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Sunscreen For Your Playground

Thu, 09/22/2016 - 11:04am
Last updated
5 months ago
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A Significant Advance in Playground Maintenance

Playground Surfacing Maintenance

Remember getting sunburned and vowing to apply a layer of sunscreen before you go out in the sun the next time?  Sunscreens help protect you from the sun’s harmful UV rays while it moisturizes and conditions the skin. In a way, poured in place surfacing has some of the same protection needs. Like our skin, the sun attacks and substantially degrades solvent-based aromatic binders used during installation.  This, then, leads to surface granulation.

Playground Surface Granulation is nothing more than small rubber particles dislodging from the surface. The surface granulation process is progressive and the precursor to more serious issues on poured in place safety surfacing and rubber running tracks.  If not addressed promptly, surface granulation leads to holes that make the playground unsafe and out of compliance for wheelchair accessibility.  This can create a potential liability issue if a child is hurt. 

We’ve been asked “My playground surfacing appears to be in good shape, do I really need to coat it?” The short answer is “If it is still under warranty then no, but once out of warranty you really should start to preserve it” explains Mike Baker, Discount Playground Supply.  Poured-in-Place surfacing is expensive to purchase and even more expensive to replace. With replacement costs ranging from $30.00 -$40.00 per sq ft, it’s better to spend a little bit now to maintain it rather than be burdened with a huge bill when you need to replace it. 

Maintaining unitary rubber playground surfaces is fairly straightforward and entails periodically applying a clear top coating to reseal and preserve the surface.  Playground contractors call it “roll coating”.  They apply a solvent-based polyurethane binder similar to that used when the surfacing was originally installed. While not rocket science, the process can be quite labor-intensive requiring several workers to apply the coating from a 5-gallon bucket using a roller equipped with an extension pole.

There are two major drawbacks when using solvent based coatings.  First, the products are moisture cured and are sensitive to heat and humidity during application. Excessive humidity or dampness will cause the coating to dry too quickly resulting in discoloration and poor adhesion to the surface due to polymer backbone degradation; conversely, in environments where humidity is low, it can take days to dry.  The second and more important drawback is that solvent-based coatings can contain pollutant chemicals that harm the environment as well as contaminate groundwater.

The next generation of playground coatings, - a green solution

Maxx Clear H2O is a revolutionary, crystal clear coating that is water based and not solvent based.  It is a truly green product designed to rejuvenate and seal elastomeric poured in place safety surfaces or running tracks. Maxx Clear H2O restores the color and is easy to use because the curing process relies solely on the rate of evaporation of water in the corresponding film.  The science behind Maxx Clear H20 is completely different than that for solvent based materials.  Drying time is within minutes, not hours and if you have material left over, just be sure the lid is secure and you can use it again.  A tremendous advantage for Maxx Clear H20 is that it is safe for the environment, and a big operational plus is that clean up is with soap and water.  In marked contrast, once you open the pail of solvent-based binder, you have to use it or throw it out. 

Like solvent based products, Maxx Clear H2O can be applied with a roller, but unlike solvent based materials it can also be applied with a commercial grade airless sprayer.  Commercial grade sprayers can be rented at many Home Depot Stores or local Tool Rental businesses. The advantages of applying the coating with an airless sprayer are huge; it provides a more consistent material coverage which means you get better coverage per pail, and secondly labor savings are very significant.  A notable case in point: you can apply 3000 ft.² of coating in about six hours with an airless sprayer versus about two days when applying with a roller.   And you don’t need to be a contractor to apply Maxx Clear H2O, just clean the surface, lightly mask the equipment, and open the pail, stir, and spray. 

Maxx Clear H20 offers a convenient and very easy way to preserve poured-in-place surfacing and halt surface granulation in an environmentally friendly manner.

Maxx Clear H20 preventing playground surface granulation
Over time, UV rays lead to surface granulation without maintenance. Photo courtesy of Thomas Seibert

Surface Granulation, a Simple Test

A simple yet effective test to check for granulation is to identify high use areas on your playground such as those under swings at transfer points and at the end of slides. Just take your foot and scuff it hard on the surface. If small pieces of rubber dislodge in that section, granulation will most likely occur.

If you’ve had any repairs to poured-in-place surfacing or have used incredible Fast Patch Playground Repair Kits, then Maxx Clear H2O is the perfect companion.

Powerful UV rays are a dangerous element that will always need a combination of preventative maintenance, when possible, as well as refurbishing when granulation occurs to poured in place surfacing.  Preventative maintenance can be considered in the form of shelters and structures made to create shade, but in any playgrounds, this can pose its own challenges and sun exposure can be reduced, but never eliminated.  The need for a green solution is a growing concern for a modern playspace in regards to surface maintenance and we now have the proper solution.

Thomas Siebert was a founding member of Groundscape Technology, pioneering the first water based coating for rubber mulch.  He served on the FO8.63 committee that developed ASTM standards in surfacing as...