Playground Surfacing Repair

Jim Loggie, a partner with Rubber Smart Surfacing (RSS), gives us a step-by-step guide to repairing your playground’s Poured-in-Place safety surfacing with the RSS Kit, now available from Total Playgrounds. In this guest blog, Jim details how Rubber Smart’s easy-to-apply formula will allow you to complete surfacing repairs in a timely and affordable way. With Jim’s expertise and the Rubber Smart Surfacing Kit, you can eliminate the need to close down the playground for maintenance and let the kids get back to playing sooner!


If you are contemplating playground surfacing repair, there are certain points you should consider overall. The assumption here is that your playground surface is PIP which stands for Poured-in-Place: a homogeneous, seamless surface. Let’s make a checklist based on a series of questions as follows:

  • First what is the age of the existing surface?
  • What are the issues that you can visibly see in the playground surface?
  • Is there cracking, are there holes in the top cap down into the shock pad or buffing layer below?
  • Do the holes go right through into the sub base or concrete pad?
  • Is there granulation in that the rubber particles or crumb are no longer bound together with the resin or glue leaving them loose on top?
  • Is there serious discoloration and bulging in the overall playground surface which makes the surface uneven and a trip hazard?

Next, check the perimeter edging. If there is a perimeter curb, your playground surface should be tight to the edge (flush mount) with little or no space. If a space is developing it could lead to further delamination, as small prying fingers pull up on the edges. Temperature always plays a role and since diurnal variations occur, expansion and contraction is a normal course of events, and a small edge seam always exists. Fundamentally, a key way is engineered at the playground surfacing planning stage and this becomes a solid anchor point to attach the entire playground surface to.

After assessing your playground surface, what is the repair required?

If you have one small hole or tear, you can easily fix it with a simple all-in-one repair kit; most kits contains rubber and glue (binder or resin), as well as a hardener if you are looking for a quick curing accelerant that allows a fast turnaround time for the playground surface. By in large, playground surfacing repair should appear as if you are enhancing the overall aesthetic by adding a shaped object vs. a patch that detracts from the overall playground look. Use school yard chalk as the outline around the hole or tear and cut out around the perimeter lines you have newly created.

Your playground surfacing repair kit covers 12.5 sq. ft. at ½” depth, so use that as your guide. Assorted solid colors including blue, red, green, gray, black, and tan are available, as well as 50-50% of black and color. There is also a blended shade called Mardi Gras which is a mix of all colors. Try using contrasting colors in your playground surfacing repair as you will never be able to match the existing playground surface due to fading and discoloration. If there are multiple tears, again, free hand draw your shapes, measure accordingly, and calculate your overall area, then divide by 12.5 to determine the number of pails required for the playground surfacing repair. Also, some schools add a creative element to the repairs, incorporating themes to the shapes and allowing the children to trace their figures onto the surfaces, becoming part of the rehabilitation process in a cost-effective, meaningful way.

Smart Surface

Pallet load quantities (27) are available for large areas or multiple parks, and free shipping is included in a pallet order. If your surface is over 5 years old, it is probably showing its age, particularly if you are in a high use area. What we would recommend prior to your patching program for your playground repair is to blow off all the loose particles–dirt, grit, and rubber crumb–and power wash the entire surface. Be sure to allow it to dry thoroughly. After you clean the area, you can apply a low viscosity roller coat of polyurethane resin to the top surface by using a roller and tray. The polyurethane is ready to be installed; it requires no dilution, is California VOC compliant, and comes packaged in 1 and 5 gallon pails. Coverage can range from 100 sq. ft. per gallon on old pock marked surfaces to 300 sq. ft. on smoother, newer surfaces.

Recommended tools for the playground surfacing repair (kit program) include a cordless 18-volt drill with an extra battery for mixing, a mixer paddle from Home Depot along with a sharp knife to cut out the rubber shape, chalk to create your outline, assorted trowels, spray bottle to slick coat your trowel (we use tide detergent and water), acetone or Mek to clean the trowel afterwards of resin build up, and duct tape that we use to outline the finished shape and also prevent new first time trowelers from spilling product outside of the patch.

Jim Loggie is a partner with Rubber Smart Surfacing, jim [at] rubber-smartsurface [dot] com.

