 30cm just seemed like overkill and would be too high. I could fill it right up to 7-8 inches, but that would mean filling it almost all the way up to the top of the border. In some areas I can achieve 30cm because of local dips. Also, I could probably dig out a small area directly around the cubby to achieve greater depth of bark coverage in the "fall zones". This would fix the problem.

    The way I see it, if a kid falls off from 1.5 - 2 meters directly on their head, they just may well be stuffed regardless of whether you have 15 or 40cm of bark cover.
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  13. #13
    Lumberlubber Bleedin Thumb's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gooner View Post
    The way I see it, if a kid falls off from 1.5 - 2 meters directly on their head, they just may well be stuffed regardless of whether you have 15 or 40cm of bark cover.


    Well not really. The idea of having the appropriate rated softfall is to reduce the chances of serious head and neck injury....OK it's not a guaranty ...but they are less likely to get those injuries.

    If you are governed by the depth ...choose a different softfall material. I would suggest wet-pour rubber or rubber crumb with an artificial grass cover .....a cheaper, good permanent, good looking alternative.

    BTW bark will be constantly displaced in the high wear areas so it means constant maintenance especially if you depth is on the minimal side.
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  14. #14
    1K Club Member Gooner's Avatar
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    I may put down some of that rubber matting around the slide, swing and cubby areas as well. Seems a little pricey, but I think will be required because, as you say, the bark will be displaced around these areas.

    Looking at recommendations by "playground rated" bark suppliers, they seem to recommend around 350mm bark depth and 420mm around swings and slides. Now that just seems a tad on the extreme side for a background playground and I simply cannot accommodate that depth of cover. I was at my local playground last night and I doubt they have put down 420mm of coverage. I'd be up for around $1600 in bark alone to achieve that. (When I grew up, our playground had nothing but hard ground underneath).

    I think some rubber mats may be the go.
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  15. #15
    Luv a Duk chipps's Avatar
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    What be wrong with river sand?

    It's easy to barrow in, easy to shovel under & around drop zones & kids can go to town creating whatever with plastic spades & tonka trucks.

    When they are finished, give it a quick rake & your ready for the next session.

    As for cat poo.........Hey, what kid hasn't mistaken it for play dough

  16. #16
    1K Club Member Gooner's Avatar
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    Thought about sand, but not as soft as bark. Also don't want them coming into the house full of sand and grinding the stuff into the polished floor boards. I can handle some bark in the house, but not sand.

    The cubby is elevated and will have an enclosed area under it for a sand pit. That should satisy their tonka truck needs.
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  17. #17
    Lumberlubber Bleedin Thumb's Avatar
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    Sand needs to be about the same depth as bark to get a similar rating.

    Yep playground were paved in asphalt when I was a kid too. There was all sorts of equipment in them that could do serious harm to kids as well...thats why that sort of equipment and that sort of underlay have been removed.

    I'm not talking about those rubber mats that you get at bunnings ....they don't have a drop height rating......you don't seem to be getting the point here.....if you have equipment that enables a kid to fall X metres...then you need a material that is rated to absorb the impact from an X metre high fall.

    Plain grass over soil would have been better than what you are proposing.

    I guess they are your kids .....except the ones that come over and play that is .....
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  18. #18
    1K Club Member Gooner's Avatar
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    I'm not talking rubber mats you buy at Bunnings. At the playground store I have bought the cubby from, they supply proper "fall" matts. There is even the option of the soft pour rubber as well. Need to look into that a little more and get the costs. From the brochure I got, it seems that you only need a relatively small thickness of soft-pour rubber to achieve even a fall height of 3 meters.

    Regarding playgrounds in general, I often go to playgrounds with my little boy and look at some of the equipment. Wobbly bridges where you can get your fingers crushed, steel hoop climbing things that you can fall through and get your head stuck while falling, fire-man type pole with a decked ledge relatively close by so that if you fall down you can smack your head on it quite easily, etc the list goes on.

    I am wondering if they have banned the good old fashioned see-saw. I haven't seen one that isn't on springs in a playground for a long time. They were another great source of injury.
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  19. #19
    Lumberlubber Bleedin Thumb's Avatar
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    To acheive a fall height of 1.5 m to 2m with poured rubber you need about 50mm. and for your area in Vic I would expect that you would pay $160/ sq.m With rubber crumb under artificial grass you can probably do it for 1/2 the cost.

    With those playgrounds you are talking about...everything is governed by standards....finger entrapments, distance from pole to platform, those glimbing hoops - head and neck entrapments and the critical fall heights for the softfall etc etc

    If the equipment doesn't meet the standard complain to the council and get it replaced. I think that you will probably find that the equipment does comply even though (as a caring parent) it may appear dangerous. I get the willies watching my kids on those spider climbing nets but know that even the 6m high ones only have a maximum drop of 850mm due to their design.

    Most local councils are very sensitive to non compliance issues regarding public safety - once they have received a complaint.
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