Pea Gravel for Playgrounds: Should You Use It?

Are you thinking about using pea gravel for your playground? It’s a popular choice for many playgrounds, but is it the right choice for yours?

Pea gravel is made up of small, smooth stones. This can make it a comfortable surface for kids to play on.

gravel on p;ayground

However, it can also be a tripping and choking hazard for young kids. If you have young children, you may want to consider another surface for your playground.

In addition, pea gravel can be difficult to maintain. The small stones can easily be displaced, leaving your yard messy. If you choose to use pea gravel, be prepared to do regular maintenance to keep it looking its best.

In this blog post, we’ll go over the factors to keep in mind when using pea gravel for playgrounds.

We’ll also give you tips on properly installing and maintaining pea gravel for your playground.

Finally, we’ll discuss other playground material alternatives to use in place of pea gravel if it’s not the right choice for you.

What is Pea Gravel?

Pea gravel is a type of small, round stone that is often used in landscaping, paving, and construction projects.

It’s normally sized and shaped like a pea, hence its name. This gravel is typically made from weathering of a variety of materials, including granite, quartz, limestone, and more.

Pea gravel is a popular choice for many projects because of its low cost and ease of use.

It’s also available in a variety of colors, including white, black, and gray, making it a versatile material for use in many different settings.

Safety of Pea Gravel and Implication for use in Playgrounds

Pea gravel is a popular choice for playgrounds because it’s inexpensive and easy to install. However, there are some safety concerns associated with its use.

Pea gravel does not meet the ADA safety standards for playgrounds, meaning it can’t be used for young kids with disabilities.

Pea gravel is also unstable underfoot and can easily lead to trips and falls.

In addition, pea gravel can be a choking hazard for small children who tend to eat everything.

Finally, pea gravel can become very hot in direct sunlight, making it unsafe for children to play on.

While pea gravel has some safety concerns, it can be used safely in playgrounds if proper precautions are taken. For example, pea gravel can be used in playgrounds if it’s properly installed and maintained.

In addition, pea gravel can be used safely in playgrounds if children are supervised while playing on it.

Impact Attenuation of Pea Gravel

Impact attenuation is the reduction of energy transferred to a body as the result of an impact. When dealing with human falls, the term usually refers to the reduction of energy transferred to the head and brain.

Pea gravel has been shown to be an effective impact attenuator when used in playgrounds and even meets ASTM standards for impact attenuation.

However, to function effectively as an impact attenuator, pea gravel should be laid down at depths of about 9-12 inches.

The thickness of the layer is important because it needs to be enough to absorb the impact energy without being too thick and bulky to be effective.

Even with the right thickness of pea gravel, its performance will decrease significantly if a fall is over 9 feet.

This is due to the smaller size of the gravel, which does not provide enough cushioning to dissipate the energy from such a high fall.

Unfortunately, most playground equipment is usually taller than 5 feet, meaning pea gravel is not the ideal material for playgrounds with regard to impact attenuation.

How to Install Pea Gravel Playground?

Calculating the amount of pea gravel you need for your playground

If you’re looking to add a layer of gravel to your playground, you’ll first need to determine how much you’ll need.

To do this, you’ll need to know the desired depth of gravel as well as the length and width of the playground.

Once you have these measurements, you can multiply them all together to get an estimate of how much gravel you’ll need.

For example, if you want a layer of gravel that is 9 feet deep and the playground is 20 feet long and 10 feet wide, you would need 1800 cubic feet of pea gravel. (20 x 10 x 2 = 1800 ft3).

This playground will need about 1800 cubic feet or 0.03852 cubic yards of pea gravel.

Installing pea gravel

Pea gravel is also easy to install, so you can do it yourself without having to hire a professional. You just need to follow the following steps:

1. Choose an area that is large enough for the playground and flat. If the area is not flat, you can use landscaping fabric to level it.

2. Install a border around the estimated playground area. This can be done with timbers, railroad ties, or even a rope.

3. Dig up the area until you’re at least 6 inches deep. Once the base is dug, install a base layer of coarse rock.

4. After the base layer is in place, cover it with 9-12 inches of pea gravel and use a tamping tool to spread the pea gravel evenly over the playground area and make it more leveled.

5. Add playground equipment, such as climber rocks, slides, and swings. Don’t forget to anchor the equipment properly.

Can you put pea gravel directly on dirt?

The short answer is yes; you can put pea gravel directly on dirt when installing a playground. However, it’s not recommended to do so without first putting down a base layer.

Pea gravel is not as stable as other materials, so it can shift and move around if there is no solid foundation underneath it.

This can create an uneven surface and make it more difficult for children to play on the playground.

If you decide to put pea gravel directly on dirt, level it out as much as possible. This will help create a more stable surface for the playground.

