Why use a liner?

Why use an outdoor hockey rink liner?

The liner method is the best way to build a successful natural outdoor rink in all regions throughout the US and Canada.  When the goal is to build a great rink for yourself or your community that will last and be worth the effort and money, the liner method is the answer.  Below are some reasons to use a liner versus flooding the grass, asphalt, or concrete.

-Easier Set Up

It will take countless hours in the freezing night time cold to build up ice without a liner even on concrete or asphalt.   With a liner, it is as easy as 3F… frame, fill, and freeze.  Frame the boards with Iron Sleek Brackets, Fill your liner covered frame, and wait for the cold Freeze.  After you fill the rink, it is hands off.

-Longer Season

Without a liner, rink builders must wait until they have confidence with cooperative consistent freezing cold weather.   An unlined rink built too early could end up being a total waste when you are solely counting on frozen ground to connect saturated water puddles.  That could be in mid-January!  On the other hand, with the liner method, there is little risk of wasted work and wasted water for an early season start.  The frame is built in advance in the mild late fall.  As soon as the weather forecast shows 20’s during the day and teens at night for 3 or 4 straight days, it will be time to roll out the white liner.  The liner will contain the rink water during thaws and reflect sunrays away from the rink.  The liner’s impermeability and reflectivity are the keys to getting an early season start and a late season end.  You may start skating in late November and ending in early March depending on what region of the US or Canada you live in.  In 2013-2014 season, first skate in Chicago was December 8, 2013 while the last skate was March 16, 2014.  THAT’S A LONG SEASON!!  Keep in mind, even for non-weather depend rinks, like refrigerated rinks, liners are a basic essential.  DO NOT SKIP THIS STEP…USE A LINER.

 -Reduced Maintenance

 A lined rink withstands freeze/thaw scenarios with ease.  A thaw actually improves the rink surface as the water finds its own level and naturally smoothens itself out.  When the cold comes back, it could take as little as single evening to the have the rink back up and running.  Without a liner, a thaw can mean a start over because water will drain its way through lawn.  It could take several freezing cold nights, lots of excess water, and countless overtime labor hours to get back to par. 

-Cost Savings

Water can be expensive. In Chicago it is $15 for 1000 gallons.  A small residential rink could takes as little as 5000 gallons of water while a Park and Rec rink could take over 100,000 gallons.  Without a liner, water detrimentally will seep away into the lawn or into concrete cracks on warmer days.   With a liner, it takes just one fill up.   Besides the cost in water, the cost of maintaining the top surface is much more involved without a liner.  As rink water washes away, the top surface has to be continually rebuild.  With a liner, water does not flow away so it just takes minutes to apply a minimal top coat of resurfacing water. 

-Better ice quality

With a liner in place, ice quality is optimized.  The white liner reduces heat up during the sunny days so that the rink does not get soggy spots.  Thus, leaving you with better quality ice. 

-Site does not have to be perfectly level

Granted, a level site is always better for building a natural outdoor rink, it is not as critical if you are using a liner.  If you are a Park and Rec and have less than 12 inches of pitch, do not bother leveling the site.  Without a liner, it is nearly impossible to build up an ice surface on the lawn with significant pitch. It is a basic rule of physics that, water will always find its level!  This is a battle that could never be won except with the liner method where you can compensate for unleveled ground by using taller boards where the water is deeper.  Be sure to follow Iron Sleek Bracket guidelines for supporting the rink walls.  Water pressure can be deceiveing.

-Preserves the lawn

Flooded lawns in the winter are not good for grass roots.  Many rink areas where a liner is not used leave a partially or fully destroyed lawn.  In most cases, a liner preserves the lawn.  If the liner is laid after the grass is dormant and removed before it becomes active, the grass usually comes back healthier and stronger.  Consider the golf course, they cover the greens! 

-Preserves and Cools Asphalt or Concrete Surfaces

Asphalt and concrete are the first surfaces to melt snow or ice because they absorb and hold heat better than lawns.  On a snowfall day, the grass will hold the snow first and then the streets and parking lots will follow.  Some parks approach this challenge by chalking the blacktop or concrete to make the surface white before flooding the rink area.  Chalking is messy method and it is not all that effective in the long run.  The chalk eventually bunches up under the ice still leaving melt spots.  Liners work great on asphalt and concrete too because the white surface helps with keeping the stone surface cool and it is essential to keep water out of even the smallest of stone cracks.  Water that freezes into concrete or blacktop cracks will eventually destroy a porous surface.  The process of water freezing in stone cracks is actually a method that is used to breakdown stone into sand in some mining applications.  With a liner, the ice rink will be much improved by keeping the stone cool and protected from the negative effects of ice formations and thaw in stone cracks.  Liners preserve tennis courts and parking lots.  The Iron Sleek hard court Bracket is quite versatile and could work for some of the most challenging parking lot, tennis court, or any hard surface application.    

-Puck Walls

If the intention is to use the rink for hockey and natural snow banks just do not cut it, using a liner is a natural fit.  Instead of putting puck walls in after the fact when you already have ice (like on a pond), put them in advance and use a liner.  The liner method comes inherent with puck walls.


Hopefully, you now have some good reasons to use a liner.  Winter comes around only once a year.  There is only one opportunity to build a rink correctly.  People have been building rinks with liners for decades.  Use what is proven and avoid the exhaustion of saturating and coating the frozen ground.  USE THE LINER METHOD with a water tight UV tested weather proof white liner.  I hope you buy your liner from Iron Sleek because our liners are proven successful and affordable for winter ice rink applications.  Flooding the lawn or pavement will leave you exhausted and disappointed.  Please call us at any time to discuss possibilities for your rink of dreams.