Friday, April 18th, 2014

How to build a backyard Zamboni


Now that you’ve built your backyard ice rink you need the most important tool to get the best ice…a Zamboni! Actually, the smallest Zamboni you can buy is a tow behind unit for your tractor.  For small backyard rinks the solution to getting smooth ice is much simpler and cheaper.  There are numerous hand held ice resurfacers you can buy on the internet.  After looking over the options and prices I decided I could build one myself and went to Lowes looking for parts. The entire project cost only $15 and took about 15 minutes to complete. Here’s what I did:


rink rake parts
  • 2 PVC 3/4″ x 5′ plain pipe ($1.97 each)
  • 1 PVC 3/4″ adapter ($0.27)
  • 2 PVC 3/4″ caps ($0.23 each)
  • 1 PBC 3/4″ tee ($0.37)
  • 1 plastic garden hose shutoff valve ($2.97)
  • 1 4oz PVC primer ($2.52)
  • 1 4oz PVC cement ($3.24)

NOTE: When trying my first test run I discovered I bought the wrong PVC adapter.  I bought a female unthreaded to male threaded adapter when I should have bought a female unthreaded to female threaded adapter.  I’ll need another trip to Lowes to get an adapter before I test it out.

I didn’t see any threaded PVC at Lowes so I decided to try using PVC cement for the first time. As you can see a big chunk of my sale was buying the cement and primer which I used very little of. I’ll have to think of some more PVC projects now that I have the glue :) Test fit everything at the store to make sure you have the right sizes. The adapter should be threaded on one end and fit on a garden hose. The shutoff valve is optional. At right is the picture of all the parts prior to assembly on my dirty garage floor. The PVC cement is foul stuff with lots of warnings so do this project in a well ventilated area. rink rake prior to assembly


  • Cut one of the PVC pipes in half. I also made the pieces a little shorter.
  • Start priming and cementing. Follow instructions on jars and put the pieces together.
  • Let cement cure per instructions on jar (2 hours in my case)
  • Drill 3/32″ holes along top of your T 1″ apart. Lay the T flat, drill down from ceiling towards floor, but be careful not to go all the way through.
  • Test it out!

Here are pictures of my finished Zamboni. Excuse the dirty garage floor and the sloppy purple primer. Final dimensions are 5′ wide and 5′ 6″ long.

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96 Responses to “How to build a backyard Zamboni”
  1. Chris Sovari says:

    I am looking to build this backyard zamboni but I was concerned that the PVC pipe is too flexible and was considering using a more solid pipe like copper or something. Has anyone try using anything other than PVC? If so how did it workout?

    • tommy says:

      I used some copper pipe for everything. Might me a little more for parts but then you dont have to worry about cracking in the cold. Also, I used a small peace of nonwoven geotextile, 10oz for the fabric behind (I work for geosynthetic supply company so easy for me to obtain).

  2. Patrick says:

    What kind of fabric do you use for the drag behind

  3. mike says:

    The thing works great. I don’t think you need the rag behind in the colder climates, I live in S. MN
    and the water spreads out well without the rag behind….Thanks, it takes me way longer to get the hose out then to ‘flood’ the rink although mine is smallish 25×32. The new rink rake name is called the Mauritzy….don’t know where I read it.

  4. Dean in Ottawa, Canada says:

    Thanks John for the backyard Zamboni plans and thanks to all the other for the helpful tips on the rake mods in the comments. I built mine last night, but have not used it yet since my rink is not quite there yet.

    I started out my first attempt at making a rink by using the Reddi-Rink product on laid down on the grass. All I can say is that they are really thin & crappy and I wont waste my money on them again. All three bags have leaks and I have lost about 1/2 of all my water that was not frozen. Also filling each of them to the same level is a pain. So it was back to the drawing board to find a solution.

    Well the drawing board came up with a solution and I just finished building a 30×20 wooden 2×12 frame around the reddi-rink bags. I hope to use the layer of ice that is already there and put down a 36×24 15mil white tarp over top and re-fill the rink with water. Do you see a problem with putting another tarp over top a layer of thin ice that is there or should I remove the 2 to 3 inches of ice and water and put the tarp right down on the grass again? Can I pack a bunch of snow over top and slowly water it to form my rink? Any ideas would be appreciated.

    • Marc From Montréal says:

      I did exacly what you’re about to do Dean… And it’s working fine!!!

      Mind you, the freezing rain that we had on Boxing day didn’t help… but I’m getting there! At least, it’s becoming a, somewhat, even surface! My rink (25 x 40 feets) is two or three days away from being “skatable”

      Since we get the same weather between MTL and OTT, make sure you keep spraying water for the next few days has it’ll come down to -15 celsius!!!! Great!!! Enjoy!

    • Hey, Dean, if you have enough room on top of the old ice to get three more inches of ice, you’re fine just putting your new top over the old stuff. I would recommend that you pack any gaps with snow first so the weight of three inches of water isn’t pushing the tarp in any weird ways and causing stress on your new waterproof membrane. With 2x12s, this should be no problem.

    • benji says:

      For Dean: I just picked up a reddi rink at the local walmart. reading your review, Im thinking about returning mine. Just curious, you said there are leaks in the liner. Are the leaks coming from the seams? or is it just leaking anywhere? Thanks .

  5. pwcturk says:

    I used an old pool liner to make my rink
    Even if you need to patch it in a few spots
    It’s well worth it. Use a wood boarder and staple
    The liner to the boarder. This turned out great.

