Synthetic ice was initially made to facilitate year-round skating. Over the years, the ice moved from only available in large malls and public spaces to homes with custom panels. Anyone can now have synthetic ice panels delivered to their homes for a personal skating experience.
This has brought a rise in the installation of synthetic ice rinks. Some persons want to build a large, at-home rink to practice hockey, figure skating, or to pick back up a childhood hobby. Others are small businesses that want to add a large rink as an added source of income or to host an event. Whatever the reason, installing a rink has become more accessible than ever. At the same time, you can make some synthetic ice rink installation mistakes. Let’s break down the process and offer some simple tips to consider before installing your rink.
What is Synthetic Ice?
If you’ve stumbled across the concept of synthetic ice for the first time on this blog post, let’s help you out. Simply put, synthetic ice is interlocking panels made of a high-quality polymer.
There are several synthetic ice manufacturers on the market, but ours is made of High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) or Ultra High Molecular Weight Polyethylene (UHMWPE). Both materials create a fantastic skating experience that feels similar to natural ice.
You can order synthetic ice panels to size and shape, installing them quickly to start skating in short order. Because these panels are customizable and accessible, it’s possible to create small and large synthetic rinks for your skating needs.
Synthetic Ice Rink vs. Conventional Ice Rink
There is a subset of persons who enjoy creating a DIY ice rink every year. A smaller subset still has a conventional rink installed in their homes. However, there are several advantages to opting for a synthetic ice rink vs. a traditional ice rink.
- Easy maintenance: When compared to conventional rinks, synthetic panels can be maintained with minimal effort. Boards only need a mild cleaner to remove dirt and shavings. The panels will get scuff marks, which is a good thing. Those grooves improve the skating experience. Conventional rinks need skilled personnel to maintain the rink. DIY (flooded) rinks have a short shelf life but depend on factors like temperature.
- Improved Skating Experience: With DIY rinks, builders run the risk of creating a sloped rink if the water is not easily distributed. This tends to happen when the ground is not level. You may not get this issue with a refrigerated rink. However, synthetic ice panels allow for flexibility in installation. This flexibility reduces the chances of an uneven rink.
- Durability: Synthetic ice panels can last over ten years, with some being able to last well past 15 years. Conventional DIY rinks last only as long as the freezing weather. Refrigerated rinks are durable like synthetics but come at a high cost, as we’ll explain shortly.
- Seasonality: The advantage of getting panels is the year-round availability. You can skate freely on your rink in the offseason without worrying about melting ice. For instance, some persons consider using snow for a border or base of their rink. That snow can melt, creating leaks and poor skating experience. When you’re installing in warmer seasons, just make sure to dress lightly, because you’ll be working up a sweat!
- Cost Savings: Both a conventional, refrigerated rink can cost tens of thousands of dollars to set up and maintain. We’re not even talking about energy costs. These rinks can still run in hotter weather, but unless you’re a professional athlete, the cost-benefit won’t add up. DIY ice rinks can cost you a trip to the hardware store and a lot of time to set up if you’re not good with your hands. Synthetic rinks cost cheaper than both per square foot. It’s also easier to install!
Now that you know what synthetic is panels are and the advantages of installing a rink, you might be raring to install one. Simultaneously, it’s easy to make some installation mistakes that will prove costly or create a poor skating experience. Here are some mistakes to look out for and how to avoid them. These tips can save you time, money, and help you get the most out of your synthetic ice rink.
1. Choose the Right Space for your Rink
If you’re deciding on installing a sizeable synthetic ice rink, make sure to choose the right space before you start anything. For at-home use, you’ll want an area that you can use for an extended period. Don’t choose a site where you will need to remove your rink. For commercial use, you have far more questions and logistics to consider:
- Is the selected space easily accessible?
- Is the space available for several persons to use at once?
- Do you have the necessary approvals to install the rink?
- Will you require liability insurance?
- What’s your system for getting persons in and out of the rink?
Some of these questions may even apply to home use. Overall, making sure that you consider all possibilities can save you a future headache.
2. Use a Suitable Subsurface for your Rink
Synthetic panels work best on a hard, flat surface like concrete, wooden decks, or hardwood floors. Choosing a soft, uneven surface can create a poor skating experience. Avoid grassy areas, carpeting or gravel floors. If that’s the only available space, then there’s a solution. Invest in plywood boards as a sub-flooring for your rink, to give you a nice even floor. A severley sloped surface may need more boards, soil, or a filler before installing the synthetic panels.
3. Measure the Space before Ordering
As the saying goes, ‘measure twice, cut once.’ Once you’ve locked down your space, it’s time to measure the dimensions for the rink. It’s vital to get the right dimensions so you can purchase the right size and number of panels. Get measuring tape long enough to cover a large area and markers to record the measurements. You can waste valuable time and money by ordering too many or too few panels. The same goes for the plywood if you need it. Check your hardware store for plywood cut to your needs.
4. Order the Right Type of Tiles
Whether home or commercial use, you must ask a critical question: What will the rink be used for? If the rink is solely for figure skating practice, consider a Spin Station, infused for the best skating experience. These self-infused panels are perfect for professional ice skating, with a solid core. Ice hockey, on the other hand, can benefit from infused (skating) or non-infused panels (shooting gallery) depending on the purpose of your rink.
Commercial rinks may require a higher molecular weight, durable panel for heavy use. Choosing the wrong type of synthetic ice can reduce the lifespan and even skating experience.
5. Use the Right Tools for Installation
You may think you don’t need tools to install a synthetic ice rink. After all, the panels are interlocking and made-to-measure. But some tools can help.
Taps from a soft mallet are enough to connect the panels for a rink without any borders. The mallet ensures the panels stay locked in place. Hands alone may not suffice. If a plywood subsurface or dasher boards are required, make sure to get additional material. This may include wood framing, screws or nails to secure the plywood or dashers in place.
6. Account for Temperature Changes
When installing your rink, you may have rink walls and toppers installed for safety. However, one common mistake is not accounting for temperature changes. Polyethylene panels tend to expand and contract with changes in the temperature. This may damage the outside of the panels if there is not enough space to account for the expansion. Expanding tiles can also disconnect from the interlocking grooves. Leave a couple of inches on the outside of the rink to compensate for any swelling.
7. Ask for Help!
Synthetic panel installations are quick and easy, but that does not mean you should do it alone! Getting a friend, family member, or DIY expert can help speed things up. This is especially the case if you’re building a large skating space that includes walls. That person may also see something that you’ve missed. When you have others pitch in, the fun starts much sooner.
Now it’s Your Turn
Ready to install your synthetic ice rink? It’s a great way to practice ice skating, hockey training, or other ice sports all year round. Make sure to follow these easy tips. A simple step, such as choosing and measuring the correct space, can cost you time and money through extra panels. With rinks for commercial use, make sure to recruit some help and put safety measures in place. When done the right way, you can get your synthetic ice rink up and running in a couple of hours.
If you need help choosing the right synthetic ice panels for your needs, don’t hesitate to contact us. You can also request a quote so you can start planning your installation. We can’t wait to see your rink!