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A School's Guide to Playground Markings

Overhead view of Completed Thermoplastic Playground  Markings for a School

So you're new to playground markings?

Well, that's not a problem!

We talk about playground markings to hundreds of people every year and there tends to be a few common questions and misconceptions which occur. So we thought we would write this blog in the hope that it helps give you a reference guide which you can re-visit if you need to.

So without further ado... grab a drink, and let's go on a whirlwind tour of playground markings!

What are Playground Markings?

Playground markings are games, shapes, patterns or lines which applied to the surface of playgrounds either using paint or thermoplastic. They transform a boring tarmac area to an exciting one.

These markings can serve many purposes. Some examples would be netball courts, number grids, hopscotches, road safety markings and daily mile tracks to give but a few.

Essentially, they're made from either paint or thermoplastic which is applied to the surface of the playground.

Paint and thermoplastic markings? What's the difference?

The short answer is about 8 to 9 years. The longer less cryptic answer is that painted markings are cheaper. They're quite literally painted onto the playground. Cheap is good though, right?

Well... yes cheap is good and your business manager will likely love the difference between the cost of thermoplastic markings and the cost of painted markings.

However... there is a huge difference in the life expectancy of painted markings versus thermoplastic. Thermoplastic markings can last up to ten times as long as painted markings. Even in a worse case scenario we would expect thermoplastic to outlast paint by 6 times as long. We've seen painted markings disappear within 6 months at some schools!

So whilst painted markings are cheaper, they're not cheaper in the long run as the playground will need to be repainted over and over and over and... you get the idea.

So in summary, paint is cheaper but it lasts (exaggerated) until the next time it rains. Thermoplastic is more expensive but once it's down, it's down for a very long time.

  • Painted Markings

  • We don't install these.

  • Cheaper.

  • Doesn't last anywhere near as long as thermoplastic.

  • Thermoplastic Markings

  • We do install these.

  • Higher price than paint.

  • Lasts for years.

So... what is thermoplastic?

It's a type of plastic which turns into 'a sticky liquid' when heated to a high temperature. Part of the installation process involves placing the markings onto the playground surface and heating them up. So we lay them out, and then heat to a temperature.

Once they've reached a specific temperature they go very soft and drop into all the nooks and crannies on the surface. Then when they've cooled they will be really gripping all those areas and won't let go. (There is slightly more to playground marking installation than that, but that's a good enough description for this guide).

Fresh tarmac yields excellent results, while a worn-out playground surface covered with cracks and moss will not perform as well.

Rectangular Maze Playground Marking

I just want someone to come to the school and help me! Can you do this?

Absolutely! Simply go to our arrange a site survey page, fill in the form and we will be in touch.

Honestly, it's nice to meet face to face and discuss everything. We can see the playground as it is, measure up, look out for anything which you may have overlooked etc. You can get to know us, what we're about and ask all the questions you like.

We appreciate these markings are not the cheapest item the school will be purchasing, and so there is a responsibility on us all to make sure your funds turn into a success story you can be proud of.

Tangle Play with Play Panel

Factors to Consider when Choosing Playground Markings

Understanding the Age and Abilities of Children.

It's important to choose appropriate markings for the age and skill level of the children using the playground. We would recommend including a sufficient variety of markings such that each child has at least 1 item they can participate in, if not 2, 3, 9 or more.

ie: Unless there is a compelling reason, then try not to make everything about physical development. Include some other items which promote academic learning or instigate imaginative play.

Evaluating the Playground Size and Layout

The size and configuration of your playground will determine the type and number of markings it can accommodate. Sounds obvious, but even the smaller of school playground designs needs to be carefully thought out to ensure that everyone, including the playground team, are safe during break times.

Prioritising Safety in Playground Markings

Safety is paramount in playground design. Markings can play a key role in guiding safe play and movement around the playground. Is there an area in which the children usually play sports games? If so, we'd suggest keeping any low energy games away from that area.

Incorporating Educational Goals into Playground Markings can be also be a fun and effective way to reinforce classroom learning.

Thermoplastic Playground Markings Exercise Track and Court

Understanding the Quality of Your Playground Surface

The Good, the Bad, and the Mossy Brand new tarmac is best as it allows the thermoplastic to really bond with it when heated but in most cases, the condition of your playground surface won't significantly impact the longevity of your thermoplastic markings.

