Cheap DIY Playground Border Ideas (For Your Backyard)

Playground borders are essential to provide children in the community with a safe and friendly designated play space. Build your borders with plastic, rubber, recycled tires, wood logs, or take the "frame-it-all" approach. We've compiled a list of some amazing DIY options. How will you design your playground border?

Cheap DIY Playground Border Ideas

The addition of a play structure or playground in your backyard, community area or the yard of a multi-family residential complex increases the enjoyment for the children who live there or visit the space. It instantly makes the property more family-friendly and helps get kids outdoors.

However, safety should always be the primary concern when not only choosing playground equipment but also the ground cover and border. Installing a border for your playground is essential to defining the play space, containing the ground cover and adding an initial element of safety.

Aside from safety, you also want to make sure that the play area complements and fits within the desired look of your landscaping. You want it to add visual appeal rather than distract from it.

We’ve gathered some excellent playground border options that will provide safety and beauty to your outdoor play space. Additionally, we’ve outlined the most common ground cover options to inspire the design of your playground project.

Why Install a Playground Border?

Across the country, playgrounds are typically covered in some type of mulch, grass, pea gravel or other type of ground cover material. Regardless of the material used, it will be kicked and blown around by excited children and the parents trying to corral them.

Because of this fact it can be tricky to keep the ground cover in place and should be contained with some type of playground border. Barriers like this help to keep your ground cover material where it should be. Without any sort of containment system in place, the mulch will be scattered all over and will likely need replacing far sooner than it should.

Whether you decide to go with a plastic, rubber, wooden or other type of playground border you should consider having one installed in order to define the play area and keep your ground cover completely contained. It will ultimately save you money in the long run since you won’t be constantly replacing the mulch surrounding your playground.

Plastic Playground Bordering

Whether it’s schools, parks, daycare facilities or your own backyard keeping children safe during play is the highest priority. For a very safe playground border option consider going with a high quality, heavy duty, commercial plastic timber border.

These playground plastic timbers, with their rounded edges, are an efficient, attractive and safe alternative to wood borders. This option is easy to install using their high-quality galvanized spikes. Also, ADA ramps can be installed and attached easily to the interlocking border system.

Plastic playground borders are also a very affordable option when compared to other bordering methods. They are durable, require little to no maintenance and most of them come with a manufacturer’s warranty.

Rubber Playground Barrier

Rubber timbers are another excellent option to help contain your ground cover and complement the play space. In this example, the rubber playground barrier helps to keep the rubber mulch flooring from spilling over into the grass. Their rounded top design adds an additional element of safety.

Borders like this one are also an eco-friendly option as most of them are constructed of 100% recycled rubber. The rubber material can conform and bend to any odd shape, making them perfect for playgrounds and even flower beds.

Additionally, these types of timbers contain drainage ports allowing water to flow freely and not become trapped in the play or landscape area. Like the plastic playground borders, they are relatively easy to install with three spikes on the bottom to be driven into the ground.

Recycled Tire Playground Border

For a more DIY, cost-effective option consider creating a playground barrier using recycled tires. If you’re able to collect enough old tires, this project can cost you virtually nothing. Check with a local tire shop or search for recycled tires on Craigslist. Tires are very difficult to recycle so people will likely give them away in order to avoid them ending up in landfills.

Using recycled materials makes this a very sustainable option. Also, the rubber is a safe, soft material if children were to slip or fall. It even provides a unique element of fun allowing young children to walk on or jump in and out of the tire holes.

Wood Logs for a Raised Play Area

Using wooden logs is a very unique way to establish and raise your play area. Although this may not be practical for very small children who can’t make the step, the added elevation is very effective at containing the mulch ground cover. This type of log design is also very popular for retaining walls.

“Frame It All” Playground Border

Developed by a landscape designer, the Frame It All playground bordering system is a cost effective, secure and easy way to contain your play area’s safety surfacing. The borders are constructed of food-grade recycled plastic and sustainably sourced wood fibers. With this barrier, your children will be safe from chemical consumption and splinters.

The snap and lock anchoring system is easy to install and simply slide onto each board fastening securely with snap-lock buttons. The Frame It All systems works great for bordering not only playgrounds but also sandboxes, garden beds and other landscaping areas.

Playground Landscape Timber Border

Used most often to build raised beds and planter boxes for gardening, landscape timbers can also be used as a playground border. They come in a variety of materials and colors to fit your desired look. They are similar to wood planks however; landscape timbers are flat on the top and bottom making them ideal for stacking.

