Australian sport and play surfaces
Most Australian schools have some form of play or sports surface, whether it is synthetic or organic. No matter what the surface is made of or used for, there are certain things to consider from a maintenance and purchasing position.
School play surfaces tend to be either bark, rubber, sand or synthetic grass. Both new and existing surfaces are required to comply to the playground surfacing standard AS4422 and may be influenced by the playground standard AS4685.2014.
To make sure your surface performs as it was intended irrespective of whether it is synthetic or organic you may need to carry out ongoing maintenance according to supplier guidelines.
Things to consider about different surfaces
- Surfaces need to be compliant with AS4422 no matter it’s age. There is an obligation to test surfaces every 3 years
- Synthetic surfaces should be installed over a suitable substrate. This can be either concrete, bitumen or a suitable quarry material layer roughly 100m, in compacted depth
- Rubber surfaces may become firmer over time, this is usually due to the surface not being cleaned and the accumulated debris filling voids in the top layer. Sand out of sandpits are a common issue as the abrasive properties will shorten rubber surfaces lifetime.
- Synthetic surfaces are expensive to install initially but the cost of ownership is lower and will most likely provide a compliant surface for 5-7 years.
- Organic surfaces need to be cleaned and turned over regularly to make sure they are not contaminated at all and to introduce air to keep the material open.
- Organic surfaces are cheaper to install but will cost more to maintain properly over the life of the play area.
- Synthetic grass is often sand filled and will need to be groomed to remove debris.
Pros and cons of different surfaces
Synthetic surfaces including rubber, polyurethane, acrylic based and synthetic grass have similar pros and cons as mentioned above. However, the exception to these are PU or acrylic materials.
Many schools that have installed PU style sports surfaces complain that the surface is slippery and difficult to use. This lack of traction is due to dirt, sweat and dust forming a polished layer on the surface. Mostly this can be rectified by professionally cleaning the material with the right equipment and chemicals. When an area is beyond such maintenance it can be resurfaced cost effectively.
Acrylic surfaces for outdoor courts are found in multiple colours, however a common complaint is that ‘our court is black’. Usually this is because the court is in the damp or shade and probably mouldy. This is easily fixed by pressure washing the surface every now and again. This will keep the court looking and performing like it should.