Engineered wood fibre (EWF), or woodchip to give it its more common name, is regularly used in playgrounds all over the UK, Europe and US. There are several main reasons why it is so popular. Firstly, woodchip has good shock absorbency, secondly, it doesn’t tear or fail and lastly, it is relatively inexpensive. Aside from these reasons, woodchip is a practical choice, as it does not heat up on hot days as some rubber products do. What’s more, wood chip rarely needs replacing, simply topping up.
No outdoor playground surface can completely prevent accidents, however, woodchip surfacing comes as close as practically possible to making a playground environment safe. Woodchip provides excellent shock absorbency, which helps prevent injuries from tumbles and falls. It is also a natural material that slips and slides and this helps subliminally reinforce preventative behaviour as children play. Learning to play safely and to fall without injury is an important part of child development and some experts are quick to condemn environments that are consequence free.
Easy to maintain
A key selling point in EWF woodchip is its ability to shed excess moisture. This helps prevent mould or mildew forming. The wood fibre is randomly sized but most pieces are not longer than 4 cm and this difference in size also helps prevent the chips from locking and trapping moisture. Unlike reclaimed woodchips, EWF is free from twigs and leaves and doesn’t contain any hazardous substances which might have been used in wood preservation or treatments.
More and more UK playground designers are taking a page from the European design book and including more wooden playground equipment, such as wood climbing frames, in their designs. As an option for play equipment, wood has many benefits and can be just as low maintenance as its metal and rubber counterparts. Check out http://www.niclimbingframes.com/climbing-frames for ideas of how to incorporate wood into playground design.
Woodchip should always be applied at least 22 cm deep. This depth provides adequate absorbency for a jump or fall of up to 10 feet. As a general rule, an extra 25% should be applied a month after the first layer to compensate for compaction. After which 7 cms a year will make up for any further compaction or loss.