There is never enough time in the day, and there’s certainly never enough time at the ice rink. By the time you’ve warmed up and gotten into the right rhythm, there’s hardly any time left for you to practice your moves, let alone master them.
And hiring out a rink can be expensive, especially if you need it multiple times a week. So, what’s the solution?
If you’re struggling to find time to master your moves on a public ice rink, then you may be considering building your rink in your garage, basement, or backyard.
There’s a lot about setting up your rink or getting synthetic ice tiles that you need to know before you invest so that you don’t end up wasting any money.
What is Synthetic Ice?
Synthetic or fake ice is a material made out of polymers, which is a combination of different substances like resin or plastic. It is typically made from high-density polyethylene plastic with an ultra-high molecular weight and a slip agent.
Brands have been working for years to improve the gliding capabilities of their synthetic ice by developing new materials and slip agents, and at this point, they’ve got a pretty good reputation for creating ice tiles that can properly imitate the feeling of skating on real ice.
Synthetic ice typically comes as tiles that can be interlocked together to make however big of a rink as you need.
On regular ice, when the blade of your ice skate applies pressure, the ice melts which creates a thin film of water that can then lubricate and allow the blade to glide.
On synthetic ice, the plastic imitates the hard part of the ice and then the slip agent (a.k.a lubricant additive) plays the role of water.
In theory, every figure skating move should be able to be performed on the synthetic ice, though you will probably have to be careful when planting your toe picks into the tiles, and you’ll probably only have limited space so there might be some more restrictions.
It should also be noted that most people say that there is increased resistance with synthetic ice that you don’t find on regular ice, and because of that it might be a bit tougher to glide, but you will certainly still be able to move with relative ease.
However, you should know that because of the increased resistance, you’ll need to sharpen your ice skate blades about twice as often as you usually would.
This shouldn’t be an issue so long as your blades are of good quality. If they’re not, then they will probably be more impacted.
How Long Do Synthetic Ice Panels Last?
If you’re going to invest in setting up your synthetic ice tiles in your own home then you want to know that you’re getting your money’s worth. Luckily, when it comes to synthetic ice, the use can be indefinite.
So long as you’re using them normally, not doing silly things on them, and maintaining them properly then you should be able to use the tiles for a good many years.
The tiles are pretty strong and difficult to break or ruin, and the glide-ability, if it wanes, can easily be brought back through the use of lubricant.
To maintain your tiles properly, you want to be clearing away any shavings that form after use. You don’t need to bring out a Zamboni for this, just a broom, vacuum cleaner, wet mop, or microfiber towel.
These tiles should only need cleaning every so often if there’s a build-up of shavings or dirt. Importantly: you shouldn’t use any chemical cleaners unless it’s specifically suggested by the company that you bought the tiles from.
You should vacuum the tiles before a session, but it depends on how often you practice.
Also, if your tiles are somewhere that’s going to see a lot of dirt, for example: outside anywhere or in a garage, then you should also consider pressure washing the tiles every so often.
What You Need to Consider
There are many factors that you want to consider before you choose which brand of synthetic ice tile you want to purchase.
These needs will differ depending on what activity you’re going to be performing on them, how often you’ll be practicing, and what size you have available. The factors that you need to consider are :
Regardless of your hobby/profession, the coefficient of friction found on synthetic ice tiles is the most important factor to consider before purchasing. However, it’s also the hardest one to be confident about.
This is because all the reviews are personal opinions, and completely dependent on the condition of the skates the reviewer owns or the installation of the ice. There’s also, unfortunately, no way to categorize how well lubricated or smooth the glide is going to be.
So for this, you’ll need to read up on how each brand lubricates their tiles, and what the reviewers are saying, but still, remember to take them with a pinch of salt.
This refers to how the synthetic tiles interlock together with each other. For these to be high-quality, then the interlocking system must be tight and seamless and be strong enough that the tiles don’t get loose, which could cause serious problems.
There are a couple of different systems, and all of them can be good enough if there is a tight enough fit.
Puzzle or dovetail systems are easier to set and take apart but have a less secure attachment and thus need to be regularly checked before a session to ensure that they haven’t become loose.
Alternatively, a tongue and groove system is a lot stronger and more secure, but with that is also more difficult to set up and take apart.
If you’re planning on building your tile rink and taking it down every session, then you should look at puzzle or dovetail systems. But if your rink is going to be more of a permanent fixture, then you want something stronger.
A thicker product is going to have a longer lifespan, but it also probably going to cost more. Some manufacturers make it an important factor whilst others don’t.
Considering the hefty upfront cost and the investment that you’re putting into this purchase, you want to ensure that you’re offered a good warranty, just in case something goes wrong or something breaks before it’s supposed to.
Be sure that you consider not only the length of the warranty but also what is covered.
Storage/Ease of Assembly
As mentioned above, if you’re planning on building and taking down your rink as and when needed, then you want to make sure that you have a product that is easy to put together and take apart, as well as being simple enough to store efficiently without making a big mess.
This is entirely dependent on your budget and what you’re willing to pay to have the convenience of an ice rink at your own home.
What Are The Top Companies?
Once you’ve managed to figure out exactly what it is that you want and need out of a synthetic ice rink, then you’re ready to start looking at the different brands available.
