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Project Ideas: Seasonal & Holiday

How to Build an Outdoor Skating Rink

Flying Skater.jpg


Want to go ice skating without having to pack up and find time at a rink?  How about building your own backyard ice rink?  It’s easy to build and maintain, and skating is a great way to stay active throughout those cold winter months.



Skill Level: Beginner
Time: About a week weather permitting
Cost: Around $300 for a 28’x40’ Rink (Dec. 2012)



The colder the climate, the easier and less expensive a do-it-yourself ice rink becomes.  In any case the most important factor will be an area of smooth and level ground.  This is essential to creating a successful rink.  Keep in mind that areas which appear to be perfectly flat will have some variation which needs to be taken into account.  If you have access to a transit and rod you can scope out the flattest area in your yard for the new ice rink.  An outdoor rated laser is even easier, though more expensive.  Last but not least would be the old home favorite using stakes, string and a string level to measure height variation.  Plan out your rink size based on using the flattest plot of yard.




Transit Kit.jpg




The other essential ingredient will be ice cold weather for an extended period of time.


Let’s look at a couple of ways to build a rink.  Way up in the frozen north, you can use snow mounds to build the rink border, and pack down 6” or so of fresh snow on the ground for your rink base.  Get the whole family out and stomp the field!  Use a lawn roller to finish off the pack down.  Try to get the field consistently flat and compacted.  Once the field is prepared you can start to spray water on the rink field and the berms to form an ice barrier.  When temperatures are holding south of 15 degrees F, you can start to fill in the rink with water.  It’s best to do your watering at night, so the sun won’t hinder the freeze.  Flood your rink about an inch deep at a time, moving the hose as you go to prevent melting a hole in the base.  It will take 3 to 4 nights to get the needed 3” depth for a usable rink.  Drain and store your hoses after each use.



Maintenance is simple.  Shovel off any snow before you use the rink.  After you are done skating just lightly flood the surface to fill any marks and cracks. 



What about those who live in more temperate climates?  Well, you still need the cold temperatures, but often the ground will remain porous well into the winter.  This means you will need a waterproof liner and some type of rink border in order to construct an ice rink.  How tall does the border need to be?  At a minimum the side walls should allow for the minimum 3” ice thickness, and will go up from there.  Add planned height to the side walls based on your grade measurements and add a little extra height as a safety margin.



Visions of Bobby Hull or Wayne Gretzky leading you toward a hockey style rink?  You can construct borders out of braced plywood to make rink walls that help keep hockey pucks on the ice.  Real hockey rinks are huge though.  The NHL rink size is 85’ x 200’, and an Olympic rink measures over 98’ x 200’!  Let’s look at how to build a more modest sized rink using plastic sheeting and a border.



In addition to snow berms and plywood, rink borders can be constructed from common 2x lumber, or even PVC pipe if the grade change is really small.  There will need to be a method for connecting the border pieces together, as well as a bracing system to keep the walls from moving as the rink is filled with water.  Connecting PVC pipe is as simple as using couplers.  No need to glue them, just push them together firmly and in the spring they can be easily taken apart.  More likely you will need the height of 2x lumber.  Here you will need to construct braces of 2x6 pieces to connect the wall boards, and use rebar pounded into the ground to keep them from moving.  Here is a list of materials for building a 28’ x 40’ rink using 2x8 lumber as a border.





1, Husky 32’x100’ Clear 4 mil Plastic Sheeting Internet #202184186 (Good for 2 seasons)


17, 2x8x8’ Lumber for border SKU 161-861


3, 2x6x8’ Lumber for 14 braces SKU 161-713


4, Simpson Strong Tie corners SKU 208-105


1, 1# Box 1 ¼” deck screws SKU 177-931


1, 1# Box 2 ½” deck screws SKU 734-838


32, ½”x1’ Rebar SKU 748-552






CST/Berger Transit level and rod Internet #100324854


Ryobi 10” Miter Saw SKU749-865


Ryobi Cordless 18v Drill SKU 237-711


Irwin 5/8” Spade drill bit SKU 174-882


Roberts Utility Knife SKU 289-888


Apex 5/8” Water Hose 100’ SKU 354-720


Melnor Watering Nozzle SKU 301-416




Step 1.  Define your rink area.  Use the transit, laser or string level system of your choice to pick a level area for your rink.  Cut one 2x8 in half.  Place 2x8 boards along the border to make a 28’ x 40’ outline in the yard.




Step 2.  Construct the braces.  For each brace you will need 3 boards.  Cut one 4”, one 5 ½” and a third with 45 degree angle cuts with the long side being 5 ½”.  Secure with screws in to a triangular brace.  Drill a 5/8” vertical hole in the very center to accept a rebar stake.  See the picture below:




Ice Rink Brace.jpg




These braces will work well with either 2x6 or 2x8 borders.  If you need to use wider border lumber, you can easily just cut the front vertical brace board longer as needed.




Step 3.  Start at one corner of your layout.  Connect two boards that meet in a corner with a Simpson angle brace.  Connect the rest of the corners in the same manner.  Now, where 2 boards meet not in a corner, use a bracket you have built to connect them together.  Each border piece should take up half of the brace face.  Use 2 screws per board.  Repeat this process until you have a finished rink border.  Adjust as needed to make it straight and place the rebar into the bracket holes.  Pound these stakes into the ground to secure the rink.  In addition, every 8 feet you will want to pound in rebar supports in the middle of your 8’ long boards just along the outside edge.  You should now have a very stable rink wall capable of holding the water before it is frozen.




Step 4.  Roll out your rink liner.  The roll shown will do 2 rinks this size, so roll out your liner starting at one narrow end, and leave about 2 feet of excess on each end before you cut the roll and unfold its width.  The liner should come up the sides of the wall boards and drape over.  If it’s windy out, use some scrap boards to hold the liner in while you begin to fill the rink with water.




Step 5.  Fill the rink about an inch deep in the evening and let it freeze overnight.  Next evening come back and add another inch or so.  By the third night hopefully you will add the final inch of water which will yield a solid skating surface.  If you have snow available, piling some along the borders and coating them with a water spray will make your rink both more inviting and stronger too.




Step 6.  Enjoy your new rink!  






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Posted 2012-12-28T17:11:02+0000  by Chris_HD_CHI Chris_HD_CHI

Great idea!!  My husband and son were out setting up an outdoor ice rink this past week.


Beginning the process...


Then it snowed!!

 To be continued...

Posted 2013-01-03T17:11:33+0000  by Jen_HD_BOS
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