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Thinking about building your own outdoor ice rink? There are some easy and economical ways to build a rink yourself, or you can purchase a kit if your budget allows. After that, you’ll need Mother Nature on your side, with freezing temperatures and some snow. There’s nothing like having your own backyard rink for a fun and active winter, so let’s get started!
Who will be using your rink and what will they use it for?
Do you have hockey players in your family? Maybe your little ones are just learning to skate, or perhaps you’ll invite the neighbours over for evening skating. No matter what you use your outdoor rink for, it’s guaranteed to make your winter a lot more enjoyable.
How big will your rink be?
Choose the size of the rink you can afford and maintain. A larger rink is better for hockey games or groups of skaters.
If your rink will be for young children who are learning to skate, then a smaller rink of about 6m x 12m (20’x40’) will be a good size.
When you have avid hockey players who want to practice hard shots and skating moves, or figure skaters who need more space, you may want a larger rink. A good size is about 15m x 28m (50’x92’) if your yard is big enough. Keep in mind your budget to build it, as well as the time you’ll need to maintain it.
When should you build your DIY outdoor rink?
The best time to start building your rink is before the freezing temperatures so you can put up the side boards. You can add water gradually in layers directly onto a packed snow base or use a liner or tarp once the temperature is cold enough.
Tools you will need:
Important to know!
Be sure not to build your rink over a septic tank. It’s also good to have a water source nearby, as well as good lighting.
Keep it on the level
A level backyard will give you the best results for your rink, but as most yards slope away from the house, you need to be aware of the difference. Carefully measure this difference by using stakes at each corner and tying a string to each stake to get an accurate measurement.
To help prevent pooling and overflow on the lower side of the rink during milder temperatures, don’t overfill the rink.
If your lawn is uneven, add some extra soil or sod to even it out, and fill in holes with soil or packed snow.
Build the walls
You can make a simple outdoor rink with walls of snow or wood. If you live in a snow belt, it makes sense to make use of all that snow! Build up the snow all around the edge of your rink to create a wall of snow. Be prepared for your snow walls to shrink and pool when the temperature rises or on sunny days.
Place the wood for the border on the ground in the shape and size you want your rink to be.
The type of wood is up to you. Our recommendations are to use 4’x8’ sheets of plywood or OSB sheathing or a combination of 2’x6’ and 2’x10’ boards. Your local building supply centre will help you choose the best options.
If you decide to use plywood, you’ll need to cut the board to your preferred height. One-foot wide strips would work well. Higher boards will give you a more durable rink and hockey players will have the added enjoyment of bouncing the puck off the boards.
Bracing is key
The most important part of your ice rink will be strong bracing to support the rink walls. Use sturdy wood, or order a set of ready-made brackets from a rink supplier. There are some strong prefab bracing kits available but you can also build your own from plans you can find online.
The bracing needs to stand up in case of a sudden thaw, which will cause melting ice to push against the rink boards. You can give your boards even more support by inserting 2”x2”x24” wooden stakes around your rink wall, alternating with triangular brackets every four feet. Note: The height of your stakes will depend on the height of your walls.
Another option is to buy brackets and boards from a rink company. This will cost more but it can be easier if you don’t have time to build your own brackets.
Using a liner
You can build a great outdoor rink without using a liner as long as you have a few inches of hard-packed snow as a base. Fill your rink with water letting each layer freeze before adding the next layers.
Going with a liner will ensure that less water will seep into the earth on mild days. It also helps to produce an incredibly smooth and flat ice surface in a very short time.
If you opt to use a liner, be aware that it has the potential to hurt your lawn. Darker tarps usually keep light from reaching the grass, causing your grass to turn yellow.
There are white or clear liners available, such as painter's drop sheets that will let more light through for a healthier lawn. There are also specific Plastic Rink Liners for this exact purpose.
If you decide to with a liner, place it before you arrange your wood. You could also add a second liner after your ice rink frame is built, attaching the liner to the wood with a stapler gun.
Flooding the rink
Keep an eye on the forecast and when the weather turns colder with freezing temperatures for a week or so, put the liner down and start filling your rink with water. You can use your own water from your garden hose or order water from a delivery service.
Tips for taking good care of your outdoor rink
Save your lawn!
When the warmer spring weather returns, remove your bracing and boards, along with the liner(s), then gently chop up your ice (without touching your grass), to encourage the ice to melt quickly.
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