Build Your Backyard Ice Rink: A Step-by-Step Guide
Ice skating is something many people learn, either as kids, or later on in life from their friends. Unlike playing the violin, it’s one of those things that’s not too hard to pick up without lessons.
If you live in a suburban or rural area with ample space in the backyard, you may be considering how to enjoy this pastime in the comfort of your own backyard. Here’s how to build your own skating rink:
Check the Fine Print
Before you begin, check your city’s by-laws to make sure what you do is in accordance with municipal law.
Consider the Weather
This year has been a mild one so far, as El Niño brings warmer ocean air north. If you’re planning to construct a skating rink in your yard, try a two-step process: build the frame before the ground freezes, then wait until the temperatures are consistently below zero before lining the frame and filling the rink.
If you’re building a skating rink for your family and other families to enjoy, you’ll want to make sure everyone is safe. As the property owner, you could be liable for injuries that happen on your land. Children should all don elbow and kneepads as well as helmets. Adults should also wear helmets, and consider wearing pads, too.
Skaters should never be alone; two people should be on the ice at all times. Kids should be watched by adults and there should be ample lighting.
Items you’ll need:
- Wooden or plastic boards to form the wall of the rink
- Triangular brackets to hold up the boards. You can build these yourself using 2x4s or buy them at your local hardware store
- A thick, white plastic liner to go on top of the wooden boards to prevent leaks
- Clamps to hold the liner in place
- Wooden stakes to measure how high the rink will be and to outline the rink perimeter
- Tape measure
- Rubber mallet
Step 1: Ascertain Yard Level
Before you buy the boards, brackets and liner, use the string, level, tape measure and wooden stakes to find out how hilly your yard is. You’ll want the rink to be close to the house, but make sure it isn’t in an area that slopes down towards the property, or the melted water may cause a minor flood when the spring thaw occurs. If you live in a much colder area of Canada with abundant snow in the winter, you can forgo the use of boards and can pack snow in as the rink base, while using snowbanks in place of the wooden boards.
Here’s a superb how-to list of instructions on measuring land slope.
Step 2: The Frame
You’ll want to start with the frame, which is easiest to install in late November or early December, before the ground freezes.
Decide what kind of boards you’re going to use. There are boards specifically made for ice rinks that have good longevity, but you can also use plywood or two-by lumber.
Next, you’ll need to mount the boards on the brackets at 4 foot intervals, at a minimum. Like boards, there are many types of brackets available, it’s easier to buy triangular ones with long spikes at the base, or if you’re handy, you can fashion your own.
Step 3: The Liner
Now that the frame is up, you must wait until it’s quite cold, at least -10°C. At this point, unfurl the liner you’ve purchased so that it’s flush with the boards and the ground. Having a liner that’s higher than the boards is good, to prevent water from cascading over when you start to fill. Use clamps to hold the liner in place, not staples.
Step 4: Just Add Water
Now, administer three coats of water, waiting until each coat is solid before adding the next layer. Multiple thin coats are more effective than one thick coat. Start filling at the edges of the rink. Once your rink is full and all three coats are done, then you can staple the liner to the boards.
As the owner, you should remain wary of holes and bumps. Clear the ice, meaning, remove bumps with a small axe and blow excess snow away with a blower or broom.
Step 5: Enjoy!
All that hard work was for something. Invite some of your and your kids’ favourites over and host a unique skating experience just steps away from home!