Ice skating without suitable attire requires a high tolerance for freezing temperatures. With synthetic ice, hockey players and figure skaters can finally practice and play without numbing their extremities.
But the comfort of skaters isn’t the only consideration for owners of ice rinks. There are also cost and maintenance factors, construction timelines, and the question of whether the synthetic ice will stand up to regular use.
When thinking about switching from traditional ice to synthetic ice, rink owners usually have one overriding question, “How long does synthetic ice last?” After all, business owners want to know that they’ll get a solid return on their investment.
Even if you’re just making a rink for your backyard, you will still want to know how long it will last. But before exploring the upkeep required and the expected lifespan of synthetic ice, let’s answer a more fundamental question. What is synthetic ice?
What Is a Synthetic Ice Rink?
What is synthetic ice made of if it’s not frozen H2O? This ice alternative is an ultra-dense polymer that replicates the skating experience on natural frozen water. Manufacturers usually make synthetic ice into interlocking panels that can create smooth skating surfaces of any size, from large rinks to small hockey shooting galleries.
Artificial ice rinks offer a year-round skating experience without expensive and environmentally harmful constant refrigeration. The polymer-based ice also does not need resurfacing with a Zamboni, though owners should maintain the surface to increase its lifespan and preserve a pleasurable skating experience.
How Does Synthetic Ice Work?
How do ice skating rinks work with regular ice? Traditional ice skating works because the topmost layer is actually still liquid. Skaters’ blades can glide on the low-friction, microscopically thin water layer.
Now, what is synthetic ice skating? This type of ice skating works because the high-density polymer has an incredibly low coefficient of friction, which, when paired with a lubricant called a slip agent, provides a surface similar to the thin layer of water on top of regular ice.
Some manufacturers embed slip agents into their synthetic ice, which means owners don’t have to add aftermarket glide enhancers to maintain the low-friction nature of the rink. KwikRink sells synthetic ice surfaces that are completely embedded with this slip agent. No glide enhancers are necessary in most applications, but these topical lubricants still have a place for skaters in certain environments or anyone simply looking to speed up the break-in process.
It’s important to note that synthetic ice is not quite as slippery as natural ice, but the difference is only about 10%. The increased friction might take a little getting used to, but the good news is that this adjustment period is generally a matter of minutes. Even better, all maneuvers a skater would use on traditional ice will work on synthetic ice, even so-called “hockey stops.”
Beginners can benefit from synthetic ice’s higher friction because it forces new skaters to develop good habits and techniques, and the increased resistance builds strength. Again, the difference isn’t massive, but it is enough to be noticeable and has some benefits.
How Long Does a Synthetic Ice Rink Last?
How long does a plastic ice skating rink last? The longevity of a synthetic rink depends on three things:
- The quality of the artificial ice
- The level of maintenance it receives
- The type of usage (hockey training, figure skating, leisure, etc.)
For a high-quality synthetic ice rink that gets regular maintenance, a rink owner could expect their synthetic ice to last between 12 to 15 years.
Given a possible lifespan, you might be curious about how much rigorous use affects the surface’s longevity. Does fake ice for hockey last long when subjected to dozens, hundreds, and even thousands of intense games? Yes, it does, and regular skating enhances its skating properties because normal wear will reduce friction.
That’s not to say that the surface doesn’t need maintenance (it does!) — you just don’t have to worry about a synthetic ice rink becoming unusable after a short time.
Factors Affecting the Lifespan of Synthetic Ice Rinks
Let’s review the details for getting the most extended use from a synthetic ice surface. The more time and energy you spend on the front end, the more years of enjoyment you’ll get.
Quality of Installation
No amount of maintenance will turn poor-quality tiles and an inferior installation into a long-lasting, fun skating surface. The panels you purchase should interlock cleanly and seamlessly, withstand aggressive use, and have inherent anti-slip properties. The panels must be set up on a flat, rigid surface to maintain the billiard table-like flatness required for skating, such as a concrete slab, asphalt parking lot, or well-graded ground with a plywood subfloor.
You might need to create a massive, 4,000-square-foot rink for a professionally operated facility. If you’re making a backyard practice rink, you might need as few as four panels. Regardless, ensure you’ve measured your space to account for the dovetailed panel ends. KwikRink offers fully customizable rink options to handle any application.
Thickness & Durability
Consider whether you want to use injection molded or solid core panels. Injection-molded panels are less expensive but don’t last as long as solid core panels since they are much thinner. Also, once they wear out, you can’t flip them over and use the other side since injection-molded surfaces have a hollow core with exposed support structures all along the bottom.
