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An Easier-Than-You-Think Guide To Building Backyard Ice Rinks

If you’re worried about your kids turning into soft, pasty zombies during the long months of winter, here’s one slightly involved way to ensure they don’t waste away in front of a flickering screen: Build a backyard ice rink (which is easier than you might think).

There are different ways to approach the project and a wide range of price points, but only two things you can’t do without: a large, level piece of yard and one of those climates where everyone else wonders how you put up with all winter long.

You can mitigate the DIY-ness of the project with pre-fab materials. A “Rink In A Box” costs around $340.

At the end of the day, an ice rink is just a very shallow above-ground pool, and can be built from materials that are available at any major hardware store. While there’s a lot of labor involved, it’s not particularly complicated. Once you get the tools and materials together, you and the kids can be reenacting the Miracle On Ice in a matter of days.

The Internet Of Backyard Rink Building

  • Many passionate, mostly Canadian, backyard ice rink builders have written detailed instructions — this is one of the most thorough and fun to read.
  • For the more visually inclined, YouTube is full of step-by-step videos. This guy gets the nod due to his liberal use of the word “aboot.”
  • If you think your yard isn’t exactly level (pro tip: it’s not), you need to measure the height difference at each corner of the rink to ensure your materials are sized correctly. Here’s an easy-to-follow explanation of how to do that with some string and stakes.
  • You can mitigate the DIY-ness of the project with pre-fab materials. Both NiceRink and Hockey Shot manufacture everything you need and sell them as individual components or complete kits (about $340).
  • To maintain your ice, you’ll need a homemade Zamboni — a simple pull version or a converted tractor. You can’t go wrong with either, because both let you brag to your friends about your “Homeboni.”

Materials (If You’re Not Buying Them Pre-Fab)

  • .5-inch-thick marine or pressure treated plywood (.75-inch for downhill areas where the water pressure is greater). How much depends on the size of the rink, and you’ll save money if you can keep them at 12-inches high. But if your rink has significant high and low points, you’ll need some 24-inch-high boards to compensate.
  • 2x4s to build the braces that hold the boards up. Again, how many depends on the rink size, but plan on placing them at least every 4 feet — closer for boards on the downside of a slope where the water pressure will be greater.
  • Metal stakes or rebar to anchor the braces into the ground.
  • A thick, general-purpose poly tarp, enough to cover the entire rink, plus 5 feet of length and width to ensure it can be secured to the boards and seal in the water. Make it white to avoid absorbing sunlight and remember to paint your team’s logo on before filling it with water.
  • 4-8 21-inch garden stakes and a spool of string (to measure high and low points).
  • Water, at least 4-inches deep, and preferably from a municipal source within hose-reach of the rink. If you have well water or the perfect patch of yard that’s nowhere near a source, you’ll have to spend a few hundred bucks to have water delivered.
  • Enough halogen work lights ($20 each) to illuminate the rink. These can be hung in nearby trees or strung from wooden posts, but chances are good that the sun ends early by you this time of year. No need for the hockey to do the same.

Tools (If You’re Not Already Equipped For Basic Wood Work)

Put Your Kid To Work