What is the ideal size for synthetic ice panels? As the saying goes, “the bigger, the better” in most cases. “Bigger” panels certainly have the disadvantage of being less convenient than smaller panels when it comes to shipping and receiving.
From a purely functional standpoint, however, a bigger-sized panel tends to be a much better choice for your synthetic ice rink installation for several reasons.
At KwikRink Synthetic Ice, our default panel is a whopping 8′ x 4′ size, about the same size as a full sheet of plywood. Many other companies sell panels as small as 1.5′ x 1.5′!
These tiles are great for shipping, but the advantages stop there. If you’re looking for the most authentic ice skating experience, you’ll get it from installing larger panels of synthetic ice.
Let’s take a look at 4 reasons why bigger synthetic ice tiles are the way to go.
1. Larger synthetic ice panels make for less seams in the surface.
While smaller panels are easier to move around, they also will have substantially more seams when the panels are connected. In our example above, comparing a KwikRink 4’x8’ panel with the 18” x 18” tiles, you would have approximately 11 seams from the smaller tiles inside one seamless KwikRink panel.
These seams simply leave a lot more opportunity for things to go wrong in a synthetic ice rink. Seams can bulge, lead to cracks, or catch dirt and debris. If a seam pops up, even very slightly, from variation in the floor surface or expansion due to temperature changes, you can catch the edge of your skate on the lip.
2. Larger synthetic ice panels provide more forgiveness when a substrate is flawed.
Most sub-floors are not perfect. The smaller the synthetic ice tiles are, the less “forgiveness” they provide in a flawed substrate. Aside from the extra seams, the smaller size leaves the panels much more likely to have seams that lip up. This protruding edge is a problem that can stop pucks and trip skaters.
It’s easier for a smaller panel to lift up or buckle, too. The weight of larger panels keeps them more stable and stationary. In short, larger size synthetic ice panels are able to cover up substrate flaws much better than smaller panels.
You also need to think about the synthetic ice panels shrinking and swelling some due to temperature changes. When that occurs, seams, in particular, are vulnerable to cracking.
Some tiles snap together with a dovetail design, and cracks that break off one of the tabs means that you’ll need to replace a panel. Tongue-and-groove designs are also vulnerable to cracking from an uneven surface or fluctuating temperatures.
3. Larger synthetic ice panels allow for a quicker installation.
This one is a bit obvious, but having to connect fewer panels makes doing a synthetic ice installation much faster. These larger-sized panels will not be as easy to move around as the smaller ones, but connecting one KwikRink synthetic ice panel to another is comparable to connecting up to 16 smaller panels from a different supplier.
Fewer connections mean less time to install and less opportunity for error or breakage. At KwikRink, we can even create custom-sized panels for the odd edges and irregularities for your surface and dimensions.
4. Larger synthetic ice panels offer the best bang for your buck.
Bigger synthetic ice panels will provide the best value for your money. Most competing brands that offer smaller panels do so to improve shipping and convenience of mobility for the consumer.
Although these aren’t bad reasons, consumers are left with even less panel for their dollar due to the desire to cut overhead costs and meet various shipping restrictions. This is also why you often will see “Free Shipping” for the smaller panels. It is not really free, but built into the cost, as they are vastly overpriced for what is received.
In contrast, larger synthetic ice tiles are thicker and more durable. Their weight is an asset when it comes to rink stability. Larger tiles aren’t going to bounce or flex from the weight of skaters upon them. The additional thickness means they will last.
Check the warranty any synthetic ice panels you’re considering, as well as they approximate years of useful life. Super synthetic ice in larger panels from KwikRink has a 10-year warranty. Other smaller tiles often have a 3-5 year lifespan and warranties for a fraction of that.
Larger panels install securely and stay put, which lowers your maintenance costs. Your ice rink will be the closest to real ice that it can be when you minimize seams, create a smooth surface, and replicate the weight and thickness of actual ice’s feel.
Don’t compromise on the function of a rink and pleasure of skating by installing smaller, thinner tiles. In the long run, whatever initial savings you may have celebrated will vanish with cleaning, repair, and replacement costs.
BONUS REASON TO USE LARGER SYNTHETIC ICE SHEETS
Puck glide. Skate glide. Performance. Durability. Cleaner, smoother surface. Okay, that was six reasons. The fewer seams a puck or a skate has to glide over, the lower the amount of friction and the better glide. Better glide means closer to the real thing: natural ice, which is seamless.
Bottom line: a synthetic rink will look, feel, perform, and last better if you use larger, more stable, better manufactured synthetic ice sheets.
Let’s face it. When you spring for a synthetic ice rink, your goal is to get the feel of natural ice as much as possible. Especially if you are doing a regulation rink-size or more than 300 sq. ft. installation, you’ll be glad you opted for larger panels instead of hundreds of small tiles.
When it comes to synthetic ice panels, bigger is better. Contact our installers at KwikRink with the measurements of your rink space. We’ll help you lay down a rink quickly with as few total panels as possible.