What is Best to Put Under a Swingset

What is Best to Put Under a Swingset in wooded area behind house

Written by Jason Davis

May 23, 2024

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The Importance of Proper Ground Cover
  3. Popular Ground Cover Options
  4. Factors to Consider When Choosing Ground Installation Tips for Ground Cover
  5. Maintenance and Upkeep
  6. Conclusion


We understand that the choice of ground cover is not just a matter of safety; it’s also about enhancing the play experience and ensuring the longevity of your swing set area.

In this comprehensive guide, we delve into the world of ground cover options, each with its unique benefits and considerations. The right ground cover does more than just soften falls; it transforms the space under your swingset into a haven for play, a place where children can swing, slide, and explore without worry. 

From the shock-absorbing qualities of rubber mulch to the natural feel of wood fiber, the options are varied, and each comes with its own set of advantages.

But it’s not just about picking a material. It’s about understanding how this choice fits into the bigger picture of your backyard playground.

Factors like the local climate, the age of your children, and even your aesthetic preferences play a significant role in this decision. And let’s not forget about maintenance – choosing a ground cover that’s easy to care for means more time for fun and less time for upkeep.

Let’s explore the best options for ground cover under your swing set, offering insights and tips to help you make an informed decision. Whether you’re installing a new swing set or revamping an existing one, this guide will equip you with the knowledge to create a safe, functional, and visually appealing play area for your family.

The Importance of Proper Ground Cover

When it comes to creating a safe and inviting play area, the ground cover under a swing set is as crucial as the play equipment itself.

We emphasize the importance of selecting the right ground cover, not only to enhance the safety of the play area but also to ensure its durability and functionality. 

Let’s delve into why choosing the proper ground cover is a vital aspect of setting up your swing set.

Safety Considerations

The primary concern with any play area, especially those with swing sets, is safety. Safety is paramount when it comes to creating a play area for children.

Proper ground cover helps reduce the risk of injuries by providing a cushioned surface that absorbs the impact of falls. Falls are inevitable in play areas, but the impact can be greatly lessened with a shock-absorbing surface. 

Materials like rubber mulch or engineered, wooden playground mulch are specifically designed to cushion falls, providing a softer landing that can help prevent serious injuries.

This peace of mind is invaluable, allowing children to play freely and parents to worry less.

What is Best to Put Under a Swingset when installing in backyard of house

Maintenance and Durability

In addition to safety, the maintenance and durability of the ground cover are key factors to consider. The right material can greatly influence the longevity of your swing set area and the amount of upkeep required. 

Balancing these factors ensures a play area that remains safe and enjoyable for years. Some ground covers, like pea gravel, may shift over time and require regular raking.

Others, such as rubber mulch, are more enduring and require less frequent maintenance. Choosing a ground cover that suits your ability to maintain it ensures that the play area remains safe and enjoyable for years to come.

The ground cover under your swing set does more than just protect; it completes your backyard playground. It’s about creating a space that invites play, laughter, and adventure, all while ensuring the well-being of your little ones.

With the right ground cover, your backyard can become a haven of fun and a source of cherished family memories.

Popular Ground Cover Options

Pea Gravel

Known for its natural appearance and cost-effectiveness, pea gravel is a popular choice. It is also known as a clean ground cover option. Over time as it rains, it is self-cleaning. 

Many parents complain, though, that at times, pieces of the gravel will find their way into the shoes of their little ones which can cause some annoyance and as well as finding its way into the house.

Its tendency to displace and potential impact hardness will be explored, providing insights into when this option is most suitable.

Wooden Playground Mulch (Engineered Wood Fiber)

Seamlessly blending with outdoor surroundings, wooden playground mulch offers a natural look and excellent shock absorption.

We’ll delve into considerations such as maintenance, attractiveness over time, and the potential of replacement.

Rubber Mulch

Prioritizing safety, rubber mulch stands out with excellent shock absorption and low maintenance.

We’ll weigh its advantages against considerations like initial cost, non-decomposition, and as well as its aesthetic value.

Factors to Consider When Choosing Ground Cover

Selecting the ideal ground cover for under your swing set,  involves more than just picking a material you like. 

It requires careful consideration of various factors to ensure that the ground cover meets your family’s needs, complements your backyard, and adheres to safety standards.