Solid core tiles are thicker and don’t flex when installed on hard surfaces — they are of uniform depth across the entire panel. When one side wears out, it’s just a matter of flipping the panels to the unused side.
The surface “breaks in” with use, lowering the friction of synthetic ice over time. However, synthetic ice isn’t indestructible and will need maintenance to keep the surface usable. Indoor rinks will require less care since the synthetic ice isn’t subject to the elements, but you’ll still need a routine maintenance schedule.
To preserve your artificial rink’s surface, here are the maintenance schedules you need to put in place depending on whether it’s a professional or home rink — indoors or outdoors.
Professional Indoor Rinks:
- Vacuum daily
- Scrub the surface every two weeks
- Pressure wash every three months
Professional Outdoor Rinks:
- Vacuum twice per day
- Scrub the surface every week
- Pressure wash every month
Home Indoor Rinks:
- Vacuum once per week
- Scrub the surface once per month
- Pressure wash once per year
Home Outdoor Rinks:
- Vacuum once per day
- Scrub the surface once per week
- Pressure wash every three months
These schedules assume that professional rinks will see more use than home rinks, but you can adjust accordingly depending on how much skating your rink will get. Also, if you use glide enhancers, whether because you have panels with no slip agents embedded or want to decrease the friction, avoid oil or glycerin-based enhancers. They tend to trap dirt and create unpleasant, hard-to-clean shavings as they dry.
You’ll need to use specific synthetic ice cleaners to clean your panels. These cleaners restore the smooth, slippery, white surface without causing any discoloration or wear. Simply apply and mop in tight circles, then rinse it off.
Fortunately, synthetic ice suffers zero harm from rain and snow. You just need to be careful about how you remove precipitation. If you use a shovel to remove the snow, be careful not to stab, scratch, or gouge the panels. You can always melt ice and snow with hot water and then mop up the water.
How to Increase the Lifespan of Your Synthetic Ice Rink
Beyond the maintenance schedule, there are plenty of tips and tricks for keeping your synthetic ice surface in tip-top shape for years and even decades.
Rotate the Panels Every So Often
Yes, rotating the panels will extend your rink’s lifespan. You won’t have to worry about mismatches if you purchase high-quality synthetic ice tiles. That spreads out the wear and lets you use one side of the panels longer than you would otherwise.
Cover Outdoor Rinks When Not in Use
Remember that covering your outdoor synthetic ice rink when not in use will keep you from having to remove dirt and debris. That will also protect it from damage from wildlife or falling rocks or tree limbs. The more you care for your rink, the less maintenance you’ll have to do, especially if it’s outside!
Use Water-Soluble Glide Enhancers
If you have to use glide enhancers, use the kinds that are water-soluble. They’re much better for the environment than oil-based enhancers and are much easier to clean.
Keep Temperatures Reasonable
If possible, keep your synthetic rink from sitting in direct sunlight. The sun’s rays will cause the panels to break down faster than they would otherwise. Also, consider building a rink indoors if you plan on using it in a hot climate. You still don’t need to refrigerate the rink, but the power bills for a 72-degree rink will be far lower than those of a regular, sub-freezing rink!
Only Install the Rink on a Firm, Unyielding Surface
Don’t rely on the rigidity of the panels to support the weight of skaters. Synthetic ice panels don’t need just a framework underneath — they need an excellent surface.
If you build on ground that can wear and give way over time, you may find that the only thing supporting a 200-pound person is a single ½″ synthetic ice tile. Pour a concrete slab or build on a properly backfilled and graded surface to maximize the rink’s longevity.
KwikRink: The Best Synthetic Ice for All Activities
How long does a synthetic ice rink last? The lifespan depends on various factors, including usage, maintenance, and quality of the material. An artificial ice rink can last 10-15 years or more with proper care and limited use.
With a well-maintained surface made from KwikRink synthetic ice panels, you can expect well over a decade of outstanding skating. Imagine getting 90% of the gliding performance of ice without the huge refrigeration bills and resurfacing requirements! Our panels are built to withstand the competitive nature of hockey players and figure skaters.
Whether you’re building a backyard rink out of KwikRink V Home panels or need the extra lifespan and increased glide from KwikRink V Pro panels, you’ll be shocked at how realistic artificial ice can feel. Call KwikRink and get started creating your new synthetic ice rink today!