Playground surfacing, or in layperson’s terms, a mulch pit, is an important part of your swing set or playhouse. Playground surfacing is a broad term for many types of materials, including wood or rubber mulch, turf, sand, pea gravel, or other options spread or installed around your swing set or playhouse.

Why would you get a mulch pit?

Most people fully grasp that mulch pits are installed around a swing set or playhouse for safety, but that is not the only reason. A mulch pit gives you unique benefits; some of the most common ones are listed below:

Improved Safety – Wood chips, rubber mulch, and other forms of playground surfacing provide excellent impact attenuation. This is a fancy way of saying it helps cushion falls. This is the most common reason why people get a mulch bed.

Ease of Upkeep – No need to mow around the set while dodging slides or trying to duck under swings. A mulch bed makes the yard upkeep around the swing set simple, as all you have to do is weed-wack around it.

Dedicated Play Area – A mulch bed creates a dedicated play area to pile in your other high-impact toys like teeter toters or monkey jumps.

Keep Bugs at Bay – Certain types of playground surfacing don’t attract insects around the play area.

Visually Impressive – With our Beuta Edging and colored rubber mulch, you can create an impressive play area that looks complete, fun, and inviting.

Keeps the Swing Set Cleaner – A mulch pit helps keep the mud at bay. During the wet months, your playground surfacing will prevent big muddy areas from developing around the high-traffic components of your swing set.

Do you have to get a playground surfacing?

The answer is no for a swing set or playhouse going into the privacy of your backyard. You do not have to get a mulch pit. If you are in a commercial setting and want to pass a safety inspection, you must have playground surfacing.

How much mulch should you get?

King Swings recommends getting at least 3’’ of mulch around your set for a residential setting. You are certainly welcome to get more than that if you want. If you are in a commercial setting, be sure to follow the guidelines for each type of surfacing.

What Types of Surfacing Does King Swings Offer?

King Swings offers four types of mulch: wood chips, rubber nuggets (colored and not colored), turf, and poured-in-place rubber surfacing.

How do you know which one is perfect for your family and budget? Let’s look at the pros and cons of each type we offer:

King Swing’s Playground Surfacing

Wood Chips

Wood chips are made of natural wood mulch that provides cushioning if a fall occurs. A natural product that is easily sourced, wood chips are cost-effective but do require replenishment to keep from biodegrading down to dirt.


  • Smaller initial investment
  • Easily sourced for replenishment
  • Generally installed the same day
  • Environmentally friendly
  • Easy site prep.


  • Bio-degradable material needs replenishment
  • Loose material can be kicked out of high-use areas and need replenishment
  • Poor accessibility for wheelchairs

Rubber Mulch

King Swings offers two types of rubber mulch, though the only difference is in the appearance. We offer colored rubber mulch, which means you can get the nuggets in blue, green, red, brown, or black.

While slightly confusing, we also do over “black” rubber mulch, which is separate from the colored black mulch. Black mulch is not colored, and you will see the “fibers” in the rubber nuggets creating a “speckled” or “cookies-and-cream” look.

The fall protection is the same regardless of color, and rubber mulch is excellent at impact attenuation.


  • There is a lower replenishment rate than wood chips
  • Easy to replenish as needed
  • Does not biodegrade
  • Generally installed the same day
  • Lots of color options
  • Requires less material for greater fall heights
  • Uses a recycled product
  • Easy site prep.


  • Parent’s preconceived ideas about rubber mulch being toxic
  • Loose material can be kicked out of high-use areas and need to be replenished
  • Higher initial investment than wood chips
  • Poor accessibility for wheelchairs

Poured-in-place Rubber Surfacing

Poured rubber flooring is the gold standard for impact attenuation. While it is not often seen in the residential world because of its upfront cost, it is an option if you want the best.


