How To Make A Backyard Ice Rink

Bill Taylor
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Why Would Someone Want a Backyard Ice Rink?

Whistle Punks don’t like to be counted out for any activity. With their backyard ice rinks, they can play hockey all year long in there yards. The nice thing is these ice rinks are low maintenance, and easy to setup and store. These ice rinks are safe because you don’t need to use expensive refrigeration.

Yes, you will still need to use water, but only a small amount. You can make a backyard ice rink with minimal equipment. The size of the rink will of course be related to the size of the container you are using.

A 30-gallon backyard ice rink doesn’t have to be 30-feet in diameter though, you can make it less than 10-feet in diameter.

How to Make a Backyard Ice Rink

Whether your backyard is covered with a shimmering layer of snow or you have homegrown water supplies, you can make your own ice rink. Backyard ice rinks are suitable for recreational and competitive ice skating.

Backyard rinks come in many sizes. At the minimum, you will need at least a 15-by-15 square of ice. This will allow you to learn to skate with the help of a partner or allow for a small recreational skate. Larger ice rinks give you a larger rink for group skating or games as well as more space for performance skating.

Here are the steps to build a backyard ice rink.

Determine the size of your ice rink.

Unless you want to use your pond permanently as an ice rink, you will need to add a cement slab. The size of your rink will depend on the size of your slab and your skill and goals. Divide your slab up into thirds or in sixths to create three or six equal-sized rinks. If you do not have a pond, a slab of concrete can be installed on your property. Add rebar to prevent rink erosion.

To prevent melting, you will need to cover the outside edge of your rink with hard materials, such as granite or brick, or metal. Fill your rink with water.

Step 1: Find Your Perfect Spot

The first thing you need to do is find the perfect spot for your rink. You will need to find a spot that will be in an area that receives no foot traffic. If children run through the water on the rink, they could develop a pretty bad case of the chills and will eventually freeze to death. Take a look around your yard and find an area that will work for you. Ice rinks can be made almost anywhere, but the most ideal spot is probably on a large flat area. Look around and find the perfect area that you can use that makes sense in your backyard.

Step 2: Gather Your Supplies

The supplies you'll need to build your backyard ice rink will depend on your time and budget, but your tools should include a simple set of shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows. It is tempting to invest in nicer tools, but those shovels, rakes, and wheelbarrows will be used in the next backyard project, and the next one, and the one after that. A nice backpack sprayer is the tool that often gets overlooked, but makes a huge difference in the level of your effort. These are fairly inexpensive and are not only a huge time saver, they also make it less unpleasant to work outside in the cold and damp. Plus, you get to rinse the salty, black garden soil off of yourself when you are done.

You will need to have a solid foundation upon which to build your ice rink. If you are building over grass, you will need to do some serious grading in order to provide a flat, stable base. If you are building over a small area of hardscaped patio or deck, then you can skip right to step three.

Step 3: When to Build Your Ice Rink

The perfect time to use your rink is after a light frost or snow fall. If it is a frost then you will only need a few days of cold weather to harden the ice. If the weather is warm then you will need several light snowfalls to cover the ice and provide a hard surface. It is important to note that there are some extremes in temperature that can create a good skating surface with snow, but the record high temperature of your area should be around 10 degrees Fahrenheit during the daytime and 5 degrees Fahrenheit at night. Also avoid times of heavy rain and flooding for obvious reasons. If you build your rink when the weather is warm or wet you should be able to skate on it by mid-November in the Northern Hemisphere or mid-February in the Southern Hemisphere.

Step 4: How thick should the ice be?

If you do not want to fall through the ice then your ice rink should be at least 4 inches thick. It is important to note that the deepest ice skating rink in the world was 21 inches. So 4 inches is the bare minimum for safety and comfort. Keep in mind that as the ice freezes the thickness will increase.

Step 5: How to keep the ice from melting?

Step 4: Setting Up Your Ice Rink

You've now completed the creation of your backyard playground and you're ready to start using it (or find a way to keep it from being broken by your kids). If you plan on using your rink for the ice-less months of the year, you can prevent your water from freezing by circulating it through a spray-foam-based dehumidifier. If you can't run the dehumidifier just before it gets cold outside, you can fill your rink with warm water, just refill it every few days.

You'll need to adjust the foam level slightly because warm water will require more dehumidifying than a full ice rink. You'll be adding a few ounces of foam per 10 extra gallons of water in your rink. Start by filling your rink with a 50% dehumidifier /50% water solution, and adjust the ratio as needed until it is full and the temperature is consistent throughout the rink.

Fit to Burst

"I'm full! too full!I'm fit to burst!"

You're almost there! Now you need to relax and watch the kids enjoy the ice.

