Anders shares how you can turn your little plot of land into a winter wonderland.
What You Need
framing and support (see below for options)
heavy-duty water-proof liner
1. Pick as flat a spot of land as possible You want minimal variance in the ground for the water you fill. My rink, luckily, is situated on a patio, a garden bed, and a bed of myrtle. There are only a few inches of variance across my rink, and so it requires less water to fill it, less time to fill it, and there is less weight and force pushing out on the frame.
2. 2. Build Frame My frame is constructed of 2 x 12 boards, screwed together, and held into the ground by rebar stakes (both 2 and 4 foot lengths) which are affixed to the boards with aluminum flashing. Essentially, it's a giant sandbox frame, but it's critical to anchor the frame into the ground, because the force of the water expanding to ice can blow out the sides if not secured. Some people use fence posts to secure the boards into the ground.
3. Liner The next step is to find a one-piece liner. The thicker the liner, the more durable. I use an opaque white liner 6 or 7-mil thick. White liners are better than clear ones or blue ones because they absorb as little sun as possible. My wife and I were worried about the effect the liner would have on the garden and myrtle, but it serves as a greenhouse of sorts. The myrtle and garden thrive in the summer. It's important to not to puncture the liner when putting it in or while filling the rink, so going over the ground with a fine toothed comb is worth the time it takes. The liner should come up over the sides of the boards, and should be stapled into place, but not until filling is complete. You want the liner to take the shape of the rink first. My rink is about 17 feet by 33 feet, and so I take a piece of 20 x 35 plastic, and then cut off the excess after the fill.
4. Making Ice Filling should be done during a several day stretch of dry 20°ree; weather. It's worth waiting for a long cold snap because a rink full of water that doesn't freeze can cause problems. I fill my rink with a garden hose, and it usually takes about 5 hours. My rink is 4 inches deep in the shallow end, and 7 in the deep end. Bigger, deeper rinks can take up to 24 hours or more to fill.
5. Enjoy and Maintain Now that the rink is assembled, it's all about fun. And by fun, I mean maintenance. It's worth noting that you should really enjoy being outside in winter, shoveling, and messing around with buckets of water and frozen hoses and faucets. To keep the ice going, you'll need to spend time shoveling it clear, and resurfacing. I use a few 5-gallon buckets of hot water to clear my ice. There are a ton of Homeboni (homemade Zamboni) ideas and options out there. I really enjoy puttering around, maintaining the rink. And, it's a small price to pay for the joy of having your own backyard skating rink.
My whole rink cost about $250 initially. The yearly purchase of a liner can be anywhere from $50-$100. Water costs are pretty minimal.
A great resource for building rinks is the late Jack Falla's "Home Ice".
Thanks Anna & Anders!