Is Your Outdoor Surfacing Really Engineered Wood Fiber?

Engineered wood fiber is a versatile, natural and comparatively inexpensive material for playground surfaces – IF that's actually what you're getting. Unscrupulous vendors have been known to “pad” deliveries with materials that may contain contaminants. Read on to find out how to be sure you're getting the real deal.

Engineered wood fiber remains the least expensive and most versatile product for playground safety surfacing. It is easy to install, meets ADA accessibility requirements and can be used on almost any site. The product is available from your local playground company representatives or through a Web search. We like to use this product in our projects because it is natural.

Engineered wood fiber is different from wood chips or bark chips. Engineered wood fiber is clean, virgin wood that has been shredded several times to increase its fibrous consistency. The engineered wood fiber is required to meet the ASTM F2075, which defines engineered wood fiber, and the ASTM F1202, which outlines the fall-height standards for products used as safety surfacing.

All suppliers should have testing reports verifying compliance with the two above rules. Ask for a copy of the test results and a written warranty. Ask suppliers for references in your area, and then go to the site and examine the product before making your purchasing decision.

The product can be delivered in cubic bags or by the truckload. Either way, do not allow delivery unless you are at the site to check it. It is easier to reject a delivery than to get a vendor to return and pick it up if it's not what you ordered.

When the driver arrives at your site, ask to inspect the material. What you are looking for is clean, even-colored shredded wood with no bark or pieces longer than two inches. If you see other colors of wood in the product, do not accept the load. Many suppliers boost their loads by adding shredded materials from wood pallets and other scrap resources. There is no way to verify whether this product is free from toxic chemicals, contains nails or even poison ivy. Many municipalities provide free mulch, but it is not guaranteed to be free of contaminants. Unscrupulous vendors have been known to add this free material to their product.

Do not accept the load if the material does not meet your inspection, and you do not have the certification papers. If it is not engineered wood fiber, it might not meet your fall-height specifications or the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements. These are not good risks for your center to take. A properly certified source will protect you from legal issues and questions of negligence.

The following resources will be useful and can be obtained at the ASTM website:

  • ASTM F2075 Standard Specification for Engineered Wood Fiber for Use as Playground Safety Surface Under and Around Playground Equipment
  • ASTM F1292 Standard Specification for Impact Attenuation of Surface Systems Under and Around Playground Equipment
  • ASTM F963 Consumer Safety Specifications for Toy Safety