Playground Surface Cost Comparison (Rubber vs Turf vs Sand)

We know that you want your child to have a great childhood. That is why you are taking taking the time and expense to install a playground for them to play on. But there are costs you need to consider before you go ahead with your project.

In this article we will explore those costs so you can make an intelligent decision.

How Much Does Playground Surface Cost?


It is hard to give exact figures on the cost of installing a playground surface in your home. That is because the cost goes by the square foot. For example if you are installing a sand surface which costs between 50 cents and $1 per square foot over a 500 square foot section of your property you are only looking to spend $250 to 500.

If you choose to install rubber tiles at a cost of $9 per square foot over the same area then your costs will be $2,700. To figure out your costs, you need to measure the square footage of the area you want to fill with playground material and multiply that with the square foot cost of the material used.

Playground Surface Cost Comparison


Although we are mainly talking about rubber, turf and sand in this article we will give the cost of a variety of different playground surfaces so you have a good idea of the expense you are facing. All prices are cost per square foot:

  1. Rubber tiles- $9

  2. Engineered wood fiber- $1

  3. PIP rubber- $12

  4. Shredded rubber- $4

  5. Gravel- .50 to $1

  6. Sand- .50 to $1

  7. Grass or dirt- free

  8. Backyard mulch- $1

Cost for playground rubber mulch

Or you can call it shredded rubber, it makes no difference as it is talking about the same product. If you are filling in a 500 sq. ft. patch of land then you are looking at spending roughly $2000 for installation.

Playground turf cost

As you can see by the chart above, if you use natural grass, it really doesn’t cost you a thing. You already have grass in your backyard so your installation is free of charge.

Playground artificial grass cost

But if you want to go with artificial turf, then you are looking at a rough estimate of $3 per square foot. So a 500 sq. ft. patch of land would run you $1500.

Playground gravel cost

Using gravel is basically the same cost as using sand, 50 cents to a $1 and is your next cheapest alternative. A 500 sq. ft. section would run you about $250 to 500.

Cost of playground sand

This playground surface comes in at the same price as gravel but may be a bit softer to land on. You are looking at paying between $250 and $500 for 500 sq. ft.

Cost of playground rubber surfacing

It is commonly referred to ass rubber tiles and it is one of the more expensive options. At $9 per sq. ft., it will cost you $4500 to cover a 500 sq. ft. section.

Poured rubber playground surface cost

PIP rubber is the most expensive option and it runs in the neighborhood of $12 per sq. ft. Which means you are paying $6,000 for 500 sq. ft.

Playground mulch cost per yard

Another inexpensive option and its price is $1 per square foot. A 500 square foot piece of land will cost you $500.

Playground wood chips cost

This is the same cost as the wood mulch above. $500 for 500 square feet

Playground pavement cost

In a rough estimate you are looking at about $3 to 5 per square foot or $1500 to 2500 for 500 square feet

Cost of playground soft fall

This version of the playground surface comes in a variety of styles. One of the more common ones is rubber tiles and that is priced above at $9 per square foot

The Pros and Cons of Rubber, Turf and Sand

We are not going to bore you with a list of pros and cons for all the different playground surfaces listed above. We will focus on the 3 listed in our headline- turf, rubber and sand.

#1. Sand


  • Very inexpensive
  • Easy to find
  • ​Easy to install
  • ​Anti microbial growth
  • Does not burn


  • Not good for wheelchairs
  • Can be hard to walk on
  • ​Can be eaten or it is tracked everywhere
  • ​Can be thrown
  • Hides insects and animal waste

#2. Turf



  • Soft
  • Looks natural
  • ​It is free
  • ​No installation needed
  • Easy to maintain


  • It gets wet
  • It gets muddy
  • ​Grows long
  • Needs repair maintenance

#3. Rubber (same for PIP and rubber tiles)


  • Allows for wheelchairs
  • Easy to clean
  • ​Very impact absorbing qualities
  • ​Low maintenance
  • Very durable


  • High installation cost
  • You can’t do it yourself
  • ​It can burn
  • ​Can become hard over time
  • Can be vandalized

Maintenance for the 3 Playground Surfaces

To get an accurate view of the 3 surfaces compared here, a look at their maintenance needs is very important.

#1. Sand:

  • Needs raking, leveling and sifting
  • Needs regular inspection
  • ​Non sand items need to be removed
  • ​Usually needs more sand added from time to time
  • Needs impact testing every year

#2. Turf:

  • Needs watering & removal of animal waste
  • Needs cutting and trimming
  • ​Need spot replacement for bare or ruined spots
  • ​Needs weed killer
  • Needs lots of washing of clothes for grass stains, dirt, etc.

#3. Rubber (This is the same for PIP and rubber tiles)

  • Regular inspection for damage
  • Sweeping of debris off the surface
  • ​Needs repair work
  • ​Only needs replacing if impact absorption is lost
  • Needs impact testing every year

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Playground Surface

You now know the approx. cost of each playground surface you can choose from. You also know the pros and cons of 3 of those surfaces. This should give you an idea which surface you would like to install.

Before you buy, there are other factors you need to consider. These factors will influence your decision somewhat. Here are those factors:

  1. Initial purchase price

  2. Installation requirements and their hidden costs

  3. Maintenance needs and their price tag

  4. How durable is the surface (keep in mind your region’s geographical weather patterns)

  5. Overall lifespan of the surface material

  6. How safe is the surface

  7. How it looks in your yard

  8. ADA compliance

Some Final Comments

Installing a playground in your backyard can be a big adventure. The initial costs alone can be staggering. But if you find the right playground surface for your kids and regional weather patterns, then the cost will be worth it.

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