How L.A. Works: Bounce House

Kick off your shoes and take a tour of this plastic castle
Bounce House

Photo-illustration by Comrade

In 1958, Engineer John Scurlock discovered that an inflatable tennis court cover worked well as an air-filled alternative to the trampoline. His vinyl invention would eventually become known as the bounce house, a front yard fixture at just about every L.A. kid’s birthday party.

1) The Price
Manufacturers’ prices for commercial inflatables range from slightly more than $1,000 for the smallest bouncers to upwards of $15,000 for the biggest ones (like Cutting Edge’s 35-foot-tall Kraken slide). Rentals generally range from $89 to $299 per day.

2) The Netting
Those suffocating clear plastic windows of yore are no more. They’ve been replaced by tightly woven nylon mesh, with apertures measuring one-eighth inch to protect pinkies while affording a view.

3) The Shape
Designs are created using 3-D imaging software and transmitted to automated blades, which slice the pattern from wide sheets of vinyl that are stitched together by workers. Burbank has one of the largest factories.

4) The Drawbacks
Ripping is an issue, but nothing compares with mold. The inflatable is pumped full of cool air, then filled with sweating, exhaling kids—a moisture trap. If the house isn’t properly cleaned, nasty fungus can take over.

5) The Baffles
Without a skeleton, the base of the bounce house would be a shapeless blob. Vinyl anchors, called baffles, connect the area where the kids bounce to the part that rests on the ground. They divide the base into tubular air chambers, which, when inflated, support the columns, giving the structure its form.

6) The Blower
B-Air blowers come in garish green and yellow, and they’re powered by a motorized fan that is
1, 1.5, or 2 horsepower. A standard blower pumps out 1,170 cubic feet of air per minute.