Our favorite playground parts for DIY projects

If you read our big guide to do-it-yourself playset plans, you probably have some ideas cooking about your own backyard project. Whether you’re building a huge, multi-level fort, a treehouse, or just a simple rope and tire swing, we thought it might be helpful to provide a resource for some of our favorite parts you can use on these types of projects. With Spring just around the corner, it’s a great time to start planning your project.

Forts & Playsets – Building a fort or playset can be a challenging yet rewarding experience. Most pre-assembled forts cost at least $1,000 but if you are on a budget, there are some more affordable options for the DIYer.

View more forts and playsets

Swings seats – Swings represent the most basic, yet fun piece on the playground and we have suitable ones for all ages. Depending on your needs, building a swing can be a fairly straightforward task. Whether you’re trying to build a two-bay swingset, or just hang a tire from a sturdy tree branch in your backyard, we have the supplies you’ll need to build a safe and durable swingset.

View more swing seats

Climbing – Over the past few years, rock climbing has gained a huge amount of traction. It’s a fun activity that builds strength and coordination. Climbers come in a variety of styles, from the rock climbing grips to ropes and metal obstacles.

View more climbing accessories

Swing hangers – Don’t skimp on the mounting hardware for your swingset. The last thing you want is your child to get hurt when the $2 eye bolt you bought breaks free as they’re on the swing. These swing hangers are durable and designed to swivel and hold weight.

View more swing hangers

Tire swivels – You could hang a rope over a branch, but it will get twisted and doesn’t allow the free range of motion that a swivel does. We recommend using a tire swivel to secure a tire swing to a sturdy mounting place – a tree branch or post for example. The swivel allows the tire swing to easily move 360 degrees and is reinforced to last.

View more tire swivels

Mounting and chains – Make sure to use a heavy duty chain and mounting system if you’re thinking of building your own swing set.

View more mounting chains

Ziplines – In CA, where I live, it seems like every kid has a zipline in their backyard. Assuming you have the space for it, or some woods nearby where you can do a covert install, a zipline adds excitement to the otherwise grounded play that happens on the playground. They don’t cost a whole lot, and provide a huge thrill.

View more ziplines

Slacklines – If you live near any busy park or college campus, chances are you have seen a group of people casually hanging out near what looks like a tightrope. A slackline is similar to a tightrope, but the flat surface makes it easier to walk on. They come in different widths and some are springy while others are more taught depending on what you’re looking for. We have a full lineup from Gibbons, the leading manufacturer of slacklines.

View more slacklines

Accessories to inspire imagination – Once you have a playset assembled, you might consider adding a few accessories to make it an even more adventuresome place for the kids to play. You could place a telescope on the railing or binoculars along with a ship steering wheel so they can pretend to be a captain at the helm of a ship.

View more fort accessories

Walk the line with Gibbons slacklines

10877767123_9150b6a343_h If you have visited a pubic park or college campus on a nice day recently, you may have noticed a group of people walking on what looks like a tightrope strung between two trees. The activity known as “slacklining” has been gaining in popularity across the country, and it seems like we see more and more people using them. Once confined mostly to the inside of rock gyms, slacklining has burst beyond the niche climbing scene to become a trendy thing among the genera population. The popularity can be attributed to a few things. First, they’re cheap and portable, offering a quick way to get some exercise and activity with friends in a casual outdoor setting.

All you really need is a slackline kit, and two trees or poles to attach it to. It’s also a great way to get some exercise and improve balance; for anyone who participates in sports, improving your balance can be a great benefit. We even saw slacklining go mainstream at the latest Super Bowl, when Andy Lewis, a 25-year-old from CA, performed some stunts on a bouncing line as Madonna performed her halftime show. In fact, Andy is known as “Sketchy Andy” and Gibbons features a special slackline made just for him.

Last week we updated our site to include the full range of Gibbons slackline products. Gibbons is a leader in the industry, and makes slacklines for all types – from long 80′ lines meant for professionals, to more forgiving and shorter ones for the recreational user, we carry them all. Choose between 1-inch lines or thicker 2-inch ones that are better for beginners. In addition to the actual slacklines, we sell instructional videos that can get you up and balancing in no time.

Check out the full line of Gibbons slackline equipment.