Step 5: Fill Your Rink With Water

Well, now you've got a big hole in your yard, the perfect centerpiece for your outdoor rink. And you've got a tank full of water from a nearby lake. What you need now is to make sure it freezes all the way to the bottom. The area under the ice is critical because it supports the weight of the ice and its users. I'm not going to get into the science of it but, the bottom is quite important. To get it to freeze solid, you're going to have to put a pan of ice, or some ice, on the bottom before you fill the rink with water. You'll have to experiment with the ice pan to get the perfect amount of time it's in the water before taking it out. I found that a horizontal position and placing it right on the edge of the ice works best if you want the ice to freeze right to the bottom of the tray. Try to soak the pan for at least an hour, and then the water temperature will be lowered to better facilitate fast freezing. If you would like to cool the water you could add some ice cubes to the rink water as well.

You should never walk or skate on ice that is under water. You should also try to avoid water on top of ice. Skaters can make ice slippery, which can lead to falls. During the winter season, fall-asleep-outside-while-strudel-baking and other accidental deaths are fairly common.

Step 6: Decorating Your Ice Rink

If this is your first homemade ice rink, you may want to decorate it with a simple border, it could be as simple as a line of stone or brick pavers at the perimeter of the ice rink. Though if you want to add a centerpiece to your ice rink, slide or any other accouterments, it’s best to do it after you’ve leveled and filled the surface.

You can easily grab a gravel of choice, rake it in place, and secure it with some small pieces of rock on top: you can still use water soluble fish tank gravel if you want, the only added chore is to keep it wet, so if you haven’t made your own yet, you might want to wait until you’re done with this step to create your ice rink.

Other than decorative border or an ice rink centerpiece, you may want to purchase some ethylene glycol at your local hardware store, and pour it in the center.

Ethylene glycol is used to make fake snow in movies and parks: it freezes faster and lasts longer than ordinary water. It’s a cheap alternative and you will only need a couple of gallons of the stuff.

Step 7: Maintaining Your New Ice Rink

After the rink has completely frozen, you may have to repair cracks in the ice. Small hairline fractures are a part of having a backyard ice rink. But if there are hairline fractures that are up to six inches wide, it's a sign the ice has deteriorated and needs repair. For hairline fractures, use a hair dryer to freeze the ice surrounding the break. If the ice surrounding the break is cloudy, you may notice the break once the fog clears. If the area around the break has already cleared, use the hair dryer to clear the fog again and inspect for the crack. If the ice does not fog back up, continue drying until you find the hairline fracture. Cold air beneath a layer of clear ice can theoretically create an expensive outdoor skating rink.To repair large cracks, mix sand with an equal amount of water inside a plastic container large enough for you to ride a bicycle over it. Pour the mixture over the crack and wait for it to freeze. The crack will harden as it freezes. If you are a cautious person or want to be sure your rink is in tip-top shape, you can test your rink with a utility knife after the main layer of ice freezes. You can also test your rink with a chisel, knife or screwdriver.

Step 8: Enjoy Your New Ice Rink

Once your rink is frozen and ready, the final step is to have fun on it! You can play a game of hockey on it, have a family skating party, or simply enjoy skating across the freshly frozen ice. You will never find a better time to get into the ice rink business like the autumn after the first snowfall.

Step 9: When to Put the Ice Rink Away

If you are lucky enough to live in a mild climate that doesn’t go below freezing, you might be able to leave your ice rink out year-round, if you build it on a patio or deck.

If you only have a small area, you may want to store your ice rink when there is no snow on the ground, so you can use the deck for other activities. Winterizing your ice rink is simple to do. Each year use a hose to wash away the leaves and other debris from your ice rink. Then you can take the liner out and hang it in your garage to store it. Make sure you remove the inflatable support from the liner system before storing it away.

Step 10: Putting Your Ice Rink Away

After your final skate, or if you have to put your ice rink away for the season, you can use a heavy-duty hand garden hose to wash the ice to remove any dirt and dust from the surface of the ice.

Before taking down your rink, test first that the rink is frozen solid. It is best to wait for an extended time (over 12 hours) so that the entire rink is frozen solid. This reduces the risk that you will damage the rink when you break it up. If your rink is sitting on top of the grass, be careful when breaking up the rink. If the rink is built on a hard surface, then you should have no worries.

So, there you have it. That's how to make a backyard ice rink.

So what are you waiting for? Skip the ice arena and make your own ice rink at home with these steps. The best part? You can make all the mistakes you want without paying admission, and you won't have to drive anywhere to do it.

Conclusion

The 15 techniques we presented above are sure to keep you and your family out of the heat this summer and in a great mood!

Remember to check the local weather for the forecast. If the weatherman says it will be hotter than average, decide which problems you can handle and create a list. The list should cover the cause of the problem, possible solutions, and how to implement the solutions. Then, schedule the activities in order of importance. That way, you will be ready to overcome heat stress and keep your peace of mind this summer.

To make it easier, you will find the solutions and the list of solutions all laid out for you below. Check, study, and master your heat this summer and stay cool!