Saturday, January 12, 2013

How To Have Fun on a Backyard Ice Rink

For the past few years, we discussed making a backyard ice rink. We typically have a couple months of pretty cold weather, and there are a lot of backyard rinks around our part of the country! The girls love ice skating and hockey, and they came up with all kinds of good reasons why Dad should consider building one.

After looking into costs and types of rinks, we settled on building a wooden frame and lining it with a plastic liner. Dad estimated the cost of materials at around $300 and we had a garage sale to raise the funds.

So....Just to clarify - this will NOT be a post on how to build a rink. Why?  Because between last winter and this winter, we have just about made every mistake in the book, and we are still very much "ice rink rookies".  If you google, you will find a LOT of great websites, most of them way up in Canada somewhere, that will give you step by step directions for building a rink, or even sell you a kit to do so easily!

Instead, this is a post talking about the memories that we have built so far with our backyard rink.

Last winter we had the mildest winter that our area has seen in many, many years. We had little snow, and less "freezing" days.  Well, in order to have fun on a backyard rink, you HAVE to have freezing temps! Otherwise, you  might as well turn it into a little backyard pond where you could sail remote control boats!  So we definitely did not get as much use last year as we could have....but we are hoping and praying this winter will be more ice-rink friendly.

But even without an abundance of skating days, we have been able to use our rink to build some family memories, first by raising the money together.

Next, there is the "rink building day".

Laying out the framework.
Screwing the boards together.
Thanking the Lord for power tools!

Then there is the night maintenance crew! There's nothing like hauling buckets of hot water on a freezing night to build family ties!





Finally, there are some good results and rewards for your labors!!!

I can share some mistakes we have made and a few lessons learned along the way, just in case it helps!  First big mistake was having too much water in the liner before the temperatures dropped. We got the rink and liner set up but then received a lot of rain. Since that was our first attempt, we didn't know to pump some of the water out, and we ended up with too much water, which had a hard time freezing all the way through, and delayed our skating opportunities until the ice was finally thick enough.
Another lesson learned.....don't step out on the ice to test the thickness! Yes, this is one of our favorite stories - and it involved some very cold feet on the way to church!
Hot water spread in thin layers gives the best and smoothest skating surface.
Don't use a sprinkler, even though a few sites tell you to spread the water this way. It gives a very pitted and uneven surface, especially if the temps are really cold.
Don't leave a hose running across the surface of the ice! The running water melts a big hole in the ice, and the hose also can melt a rut big enough to sink into....and then freeze!
Great Stuff makes a great filler if you get a tear in your lining!
Keep snow shoveled off the surface but be careful walking out on the lining. If you can avoid walking on it, and can shovel (or carefully pull the snow off with a snow rake) from the edges, than you should just do all your snow removal from the edges.
Ice skating at night in your own backyard is VERY cool!  If you live in a climate that is conducive to building a backyard ice rink, I hope one day that you will make the attempt to do so. Our family has had some great fun together because of our rink, and we are looking forward to many other fond memories in days to come!


  1. That looks like so much fun. I'll have to take your word for it though; I think this weekend's freezing temperatures (only overnight) are going to be as cold as we get.

  2. That does look fun. Our temps would never allow it.

  3. Wow, that is so neat! I've never seen anything like that before, but it sure is a fun idea. Something to keep in mind for the future when my daughters are a little older. =0) Thanks for sharing!

    I'm your newest follower from the Crew, too.

  4. I grew up in western Canada, and we had a backyard rink almost every winter. My DH grew up on Ontario and they also had a backyard rink. Now we live a little too far south to be able to carry on the tradition for our kids. 8-( Reading your post and seeing your pictures was a fun trip down memory lane for me!

  5. My two oldest boys plan hockey and last year we made a hockey rink in the backyard for the first time. Well, we are also in upstate NY and we had even milder weather in Rochester than you had. We didn't get to skate on our rink even once! :(

    Looks like you guys did a good job and it provides lots of fun for the family!!


Thanks for sharing your thoughts!