3 Resources to Find Nearby Playgrounds

Most of us use Google Maps to find nearby businesses and places of interest. It’s a great tool, but largely focuses on businesses. If you’re looking for a nearby playground, you will find a few, but a good many will remain unfound. Since playgrounds are often found at parks, schools, and other random places in towns, they might be rolled into these listings. Luckily, there are a few alternative resources that focus solely on pinning down playgrounds.

1. http://www.playgroundmapper.com/

Playground Mapper - Find a local playground near you. Save and share your favorite playgrounds.

Playgroundmapper.com is a site that does just what you would think. They map playgrounds. Any user can submit a new listing, add photos, and share ones they find. It includes worldwide listings, although most are focused in the United States.

2. Map of Play

Find a Great Place to Play Near You   Map of Play

Map of Play by Kaboom is a great resource, and possibly the best for locating playgrounds. They include an intuitive site that’s easy to navigate. It incorporates reviews, and they even have a mobile app so you can locate a nearby spot on the go.

3. Waymarking

Waymark Search Results

While this site doesn’t focus only on playgrounds, it’s a social-driven charting website, where users can pin locations for just about anything. You can search by keyword and find results related to your search. As of now, there are at least 2000 results spread across eighty pages when you search for “playground”.

Hopefully these sites give you some new insights into finding places for your children to play. When planning a road trip, vacation, or just looking around your home, these resources can prove valuable for parents who want to get their kids outside and active.

New product line: Plan it Play

plan it play diy fort

Plan it Play makes a great selection of “do it yourself” type playground kits, where they supply the essential hardware – brackets, safety handles, tarps, and various other bits and pieces. All you need to do is purchase the lumber and assemble the kit. They offer an affordable alternative that falls between the complete, all-in-one kits that can be pricier, and the total DIY style approach. You can choose from a variety of different styles, shapes, and size forts; in addition, they offer a wide selection of add-ons and parts like slides, swings, monkey bars, and ladders to customize your fort.

View all Plan it Play products

 

How to build a tire swing + 5 free plans for your inspiration

tire fighter swing

When I see a big tree in someone’s backyard, one of the first things that comes to mind is where to hang a rope or tire swing from a branch. The tire swing represents a simple feature that’s big on fun and low on difficulty to build. Unlike other DIY playset projects, you can probably bang something like this out in an afternoon without breaking a sweat. All you need are a few basic tools, and a decent tire swing setup.

Here are a few great examples for your inspiration:

How to build a tire swing for two – The folks at “Built by Kids” have come through as usual with a super solid plan for building a tire swing for two. It includes really detailed pictures of the kids wielding power tools and getting down to business.
building tire swing

How to build a tire swing – This set of instructions by Instructables shows how to make a tire swing with chains supporting it. Arguably not as fancy or good-looking as the above one by “Built by Kids” but functional nonetheless, and you could obviously customize it with your own tires, or plastisol coated chains/rope.
basic tire swing

Popular Mechanics has this wonderful article with a great explanation and graphics explaining how to build a tire swing. Again, this one uses chains instead of the more comfortable rope; although chains are probably capable of supporting more weight.
tire swing instructions

Bob Vila’s website has this plan, which is probably the simplest one we found surprisingly enough. I guess he’s worn out from all the woodwork he’s been doing over the past century. In this brief outline it seems like all you need is one rope, and one tire. Tie that rope around the tire, and around a tree branch…boom, your done!
rope tire swing

Here’s our favorite – The Squealing Tire posted this array of tire swing plans. Each one has a very unique and fun tire design, that’s sure to garner a lot more attention and use than your normal black rubber tire. The creativity here is amazing, and should help inspire you to take your design to the next level.
tire fighter swing

The Ultimate Collection of Free DIY Outdoor Playset Plans

There are plenty of different playhouses and backyard playground sets to choose from in the stores today, but sometimes it is actually better to build this kind of thing on your own by following a detailed set of plans. Building a playset for your child or children brings with it many benefits. They’re scalable, so you can add extra features like slides, swings, climbing walls, and more as your kids develop. Plus, they can be customized to fit within your space. They often cost less than a complete, all-in-one kit. But the main thing that you need to think about when it comes to these kinds of custom DIY playsets is the pride and satisfaction that comes along with building something unique and fun for your family. If your children are old enough, you may even want to have them help you with the building process – you’ll need all the help you can get with some of these projects. We took some time to scour the web for some of the best plans that you can use to build the perfect, customized playset for your children.

