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Playhouse Preparation: Laying Play Bark

Our playhouses are designed to be absolutely fine sat straight on top of grass, so they're up and ready to play in hardly any time at all. However, assembling your playhouse onto play bark can be a great option instead, particularly if your grass seems to be quite mossy or boggy, or if you don't really have much grass.

If your grass often feels quite slushy or boggy, or tends to be very mossy, the grass around the playhouse where little ones are playing can become quite worn and start to look a bit untidy. It can also get quite muddy, and although little ones love to get muddy and the playhouse is also perfectly fine getting muddy, you might prefer they don't plod in and out of the house with muddy shoes!

A dedicated area of play bark for your playhouse looks really smart, keeping the garden tidy and inviting. You can also choose from different types of borders, in keeping with the style of your garden and making sure the bark stays inside the area!

Laying an area of play bark for your playhouse is really quite simple and doesn't take very long to do. With a bit of planning and sourcing a few materials, you can create a striking area that compliments your garden...

1. Measure up

Once you've decided where in your garden you'd like the playhouse to sit, it's a good idea to mark out the area to check the size is as you envision. We include the overall footprint on all of our playhouse descriptions so you can plan where it's going to sit.

How to calculate play bark needed:

1. Measure the footprint of your playhouse in metres. E.g 2m x 2m
2. Add 1.5m all the way around your house and add this to your dimensions. In our example: 5m x 5m
3. Multiply the length of the area by the width of the area:. In our example 5m x 5m = 25 square metres
4. Decide on the depth you require the bark to be. We recommend a minimum of 20cm
5. Multiply the area you want to cover by the depth. In our example 25 x 0.2 = 5 cubic metres

2. Mark out the area

Marking out the area with a piece of string or rope is helpful, as you can then move this around until you're happy with the position. You'll need to add a reasonable radius around the footprint of the playhouse to make sure the borders don't cause an obstruction while little ones are playing, particularly for a tower playhouse that will need clearance around the slide and ladder.

3. Prepare the ground

If the area is particularly mossy or boggy, it's a good idea to prepare the ground first, instead of just piling on the bark chippings. Otherwise the chippings can get damp and the area can become mushy. So dig the area out to a depth of 35-50mm to remove the surface.

If you've already got a play bark area and you're just topping up, it might be very compacted and hard underneath, especially if it's very dry. This means a new layer might wear down quite quickly due to the friction. So it's best to remove the under layer or rake it and plan to have your new layer of bark considerably thick.

We recommend having a 200-300mm depth of play bark, so dig the hole deeper as required, depending on how high you wish your borders and bark to sit above the ground.

4. Add a dry layer

Add an even layer of sharp sand or other dry material such as stone or sandy subsoil. This will make sure there's enough drainage underneath the play bark, as the bark will lay straight on top of this. This helps keep the bark in a brilliant condition and is easier to maintain. 2-3cm of dry material is ideal, but you might like a thicker layer if your garden is very mossy or slushy.

For playhouses at home, there isn't a formal size or depth requirement for play bark, so it's important that you assess your own needs by the condition of your own garden. It's important that the ground the playhouse sits on is level and safe, but the area and depth of the play bark can vary depending on your own needs.

5. Choose your edging border

Once you're happy with the area you've planned out, think about the type of edging you'd like. Tidy edging keeps the bark in place so you don't need to keep raking it back in!

There are different materials you can use for different finishes, so they can be as discreet or bold as you like. Stones make a lovely, natural looking border, or you can use timber border edging and even paint them for a unique look!

Timber boarder edging is usually pre-assembled either with wood backing to create a straight border, or comes in a roll with wire backing to create curved borders, so it's really easy to put in place.

6. Fill with bark chippings

Fill the area with your play bark. We recommend this is filled to a minimum depth of 300mm. Depending on the height of your borders, you'll need to make sure the area is easily accessible for your little ones, so consider creating little steps or cut a section of the border down to ground level.

Level out the play bark before assembling your playhouse, making sure the playhouse has an even layer to sit on. Using a rake and long level makes this very simple.

Then, build your playhouse!

Did you know?

Play bark is a lovely, natural playing surface that doesn't need too much maintenance, and is biodegradable.

It'll need topping up fairly regularly, usually lasting 6-12 months depending on the depth of the bark and how often it's played on, but play bark is cost efficient and very easy to lay compared to many other play surfaces.

You may find that chippings start moving away on areas that are played on the most, but a rake will level this back out quickly and easily.

When choosing your bark chippings, keep in mind that thicker and chunkier chips are more robust and will last longer.

Preparing for you brand new playhouse is an important part of making your new play equipment safe and last a long time. We want to make the best possible play space for our children and the flooring can be just as important as anything else. Here is a short guide on how to lay play bark for your playhouse.