  • The best impact attenuation to the material ratio for head injuries
  • It can be installed in fun designs
  • Lots of color options
  • High perceived value
  • No mess
  • Good accessibility
  • Uses a recycled product
  • Low maintenance costs and requirements
  • Best longevity


  • Highest initial investment
  • Requires more site prep.
  • Recommended resealing every four years
  • Installation is separate from the installation of the playground
  • Installation is weather-dependent
  • Difficult to repair/change the playground


King Swings partners with Perfect Turf® to provide amazing PerfectPlay® systems. Starting with PlayGround Turf™ to provide that lush grass appearance that is antistatic, antimicrobial, and has CoolGrass infused yarn, the turf offers a safe playground surface by adding 100% recycled foam padding.

You can visit for more information!

Alternate Playground Surfacing Options

Pea Gravel

Pea gravel is a small, rounded rock about the size of a pea. It is often used in landscaping and as a base material for driveways and paths, and it can also be used as a playground surface. Pea gravel provides a natural, aesthetically pleasing look to a playground.


  • Affordability: Pea gravel is a relatively inexpensive option for playground surfaces, making it a popular choice for those on a budget.
  • Natural Appearance: Pea gravel has a natural, earthy appearance that blends well with outdoor environments.
  • Versatile: Pea gravel can be used for various playground activities, including creating soft landing areas underneath play equipment.
  • Part of the Fun: Pea gravel can also be fun if you provide digging toys and trucks!
  • Good Drainage: Pea gravel provides excellent drainage, so it’s a great option for areas that receive a lot of rain or have poor drainage.


  • Messy: Pea gravel can be messy, especially if children start playing with it and throwing it around.
  • Cost of Installation: If you get a professional to install your pea gravel, it may be pretty expensive. While the material is affordable, the labor is not.
  • Quantity: For a residential setting, it is up to you to go as deep as possible, but do your research.
  • Accessibility: Pea gravel does not allow wheelchair access to the set, nor is it very friendly to those with disabilities.
  • Freezing: If you get a lot of cold, freezing, wet weather, the top layer of the pea gravel can freeze together, making a less-than-soft surface.


If you ask a particular Star Wars character about sand, he will only have negative comments. However, sand makes an exciting and versatile playground surface.


  • Affordable: Sand is one of the most affordable options for playground surfaces, making it a popular choice for those on a budget.
  • Natural: I mean, it’s sand. It’s about as natural as it gets.
  • Versatile: Sand can be the playground surfacing and a big playground feature! Ensure you add an area for digging and playing with sand toys in your playground spaces.
  • Easy to Install: Sand is easy to install and requires no special tools or equipment. All you need is a shovel, some sweat, and possibly a properly stimulating beverage and a hot shower after you are done to loosen your stiff muscles.


  • Messy: Sand can be messy and can spread beyond the boundaries of the playground, making it necessary to clean up the area regularly.
  • Attracts Animals: I think everyone thinks about cats when discussing sand. And for a good reason. All I can say is, “Yikes.”
  • Compacts: Sand can become compacted over time, reducing its ability to provide proper cushioning in case of a fall.
  • Requires Regular Maintenance: Sand requires regular maintenance, including leveling and raking, to maintain its safety and appearance.

Mulch Pits and Slopes

King Swings can install a swing set on a slope of 12’’ over 20’. We do this by digging down and blocking up the set to get it stable. We use shims, and a mulch pit hides these shims nicely.


Playground surfacing is a great and beautiful way to add a lot of safety to your swing set or playhouse while also making it easier to mow around the set.

King Swings has been crafting, delivering, and installing swing sets and playhouses for 35 years. Our Amish craftsmen take pride in their work, and each swing set is made to order, meaning it is made by hand once the order has been submitted.

King Swings believes every swing set is more important than just a number towards a sales goal. It is your swing set, and so it is important to us. That is why we are happy to spend as much time as needed to make your order perfect for your family.

Browse our website, dream big, and contact us to bring the playground home when you are ready!

Justin Doutrich

Dad to three kids, Justin knows how important it is for children to get lots of physical exercise. His time as a school teacher reinforced that idea. He is passionate about creating fun, enjoyable playgrounds that are safe but full of learning opportunities.

Read More About Justin