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How to build your own backyard zipline

secured zip line tree

When the time comes to install your own zip line, you want to be sure to take time to do it right to ensure lots of safe rides. Luckily, it’s not that hard to do. This guide will help explain some of the key steps involved.

Step 1: Spec out anchor points
wood block zip line

The very first thing you need to do when building a zip line is to ensure you have two anchors to attach to. Usually this entails finding two sturdy trees in the right location. Once you have an idea of where you can anchor the zip line, you’ll want to make sure the path between these two points is clear from brush and anything else that might snag a rider. As a basic rule, your anchors should provide a 6% grade/drop in cable for a good, fun ride. That means that you’ll have 6′ drop every 100′ of cable. Also, keep in mind that with the added weight of a rider, the drop could increase another 2%.

Step 2: Figure out the necessary cable length
cable clamp zip line

Let’s take the above example, using 100′ of length. In this case, 7′ is the lowest we will go. Remember to consider the 2% grade from sagging, which results in 2 feet of additional height to add. So the total height will be 9′ when you account for that.

So to begin, mark a spot on the tree at 9′ high. This is where your rider will end. Now it’s time to mark the starting point for your zipline ride on the other tree. If we assume that the ideal drop is 6%, that means we need to mark a spot that’s six feet higher on this tree, which would be at 15′. In order to protect the tree, and keep the cable from slipping down, we recommend attaching a few blocks of wood to the back side of the tree where the cable will wrap around. This will help prevent the cable from slipping downward, and protects the tree from any damage that might be caused by that happening. In addition, we think it’s a good idea to wrap the cable with some rubber to further protect the tree bark.

Step 3: Setting up the ending tree cable
end line turnbuckle zip line

Start by wrapping the chain sling around the end tree at the mark you made in step two. A helpful tip is to use a few nails in the tree to keep the chain in place as you do this (which you will remove after). Once you have the chain in place, take the jaw-jaw turnbuckle and ensure that it’s fully extended. Attach one end of the turnbuckle to the loose ends of the chain sling. Next, take the cable and attach a thimble to one end using three of the cable clamps, each spaced roughly 3″ apart to hold the thimble in place. Secure this end of the cable to the other end of the turnbuckle.

Step 4: Secure the starting tree cable
secured zip line tree

In this step of building your zip line, it helps to have two people on hand. Wrap the loose end of cable around the starting tree and tighten. At this step, you’ll find a cable puller can help fully tighten the line, although it’s not crucial. Finish the loop using 3 cable clamps; the first one you attach will be farthest from the tree. It’s best to tighten the clamp at a point that’s 2′ from the trunk. With the cable clamp around the cable, make sure the u-bolt part of it is on the dead end of the cable (the part you pulled around the tree) and get your helper to pull the cable as tight as possible. Now you can tighten the first clamp, and then slide the second one half-way toward the tree. Tighten that one, and then put the last one on. Slide it as close to the trunk as you can and tighten again. You should have three sturdy cable clamps in place now.

Step 5: Tighten the turnbuckle

Now that you’ve secured the cable to the trees, the cable should be pretty tight but chances are you have a little excess slack to get rid of. This is where the turnbuckle comes in handy. You may want to grease the threads a bit to make it easier to turn. The point is to tighten it as much as possible by spinning it.

Step 6: Test the zip line
Remember how we told you to have a friend nearby to help you? This is another time when you may want to employ their services. All kidding aside, you want to ensure the zip line setup is secure and ready for action before you send your children sliding down the cable. You should have a trolley and seat installed to do this step. If you want, you could simply attach a weight to the seat and let the zip line self-test. Depending on the weight, you’ll get a better idea of whether you need a brake block to slow down riders. The point is to stop without abruptly coming to a halt at the end of the zip line and being tossed forward with all the momentum. If you think the zip line might be too fast, use a pair of heavy duty gloves to grab the line as you approach the end. After a few test runs, make sure the cable is still tight and secure. You may want to add a few more wooden blocks beneath it on the tree trunks to further ensure it does not slip.