Let’s explore the key factors you should consider to make an informed decision.

Age and Activity Level of Children

The age and activity level of the children who will be using the swingset play a crucial role in your choice of ground cover.

Younger children who are still mastering their motor skills might benefit from softer materials like rubber mulch or wood chips, which offer better cushioning for falls. 

Older, more active children might prefer a firmer surface like pea gravel or sand, which can withstand more vigorous play.

The goal is to match the ground cover to the needs of your children, ensuring their safety and enjoyment.

Climate and Weather Conditions

Your local climate and weather conditions are also important factors. In areas with frequent rain, you’ll need a ground cover that provides good drainage to prevent water pooling and the potential for mold or mildew growth. 

Materials like pea gravel or rubber mulch are excellent in these conditions.

In contrast, in drier climates, you might opt for a material that retains moisture, like wood chips, to help keep the area cool and reduce dust.

Budget and Aesthetics

Lastly, consider your budget and the aesthetic appeal of the ground cover. While safety and functionality are paramount, you also want a material that fits your budget and complements the look of your backyard. 

Some ground covers, like rubber mulch, offer a range of colors and styles but will be more expensive.

Rubber mulch can be up to 10 times more expensive than playground mulch making the latter option more affordable, but might require more frequent maintenance.

Choosing the right ground cover for under your swing set is a balance of safety, functionality, and aesthetics.

By considering these factors, you can create a play area that is not only safe and enjoyable but also a visually appealing part of your backyard landscape.

Installation Tips for Ground Cover

Depth and Fall Heights

To ensure optimal safety and effective impact absorption under residential playgrounds, various ground cover options come with specific recommendations.

Pea gravel, known for its cost-effective solution, is advised at a depth of at least 6 inches to facilitate energy attenuation, especially for fall heights up to 10 feet.

Maintenance plays a critical role in preserving this recommended depth, preventing injuries, and establishing a secure play environment.

Wooden playground mulch, or engineered wood fiber, emerges as an excellent choice for impact attenuation.

With a recommended depth of 9 inches for fall heights up to 10 feet, this mulch ensures effective cushioning during falls, minimizing the risk of injuries.

Regular maintenance, including periodic replenishing to sustain the proper depth, is crucial for the continued safety benefits it provides.

In the realm of exceptional shock absorption, rubber mulch takes the spotlight. A recommended depth of 6 inches is suggested for fall heights up to 10 feet, allowing the rubber mulch to effectively cushion falls and reduce the impact on children during play.

While rubber mulch doesn’t decompose like organic materials, it’s imperative to uphold the recommended depth for consistent safety performance over time.

Each of these ground cover options, when aligned with the specified depths and maintenance practices, contributes to a secure and enjoyable playground environment for children.

Installing the right ground cover under your swing set is a critical step in ensuring a safe and enjoyable play area.

Following these installation tips can help you create a secure and long-lasting foundation for endless fun.

Let’s dive into some key tips to ensure your ground cover installation is successful and effective.

What is Best to Put Under a Swingset in your backyard at the back of the tree

Preparing the Area

Before installing any ground cover, it’s essential to properly prepare the area. Start by clearing the space under and around the swingset of any debris, rocks, or roots that could cause unevenness or safety hazards. 

If you’re installing a new swing set, consider the ground cover first to avoid having to work around the swing set structure.

Leveling the ground is also crucial for a uniform and stable surface. This step is particularly important for materials like sand or pea gravel, which can shift over time.

Installation Best Practices

Once the area is prepared, follow these best practices for installation:

  • Measure and Mark the Area: Use stakes and string to mark the area where the ground cover will be laid. This helps in estimating the amount of material needed and ensures that the coverage area is adequate for safe play.
  • Lay a Weed Barrier (Optional): For certain materials like wood chips, laying a weed barrier can help prevent weed growth and maintain the cleanliness of the play area.
  • Install Border Edging: Border edging keeps the ground cover contained and helps maintain its depth and distribution. Edging materials can vary from plastic or metal borders to natural stone or wood.
  • Spread the Ground Cover Evenly: Use a rake or shovel to spread the ground cover material evenly across the area. Ensure that the depth is consistent throughout, following the recommended depth for the material you’ve chosen.
  • Fill in over time: Some materials, wood chips or sand may need to be replaced over time as they break down naturally or are displaced due to constant use.

