How to Build an Outdoor Ice Rink

Oh, isn’t having an outdoor ice skating rink just a part of the good old American dream? Depending on what part of the country you live in this might seem like a fool’s errand, but there are actually ways to do this using synthetic ice no matter where you live. 

This type of ice goes by a lot of different names, including artificial ice. If you don’t know what it is, don’t worry. We’ll be covering it very shortly. For now, just know that it is an entirely viable option for an outdoor ice skating rink no matter where you happen to live. 

That being said, even if you know what artificial ice is, you might not know how viable it is for your situation or how to even select a good product. We’ll also be covering that so you can be sure that you know what you’re getting yourself into. 

We will, of course, also be covering how exactly you can go about getting this assembled on your property so you can know how to do it. Strap in because we have a lot to cover as quickly as possible so you can be a pro at picking your artificial ice and getting your rink set up. 

What is Artificial Ice?

Artificial ice is by no means a new technology, but there are a lot of people that don’t know much about it. We wanted to make sure to start off by explaining exactly what it is so you can know for sure before deciding if it’s right for you. 

Artificial ice might be a bit of a misnomer, depending on how you understand the words “artificial” and “ice” when they’re put right next to each other. This kind of ice isn’t made up of water at all, which is why this might be a little confusing. 

There is a not-insignificant number of people that would hear the phrase artificial ice and think we’re talking about chemically freezing water. That can be referred to as artificial ice, but we’re actually talking about something that’s made up of a very complex type of plastic. 

Artificial ice is typically made up of a type of polyethylene, but the chemical composition of the materials used in the creation of artificial ice is very complicated. Something like ultra-low-molecular-weight polyethylene, which we won’t go too into detail about here because we don’t have the time for a crash course chemistry course on top of a crash course artificial ice skating rink assembly. 

Typically, artificial ice comes in a bunch of tiles that can be put together in whatever orientation makes the most sense for the space you’re looking to use up. We typically recommend a rectangle or L shape in most situations, but you know your space better than we do.

Selecting The Right Artificial Ice

Before we get into how to put together your artificial ice skating rink, let’s look at how you can make sure that you’re getting a good product. This is important for preventing injury to those that are skating on the ice as well as ensuring that you don’t have to spend too much money keeping your rink up and running. 

Here are a few features that you should look for in your artificial ice:

  • Weatherproof
  • High weight limit
  • High-quality materials used
  • Durable

Those are the bare minimum that you should be looking for in the ice that you select. Less than that and you have a higher chance of having to replace the tiles more often than you would want to, and that can get pretty pricey. 

It can be a little difficult to make sure that you’re finding all of these features in some cases, but it is absolutely imperative that you do so you can make sure that you’re getting your money’s worth out of the tiles that you purchase. 

The first thing that you’ll want to do is shop around. There are numerous companies that are available and will be more than happy to sell you some artificial ice. By taking advantage of that fact, you can make sure that you’re getting a good deal on quality tiles. 

But, beyond just looking at a company’s website what can you do? We have a lot of experience with this, so let’s give you a few pointers:

Check the reviews right on the company’s website.

    • Many people, whether they’re happy with the product or not, will want to make sure that other people know how they feel about it. That means posting reviews to the company’s website in many instances. 

Find reviews on other places on the internet.

    • It’s not ethical, but some companies purge negative reviews on their website. If you’re concerned that the company you’re dealing with would do that, find reviews from websites they don’t have control of. Then you can be sure that you’re getting the best possible information. 

Look through online forums.

    • There are a lot of hockey fans out there, and many of them like to gather on online forums to talk about these kinds of things. More than likely you’ll be able to find a forum already talking about a specific product, but if there isn’t one you can make one. Here are a few good websites that you can check:
      • Reddit
      • Facebook
      • HFBoards
      • HockeyForums

The internet is a large place and there are definitely places other than those four that you can check for conversations about artificial ice, but those are the four most commonly used websites for this kind of thing.

Once you’ve found a good product you have a couple of steps before you get to actually ordering, but we’ll cover that in more detail in the next section.

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Setting Up Your Rink

Now we arrive at the fun part. There are a few things that you should take care of before you even order, and we’ll cover those now:

  1. Find the area that you want to use for your rink. 
  2. Use something to mark it off, chairs work really well for this. Just put them at the corners. 
  3. Measure the area that you’re going to be using. 
  4. Determine how many tiles you’ll need to buy to fill up the area
  5. Place your order. 

Figuring out how many tiles you’re going to need is easy. Let’s say you have a space that is ten feet by ten feet and the tiles are one foot by one foot. That would mean that you need to order 100 tiles to fill up the space. 

Now that you have that number, you’re going to need to get some plywood to put under the ice. That allows a good foundation for the ice and will help keep everything going well. We’d recommend not lining up the seams of the plywood with the seams of the tiles. 

It just makes things a little stronger if the seams are off, even if the plywood has to be a little larger than the area of the rink itself. It does make a huge difference, so make sure to do this correctly so you can have the best possible experience. 

Once you have your tiles and your plywood it’s time to put together your rink. This part is probably the easiest part, and you would just follow these steps:

1. Find the area where you want the rink again. 

2. Temporarily put markers at the edges just to make sure you’re putting it where you want. 

3. Start assembling the tiles.

All you need to do is line them up and make sure they lock together. 

You can do this a few ways. We recommend going back and forth like a typewriter, but some people prefer to use their jigsaw puzzle skills for this.

4. Make sure everything is locked in and lined up correctly. 

5. Clean up any mess you might have made. 

6. Enjoy your new at-home ice skating rink.

This could take anywhere between half an hour to a few hours depending on how big the space you’re filling up is and how much help you have. Of course, it’s going to take a lot longer to get a 25 foot by 30-foot area taken care of than a 10 foot by 10-foot area. 

Other than it potentially being pretty time heavy, it’s pretty easy. The tiles lock in together and you’ll be able to tell for sure if you have them together correctly. A lot of people would want to get a friend to help them, but most people would be willing to help with this if you bribed them with some pizza because of how easy it is.

Making Your Dreams Come True

Most people have dreamed of having an ice skating rink on their own property. Unfortunately, we aren’t all lucky enough to live in an area where all we would need is a pond and some patience for the winter to come back around. 

For the majority of us, synthetic ice is the best bet we have to enjoy this wonderful winter sport even in the middle of the summer. It’s quick and easy to get set up and, if you do your research, you can be sure that your tiles will last you a good long while.