“Map of Play” helps locate nearby playgrounds

Find nearby playground

It’s summer, and parents are looking for places to take their children to play outside. Children benefit from spending time outside and being active, but it’s not always easy to find a nearby playground. Often this involves digging around on your local/regional websites to look for information on the nearest playground; many of these sources are not maintained however, and it’s just too cumbersome to spent hours inside searching for them when the whole aim is to get outside!

Find nearby playground

Thankfully, Kaboom, the national non-profit dedicated to preserving kids playgrounds has provided a great resource to help you find nearby places to take your kids. Their “Mapof Play” website offers an interactive search feature that allows you to find playspaces in your region. They get help from a dedicated community of members who curate new places, and edit existing ones to make sure the most up-to-date information is available. They currently feature a growing database that encompasses most major cities and regions in the country. If you have a playground that’s not featured on their site, feel free to add it so that others can benefit!

Your Guide to Swing Sets

The swing set is one of the fondest objects of childhood memories – a staple among playgrounds everywhere, bringing children some of their first feelings of exhilaration. Swings are great for kids of all ages, but there is a lot of thought that goes into buying a swing set. 

When looking at swing sets, there are many aspects to consider before purchasing, from configuration and types of seats, to the material used to make the swing set. If you are looking to buy a swing set, but are not sure what to look for, then here are a few suggestions that may help.

Configuration and Seats

One of the first things to consider when purchasing a swing set is the type of swing configuration. There are two basic swing configurations: the single-axis swing, and the multi-axis swing.

Single-axis
The single axis swing is the most common playground fixture. Usually referred to as the to-fro swing, it is the most customizable, with various forms of seats that suit a range of age groups. These include the full bucket swing, the half-bucket swing, the belt seat, and the flat swing seat.

Full bucket swings provide support to the child on all sides to ensure the child is safe and secure. They are great for young children under the age of 4 years old.

The half-bucket swing seat provides a back support while leaving the front open and giving the child some freedom to kick their legs. These seats have been designed for older toddlers and children who have developed motor skills, and are great for teaching children how swing on their own.

The belt swing is the most commonly used seat in playgrounds, and are good for children of all ages who have mastered the ability to swing alone. Most are made of synthetic rubber and fold up to form-fit the child and ensure a safe and secure seat without the need of front or back support.

Flat swings can be dangerous for children who are not careful. Because they do not fold up like the belt swing, there is a risk of the child slipping off the seat while swinging. Increased supervision is advised when a flat seat is in use.

Multi-axis
An example of a multi-axis swing is the tire swing. This can be made at home from an old car tire, or may be purchased in stores. It is usually hung from chains that connect to a single swing hanger and allows it to both swing and rotate simultaneously. These are great for multiple children, but younger children should be supervised due to lack of peripheral support. They also require a wide swing space.

Materials

Another consideration when seeking a swing set is the material out of which it is constructed. Some materials are less expensive while others tend to be sturdier. It is important to look into the various types before purchasing a set.

Plastic
Swing sets made from plastic or vinyl tend to be smaller and less expensive, and are great for toddlers and younger children. There is also less of a chance of a child getting injured on the swing. However, because plastic sets tend to be lighter, it is not advisable for use by kids over 10 years old.

Metal
Metal swing sets can support more weight, and are great for any age group. Metal is much more durable than plastic, and is easy to transport and assemble. They can bear a good amount of weight as long as they are anchored in the ground properly. Metal sets are prone to rust, and may start to bend, but last a long time if sustained. Some sets come with plastic coverings to protect them from the elements.

Wood
Wooden sets are among the most popular today. They are great if maintained regularly, and will not rust like metal. Treated wood is commonly used in swing sets today to prevent rotting, and will last a while. However, good-quality wood swing sets are usually more expensive than metal or plastic, and cheaper sets may be constructed of less-durable lumber and begin rot more quickly. When inspecting a swing set made of wood, check to see what kind of material is being used. Typically, sets made from redwood lumber are the prime choice.

These are just a few important aspects to explore when purchasing a swing set. It is always a good idea to do as much research as possible before settling on a selection. Many of these considerations depend upon the environment in which the swings will be placed. Yet, whether it be a school playground, the park, or a spot in the backyard, the important thing is that the swing set provides a fun area where kids can enjoy themselves, and where parents and teachers can rest assured that the children will be safe.