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Step One: Design Your Rink
The toughest decision you'll have to make is how big to build your rink. The rest is just work. Keep in mind the shape and slope of your yard and where you want it to be. You'll also need to decide if you're going to use a liner and rink boards. Most of all, remember that you'll have to maintain the ice surface throughout the winter… and the larger the rink you build, the more time you'll have to invest.
Disclaimer: General Motors has provided these instructions that are meant to be followed in a safe and fun manner, however General Motors is not responsible for any damage that can be ensued by following these instructions.
Step Two: Liner or No Liner
For years people have simply dragged out the hose, flooded the backyard and made a great little patch of rink ice. But there are materials at your disposal that can help you save time and keep maintainance to a minimum. This is important because we're not always blessed with sub-zero temperatures. Sometimes even the best made outdoor rink suffers from some melting. But a liner beneath the ice can really help save the day.
A liner acts as an insulator between the ground and the ice sheet.
It traps water so that it doesn't escape - and when the temperature drops back below freezing you still have a rink.
And it also makes spring clean up a whole lot easier.
Step Three: Rink Boards?
Do you need rink boards? Technically, no. You can build a perfectly acceptable backyard rink without them, but they do have some advantages. They create a defined perimeter and help keep snow from drifting onto the ice surface. They keep you and your kids from chasing pucks around your yard. And they give your rink a clean, professional look.
Step Four: Buy Your Materials
Before you head to your local lumber dealer use this chart as a reference and decide on how much wood you'll need to buy. Depending on how flat your yard is, you may need additional materials to fit the slope of the surface. And remember to buy a few extra lengths in case you need to improvise on your design.
20' X 15' Rink
| Side Boards
|8 - 2x12 in 10 foot lengths
64 - 2 1/2" deck screws
| End Boards
|6 - 8 foot 2x4's
4 - 8 foot 1x3's
4 - 1x2 Stakes
2 - 3/4" 4x8 Plywood
40' X 30' Rink
| Side Boards
|15 - 2x12 in 10 foot lengths
120 - 2 1/2" deck screws
| End Boards
|11 - 8 foot 2x4's
8 - 8 foot 1x3's
8 - 1x2 Stakes
4 - 3/4" 4x8 Plywood
Step Five: Assembly
Clear an area larger than the size of the ice surface you want to create.
Lay out the lumber in the approximate locations.
Connect the boards as shown. And stake the boards into the ground to prevent movement. You can also backfill with snow if staking is an issue.
Spread the ice rink tarp over the entire rink surface, drape it over the top of the boards, and wrap it around the back of the boards.
Slowly fill the rink area with water and make sure that the tarp fits perpendicular to the bottom of the boards.
Let the water freeze, and repeat. You'll want to build up a smooth level surface. Take your time and be careful to remove any snow before flooding.
The thicker your ice surface the better. The entire flooding process should take no longer than an hour.
Step Six: Maintenance
Like pool ownership, rinks take constant maintenance. You'll want to routinely flood the rink to build up the thickness and maintain a smooth, even surface. It's best to flood your rink in the evening when the wind has stopped and no snow is falling. Start at one end and work slowly across the surface creating a ripple free pool of water. If it's cold enough it should begin to set immediately. But be mindful not to use the ice until it's completely frozen.
Backyard Rink FAQ
To help make sure that your backyard rink experience is trouble free, we've assembled this handy list of frequently asked questions.
Q: What kind of plastic should I use for the liner?
A: Many rink builders recommend using 4mm plastic sheeting. You can get it at most building supply stores. Some rink afficianados recommend using rink liner kits.
Q: Should I put my liner on the inside or the outside of my wooden frame?
A: I would try to make sure the liner wraps around the wooden frame. That will give it more strength and keep it from pulling away from the boards. If instead, you simply attach it to the outside, make sure you attach and support it really well as the pressure from the water may force the plastic away from the wood.
Q: Will a rink damage my lawn?
A: Some rink builders claim that a liner helps insulate the ground and actually keeps the grass roots from freezing, but this is annecdotal. If you use a liner, make sure to move the location of your rink from season to season to prevent longterm damage.
Q: My yard has a slope. Can I still build a rink?
A: Definitely. But to make things level you'll have to figure out how much slope you have. Run a string across your yard where you want to build your rink and stake it about 1 foot above the ground. Hang a small line level on the string and adjust the height of the string until it's level. This will show you how much drop is at one end of your yard and identify how much higher your rink boards will have to be at the low end of the yard. Once you fill your rink with water gravity will keep things level. But remember, if there is a large drop you may need significantly more water to create a thick ice sheet.
Q: When should I flood my rink?
A: You need to get a good base established first. And you can do that whenever it's cold enough. Around -15 C is best. The lower the temperature the better. And when it comes to keeping a decent skateable surface always flood it in the evening or early morning - the temperature should be around -10 C. You'll also want to avoid a lot of wind and snow. The bigger your ice surface the longer it will take to flood but you can easily put an inch or two on in one evening - in sub-zero temperatures. The key is to make a number of passes and build it up in ¼" layers.
Q: My rink is quite uneven. How can I smooth it out?
A: The more you use your rink the smoother it will become. Sounds odd, but using it will remove ridges and imperfections. Also be sure to flood your rink in the still of the night when wind has died down. And never flood it without removing all the snow first. It's tempting just to water down the snow, but it can result in crusty areas and poor ice.
Q: How can I repair cracks or holes in the surface?
A: The best solution is water. And frequent flooding. But for quick fixes mix up some water and snow and fill the holes with this slush. Once it freezes you won't be able to notice.
Q: The temperature just warmed up and now my rink is melting. What can I do to save my rink?
A: Well, you can't do much about the weather, but if you used a tarp it will trap the melted water and prevent all your hard work from dribbling away. Most rinks melt from time to time. But thankfully, the Canadian weather eventually pulls through and we get a cold snap that puts everything back in order.
Q: The kids want paint lines… How do I do it?
A: This one is tricky. You can use water-based tempra paint to make lines but you run the risk of having the ice melt where you paint it. And paint can make a real mess if the ice surface gets soft. It might be better to avoid the whole paint line thing altogether.
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