By following these installation tips, you can ensure that the ground cover under your swing set is not only safe and functional but also aesthetically pleasing, enhancing the overall look of your backyard play area.

Maintenance and Upkeep

After installing the perfect ground cover under your swing set, maintaining its condition is key to ensuring long-term safety and enjoyment.

Regular maintenance not only preserves the aesthetic appeal of your play area but also ensures that it remains a safe environment for children to play in. 

Let’s explore some essential maintenance and upkeep tips for various types of ground cover.

Regular Maintenance Tips 

The type of ground cover you choose will dictate the specific maintenance requirements:

  • Rubber Mulch: Rubber mulch is relatively low-maintenance. Periodically check for and remove any debris or foreign objects. Rake the mulch occasionally to ensure even distribution and check for any displacement that may have occurred due to play or weather conditions.
  • Engineered Wood Fiber: Wood fiber will decompose over time, so it’s important to replenish it periodically. Regular raking can help maintain an even surface and prevent compaction, which can reduce its shock-absorbing properties.
  • Pea Gravel: Like sand, pea gravel can become compacted and may also scatter outside its designated area. Rake and level the gravel regularly, and replenish it as needed to maintain the recommended depth.

When to Replace Ground Cover 

Knowing when to replace your ground cover is crucial for ongoing safety:

  • Rubber Mulch: Examine the area for noticeable signs of wear or thinning. Despite the overall durability of rubber mulch, prolonged exposure to harsh weather conditions can contribute to its degradation over time. Continuous use may also lead to its displacement.
  • Engineered Wood Fiber: If the fiber chips start to look sparse or lose their cushioning effect, it’s time for a top-up. Typically, playground mulch can last up to 4- 7 years. Be careful not to replace it with ordinary garden mulch as it will break down twice as fast causing frustration and compromising the safety that it is intended to provide in the first place. 
  • Pea Gravel: Over time his material can become easily displaced through regular use.  With Pea gravel’s ability to easily shift, much of it can spill over the border or be carried away in shoes or naturally with children playing with the material as it is good sensory material.  When the time comes when regular raking does seem to maintain its recommended height,  it’s time to add more.

Regular maintenance and timely replacement of ground cover are essential to keeping your swing set area safe, functional, and inviting. By following these tips, you can ensure that your backyard remains a cherished space for fun and adventure.


As we wrap up our exploration into the best options for ground cover under a swing set, it’s clear that this decision is a blend of safety, practicality, and aesthetics.

Choosing the right ground cover is about creating a safe and inviting space where children can play and grow. 

Whether you opt for the cushioning comfort of rubber mulch or the natural appeal of wood fiber, each choice comes with its own set of benefits tailored to your family’s needs and backyard style.

And yes, grass is a safe option. When considering natural grass as ground cover under a residential playground, a grassy surface is generally considered safe.

However, ensuring the ground is well-maintained, with no uneven surfaces or hard ground underneath, is crucial. Regular mowing and upkeep contribute to a soft surface for play, maintaining an environment conducive to safety.

Reflecting on the Ground Cover Journey

From understanding the different materials available to installing and maintaining them, we’ve journeyed through the key aspects of selecting ground cover for your swing set. 

This journey is not just about laying a foundation for play; it’s about laying a foundation for memories.

It’s about watching your children swing and leap with the peace of mind that comes from knowing they are playing in a safe, well-maintained environment.

Embracing Your Backyard Adventure

Now that you’re equipped with the knowledge to choose the best ground cover, your backyard adventure awaits. Imagine the laughter and joy that will fill your outdoor space, the afternoons spent swinging under the sun, and the comfort in knowing that your children are playing in a space that’s as safe as it is fun.

In conclusion, the ground cover under your swing set is more than just a practical necessity; it’s a crucial element that enhances the safety, enjoyment, and beauty of your family’s outdoor play area. 

We invite you to visit The Swingset Guy to explore more about swingsets and find the perfect match for your backyard playground. Let’s turn your backyard into a haven of fun and laughter, where every day is an opportunity for a new adventure.

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