We use a primer specifically designed for thermoplastic markings which is applied to the playground surface before we install the markings. This is used to increase the longevity of markings on aged surfaces. We don't charge any extra for it, it's just something we do to ensure you're happy for years to come.

Bad areas to install markings would be those which are prone to repeated flooding. In the winter there would be a risk that the flood water gets under the markings, freezes and then attempts to push them away from the playground surface.

Mossy areas & muddy areas will need to be cleaned in advance of the installation in order to allow the surface to dry out.

Football Court Playground Marking

Installation and Maintenance of Playground Markings

Can you install thermoplastic markings onto safety surfaces.

Unfortunately, thermoplastic markings cannot be installed on surfaces like astroturf or wet pour, as the high heat required for installation would significantly damage these materials.

Man jet washing removing line markings

Removing or Covering Old Playground Markings

Old playground markings can often be removed or covered up, depending on their condition. It's important to consider the state of the old markings before deciding on the best course of action.

Markings which are nearly all gone will be fine to install on top of.

Markings which still have 50% of their material left will not normally be ok. If we were to install new on top of old, as the old material lets go of the tarmac it takes the new with it.

In this instance we would recommend having the old markings removed, and there is a whole blog post about how to do this and the least damaging way to do so.

Spoiler Alert: Sand jet blasting is the best way to remove playground markings.

Water jet or vapour blasting will take some of the playground surface away (noticeably) and burning them off stinks and leaves a burnt mark on the surface.

Snakes and Ladders Thermoplastic Playground Marking with Spin Dice

Making the Right Choice: Questions to Ask Your Playground Marking Provider

Ensuring the Trustworthiness of Your Provider

Be sure to do your research when choosing a provider. Check out their customer reviews, are they genuine?, and ask them questions about their team's qualifications and safety measures.

We're rated 4.9/5 with our Google Reviews as of 2023, and our teams are qualified to CSCS (Construction Skills Certification Scheme) green card level as a minimum. All of our team members are fully DBS checked, and several hold IOSH safety certifications.

Checking Your Provider's Credentials

Check whether the provider's teams are DBS checked and ask for proof. Inquire about any additional health and safety training they have undergone and what guarantees they provide.

For instance, the Construction Skills Certification Scheme is a basic skill course that all building sites will require workers to have, in order to maintain a safe environment. It's an absolute bottom line qualification for working competently in a controlled and safe manner.

The Process of Playground Markings Installation

Site Surveys

A thorough site survey is key to understanding your playground's specific needs and ensuring that the markings will fit properly. Many companies provide this service for free or at a nominal charge. We believe this is a great way for us to get to know your goals and you to get to know us as a company.

Ensuring Safety at Schools

All playground marking installation teams should be fully DBS checked. In addition, teams should have passed the Construction Skills Certification Scheme (CSCS) and at least one person should have passed the Institute of Safety & Health’s training course. Make sure your provider has public and product liabilities insurance for at least £5,000,000.

Exercise Track Playground Markings

The Types of Playground Markings in School Playgrounds.

Proper playground markings can transform an ordinary play area into a dynamic environment that stimulates learning and physical activity while ensuring the safety of children.

Exploring the Different Types of Playground Markings

Educational Playground Markings Educational markings are fantastic learning aids, often incorporating numeracy and literacy concepts into the designs. They're a common sight in school playgrounds and early childhood learning centres.

Playground Marking Games These markings encompass traditional games like hopscotch and tag. They not only provide fun activities for children but can also be educational.

Sports and Fitness Playground Markings From basketball courts to fitness circuits, these markings promote physical activity and healthy competition.

Road Tracks & Exercise Tracks We produce a huge variety of exercise track markings for schools and being honest, most exercise tracks are customised in some way which makes them unique to the school. That might be due to a schools request, or it might be that we make the playground marking design slightly different to fit the available space. The same applies for road tracks of course.

Road Track Playground Markings


With this guide in hand, you're now better equipped to make informed decisions about playground markings. Whether you're planning a new playground or revitalising an existing one, remember we are just a phone call or email away.

Other reads that you may be interested in:

- Our Online Brochure


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