View Full Version : backyard skating rink

JohnT Fitzgerald
01-12-2009, 10:57 AM
Anyone here build skating rinks in their back yards?

I first started in 2001. A small 16x24 rink in our front yard, in the only semi-level spot in our entire yard. it was for our 2 year old daughter so it was plenty big. Did that for 2 years.

Learned a lot from that one. After some major yard work, I started putting it together on our 30x50 basketball court. the rink is about 26'x40, just right for our 3 little ones. The first year (2005-2006) sucked since I tried to use one of those "kits" where the sides are 2" plastic tubes with a liner layed over the whole thing. it would have to be dead flat to use - and since ours has a slight slope for drainage, I had to do a lot to hold up the frame. no skating at all that year.

The next year (2006-2007), while driving home after work listening to the forecast of below-zero weather, I was inspired. so I stopped at HD, got a bunch of material, and pretty much fine-tuned the plan as I went. I made side boards/frame out of a 2x8 "base" with a 2x10 screwed onto it to make an 'L'. this helped keep the sides from bowing out. It was screwed together at the corners, and I used the tarp from the "kit" I mentioned. getting that in place with even a slight breeze is a real PITA. I recall starting at about 5pm (started unloading the lumber) - temp 28 degF. Stopped briefly for a bite to eat and to help put the kids to bed, and finished around 11:30 PM - temp 2 degF.

I turned the water on at 12:45pm - a delay from when I finished the frame, because my hoses stored in the shed were frozen. I had to take them in to the basement and put then near the furnace to thaw. Went to bed, got up to check it a few times. and turned the water off at about 7:45AM. I forget the specifics, but it's several thousand gallons of water.

it takes a lot of work to keep it groomed, and I've never hated oak trees so much for dropping leaves all through the winter. But it's a lot of fun. My construction last year (2007-2008) was much faster and "cleaner", and I hope this year to make significant improvements as well.

Anyone here care to share their experiences?

Lee Schierer
01-12-2009, 12:39 PM
When we lived in western Massachusetts, as a teenager, my dad would go out once it got cold and "water the lawn. After a could of sessions, the grass would coat over and we would build a layer of ice. Each day after skating we would hose it down leaving a layer of water that would freze. By the time the thaw occurred we had nearly 8" of ice on the grass. Our rinks got bigger each year and were limited only by the length of hose. There were several area ball fields the local towns would flood in the winter for public skating. The fire companies would spray water on them after hours so the ice stayed in good conditon. They had built earthen berms a couple of inches high around the fields as I recall. Nice smooth humps so the lawn mower could cut the grass, but 3" or so higher than the rest of the ground.

Jim Mattheiss
01-12-2009, 9:54 PM
Wow - what memories this has brought back.

In my parents first house they built an ice hockey rink in the back yard and we played hockey. I was 4 years old, so I got to be goalie.

It was a big hit in the neighborhood.

We moved and the new yard was not level enough for an ice rink.



Joe Chritz
01-12-2009, 11:11 PM
You need a Zamboni! :D

I have a pond so all I have to do is groom it. We are due for some horrible cold so that may be tomorrow's project before work.


JohnT Fitzgerald
01-13-2009, 1:44 PM
I often mull plans for making a zamboni. :) there are some you can buy that you tow behind a lawn tractor, but our rink is no where near big enough for that. I inherited a defunct self-propelled lawn mower from my FIL, so I'm considering turning that into some sort of ice grooming machine.

However, for now....I made a 'rake' out of 1" PVC pipe - a long handle going to a 'T', and about 2' on either side. small holes drilled in the bottom, a hose connecter at the top, and a piece of foam pipe insulation zip-tied to the bottom as a "squeegee", and with a little patience it makes it smooth as glass.

I'm about 2 weeks behind schedule compared to previous years, and my bball court has some ice/packed snow on it....I'm trying to clear it so I can set up the boards. I'm missing primo ice making weather though - mid 20's during the day and single digits at night....

Greg Cuetara
01-13-2009, 7:52 PM
No pictures...didn't happen...lol. You should get working right now because it is supposed to get down to -10 before the weekend.
Keep us updated on your progress. I would like to see pictures.

Chris Padilla
01-13-2009, 8:42 PM
There was an episode of T.O.H. or A.T.O.H. where I believe Roger helped someone construct an ice rink. Pretty cool...no can do out here, however! :)

JohnT Fitzgerald
01-14-2009, 11:28 AM
No pictures...didn't happen...lol

Yikes, forgot about that.

Here are a few pics of last year's rink's construction. I reuse the sides, so it should be pretty much the same this year except I'm thinking of making some sort of "sleeve" that I can slip over the sideboards and plastic to protect it from skates and shovels. I had a small leak one year and it was a real PITA.

Greg Cuetara
01-14-2009, 9:48 PM
That looks pretty sweet. How deep is the ice? How deep do you really need it to start with? Does it get a lot thicker during the season?

JohnT Fitzgerald
01-15-2009, 9:55 AM
It depends. :) Last year I had a small leak so whenever I got some melting I lost a little...usually though I think evaporation and shovelling off the 'snow' keeps it level.

the court has a significant slope one corner to the opposite corner. it's about 4" deep in one corner, 10" in the other. this is a problem, as the deep end really needs to freeze almost solid to use. If it was perfectly level, I think 4" of ice would be more than ample.

I did just put it up last night (those pics are from last year), and it's freezing as we speak....

Art Mulder
01-15-2009, 2:34 PM
No photos from this year, but here is mine from last year:

Hmm, actually it wouldn't let me post some photos as I already posted them last year in this thread (http://www.sawmillcreek.org/showthread.php?t=74370).

I found that the hose would freeze to the ice, so I macgyver'd a boom to hold the sprinkler above the ice while it was flooding the ice


It's not a big rink - just about 14 x 37, as that is all I can fit in my yard. The yard is bigger, but that's the only flattish spot, and even so I end up with 8" thick ice in one corner and 2" ice in the opposite.

That's what you get when you just stick out a hose and flood, it goes level. (Duhh). Yesterday and today it's been so cold that we're trying it a bit different, we go out with the hose and sprinkle a layer by hand, and it freezes very quickly. The water doesn't have time to run all the way to one end. It's a bit of an experiment...

Being a smaller rink, I dont' worry about side blowouts. It's just 2x8s on side, screwed together.

You DO want a big tarp or piece of plastic. This year again I ended up building the rink with multiple tarps, and it was a real pain with water leaking until enough of it froze to stay put.

Avoid dark coloured tarps or the sun will melt your rink that much faster!

JohnT Fitzgerald
01-15-2009, 2:40 PM
looks good!! good tip about the hose freezing to the ice. I usually set up my 8' step latter next to the rink and clamp the hose to it so the water just shoots out into the liner. it works, so I'm not messing with it.

I opt to go for the "mass fill" method - I just fill it and let it freeze. if it was only 3"-4" all over I'd try the layering approach, but the deep water on one end would make that too time consuming.