When deciding on the type of landscape timber for your project you have two options; natural and synthetic. Natural timbers can either be treated or untreated. If you choose treated, they can last you up to seven years before needing to be replaced. Synthetic is instead made of recycled plastic and is the more popular, affordable and long-lasting option.

Faux Stone Border

Although these may appear to resemble real stone, they are actually made of 100% recycled plastic. This “faux stone” option gives you the versatility of creating a very natural looking outdoor space without the dangers of placing real stone near children.

These borders offer a clean look, create the perfect boundary between play areas and contain your loose ground cover material. In addition to being eco-friendly, they’re also very durable and will last you years before needing replaced.

Concrete Pathway

One of the more obvious options for separating off a play area and containing the ground cover materials is to pave a walkway. This is more typically seen in community or public playgrounds however, you can choose to do something like this in your own backyard.

Installing an outdoor patio or stone walkway can make an excellent barrier for your playground.

Choosing a Ground Cover for your Play Area

The surface material that you decide to lay in your play area is equally as important as the border to contain it. Ideally, you’ll want to select a ground cover that is safe, affordable, low maintenance and complements the space. We’ve outlined some of the advantages and disadvantages of the most popular ground cover options to help you decide the best one for your project.

1. Rubber Mulch

Although it’s increasing in popularity, mulch made of a shredded rubber material is a more recent option for playgrounds. Rubber Mulch’s popularity is most likely due to its ability to provide a safe cushion when children trip or fall.

The bouncy material also serves as a barrier for weeds making it a low-maintenance option for homeowners and other consumers. Also, much of the rubber mulch available on the market is made from recycled rubber tires and other reused rubber materials.

Although this makes it an eco-friendly choice, it’s difficult to determine whether or not some rubber mulch contains unwanted contaminants. Do your research and make sure to purchase from a reliable, well-known rubber mulch company.

2. Pea Gravel

Pea gravel is most often used for parking zones, dog parks and playgrounds. It offers a more natural aesthetic at an affordable price, limits weed growth but does not provide much safety for children tripping or falling.

Although it is a low-cost, low-maintenance landscaping material it may not appeal to property owners because it can hide broken glass, become lodged in your shoes and ultimately end up destroying your home’s flooring if tracked inside.

This type of material is not recommended around small children as the gravel can be considered a choking hazard and will not offer much in terms of safety.

3. Natural Grass

Using natural grass as a ground cover for play areas is very popular among homeowners, particularly because it means simply placing a play structure onto an already existing lawn. However, it is considered to require the most maintenance out of all the other choices.

Since it is real grass, it still needs to be weeded, mowed, watered and fertilized. It can also harbor pests, bacteria and uneven spots will not provide soft landings for children. Possibly the biggest downside to natural grass is that the water required to keep the grass looking nice can damage, rust or rot your playground equipment.

4. Artificial Turf Grass

Installing synthetic turf as your play surface can create an even area with excellent drainage and will always look lush without the need to water or weed. Adding artificial turf is initially more expensive than planting grass or laying sod but the low-maintenance requirements will save you time and money down the line.

The only upkeep this type of material requires is to occasionally rinse, fluff up the fibers and remove any pet waste that may occur. It will blend effortlessly into your landscape design and will be easily accessible by strollers or wheelchairs.

However, one potential downside to artificial turf is that it will be hotter than natural grass on hot summer days. Luckily fixing this is as easy as adding large trees, canopies or umbrellas to shade the grass.

5. Mulch and Wood Chips

Choosing wood chips or mulch as your play area’s ground cover can add superior curb appeal and supplement any type of landscaping. They come in a range of colors and are adaptable to any outdoor space.

Wood chips and mulch can however, hide potential hazards, harbor insects and be prone to mold. They also may not be ideal for children’s play areas as they are also a choking hazard and present the potential for splinters.

Wrapping it Up

In order to define your play area and prevent your ground cover from being displaced, you need some sort of containment system. Whether you choose to install a border that is plastic, rubber, wood, made of recycled tires or simply a paved walkway, you’ll succeed at separating the play area from the rest of your yard.

When deciding on both the border and ground cover material for your playground project, safety should always be the top priority. Make sure you do plenty of research to keep your children and the children who visit your play space safe.

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Jessica Stone

Jessica considers herself a home improvement and design enthusiast. She grew up surrounded by constant home improvement projects and owes most of what she knows to helping her dad renovate her childhood home. Being a Los Angeles resident, Jessica spends a lot of her time looking for her next DIY project and sharing her love for home design.

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