Sens Captain pays off bet with shovel

January 21, 2009 by  
Filed under Backyard Ice Rink, DIY Projects

I saw this fun story in the Ottawa Sun.

A humbled Daniel Alfredsson brought his own shovel and five-year-old son Hugo to help to pay off a debt yesterday.

The Senators captain made good on his lost bet — that would be for Sweden’s 5-1 loss to Canada in the final of the world junior championship earlier this month — to teammate Shean Donovan by making the short trek to Donovan’s house in Carp and shovelling the winger’s small backyard rink.


Make sure you click the link for the full story and watch the video to see Donovan’s backyard rink.

I still need to get some photos and then I will write a post about our rink.  I used a different design this year that I really like and plan to make further improvements over the summer.

Here is our rink from last year.

Backyard ice rink confessions

December 19, 2007 by  
Filed under Backyard Ice Rink, DIY Projects, Pictures

I’ve written a number of posts about how easy it is to build a backyard ice rink. Well, it is only fair that I post the story of my FIRST rink. A lot of work during that first winter has made it much easier the following years.

It all started when we bought Ethan hockey skates for his 2nd birthday. He had the skates, now all he needed was ice. So I went to work making a rink…unfortunately our yard is far from flat. Here’s the story…

Backyard ice rink frame I started by assembling the walls of my frame out of 2x8s, the same as I do every year (in fact I’m still using the same 2x8s). I then use 2x4s and a level to raise the walls and get everything square and level for a 24 x 24 rink. The plywood was actually the easiest part. I simply put full 4×8 sheets in place and drew a line along the top of my frame against the plywood. I ripped these pieces with a circular saw and then screwed them in place. I had very little scrap leftover. Notice the 2×4 bracing to keep the weight of the water from blowing out the walls.
Backyard ice rink frame
Backyard ice rink frame
After I had it all done I realized the re-assembling this every year was going to be a pain and it would take a LOT of water to fill and even longer to freeze completely. The shallow end was only 6 inches, but the deep end was 32 inches! I decided to take some of tax return money and invest in dirt and rocks. 80 yards to be exact. Once I saw the size of the pile I realized that if we were going to skate THIS winter I would need some help. Enter the Bobcat! Every DIYer MUST rent a Bobcat for a weekend once in their life. That thing was awesome. I made quick work of the pile and was impressed that my calculations were spot on and had no leftovers. I even had extra time and used the Bobcat to pull out some stumps and some old 400 lb cement footings. Did I mention this thing was awesome? Fill for the ice rink
A level ice rink

TIP – I called the usual rental places first and found the weekend rates for the Bobcat out of my price range. I then tried a local construction business and they rented me one for the weekend, delivered, for the same rate the other places charged for a day. Their Bobcat also was a tracked model, not the usual wheeled model, which saved my front yard from serious damage when the weather got sloppy.

There you have it. My neighbors (and my wife) thought I was nuts, but the end result is that each year I have a nice flat spot in the front yard for our rink. The problem will be extending the rink past 24 feet…maybe every DIYer needs to rent a Bobcat TWICE in their life!

How to build your own ice rake

December 9, 2007 by  
Filed under Backyard Ice Rink, DIY Projects, Top Posts

My plans for building a simple, cheap handheld ice resurfacer have move here:

How to build a backyard Zamboni

Backyard ice rink tip – keeping your hose thawed

December 6, 2007 by  
Filed under Backyard Ice Rink, DIY Projects, Tips and Tricks

I came up with a nice, easy way of storing my hose for the ice rink season. My first year doing this I learned the hard way that you should never leave your hose outside in the winter. It will freeze and take forever to thaw out. I started keeping the hose in a rubbermaid to cart in and out and stored it in the basement next to the furnace.

This year I decided to use a big red bucket that we use for ice and drinks during parties in the summer. The trick is to coil the hose in the bucket starting with the end you attach to the faucet. Leave enough hose sticking out so it will reach the faucet. Coil it all in neat so you get no kinks and voila, a much neater and more management hose storage. I just hook it up to the faucet and pull out however much hose I need to reach the rink. The handles on the bucket are useful for keeping the ends in the bucket so I don’t drip on the floor when I bring the whole thing inside. A warm hose makes your ice resurfacing go much quicker.

