Have you ever considered building a skating rink in your backyard, but didn't quite know where to start? With so much to think about we spoke with two outdoor rink hobbyists, Devon Kunkel and John Houghton, to see what's needed to accomplish this wintry project.
Since all backyards are different, there's more than one way to create an ice rink. For example, Devon lives in a residential area and used purchased materials to build his, while John's rink receives extra help from Mother Nature thanks to his rural location (his yard partially floods each November).
Timing and location
While you're waiting impatiently for winter to arrive, determine the rink's size—16 feet wide by 24 feet long, for example. Before the ground freezes solidly (it's OK if just the top half inch of soil begins to harden) is the best time to put your rink's perimeter in place. This also ensures your grass is dormant and avoids smothering it. If you wait until after it snows, you'll have to shovel or hope for a thaw before installing the perimeter.
When choosing your rink's location, consider how water drains from your yard. Avoid an area that will drain towards your home or your neighbours' and remember, flatter is always better. While you want to select a flat area away from your house, you want it to be close so a hose will reach, and where exterior lights can provide adequate coverage for night skating. If there's a slight slope, the 6” high boards should be enough to handle the increased ice depth at the lower end.
Pro tip: Before starting anything, always check with your municipality to determine if any bylaws or restrictions might affect your dream rink. Some municipalities require a permit to build one.
To start, you'll need rink-building materials, plus a few essentials to maintain your ice. Devon says a good quality hose, rated for winter use and long enough to reach the farthest ice with a spray attachment, is extremely important. A snow scoop and push shovel are ideal to clear snow accumulations.
Complete rink kits, ranging from $80 to $700 or more, are available through national retailers, but if you'd like to build it yourself, these materials will do the trick for around $200 to $250 (excluding tools):
- 2” x 6' pressure treated boards (which usually come in 8 foot lengths)
- 2” x 2' pressure treated boards, cut to 8” lengths and tapered at one end
- tarps or heavy plastic sheeting — use a single sheet that overlaps the entire area
- 3” brass wood screws
- cordless drill
- mitre or hand saw
- rubber mallet
- Measure your area and set your perimeter boards, placing three stakes per 8-foot length.
- Beginning with the first board, hammer the stakes two inches deep into the ground.
- secure each board to the stakes using two screws per stake, ensuring all boards fit snugly end-to-end.
- Stretch and flatten your tarp or plastic sheeting across the area so it covers and overlaps the perimeter.
- Use your hose to fill the tarp with water to a minimum depth of two inches.
- Allow the water freeze completely then hit the ice!
Pro tip: If you time your assembly just before a heavy rainfall, Mother Nature will help fill the rink for you.
You can't forget about providing a spot to change into your skates. Folding or camp chairs are perfect for this, as you can place the back legs over the boards to keep them secure. Plastic patio chairs are also perfect supports for novice skaters as well, because they have a wide base and slide easily on ice.
If you're a hockey family, nets are a must. If lighting is a concern, this can be solved by installing posts before winter and securing outdoor floodlight fixtures with extension cords. A selection of halogen or energy-efficient LED plug-in outdoor floodlights can be found at your local hardware store, starting from about $50, including fixtures and bulbs. John says snowbanks from shoveling are perfect for the kids to make their own benches and double as natural hockey stick racks.
To keep your ice in tip-top shape, shovel promptly after each snowfall. Snow insulates and can stick to the ice in milder temperatures. Use your hose to evenly cover the ice with water. For best results and to prevent sheet ice—which is thin, brittle layers of ice—Devon recommends using the hose attachment's mist setting because it adheres evenly to the existing ice without creating a separate layer.
Make sure to store the hose someplace warm after each use and turn off outdoor taps from inside, with the external valve open to avoid freezing pipes.
The rink ice should melt gradually with the snow each spring. As soon as the ice is thawed you can remove a section of the perimeter to drain the water. Be sure to pull up the tarp before it gets too warm so the ground can dry out and aerate. John says there should be no lasting damage as long as the rink is installed and removed while the grass is dormant.
From planning to takedown, by following these tips, your family is sure to experience hours of active, outdoor enjoyment through the winter. Happy skating!
Source: Gord Brown @ Realtor.ca/blog