Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Backyard ice rink confessions


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!

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13 Responses to “Backyard ice rink confessions”
  1. mr_fitz says:

    I thought I was over the top…
    My neighbours and I were looking at our own back yards for the most level spot and one of the conclusions we came to was…we don’t have one. My front yard DID though
    The long term plan is to do exactly as you have done for NEXT year…but as you can see we broke the bank on the rink itself…

  2. adam says:

    that is awesome i’m grbbing my hose and going outside to make an ice surface so i can skate andstick handle

  3. The nicerink kits are awesome too if you decide you want something easier for the years to come.
    You did an awesome job. Who cares if your neighbor thinks your crazy. Way to go Dad.

  4. Peter says:

    Ice rink #3 – 2009-10
    Today I took stock of the wood on hand and tomorrow we set out on our 3rd ice rink in as many years. Each year I improve on mistakes I made last year. This year’s improvements will be to center the plastic, front and sides and to fill the rink little by little as to minimize air pockets under the ice. We live in Western Mass, temps are not that cold yet but I hope they will drop soon. I’ll post more as the project goes on.

    • Peter says:

      The boards are up for ice rink #3. I’m waiting now for cold weather. When I see several noghts of well below zero weather coming up I’ll lay out the plastic and start to fill it. I’ll kepp posting.

  5. Brad says:

    This is my first attempt at building an outdoor rink. I am about to go crazy waiting for the cold weather. I was outside building my rink yesterday and couldn’t wait anymore so I filled it with water. So far so good…. no leaks!
    I’m looking for advise regarding fluctuations in weather. The forecast is calling for colder weather by the end of the week. However, there is one day before the cold weather that is calling for snow……. then cold. Since my rink is full of water, what should I do with the snow that falls before the cold? Ya, I know most of it will melt and turn to slush but the forecast is calling for snow then cold. I’m worried I will not be able to clear the snow off to get a good freeze for my base. Does anyone have any experience with this?
    I’m like a kid waiting for Christmas when i comes to cold weather for my rink.

    • Peter says:

      I know what you mean, now that I have my frame up and ready I’m looking forward to cold weather. I looked up on the web and I found that it takes 3 nights of 20 deg weather to freeze the ice well. I wouldn’t worry about the snow falling on water. Even if the top freezes bumpy just wait until it is solid throughout and then you will be able to lay a fresh layer to smooth it. Look at the instuctions for the rink rake on this site. I made one two years ago and it works great.
      It’s still in the 40′s here in Western Ma, so I’m just sitting here waiting. Keep posting your progress, I’m planning to do the same.

    • John says:

      My only word of caution is to make sure you don’t fill up your rink too much. Remember that the ice will expand so your ice surface will be higher than the water level when you fill it. Also leave room for resurfacing and handling any snow (before it freezes) or rain. You can always smooth out any roughness caused by rain or snow, but you can’t make your ice lower. Voice of experience here :) One year the ice ended up above the boards on one side and the pucks kept disappearing into the snow bank.

      Once you put that water in, just leave it alone until it is frozen all the way through and then shovel off any snow and get the rink rake going.

  6. Matt says:

    Thanks for the info. I was wondering if I should be filling more or letting it freeze

  7. Peter says:

    Ice rink #3 continued,
    We spread the liner, I found some that is 6 mil thick, and filled the rink this weekend. I found two rips in the tarp and fixed them with duct tape. One was on the edge and one was in the middle. The one in the middle I fixed and then painted over with white spray paint. Both patches have worked great. The ice is frozen over but not all the way through. It has been in the high 30s at day and in the 20s at night. Soon we sill be skating!

  8. Brad says:

    Thanks for the advise guys. I have to say good old Mother nature was on my side this week. I was worried I was flooding too soon, but as luck would have it I fluked out! I flooded on Saturday (Nov 28th) then waited….. it was cold but not quite cold enough to freeze. I just about crapped my pants on Sunday morning, it snowed about 3”. Like you guys mentioned the snow basically turned to slush and I think it actually help my base thicken up. Then the weather finally got cold. I’ve been monitoring the forecasts on the net so I didn’t get caught flooding when snow was forecast. So, what did I do?…… I got excited and after work last Thursday I stood on the surface and it was solid like a rock, so I got out the “homeboni” and give it a shot of warm water to smooth out. Yup, it snowed a couple hours later. I thought for sure I was in for some work but it was cold enough to freeze the majority of the surface. There was only a bit of shell ice around the boards where it didn’t quite freeze all the way. But luck again was on my side. I’m slowly learning that one must have patients when building these things. Anyway, I got the surface just about perfect and we’ve skated 3 times already. It’s awesome! I posted some video’s on YouTube. You can check them out on my channel, just type “Emslie4″ and then search. There should be 5 vids. Hope you enjoy and once again, thanks for the advice.

  9. Meg says:

    I have no idea how active this site still is, but my yard is terribly uneven. I don’t have the money to make it even, either. Would it be a terrible, out-of-the-question idea to just build on uneven ground and then fill the lower ground first with ice to make it even out eventually?

  10. Samantha says:

    I’ve been trying to convince my parents all winter to make a rink. So finally they said yes but the weather says no. I wish it would get cold already…..Waiting for it to freeze is the hard part.

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