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DIY Simple backyard ice rink plans and photos

November 25, 2007 by  
Filed under Backyard Ice Rink, DIY Projects, Family Activities

Thanksgiving weekend has become ice rink building weekend at our house. We’re getting good at it and can now have the boards assembled and liner in place in about an hour. This year I took photos of the whole process to share with everyone.


dscf5656.jpgI keep the rink simple and relatively small since my boys are only 5 and 3. I use 10 2 x 8s to make a rink 16′ x 24′. This is my third year with these boards. Notice I left the bracing attached to all the boards. This saves time. My braces are 2 x 8s cut to 1 foot lengths. I used 10 braces total (6 on sides, 4 on corners). I have a closeup of the bracing below.

I used 3″ primeguard screws to put everything together. The primeguard screws are more expensive, but they won’t corrode with the new ACQ treated lumber. I cannibalized the screws from last year in another project so I needed new ones for this years assembly.

dscf5661.jpgMy liner is a 20′ x 30′ tarp. Very heavy duty and also very dirty because I used it to cover post holes most of the summer as I started our new deck. The entire rink was made of last years parts or leftovers of other projects. Gotta love FREE.

Make sure you get the right length screws. A 2×8 is NOT 2 inches thick (it’s 1 1/2). I used 3 inch screws and made sure not to countersink them much. Last thing you want to do is put holes in your liner because your screws are sticking out the other side.


dscf5658.jpgOnce I have my pieces all together I lay them out and get the rink squared and ready to screw. Notice my pile of leaves. I raked out the area a bit to get rid of any branches that might put a hole in my liner. This happened my first year as I was filling the liner. Bit of a scare, but nothing duct tape can’t fix.

I leave a pile in the middle to use as filler for any small gaps under the boards.

dscf5662.jpg Here is a picture of my bracing. I overlap each board with my 12 inch brace and use 4 screws on each side. The ice will push out on the boards as it freezes so I wanted to make sure my braces holds up.
dscf5665.jpg For the corners I use a brace to overlap and strengthen the joint.

My yard is far from flat so I ended up with gaps like the one below. For the smaller ones I just use leaves from my pile to fill it up. This helps prevent your liner from pushing under your boards and tearing as the ice expands.

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Last summer I added topsoil to level the area some more. Unfortunately some areas settled more than others and I had a very large gap under one corner. The ideal fix would be adding more topsoil and making the ground level. I’m on a budget this year so instead I screwed some scrap lumber onto my boards to close the gap.

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dscf5672.jpgWith the assembly done I add my liner. I simply tuck the sides of the tarp under the boards. Make sure you leave enough loose liner inside the rink because the water will really pull on it and stretch it out once you fill the rink. At the same time, don’t leave so much liner that get folds of liner floating in the water.

Also don’t let the liner ‘tent’ along the sides and corners. Push it all the way down. The weight of the water could cause the liner to tear if you don’t leave enough material.

Update 11/27Darn…my tarp did not survive the summer very well.  It wasn’t holding water so I grabbed the duct tape and went hunting for the leak.  Turns out the whole thing is pretty porous from the plastic material wearing off.  Going to look for a cheap replacement. Probably going to go with a 1 season plastic liner.


That’s it! Pretty simple and cheap. This year was free since I reused everything, but my first year startup costs were under $100. Ten 2x8s, a box of screws, and a large tarp.

I was hoping to get one more picture of the rink filling, but I made a rookie mistake and left our hose outside and it froze. Never leave the hose outside because it is a pain to thaw. Instead I use an old rubbermaid to store the hose and bring it inside. I’ll cart it in and out all winter to do my ice surfacing.

Feel free to send me any questions or suggestions. I’ve only been doing this a few years and am always looking for ways to improve the rink. Next year I’m considering an upgrade to taller boards (2×10 or 2×12) and making the rink itself larger as well (24 x 30 if it will fit).

Check back this winter to see how our rink is progressing. I’m hoping to have it frozen filled and frozen by the weekend if mother nature cooperates. I’m also considering adding corner seats and building a rebounder (a piece of elastic to bounce the puck back to you).

DIY Backyard ice rink

October 11, 2007 by  
Filed under Backyard Ice Rink, DIY Projects, Sports, Top Posts

Follow this winter’s rink design and construction on my Backyard Ice Rink page.

Update 12/19/2007 – I make it sound easy so it’s only fair to tell the story of my first rink

Update 12/9/2007 – Find out how to build your own rink rake for under $20

Update 12/6/2007 – Here’s a tip for keeping your garden hose from freezing

Update 11/25/2007Click here to see photos of how I built this year’s rink.

