For decades, synthetic ice has proven to be an excellent alternative to outdoor ice or refrigerated ice rinks.
The benefits are clear. Skating is convenient and feels seamless.
It is a cheaper long-term alternative to ice while still allowing you to use your metal skates.
It can last for years, is scalable, and skatable year-round.
But, even with its durability, can you install it outside?
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Skaters want to make sure they get the best experience.
But, more importantly, they want to make sure it lasts.
Rest assured, synthetic ice can withstand both inside and outside use.
Can synthetic ice go outside?
Synthetic ice is made of a dense polymer called polyethylene.
Polyethylene is present in almost everything we use: Our electronics, housewares, toys, insulation, and more.
The polyethylene compounds we use in synthetic ice has been around for over 50 years.
The Polyethylene used by PolyGlide is meant to be light but durable.
Even our thicker panels can withstand hours of impact from hockey players, figure skaters, or recreational skaters.
Synthetic ice rinks are popular indoors.
Commercial rinks are often in malls, recreational centers, and businesses that focus on family entertainment.
However, since we started creating tiles and panels for residential use, customers have preferred to build rinks in garages, barns, and spare rooms.
That does not mean they can’t go outside and stay there.
The polyethylene surface material lasts in any weather for years.
Let’s look at how synthetic ice holds up in different kinds of weather.
How do synthetic ice rinks fare in the winter (mainly snow)?
Backyard ice rinks depend on the first freeze for the water to set and become a rink.
This is not necessary with synthetic ice.
However, like backyard rinks, synthetic ice rinks still have to deal with frosty temperatures and snow.
Freezing temperatures, snow, and even hail will not damage your synthetic ice rink.
The colder temperatures improve your synthetic ice’s performance, making it smoother and closer to the real thing.
When it snows on a natural backyard rink, the snow freezes on contact.
The result is a sometimes unusable surface.
The rink needs to be cleaned and resurfaced with hot water. Ice sheets and clumps can form on your synthetic rink but not as much as on a natural rink.
Therefore, it will not create any damage.
Simply melt and remove excess ice with hot water and a brush.
Afterward, you may need to resurface your rink with a Slip Surface Conditioner for the best performance.
What about the heat?
Synthetic ice can stand up to heat like no other type of rink.
Natural rinks need cold temperatures to maintain their integrity.
Once temperatures rise, it is time to take down your rink.
Shorter winters due to changes in climate mean less time on the ice.
Refrigerated rinks fare a bit longer since they use machines and refrigeration to stay frozen.
But as it gets hotter, the refrigeration costs for an outdoor rink rise.
In short, you will have an additional month or two at best.
Polyethylene withstands up to 250 °F (120 °C) in the production process, which translates to the final product.
That means your rink can withstand the scorching heat in Florida or Arizona as much as it can Utah or Montana’s cold.
Synthetic ice rinks tend to expand when constantly exposed to heat.
This should not affect your skating, but it must be considered when building a rink with walls.
There should be at least 1” of space between the rink and walls to compensate for expanding tiles or panels.
Synthetic ice in the rain
Your ice can stay outdoors and handle a sudden downpour.
In colder months, rain freezes on rinks.
For your natural or refrigerated rinks, it poses a similar threat as snow.
Your synthetic rink may form some ice, but you can easily clean it off as you would clumps of snow.
Rain is not a problem in hotter months, but dirt can accumulate on your rink.
Rain dries on synthetic ice like any surface, causing streaks when mixed with dust.
The dirt can impact your skating experience over time, so clean your rink before you skate.
If you’re concerned about rain, snow, or other weather changes, you can build your synthetic ice rink in a covered area.
But this is not necessary.
Your synthetic ice rink is essentially weather-proof.
Does synthetic ice wear out? How long does synthetic ice last?
Weather-proof synthetic does not mean it will last forever.
Skating will produce wear and tear as the blades slice through the synthetic material.
These minor cuts improve skating over time, but the panels will wear out.
On average, your synthetic ice panels should last at least five years.
With proper care, it can go up to 10 years or more.
Sometimes, we recommend flipping the rink over for some extra use.
Your rink’s durability depends on factors like the use and type of synthetic ice.
For instance, tiles are smaller and thinner than panels.
Therefore, several skaters on a rink made of tiles will wear them down compared to panels.
It’s all about maintenance.
If you notice a trend, your rink can go outdoors and last for years, in any weather, but only with regular maintenance.
Indoor and outdoor synthetic ice rinks need essential maintenance.
For rinks with heavy traffic, we recommend cleaning them weekly to remove dirt and shavings.
Use a soft brush with warm, soapy water to remove dirt, then resurface as needed.
Make sure your rink is interlocked securely to prevent damage to the rink and injury.
Outdoor rinks need the same level of care with some added touches.
For instance, you can invest in a cover to protect your rink from excess dirt, debris, and even rain and snow.
Yes, your rink will survive without it, but the fewer times you need to clean it, the better.
Who wants to spend time cleaning when you can be skating!
We have covers for indoor rinks, but you can use a tarp or other durable cover outdoors.
Cover your rink after use or if the weather is about to change.
You can remove the covering and start skating.
Is your rink still frozen?
You will need hot water to melt and remove the ice before cleaning it with a soft mop.
Outdoor rinks can develop more grime and dirt than indoor rinks.
In that case, you can use a pressure washer for a deeper clean.
Pressure washers have different heads that can provide a powerful clean without removing the infused layers.
Clean on the lowest possible setting first and gradually increase the pressure for really stubborn areas.
Synthetic ice is a great way to build your home or commercial rink indoors or outdoors.
The durable material allows you to have hours of fun skating outdoors without any damage due to weather.
What’s important is that you follow the proper maintenance, so sun, snow, or rain won’t stand a chance.
To avoid potential damage and extra cleaning, you can store away your rink. Just disconnect the panels and place them in a cool, dry place.
Some rink owners don’t have that extra space, but that should not deter them from keeping the rink in the same place.
The hockey players and figure skaters in your life can skate for hours, making it an incredible return on investment.
If you have ample outdoor space, don’t let it deter you from installing your rink.