Oct. 28, 2022 What You Should Know About Using Engineered Wood Fiber

Looking for a safe and affordable safety surfacing solution? Engineered wood fiber is becoming the leading choice, and we're here to tell you why.

When it comes to designing a playground, it's easy to be consumed by choosing the right equipment for children of all ages and abilities to use — but you also need to prioritize the decision regarding playground surfacing. The playground mulch that you choose will have an impact on the appearance of the playground, the ability to utilize it and the safety of the entire space.

Engineered wood fiber is quickly becoming the leading choice for playground developers who are looking for a safe and affordable surfacing option. This guide will tell you everything you need to know about engineered wood fiber.

What is Engineered Wood Fiber?

Engineered wood fiber is a type of composite playground mulch that is made from natural wood fibers. As it is created from natural wood fibers, it offers all the benefits of natural wood — while also offering superior style, improved safety and a longer life span than landscape mulch.

At Fibar, we have perfected an innovative system for creating the best engineered wood fiber on the market. Our engineered wood fiber is made from 100 percent virgin wood fibers — and never includes used or recycled wood fibers. By focusing on virgin fibers versus used wood fibers, we are able to eliminate the risk of other products or items inadvertently contaminating your playground surfacing.

The fibers used in our engineered wood fiber are screened in order to yield small yet random-sized particles with a longer shape that aids in the interlocking process. This innovative interlocking system reduces movement among the playground mulch as children use the equipment, and it eliminates the risk of splinters and mulch-related injuries.

Fibar's engineered wood fiber absorbs the impact of the children who are playing on the playground, resists movement and improves rather than decays with age.

How Long Does Engineered Wood Fiber Last?

With proper maintenance and care, engineered wood fiber can last for many years — which is one of the main reasons why it is quickly becoming one of the top choices for playground mulch around the country. However, in order to maximize the lifespan of your engineered wood fiber playground surfacing, you will want to prioritize preventative care and routine maintenance.

These are a few steps that you can take in order to preserve the integrity of your engineered wood fiber and protect your playground surfacing material for many years to come.

Inspect for Debris

You should perform a visual inspection of your playground surfacing on a regular basis. Some schools have people inspect for debris on a daily or weekly basis, but you should at least complete an inspection at least once per month in order to eliminate any debris that may have fallen into the surfacing. Debris that should be immediately removed from the engineered wood fiber includes broken glass, stones, large sticks and any litter or foreign objects that may have been left behind on the playground. Face masks, toys, plastic water bottles and snack wrappers are items that are commonly found on playgrounds that may damage your playground mulch over time.

Install Wear Mats

Wear mats should be installed in specific areas of your playground not only to protect the integrity of your engineered wood fiber but also to remain in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. Wear mats must be installed underneath swings and slides in order to remain ADA compliant, but they also can be beneficial in other areas of the playground, such as where children can enter and exit the playground equipment or at the base of sliding poles. For best results, your wear mats should be installed on top of the engineered wood fiber surface.

Consider Top-Off Services

Engineered wood fiber is known for being a long-lasting playground mulch, but top-off services are needed every few years. In order to get the best possible results, you should consider having your engineered wood fiber topped off at least every three years. 

Rake to Ensure Proper Depth

Maintaining the desired design depth is critical to enjoying your engineered wood fiber for the longest amount of time. Throughout the high-use season, you should consider inspecting frequently used areas in order to determine if the depth is still ideal. If the depth has sunk to levels that are too low, you can easily rake the surfacing material in order to restore these targeted areas to your desired depth. Raking should be done as needed in order to keep the depth at the appropriate level across the entire playground structure.

Check Drainage System

Prior to having engineered wood fiber installed on your playground, you should have a proper drainage system in place — especially for high rainfall areas. This prevents water from pooling in high-use spots and flooding your playground after rain events. In the event that you are seeing water pooling in specific areas, you will want to check your drainage system and address any issues that might be causing this. By performing routine inspections of your drainage systems, you can prevent more complicated problems from arising down the line.

Remove Weeds

The interlocking system that is available with engineered wood fiber does prevent significant weed growth, but depending on the weather conditions and the climate in your area, it is possible for weeds to grow at times. If you begin to see weed growth and development, you should make an effort to remove the weeds as quickly as possible. You can either remove the weeds by hand, or work with a local contractor in order to have a safe and effective weed killing solution applied to the playground.

Benefits of Engineered Wood Fiber

With so many benefits associated with using engineered wood fiber as a playground surfacing material, it's not surprising that it is quickly becoming the top choice among playground developers. These are three main benefits of engineered wood fiber to consider:

  • It is simple to install. Prior to delivery, you should make sure that the playground surface is graded. Once the material is delivered, it can easily be installed and raked to the desired depth.
  • It is an affordable playground mulch solution. Costs normally range from $1.50 and $3 per square foot for a playground of typical size.
  • It is easy to maintain. By performing regular inspections, removing debris, regularly raking the surface and investing in top-off surfaces, your engineered wood fiber will last for many years.

Is Engineered Wood Fiber Safe for Playgrounds?

Engineered wood fiber is one of the safest options for your playground mulch. This composite mulch is manufactured specifically for playgrounds, and is designed to exceed all the American Society for Testing and Materials standards. Playground developers have found that this playground mulch improves the safety of their recreational space by:

  • Creating a shock-absorbing surface that minimizes the impact of the inevitable falls that will occur on a playground.
  • Designing an interlocking system that will mat down over time and resist movement, which helps prevent additional slips, trips and falls.
  • Reducing the risk of slivers and other mulch-related injuries that can sometimes occur with natural wood products.

All of Fibar's engineered wood fiber undergoes rigorous testing in order to ensure that it meets the top safety standards in the industry, allowing you to feel confident in the playground mulch material that you have chosen.

Dark Liquid Coming from Playground Mulch after A Lot of Rain? Those are Naturally Occurring Tannins and They're Totally Harmless

Tannins are commonly found in the bark of trees, wood, and other natural plant species. This naturally occurring compound can help protect trees from being infected by bacteria or fungi. At times, tannins can leak from plants into the soil, sometimes into water, which causes the water to darken. Since engineered wood fiber is derived from trees, tannins have been known to wash out after rainfall — this sometimes causes concern because a dark liquid may leak from the playground surfacing. 

At Fibar, the material used to manufacture our engineered wood fiber is totally natural and does not contain any chemicals or additives. If you see a dark liquid coming from your engineered wood fiber following rain, please know that it is temporary and will correct itself, usually after a matter of three to four months. During this period, the rainwater that drains out will become less and less colored until the tannins completely disappear.

Where to Buy Engineered Wood Fiber

Over the past 35 years, Fibar has provided safety surfacing to more than 75,000 playgrounds in the U.S. and Canada — a record making us a leader in playground surfacing. Our engineered wood fiber is manufactured using 100% virgin wood, not used wood, which is regularly tested to comply with all relevant standards of Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and ASTM. Get in touch with us today to learn more about our engineered wood fiber products and more.


Written By: Guest

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