Maintenance of a Pea Gravel Playground

Like all playground materials, pea gravel requires regular care to keep it in good shape. Here are some tips on how to maintain a pea gravel playground:

Rake the playground regularly

One of the most important things you can do to maintain a pea gravel playground is to rake it regularly. This will help ensure that the gravel is level and even, which will prevent trips and falls.

Raking also allows you to remove any debris that may have accumulated, such as sticks or leaves.

Replace the gravel as needed

As your pea gravel playground begins to break down over time, it is important to replace the gravel to maintain the safety and integrity of the playground.

To keep your playground in top condition, we recommend replacing the gravel every 2 to 3 years.

This will ensure that your playground is safe and looking its best. Pea gravel is relatively inexpensive, so this is a very affordable way to maintain your playground.

Keep the playground free of dangerous materials

Another crucial maintenance tip for pea gravel playgrounds is to keep the material free of dangerous materials such as broken glass. If you see any glass on the playground, pick it up and dispose of it properly.

You should also check the playground for other hazards like sharp objects or loose screws.

The kind of attention that pea gravel requires makes pea gravel playgrounds high maintenance, not to mention that the maintenance costs can add up over the years.

However, following the above tips will help keep your pea gravel playground looking great for years to come.

Pea Gravel Playground Pros and Cons


1. Pea gravel is affordable. A bag of pea gravel will cost you about $5, meaning a ton of pea gravel should cost around $35-$50.

2. Pea gravel is also a forgiving surface with a relatively gentle impact on falls compared to alternatives like concrete. This means it’s less likely to cause serious injuries if kids fall while playing.

3. Pea gravel is easy to install, unlike some other playground surfaces.

4. Pea gravel can be used in a variety of different ways to create different play areas for kids.

5. Pea gravel is an attractive option for playgrounds, creating a natural and inviting space for children to play.

6. Pea gravel has good drainage; a reason it’s used in a variety of landscaping projects.


1. Pea gravel can be a choking hazard for young children.

2. Pea gravel can get into children’s eyes, nose or ears and cause irritation.

3. Pea gravel can be uncomfortable to walk on barefoot, especially for young children.

4. Pea gravel can be challenging to keep clean and free of debris due to the small size of the particles.

5. Pea gravel can be tracked into homes and other buildings, which can be difficult to clean.

6. Pea gravel can be difficult to remove once it has disintegrated and compacted.

7. Broken glass or other dangerous objects can be buried in pea gravel, making it unsafe to play on.

8. Pea gravel breaks down and compacts over time, reducing its impact attenuation and effectiveness for playground use.

9. Pea gravel needs frequent leveling and depth adjustments to maintain its effectiveness in impact attenuation.

Best Pea Gravel Alternatives for Playgrounds

If you are looking for alternatives to pea gravel for your playground, there are a few options to consider.

Engineered wood fiber, poured-in-place rubber, synthetic turf, and grass mats are all viable alternatives that offer different benefits.

Engineered wood fiber is a popular choice for playgrounds because it is soft and forgiving, making it safe for kids to play on.

Poured-in-place rubber is another popular choice because it is also soft and forgiving, but it also drains well and is easy to maintain.

Synthetic turf is a newer option that is becoming increasingly popular because it is low maintenance and can be made to look like real grass.

Grass mats are an option that is often used in conjunction with other materials, such as poured-in-place rubber, to create a soft, safe surface for playgrounds.

What are the best places to use pea gravel?

While pea gravel is not the perfect material for playgrounds, it’s quite versatile and can be used in a ton of other places. Here are 5 ideas of where to use pea gravel:

1. Patios: Pea gravel can be used to create a patio with a natural and rustic look.

2. Driveways: Pea gravel is a great option for driveways because it is very affordable and low-maintenance.

3. Walkways: Pea gravel can be used to line and create a rustic look on a variety of different types of walkways.

4. Garden beds: Pea gravel can be used in garden beds to create a low-maintenance and weed-free environment.

5. Landscaping projects: Pea gravel can be used in a variety of landscaping projects, especially those that require enhanced drainage.

Will pea gravel wash away?

Some types of gravel, such as pea gravel, are more likely to wash away than others.

This is because pea gravel is smaller and lighter than other types of gravel, so it is more easily moved by water. Pea gravel is also more likely to be moved by wind.

If you live in an area with a lot of rain and high winds, or if your pea gravel is on a slope, there is a chance that it could wash away in a rainstorm.

Does pea gravel absorb water?

Pea gravel doesn’t absorb water. Instead, it lets water seep through; hence it’s often used in landscaping projects.

This gravel is made up of small, smooth stones that can help to quickly drain away water.

Pea gravel is an effective way to improve drainage in your yard or garden. It can also be used to create a dry river bed in your landscaping.

If you have an area of your yard that is always wet or muddy, pea gravel can help to solve the problem.

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