Playground Renovation vs. Starting From Scratch: Which Is For You?

Your playground allows children to run out their wiggles, explore natural elements, and build lasting friendships. These outdoor spaces should be safe and age-appropriate so that they better support the development and well-being of every child in your care. 

Although playground equipment and surfacing are made to last for years, a time will come when upgrades are needed. As you start to notice this happening at your early childhood center, you may wonder what the best course of action is for your playground. Should you renovate your current space with replacement parts and a few additional structures? Or should you get rid of everything and start your playground over from scratch? 

At Kaplan, play is serious business. Especially play that inspires curiosity and enables children to explore nature and the world they live in, which is why we work closely with third-party vendors to provide safe, age-appropriate playgrounds for early childhood facilities throughout the United States. 

When deciding between renovating your playground or starting it from scratch, you first want to assess your current space. This article highlights six areas to guide your assessment and will help you develop the best course of action for your playground.

How old is your existing playground equipment and surfacing?

The equipment and surfacing on your playground constantly come into contact with sun, rain, snow, ice, and children at play. Over time, these items will begin to weather and deteriorate, making it imperative that you replace the equipment and surfacing so that your outdoor learning environments remain safe for young children. 

Most playground equipment can withstand years of wear and tear before you need to replace it. We recommend replacing any equipment over 15 years old or when you notice severe deterioration that makes the equipment unsafe for use. When considering when to replace your playground surfacing, we recommend you follow these timeframes:

  • Loose fill wood or rubber mulch: 1 year
  • Solid bonded rubber and poured-in-place rubber: 3 to 5 years
  • Rubber tile: 5 to 7 years
  • Synthetic turf: 10 years

Two children sit at the top of a double slide on the playground equipment located on the outdoor playground of an early childhood facility.

How well does your playground currently meet the needs of the children in your care?

Like all things, your early childhood facility and the children you serve will evolve and change over time. While looking around, you may realize that your playground no longer meets the varying needs and abilities of the children in your care. Does that mean you must replace everything and build a new playground from scratch? Not necessarily. 

You can add new equipment to your space to make it accessible for different age groups or children with varying physical abilities. Reposition some of your playground areas to create wider pathways for mobility devices to maneuver around. If adding new play equipment or repositioning items on your playground is not an option, starting from scratch with new equipment and surfacing may be best. 

What is the current condition of your playground equipment and surfacing?

Your playground faces constant wear and tear each day, accelerating the deterioration of your equipment and surfacing. When assessing your playground, you want to ensure it is safe for children at play and will meet all of your state guidelines and coding requirements. 

If you notice a loose or broken part, ordering a replacement may be a cheap and easy fix compared to ordering an entirely new unit. Suppose your surfacing is compacted in high-traffic areas or chipping/wearing away. In that case, you can replace small portions or top things off instead of completely replacing all the surfacing on your playground.  

What is your current budget for playground materials?

The cost of building a playground can vary greatly depending on the size of your outdoor spaces, your surfacing options, and the equipment and amenities you want to include. The average cost of building a playground from scratch can cost between $10,000 to $100,000. If this pricing does not fit your current budget, a playground renovation may be a better option.


An image of the playground installation process featuring a Bobcat tractor grading the land near a large blue metal playset.

How much space is available on your playground?

As you assess your playground, you want to think about the function of your outdoor learning environment and the space you have available to carry out your vision. If you have a small playground (roughly 900 square feet or less), you may not have enough room to incorporate additional play equipment or structures in the available space. In this case, starting from scratch with new equipment that fits your needs may be more manageable. 

If you have a larger playground (greater than 1,800 square feet), you may have open spaces or corners of the playground that children do not often explore. In this case, renovating these areas and incorporating additional equipment, surfacing, and structures may be a better option. 

When would you like to complete your playground upgrades?

Something to consider when deciding between renovating your playground or starting from scratch is your completion deadline. It can take months to order, receive, and install playground equipment and surfacing before it is ready for children. This is because third-party vendors assemble and build each piece of equipment before shipping it to your facility. Then, you must wait for another third-party agent to install your equipment and surfacing on your playground before it is ready. 

If you are short on time, simply ordering replacement parts for your current equipment may be a better option. If you are okay with waiting weeks/months to complete your playground upgrades, ordering new playground equipment and/or starting from scratch is a great option. 

My playground assessment is complete. Now what?

You can use the questions above to help you assess the quality of your current playground and decide if renovating or starting from scratch is the best choice for you. If you do not feel confident making this assessment yourself, a Kaplan Playground Representative will be happy to assist you. 
If you are local to one of our representatives, we can send someone to your site to assess your playground in person. Or, if not, you can send us pictures of your playground for review. This is a free service we offer all customers. 

If you have additional questions about assessing the quality of your playground or how to order equipment and surfacing for your outdoor spaces, do not hesitate to get in touch with a Kaplan Playground Representative. They will be happy to assist you with all of your playground needs. 

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