  6. Ron. Roberts says:

    This is my 1st attempt at making an outside rink. I live by a lake so the lake is where the rink will be. You may think becuase the lake is frozen I can skate on it, well turns out there is always 4-8″ of snow on it. I used my snow blower to get the snow off ( approx 100′ x 60′ ) I am using a sump pump to get the water out of the lake to flood with.I am also using 1.5″ flexible hosing. Now for my problem. the next day I checked and there was a lot of smooth ice, but also a lot of rough ice and some with air bubbles, so when you walked on it it would crumble. I am not using any spraying just the 1.5″ nosle. Could be my problems, I have 2 holes for my pump because I found the water was freezing too fast. Does anyone have anymore thoughts on what I am doing wrong. Thanks

    • Ron. Roberts says:

      Ok I read all or most of the post about making a rink and they all say I should or need to use a liner. I didn’t ( so Shoot me) maybe I should have read them before I started,but what’s done is done. What I ended up with is still not too bad except it is big Approx 100 x 60′ . So I still have some rough spots and I am thinking this rink rake is the answer, because the rink is on the lake all I have is a sump pump. My question is if I use the rake with a sump pump will the pump pressure be too much for the rake. Right now I’m using 1.5″ hose with pretty good pressure I’m just not sure if I drop the size down to garden hose size the pressure will be too much. I am open to suggestions. I also live in the Peterbourgh/Ottawa/Montreal triangle of Ontario so cold temps are not a problem lately

      This is a great site It’s funny how people always come to these sites after they mess things up

      • Wayne in NH says:

        Hi Ron, I made my rink rake using the instructions on this site 2 years ago. I fed it with 1.25″ hose from an old sump pump pulling water from the pond that we skate on at work. I made the bottom pipes (with holes) 8′ wide thinking I had more flow than from a garden hose. I even added fittings at the tee so I can disassemble it into three pieces to fit in my car. The rink rake had no issues with the pressure since the pipe walls are fairly thick. The white PVC flexes a lot but hasn’t cracked yet in the NH weather which is similar to ON. The biggest ice maintenance chore was cutting the hole in the ice with a chainsaw every week – my 18″ Poulan barely broke through the ice on some days.

        Last year someone at work threw away the 1.25″ hose, but they installed an outdoor spigot this past summer. I fed it with a garden hose today and it still worked fine although I had to rake it much slower than I did with the sump pump. It took me 90 minutes today, whereas it would have been 45 minutes tops with the sump pump.

  7. Mark says:

    Here’s a rookie question… Do I use the rake with the holes up or down? I was thinking up because then I can ensure that I get a more even water flow rather than down… Or does it matter since I will be pulling the rake at an angle?

    • Chipp says:

      It is best to pull it with the holes facing up that way the water has more time to spread evenly. For best results have the water spray up onto a towel dragging behind your Homeboni. Using a product without a towel can cause puddling and divots if you aren’t careful.

  8. matt from pittsburgh says:

    im thinking of building a rink, (40×30 approx). my problem is the slope of my yard. my deep end will be about 24-30″. rather than wait for 2′ of water to freeze, i am thinking of making a platform on which to skate. i realize the amount of lumber this will take but should be a 1 time ordeal. also im thinking that with a flat surface and 2×4 frame this will take less water and time to freeze. im thinking of making my ice flush with the top of my frame. this will give me 3″ of ice and also make clean off easier. any help, ideas, or comments would help. thanks

    • Ryan says:

      My thoughts are your ice will be constantly cracking.. wood is flexible

      • Jeff says:

        Ryan is correct under certian conditions. The key is not the plywood but the frame. You can use cheep 3/4″ ply but you need to invest in the framing. (Terms: Rails are the long boards on edge running the length of your frame: Stiles are the boards at the end, also on edge, that will cover the exposed ends of the Rails: Beams run on edge between the rails which makes them 3″ shorter than the Stiles). Your Rails are going to be longer than what you can buy in one length, make sure your seams are not in the same place on both sides, try and off set the butt end connections by at least 3 feet. Here is what will make the wood platform viable – put your Beams at 14″ on center and put spacers between the beams every 2 feet. You will want to off set the spacers by one foot between each Beam, to give a a completed 1′ x 1′ grid for the entire frame. I would suggest for weight to use 1″ x 4″ for your Beams and spacers, and build it in 4 to 6 sections that you can bolt together and leg up at the connection points. This will give you a heavy beast, but math will prove that on a 1′ grid the weight of less than 14″ of water will not warp 3/4″ plywood. This means no cracking; a level surface; less water; quicker freezing. The only other things to consider is how you distribute the weight under your support legs and how you cross brace your frame. When you take 150 pounds in motion and hard stop the force from side to side is a little under 650 pounds of pressure. Applied side to side on a 20′ frame this could tork an un cross braced frame at 30″ enough to colpase. Not easy to build or solve all the problems, but sure to give you a solid unmoving surface to skate on.

    • jeremy says:

      in case you havent gone with the wood framing yet…

      i think you’d be much better off (if surrounding features allow it) to rent a miniexcavator for a day and level your yard out. just reseed the grass in the spring. for 300 bucks (rental and see) and some work to prepare the ground for seed in the spring, you’ll have nice flat surface forever.

      i have a miniexcavator right now and am doing just that.


    • I agree with Matt. I built a 24 x 45 rink in my back yard and had a 10 x 10 corner that was about a foot higher than the rest of the yard. luckily for me my neighbour is a contractor/landscaper so he came over with his bobcat and knocked it down…..then gave me a crash course on how to use it….pointed me at his dirt piles and let me have at it….he even had a pile of sod off-cuts leftover from projects so i got it all leveled and laid out so now when the snow melts it will have plenty of water to grow back and the yard will be level for the following year.

  9. jason says:

    Hey guys,
    I built my first rink this year and things are going smoothly, thanks to the weather. I’m wondering when i built the rink rake the the holes face the ice when assembling rink rate? Also, do I need the rag behing attached to it.



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