When I was a kid, every winter my dad would pull out some old boards and plastic tarp and assemble a backyard ice rink. We had a collection of old skates we would go through to find a pair that fit and have a blast skating on the ice.

My childhood backyard rink

Three years ago for Ethan’s 2nd birthday we got him his first pair of skates and I decided it was time to put up our own backyard hockey rink. I’ve been putting the rink up for each year since then and have gotten it down to a very simple process. I typically assemble our rink during Thanksgiving weekend, but I decided to post this early for anyone planning on putting up a rink for the first time. I’ll post detailed pictures when I put our rink up, but here is the basics.

How to Build a Backyard Ice Rink

1) Location. You’re yard might seem flat, but you would be surpised. Put 4 stakes in the ground for where you envision your rink will be and rink string across diagonally making sure to keep it level. Now measure how high the string is off the ground from one end to the other. If its 5″ on one end and 8″ on the other you have a 3″ drop. Considering you will need at least a 2 inch ice base that means your water level will be 5″ at the deepest end. This is important for determine what size lumber to buy. If you have a very large drop from one end to the other you can either build a super structure or start getting fill. I’ve done both and getting the fill is the easiest in the long run.

2) Lumber. The construction is actually very simple. I settled on a 16 x 24 sized rink which is two 8 foot boards on one side and 3 on the other. No cutting involved. I had been using 2×8 boards, but am considering going with 2x10s to allow me a deeper ice base and let me cover more ground for a larger rink. 16×24 for fine for little kids, but as they get bigger they will want a larger rink. Make sure you get pressure treated wood and buy a couple extra boards.

3) Hardware. Buy a box of 2 1/2″ prime guard decking screws. The new pressure treated wood will eat threw the old galvanized screws very quickly. The prime guarded ones have a coating to protect the metal. They cost more, but you can use them for several years.

4) Liner. There are 2 ways to do a cheap liner. The first is to buy a large sheet of vapor barrier. Lowes sells a 20′ x 100′ roll which I used for my rink. This stuff works great, but is hard to use for more than 1 season. The roll is long though so I used half one year and the other half the second year. Last season I bought a large tarp which is much thinker material. It seems to have held up fine and will try using it again this year.

5) Assemble. I cut the extra boards into 12″ pieces. These are used on the outside of the rink to attach the boards together and to reinforce the corners. For my 2×3 setup I needed 1 piece on each end and 2 on each side for a total of 6. Add in 4 for each corner and thats 10 pieces. Lay your boards out on flat surface, put a 12″ inch piece over a seam and start drilling in screws. Make sure they bite into the boards, but don’t go all the way through. I used 8 screws on each seam. Once the sides are together, stand them up in place and overlap at the corners. Put a couple screws in to hold it up where they overlap and than add your corner piece on the side to give it some reinforcement. I’ll get better pictures of this when I put mine together.

If you have any gaps under your boards because of dips in the yard, rake up some leaves to stuff under them. If you leave these gaps as-is your liner might bulge through them as it freezes and tear. I used hay for this as well. Anything that the mower can simply eat up in the fall is easiest.

Once the boards are all up, lay your liner down. I’ve attached the liner to the boards 2 ways. With the ‘disposable’ liner I stapled it onto the outside of the boards. This works, but as the weight of the water pulls on the liner it will tear. You also have a mess of staples to pull out in the spring. With my tarp I simply wrapped it over the boards and tucked it back underneath. This worked great, but you need to make sure your tarp is big enough to handle it.

6) Fill It. You are now ready to fill it up. It is best to wait until you are getting some consistently cold temperatures, but this is often hard to predict. Last year we had a very mild winter so I had over 6 weeks with a pond instead of a rink. I fill it from my garden hose to a depth of 2 inches at the shallowest. When it freezes it will expand making it a little deeper.

7) Wait. It will take awhile to freeze all the way through so be patient. If you get on the ice too soon with will just break and freeze uneven. Try and fish out any leaves, branches, or critters that find their way into the water.

8) Prep it. Zamboni time! I purchased a Rink Rake to smooth my ice, but you could easily build one. This is a simple device made of PVC pipe that distributes a thin layer of water onto your ice just like a zamboni. Do this a couple times to build up your ice a little more and make it really smooth.

That’s it! It does take a bit of work and practice, but the materials are really very cheap and most can be re-used for a long time. I’ll post more tips and pictures when we get closer to winter. Feel free to send me any questions you have. Here are some pictures of our hockey rink from last year.

Ethan rescues salamanders from the rink during a warm spell.