Synthetic ice surfaces are no different than any other flooring products with the exception that you can ice skate on it after you've completed your synthteic ice installation.
With this I mean that in order to install any typical flooring product such as ceramic tiles, hardwood flooring, flooring laminates or linoleum you must have a firm and flat sub-floor.
This will help insure that your synthetic ice panels lay flat and the connections are virtually seamless.
Be sure to thoroughly clean your sub-surface area free of debris before installing your synthetic ice panels.
If you plan on installing your ice on concrete flooring be sure to check for flatness first with a straight edge.
Remember that concrete is not a manufactured sub-surface and any sudden dip or deviation can cause your panels to lift or “bounce”.
First test out the area by installing a few panels to check for flatness.
If you are installing a larger outdoor surface that will be exposed to the elements a polymer tarp or underlayment can help with expansion.
This will also help prevent any buckling or raised edges on your surface by implementing this step before starting your synthetic ice installation.
1. Surface Solutions
Synthetic ice rinks can be installed virtually anywhere, anyplace at anytime and because of the cost of refrigerated natural ice, it truly is the ultimate green product substitute and the next best thing.
That being said, we included a quick few ideas here on how you can prep any outdoor space for your ice.
Here’s a few quick outdoor solutions that will provide an adequate sub-floor for your synthetic ice installation:
Shed Deck (Wood)
Shed Deck - If you are considering installing your synthetic ice rink on grass or a slightly uneven surface you will need to install a sub-floor FIRST to make sure the subsurface is flat enough to support your rink.
A simple way to achieve this is by constructing a "shed deck" by using exterior grade plywood on top of pressure-treated stringers.
Using manufactured pressure-treated sheeting or similar flat materials will provide a good base for your rink surface.
Temporary Flooring (Plastic)
FastDeck – There are many different types of snap-together temporary event surfaces you can consider.
FastDeck temporary flooring has many applications, is strong yet still lightweight and easy to store.
These polymer panels easily snap together with no need for tools or trained labor of any kind and can quickly be dissembled.
Staging – In areas where extra provisions may need to be made (for example: Portable Staging over a swimming pool or open space) an aluminum or steel frame staging structure may the best solution.
Of the three options this is clearly the most costly but may certainly makes sense if your rink project will be for an extended period of time not short term.
2. Expansion and Contraction Provisions
Much the same way flooring laminates require a gap around the perimeter synthetic ice must also be treated in the same way....like a "floating floor" that is allowed to expand and contract with temperature changes.
To do this a slight gap must be made around the perimeter or outside edge of your rink.
Mechanical fasteners are NOT to be used to secure your ice in place as this will prevent expansion and contraction and stress out your surface.
Making these provisions will help lessen stress on the surface especially on outdoor rinks in cold climate areas with large temperature "swings" between the night and day.
If you plan to install a Dasher Board System with your new rink it is advised not to install it on top of your surface as this could also restrict expansion.
Over the lifetime of the rink you may develop stress fractures by using this method and should be avoided when planning your synthetic ice installation.
here are many ways to create an expansion gap below the perimeter kickplate that creates a space for expansion and is virtually invisible.
Taking the time to “Pre-Plan” before beginning your rink project will pay off in the long term and help avoid unnecessary issues that otherwise may occur.
Be sure to follow the manufacturers instructions and ask questions if you’re not sure what is the best way to install your rink.
3. Preventive Maintenance
As with any outdoor backyard product preventive maintenace plays an importanant role in the longevity and upkeep of your synthteic ice rink.
Sometimes season care is required for outdoor rinks depending on where you live and your surroundings.
One of the biggest enemies of synthetic ice is REAL ICE.
During extreme cold weather freezing of the surface from ice build-up must be prevented.
A frozen rink will not be able to expand when temperatures rise which can stress-out the surface and can cause stress cracks over time if provisions are not made.
If the weather report calls for a heavy ice or snow storm when you know you will not be using your outdoor rink, it would be wise to cover or tarp your surface.
Maintaining your rink over the long term, keeping it clean and allowing it to “breath” will insure it will maintain optimal glide and performance for many years to come.
If you live in a region that is seasonal and have a rink that will be exposed to falling leaves this is the ideal time to keep your surface covered when not in use.
Also, areas that may be exposed to sand or dust storms during different times of the year.
A common sense approach with preventive maintenance will go a long way to keeping your rink in top shape while in use.
When selected a tarp to cover your outdoor rink be sure to get one that is Poly Tarp protected from the UV sunlight.
Also, you will want to opt for a light color or white tarp to help reflect the sun.
Dark colored tarps will attract sunlight and create a greenhouse effect underneath the cover by raising the surface temperature.
This will expand your surface and could present issues for your connections or harbor a safe environment for mold to grow.
5. Cleaning Options
Synthetic ice rink maintenance is really no different than many types of flooring or hardwood surfaces in that it needs to be kept clean.
The main difference is the surface is white and dirt becomes more apparent over a shorter period of time.
Here’s three basic cleaning methods and applications you may want to consider:
When you start to see your panel connections (dovetail or tongue and groove) become more visible or pronounced, it’s probably time to hose it down.
Don’t wait too long because it will only make the job that much more difficult.
It won’t be long before you're able to ascertain how frequently you’ll need to clean your rink depending on the usage or traffic.
PH Neutral Soap
With an indoor rink you are limited to the amount of water you can use to clean your surface.
To break-up the dirt apply a PH Neutral soap applied with a fine spray mist.
Wipe clean with a flat micro-fiber mop until dry and repeat until the surface is clean.
If you're guilty of neglecting your outdoor rink for a prolonged period of time and are in need of some immediate help, then power-washing is a perfectly fine option.
Using a power washer is a great way to clean-up your rink "grout lines" at the connections and make your surface look new again.
It's always a good idea to scrub-down your rink first to loosten the dirt before you start to powere-wash.
A little pre-installation planning will help make your rink project a successful one.
Take out the time to consider all the costs and factors to make sure you limit the amount of potential issues that may arise before getting started.
The main thing is to be sure not to rush your installation, just follow these few simple guidelines and you’ll be happy you went the extra mile once you see your rink up and running!
Take a look at some of our most popular rink packages!
Keep on Skating!
Jim Loughran, PolyGlide Ice