We frequently get asked about the best strategy for the initial rink build - add water in stages, or fill to the level you need all at once? There are a few things to consider.
Is the ground frozen? We always advise to wait until the ground is frozen to begin your rink. If the ground is not frozen yet, a layer of water can act as an insulator and actually result in a delay of the freezing of the ground and the freezing of the rink.
What is the current temperature and the forecast? You want a continuous stretch of at least -5C before beginning making your rink. Watch for a deep freeze - this is the best opportunity to rink build. In -20C weather, you can build a good base of ice in a single day. Don't leave the hose on a trickle in these type of temperatures though!
What is your water source? If your water is drawn from a well, you might not have an option to fill all at once, so filling in stages is the way to go. If your best friend has a business delivering water, then you might want to consider the one-shot deal.
Have a brand new rink liner? Filling all at once only to lose all the water to liner punctures is no fun at all. And it results in "shell ice", a frozen layer of ice with air pockets underneath. Not an insurmountable problem, but a challenge to deal with. Consider using a new liner each year to avoid this problem.
How level is your yard? This will help determine how much water you need and depending on the structure of your rink (boards or rink kit) you may want to fill in stages. If you are using our RinkMaster kit, we advise filling in stages. If you are sloped heavily and are using boards, then you need to make sure your boards can handle the weight of the water if filling all at once. Just as concrete forms need to be very strong to avoid "blow-outs", so do plywood rink boards that have to support the weight of water. Some of us have learned this the hard way.
Final Word? We would always fill in stages, the only exception being if we had free access to one-shot water, such as a water truck.
Happy Rink Building!