Building a Backyard Ice Rink

Some of my fondest memories of childhood in Maine are of playing hockey in the backyard rink with my dad and brother.  Naturally I needed to make one for my own kids.

Size

I thought about going bigger but decided to go with a 24′ x 40′ rink:

  • big enough to do some skating
  • small enough to not take FOREVER to clear after snow 🙂
  • I could make it out of boards of all the same length.  I didn’t want to be messing around with cutting or different lengths.  All I needed to buy for lumber was 16 8′ 2×12 boards  – easy.
  • We can always get bigger next year once we have a little experience 🙂

Materials

  • 16x 8′ 2×12 boards
    • I’m really glad I went with 2×12 instead of something smaller.  It turns out that my spot isn’t nearly as flat as it looked to the naked eye and our deep end is almost to the top of those 2x12s!
    • 3 for each end (24′ dimension) and 5 for the long sides (40′ dimension)
  • 8x L  brackets for the corners.  I might have been ok with 1 per corner but am glad i went with 2 per corner.  It really helped with keeping it tight
  • 13x board joiner plate thingies
    • that’s a technical term 🙂
    • 12 is how many you need (the joints on the straight sides) but I got an extra one because who needs an extra trip to Home Depot if they break one?
  • Lots of 24″ stakes for bracing the boards
    • I actually bought 6 wooden 24″ 2×2  stakes and about 14 24″ rebar lengths.
    • I used all the rebar and not all the wooden stakes because my ground was frozen and the rebar was much easier to get into the ground
  • Big pile of screws for attaching the braces to the boards
  • Backyard rink tarp.  There are lots of these you can buy online, we got ours from Amazon.  Make sure you get one that has plenty of extra material, you don’t want to lay everything out and not have enough.  Ours is 50’x 30′.

Tools

  • Cordless screwdriver
  • 3lb mallet (the most useful tool I never knew I needed until I had one)
  • Tape measure
  • Shovel for clearing snow if you waited too long
  • hose that reaches from your faucet to most of where you want the rink
  • Random heavy stuff from the garage for holding the tarp in place while you are trying to get things ready for water

Construction

Step 1: choose a site

I chose my spot because:

  • it looked flat (it’s not!)
  • it was in the back yard where we have good visibility from the house so we can watch the kids if they are out there
  • reachable by the hoses we already own
  • close-ish to the trees and on the north side of our house, so that it gets less sun than other spots.  I think this will help us keep ice a little longer in the spring

Step 2: buy materials

No backing out now!

Step 3: measure out your rink

Pick a starting corner and measure it out so that you have the corners marked.  Measure the diagonals to make sure it is square (if the length of the diagonals are the same, your rink is square).  Adjust until square.  If you are off a little bit, not a big deal – it’s a backyard rink!

Here is ours with the corners marked out.  I also marked the midpoints on the 40′ lengths.

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Step 4: If you have snow, clear out the place where boards will go

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Step 5: Lay out your boards

If you used all 8′ lengths like me, this is super easy.

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Step 6: Start connecting your boards

I started in one corner and connected the two pieces together.  This made it balance on its own without me having to hold it up.  I then continued around the whole thing.

Also note that somewhere in there I cleared out the rest of the snow from inside the rink.

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Step 7: Finish the boards. 🙂

Lots of good shade!

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Step 8: place your stakes as supports

Put them in to make it nice and sturdy.  I put most of mine close to the joints to keep those from moving too much.

 Step 9: lay out the tarp and start filling with water

To lay out my tarp I basically placed it in the center and started unfolding.  The thing I wanted to stay away from the most was dragging it around.  There were too many sharp things like boards, rebar, etc that would tear holes in the tarp if I did that, and then it would leak when I started filling it up.  As it turned out I did end up with one small hole but it was slow enough that it wasn’t a big deal.

Once I had the tarp in place I put heavy stuff such as some extra lumber and around the edges and then covered the outside with snow.  This was to keep it in place and prevent the wind from getting underneath and whipping it around.

Then we put the hose in, turned on the water, and put the well to work pumping ~2500 gallons of water. 🙂

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Also note that most websites about building backyard rinks say to wait until you are ready to fill it up before laying out the tarp, and also to avoid windy days if possible.

Step 10: all filled with water – exercise patience

It’ll take a few days for you to have enough ice, depending on how cold it is.

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All frozen!

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In the picture above you can see the ice is a little rough.  After this picture was taken I started bringing out 5 gallon buckets of nice hot water from inside the house and tossing that on and it made the ice really nice and smooth.  About 5-6 trips coats the whole surface so it doesn’t take too long to do.

Step 11: enjoy!

My daughter’s first time out on our rink – incredibly fun, even if it was snowing and I was using the pickup’s headlights so we could see. 🙂

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