1. Consider building a traditional rink first
A backyard ice rink will need constant attention to keep the surface smooth and ready for skating. If you dread shoveling the snow off your driveway, you’ll need to keep in mind that your ice rink will also need to be shoveled after every snowfall. If this will be your first backyard rink, you can keep things simple by building it old-school style. You won’t need a tarp or plastic liner, just wait for consistent below freezing temperatures, tamp down the snow with your feet until you create your desired rink shape and size, then flood the surface with water and wait for it to freeze.
2. Select the right location
Checking your yard’s slope is the most important step when building a rink. You need to know where the water line will be before setting up your boards. Otherwise, you may find water spilling over one end of the rink while your tarp remains dry at the opposite end. The lower end of your yard will need to have higher boards to make up for the slope.
All ice rinks need an accessible source of water that won’t freeze or destroy taps and pipes. If you’re going to use your outdoor faucet, turn the water off and on at the shut off valve and let the outdoor tap drain to help prevent it from freezing. Another option is to run a hose to a tap inside the house. Be sure to bring the hose back inside to keep it from getting clogged with ice.
Night comes early during the winter months, so you may want to consider illuminating the rink so you can enjoy it well into the evening. You could simply turn on your existing outdoor lights but if you plan to play hockey, you’ll want to eliminate shadows that can hide the puck.
3. Build a sturdy frame
Most experienced backyard builders start constructing their rinks in late November or early December before the ground freezes, since this makes hammering in the stakes that support your frame considerably easier.
Think of a backyard rink as a temporary above-ground pool. You’ll need some boards to build a frame, some brackets to support the frame, and a liner to keep the water in.
You can use either plywood or lumber for the frame. Plywood costs less than lumber and is easier to work with but won’t last as long. Lumber is heavy and takes up more storage space during the off-season. To support the boards, you’ll need some brackets that can be staked into the ground. You can either buy ready-made brackets specifically designed for backyard rinks or save a few bucks by building them yourself.
Once your boards are up and the brackets are solidly attached to the ground, wait for a stretch of weather that is consistently well below freezing to lay your liner inside your frame and fill it with water. Be sure to buy a thick, light-coloured liner, as dark liners may absorb the sun’s heat and cause the ice to melt.
4. Make great ice
Once you see a few back-to-back days of freezing temperatures in the forecast it’s time to start filling up your rink. To create a consistent and even ice surface you’ll want to fill your rink up all at once. Building the ice in layers could lead to an uneven surface and potentially damage your liner. Once you have about 8 to 10 centimetres of solid ice, you’re ready to start skating.
5. Maintain your rink regularly
Clear the snow on your rink after every snowfall. Snow left on the surface for too long can create bumps and imperfections. Once you’ve cleared the snow or finished skating for the day, pour a thin layer of water over the ice. This will freeze overnight leaving you with a smooth and even surface.
6. Take it down early in the spring
Give your lawn the best chance of surviving the summer by taking down your rink as soon as the ice melts in the spring. Carefully store your liner for next winter or recycle it.
These tips are provided for information and prevention purposes only. They are general in nature, and Desjardins Insurance cannot be held liable for them. We recommend using caution and consulting an expert for comprehensive, tailored advice.
In Quebec, Desjardins Insurance refers to Desjardins General Insurance Inc. In Ontario and Alberta, Desjardins Insurance refers to Certas Direct Insurance Company, underwriter of automobile and property insurance.