Backyard Ice Rink Tips
We’ve been getting a lot of hits on my backyard ice rink post so I thought I’d add some more tips.
- Location, location, location. Besides finding a flat spot, examine your yard early afternoon and see where the shadows are. Our rink is actually in the front yard since that is the north side. The house casts a shadow over most of the rink which makes a HUGE difference during a warm spell. One area of the rink will get sun and start getting slushy, while the part in the shade is still frozen solid.
- Timing. The temperature is starting to drop and while it is real tempting to put that rink together and start filling it up…WAIT! The air might be cold, but you need to wait until the ground is frozen. I jumped the gun last season and filled up as soon as I assembled the rink. The air temperatures were cold enough at night to freeze, but I ended up with an iceberg because the ground was too warm and kept melting the bottom of my rink. It might be tempting to try walking on the ice when its like this, but it will crack easily and can give you ridges when it refreezes. Wait till you have a few days where the day time highs hover around freezing and the ground gets frozen.
- Leaf skimmer. We got a pool this summer and I’m excited to be able to use the leaf skimmer to get the leafs out while I’m waiting for the water to freeze. Any foreign object sitting on the ice that catches the suns rays will melt holes. This is another reason to wait a little while before filling up your rink…let those leaves come down and get raked up. The skimmer will also be handy to rescue any salamanders that decided to go for a dip.
- The water from your hose is WARM. My first year when I was experimenting with ways of smoothing the ice surface I made a lot of mistakes and they all boiled down to the same thing. That water coming out of your hose might seem cold, but it is too warm for your ice. If you put too much water in one spot it will melt holes in your ice or could shock it and make cracks. Worst case it will melt all the way through and create air pockets. Buy or build a rink rake…you won’t regret it.
- Benches. Keep those picnic benches out this winter. Put them alongside your rink so the kids have a place to sit and take a break. My boys love to pretend they are the penalty box.
- Christmas Lights. I make sure to put some of our Christmas decorations near the rink. The extra light lets you do some night time skating and really makes you feel all Norman Rockwell-ish.
I’ll post more tips as I think of them. Right now I have a platform bed project at the top of my to-do list, but once that is complete I’ll assemble my rink and put plenty of photos on the site. So far it seems like we’re heading for a normal winter and we’ll hopefully have some ice before January.
One consideration with your liner is that the kids WILL step on the edges. Not a problem if you align it the same way each year. Last year was my first using a tarp and it seems to have held up great. Notice I got one with a silver side to reflect the light. Any dark colors would be a bad idea.
Start ‘em young! Ben is 2 1/2 in these pictures and Ethan is 4.
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