The playhouse has been selected, and you’ve looked outside and realized that you might need to do some preparation for it. Can you put the playhouse directly on the ground with the grass? What about wood chips or even rubber for that matter? We had exactly these questions. In a nutshell…
Although playhouses can go on grass, you’ll do well to set up a base where the playhouse can sit above the damp earth. If you have an attached swing set or second floor balcony, to prevent dangerous falls, you should consider putting material such as woodchips or playground rubber down first.
Let’s look at more of the details around what to put under your playhouse.
Broad Considerations For What To Put Under Your Playhouse
There are several things that you want to consider when deciding what to put under your playhouse. You will want the playhouse to be:
- Safe from creatures. This will include ants, spiders and frogs, and everything else.
- Safe for the kids if they decide to see how tall they can be when they climb to the very top
- Supportive enough to prevent sinking into the ground or tilting on one side
- Safe from rotting on the ground. Slightly wet earth can cause problems with rot over time, as well as mold and rising damp in the walls.
- Easy to care for in the surrounding yard. If you have a lawn around the playhouse, you don’t want to have to do tricky clippings around the posts or walls. And you definitely don’t want to have to clear weeds.
Should I Put A Concrete Slab Under My Playhouse?
I wrote an article here on playhouse base options and each of their pros and cons.
But in summary, a concrete slab is suitable only when you have a playhouse where the floor touches the ground.
It’s not suitable for playhouses that sit well above the ground.
If you have a section of the playhouse where kids might jump off, like a fireman’s pole, or a section that turns into a swingset or climbing wall, you will want a different base. If there’s anywhere that kids can land from a height, either intentionally or falling, you will want to have shock absorbing material underneath that area.
- Will keep the playhouse base dry
- Excellent to keep creatures from living under the playhouse
- Permanent – you won’t be able to move the playhouse around the yard
- Unless you are handy, will generally require a contractor
What Materials Can I Put Under My Playhouse?
If your playhouse is purely a wooden playhouse that sits at ground level only, you’ll probably want to look at a concrete slab (see above). You can keep the playhouse clear from vegetation, and it will be entirely suitable.
For this section, I’m going to assume that you have a playhouse that has a playset associated with it, or where there is an open space under the playhouse where the kids can play.
Here I’ll lay out the options that I looked at when we were first putting in our playhouse.
For all of these options listed below, you want to cut the turf away, and leave the dirt behind. Turf roots don’t grow very deep, so this is easier than it sounds. You can either use a shovel to lift it up, or get a turf cutter to do it for you.
Once you have the earth bare, you can either put the treated posts directly in the dirt. Then you can add a substrate to the ground to help make it more resilient, more bouncy or just more fun.
1. Artificial grass
This is a great option for most yards. The artificial turf lets you keep the yard looking robust from a distance, and will also protect the kids from falls if you put some good quality rubber matting underneath it. We ended up going with this option.
- Super easy for maintenance
- You won’t have to sieve through it to find lost precious toys
- It won’t spread all over the yard
- It can be made soft and protective with under matting
- Won’t make deep muddy grooves under the swings
- It can get a little hot in full sun
- Expensive to install
2. Mulch or woodchips
Bark mulch or woodchips are a good option under and around the playhouse, but they have a few downsides to watch-out for. Woodchips are generally the off-cuts from a sawmill, and so they come in a variety of wood species, such as pine, redwood or cedar. When you first lay them, they will have a fairly uniform color, and provide a good cover. Over time though, it can look a bit tatty. The wood chips fade at different rates, and dirt and other bits of garden debris will appear in it. They also have a tendency to get flicked up by kids feet running, or even just moved by kids, from the playhouse area to all over the yard.
- Bark mulch and woodchips will act as a natural weed barrier
- Natural solution that will gradually decompose over time
- Relatively cheap at $2-4 per cubic foot
- Can leave splinters
- Can look tatty with time
- Should be replaced annually
- Will spread through the yard
- Not a great shock absorber for falls
3. Shredded rubber
Shredded rubber is usually made from old tires. Rubber acts as a great shock absorber, and so, with enough depth, can be protective when kids are experimenting with their jumping. It lasts a good deal longer than bark mulch or woodchips, however, it will still break down after a decade. At the beginning, I was sure we would choose this one, but the disadvantages of shredded rubber persuaded me otherwise.
- Shock absorbing, so good for falls
- Inhibits mold and fungus
- Lasts for at least a decade
- The metal in the tires isn’t always entirely removed, and can be toxic
- A hazard if ignited, and hard to put out
- Difficult to remove from the soil if you decide to change
4. Rubber mats
You can get rubber matting that is laid out over flat ground, and looks pretty neat and tidy. Even though it’s for your yard, you’ll find that it is often call ‘playground mats’ by contractors. Rubber matting comes in both rolls and interlocking tiles, depending on the size of the area you want to cover, and also how much wear and tear it is likely to be subjected to. It comes from old tires, but the process is much more thorough than for rubber chips.
- Excellent absorbency for falls
- Now available in a range of colors and textures
- Long lasting
- Relatively expensive
- Can be a trip hazard if the rubber tiles or rolls come apart over time
If you had a playset in your yard when you were growing up, it probably had sand somewhere around it. And whilst sand is still an old staple around playgrounds and swingsets, I’m far less inclined to look at it than I once was.
It needs to be covered each night to protect it from neighborhood cats and other critters. And you only have to have a favorite toy go missing once, and have to dig grain by grain through the sand until you find it.
The most important factor is that it isn’t all that shock absorbing or protective. It gets packed down pretty quickly when walked on, and a few days of rain followed by sun can make it almost rock hard.
- Easy to install, it comes delivered, and you just spread it
- Fun to play in as well
- It’s not shock absorbing
- Sand will spread through the yard and house
- You’ll need to keep it covered in case it becomes the cat litter box
- It will get garden debris and leaf matter all through it quickly
Preparation for Putting Materials for Under Your Playhouse
Before your set up your playhouse, you want to prepare the ground,
Weed Barrier Matting
After you have prepared the site, unless you have poured a concrete slab, you want to put down weed barrier matting. Weeds can be relentless, and will grow under almost impossible conditions. Weed barrier matting is designed to stop weeds from growing up around the playhouse, and even from coming up through the floorboards.
Make a Curb
Whatever you put down, it will have a tendency to migrate around the yard. You will find it everywhere. It will blow there, it will get kicked around by kids’ feet. But make it harder for it to spread. Put up a curb, or a very short barrier fence that sits no more than an inch above the grass around it.
Lay Your Material
Whichever of the options you chose, it’s now time to follow the supplier’s instructions and lay the material.
Set up the Playhouse
Get your playhouse set up and in position.
Show the kids your masterpiece
And say, “Go Forth, Kids!” Enjoy.
If you have a playhouse with an underneath section, you can put durable and bouncy materials under it to make it more child-friendly and safer.