However, it should be interesting to know going in that there isn’t a true stand-out with any of the companies, and most of them are pretty much equivalent.
Now, this shouldn’t put you off, as this just means that the technology is at a great place that is accessible to most companies, and there’s no specially-patented technology that only a few of them can access.
Nevertheless, what follows in this article are the brands that you want to look into whilst considering what kind of synthetic ice you want to purchase.
This is the first of the synthetic ice available at a lower price range, Skate Anytime is a brand great for young skaters just starting out.
It’s not necessarily marketed towards figuring skating or hockey, but these tiles are great for indoor or outdoor use, and have a puzzle interlocking system, making it easy to set up and take down once the session is over.
This product is self-lubricating so there’s no need for any additional products.
They have various sizes and packages available, depending on the size and scope that you’re looking for.
Initially featured on the TV show Shark Tank, this kit comes with an 8-year warranty and is also suitable for indoor and outdoor use.
There is a lot of marketing out around figure skating specifically, and they even have a package that has a shape that is supposedly better for practicing spins.
Once again, this is a self-lubricating product, but unlike Skate Anytime, Polyglide features double-sided tiles, which doubles the life span of the tiles.
Again, you’re able to choose between various package sizes, including starter kits for people just getting started.
Though these tiles are available at a lower price range, they also have premium products available if you’re able to stretch your budget to them.
This is a much thicker product than the previous ones, and so should have a decently good life-span, however, there is only a 2-year warranty available. Each tile is 18”x18” and is also self-lubricating, so there’s no need for any additional products.
These tiles are available individually instead of as a kit, so you can personalize your rink to whatever your specifications are.
This is more of a medium-range product, and so is typically more expensive than the previous brands. They claim to be a global leader in synthetic ice panels that are designed for optimal ice skating.
Again this is a self-lubricating tile that doesn’t require any other products. The interlocking system is a tongue and groove one, which makes this rink better for being a permanent fixture in your home, rather than being something that is taken down after every session.
The tiles are also very big, so you need fewer tiles to fill your space.
Depending on the version of the kit that you purchase, you could be offered a warranty that lasts between 6 to 12 years.
This is a much higher range product and has even been endorsed by Hockey Canada and Elvis Stojko. There are loads of videos of people using this product online for their training and professional videos that they post publicly.
These come as small double-sided tiles that interlock with a puzzle locking system. There’s no need to purchase additional lubricant as these tiles have a slip agent inside the product.
There are also several different colors that you can choose from to create lines and sections, which is nice to have the option to properly personalize your rink.
That said, there’s no information available about the thickness or the warranty options, but they do state that the tiles are suitable for indoor and outdoor use, which is good to know.
This product is great for large rinks to be used by people with a lot of training. It features double-sided tiles of either ¾” or ½” thickness – this gives these tiles a great life span, and they should last you a long time so long as you’re sensible.
As well as this, the tiles have a tongue and groove interlocking system, meaning that they should be tight and secure.
This does mean that the tiles are more difficult to set up and take apart, but this shouldn’t be an issue if you’re planning on making the rink a more permanent fixture around your home.
Like with the other brands, Glice Rink can be set up both indoors and outdoors, and they can offer you a warranty of either 6 or 12 years, depending on the particular product that you’ve purchased.
Although there’s no indication as to whether these tiles are single or double-sided, there are a lot of unfiltered reviews that indicate that these tiles are particularly good, especially for figure skating.
Similar to Glice Rink and Can-Ice, these tiles are pretty big so you don’t need that many to fill a small area – or you can fill a large area as well with relative ease.
These tiles feature a dovetail interlocking system and so are easy enough to take apart and put back together again.
The best part about this product is that Smart Rink offers a lifetime warranty for use of the product at home, so no matter what you throw at this rink, you can be confident that your investment has not been wasted.
You may have been able to figure this out, but this product is marketed as being well-suited to play and practice hockey on. It comes in two different thicknesses: standard (⅜”) or thick (½”).
Both thicknesses are more than capable of withstanding the beating that playing or practicing hockey can take out on the ice.
These tiles are particularly large, being either 4ft x 8ft or 4ft x 4ft. Again, this makes them perfect for a larger area, if you happen to have one available to you, though they will cost you a hefty price if you have the budget for it.
The final brand that I’m going to discuss here is Kwikrink Synthetic Ice. They sell double-sided tiles at a ⅜” thickness and are marketed as being perfectly suited for figure skating.
They feature a tongue and groove interlocking system, so are designed for more of a fixed feature in your home rather than something that can be taken apart after every session.
Depending on the choice of panel, you can get a warranty of up to 10 years, which should allow you to skate with confidence.
I mentioned previously that there was no real difference between the quality of most of the brands, and I still hold that to be true.
The biggest difference that you’re going to find is that the higher-end, more expensive products typically come in a much larger size and therefore can be used for more professional rinks or more professional skaters.
If you’re building the rink for someone that’s just starting out, there’s nothing wrong with going with one of the lower-end, cheaper options, and you’ll still be able to get a good practice out of whatever kit that you purchase.
The most important thing is to make sure that everything is connected properly, and that your skates are properly sharpened.