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Your Home Ice Advantage: How To Build A Backyard Hockey Rink

As the temperatures drop and winter’s chill sets in, there’s nothing quite like the joy of playing hockey in the comfort of your own backyard.

Building a backyard hockey rink can be a rewarding project for those looking to create their own personal ice playground or get serious about their hockey training. With the right planning, tools, and materials, it’s possible to build a custom rink that will provide countless hours of fun throughout the season.

While building a backyard hockey rink may seem like a daunting task, this step-by-step guide will walk you through the process. The end result is a fantastic home-ice advantage that friends and family can enjoy all winter long.

backyard hockey rink

Site Selection and Preparation

Measuring and Leveling

When selecting the perfect site for a backyard hockey rink, it’s essential to choose a flat surface. Start by examining your backyard and noting any significant slopes. Measure the area you plan to use for the rink, ensuring that it’s large enough to accommodate the rink’s size.

After determining the dimensions, begin leveling the ground. You can accomplish this by using simple tools like a garden hose and a string level or more advanced tools like a laser level. Either method will work, though the latter is more accurate.

Clearing Grass and Debris

Once the site is leveled, you’ll want to clear away any grass, leaves, and other debris. Use rakes, a shovel, or a sod cutter to remove the top layer of grass, exposing the soil below. This step aids in achieving a smooth and level surface for the ice to form. A clean site will reduce the chances of dealing with uneven ice or debris hindering the skater’s experience.

Understanding Ground Freezing

The ground must freeze evenly to create a sturdy, level ice surface. It’s crucial to initiate the rink construction during winter to ensure optimal conditions for ground freezing. Bear in mind that ground freezing occurs gradually, and soil retains warmth longer in some areas than others. Be patient during this process, as rushing the ground to freeze will lead to an uneven ice surface.

Design and Size Determination

When planning to build a backyard hockey rink, the first step is determining the design and size that will best suit your needs and available space. Consider the size of your backyard and any obstacles such as trees, slopes, or structures. A flat surface will offer the most suitable conditions for constructing a backyard rink.

To start, measure the dimensions of your backyard and sketch out a rough design that accommodates the available space. Backyard hockey rinks can vary in size, with some homeowners opting for a smaller rink for casual practice and others designing larger rinks for more intense training sessions.

The average size of a backyard rink ranges from 20 feet by 40 feet up to 60 feet by 120 feet. However, it’s essential to customize the dimensions to your specific needs and property constraints.

Once you’ve determined the size and layout of your backyard hockey rink, consider the type of materials you’ll need for the build.

Elements such as the rink boards, liner, and any additional accessories will impact the overall functionality of your backyard rink. Choose materials that are durable, weather-resistant, and easily maintained throughout the winter months.

Materials and Tools

Using a Rink Kit

A rink kit is a convenient option for building a backyard hockey rink. These kits come with essential materials like brackets, a rink liner, bumper caps, and sometimes even kick plates.

A rink kit is useful for those who are less experienced with DIY projects and lack the specific tools to build a hockey rink from scratch. Purchasing a kit provides a more straightforward approach with step-by-step instructions from the manufacturer. It is important, however, to consider the size and requirements of your desired rink when selecting a kit, as they come in different sizes and configurations.

DIY Material List

For the DIY builder who prefers to source their materials, here is a list of materials and tools needed to build a backyard hockey rink:

  • Frame: Lumber and hardware are crucial for constructing the rink’s frame. For most rinks, 2×6 or 2×12 lumber boards will work well. You may also use additional brackets for support and stability.
  • Rink Liner: A heavy-duty, white polyethylene liner or a tarp should be used to create a smooth and watertight surface for the rink. The liner size should be larger than the rink’s dimensions, as it needs to cover the base and reach up the sides.
  • Bumper Caps and Kick Plates: Bumper caps protect the top of the rink boards, while kick plates can be added to the bottom of the boards to preserve the liner. Both of these materials are optional but can enhance the rink’s longevity.
  • Plywood: Plywood can be used as a substitute for lumber to create the boards. It can be less expensive and easier to work with but may need reinforcement with lumber boards to provide adequate support.
  • Tools: To assemble the rink, a handyman will need general tools like a drill, screws, measuring tape, saw, level, and potentially a staple gun for securing the liner.

Building a backyard hockey rink demands careful planning and consideration of the materials and tools required. Whether utilizing a rink kit or gathering DIY materials, ensure that your materials are durable and suitable for the specific rink dimensions. With proper installation, your backyard hockey rink will be a source of enjoyment and entertainment for years to come.

backyard hockey rink

Creating the Frame and Boards

Setting the Brackets

First, determine the size and shape of your rink, ensuring you have enough space available. Once you have a plan, begin by setting the brackets in place. These brackets provide support and stability for the frame. Use a measuring tape to calculate the distance between each bracket, ensuring even spacing around the entire perimeter.

Installing the Plywood

With the brackets in place, it’s time to install the plywood that will serve as the boards. Choose thick and sturdy plywood, preferably at least 5/8″ in thickness. Cut the plywood to the desired height of your boards, keeping in mind that taller boards will provide better puck containment and allow for safer play.

Next, secure the plywood to the brackets using screws or nails, ensuring a tight fit and proper alignment. For enhanced stability, consider adding horizontal braces along the lower part of the plywood. These bracing elements help distribute the pressure created by the frozen rink surface evenly across the entire board structure.

Applying Bumper Caps and Kick Plates

Once the plywood is installed, add bumper caps to the top edge of the boards. Bumper caps protect players from sharp edges and give the rink a professional appearance. When selecting bumper caps, opt for ones that are made of high-quality, UV-resistant material to withstand harsh weather conditions.

Lastly, install kick plates along the bottom edge of the boards. Kick plates are a vital component of any backyard rink, as they protect the boards from damage caused by skates, sticks, and pucks while also providing a visual cue to players on the ice.

Laying the Liner and Filling With Water

Once you’ve established your frame, the next step is to lay the liner to create a smooth ice surface. Choose a rink liner made of durable, tear-resistant material designed specifically for outdoor ice rinks to ensure a quality, long-lasting surface.

To lay the liner, unroll it across the rink frame and make sure it extends a few feet beyond the edges. This extra material will provide a buffer when the ice expands as it freezes. Secure the edges of the liner to the rink frame with clips or weights, ensuring it remains in place throughout the filling process.

With the liner in place, it is now time to fill your rink with water. There are two main methods for filling a rink: using a garden hose or hiring a water truck.

When using a garden hose, ensure the hose is long enough to reach all areas of the rink. Begin filling the rink by starting at the lowest point and gradually working your way uphill. Use a fine spray nozzle to produce a slow and steady flow of water to minimize air bubbles and maximize the smoothness of the ice surface.

If filling the rink with a garden hose is not feasible or time-consuming, consider hiring a water truck to fill it more quickly and efficiently. A water truck has the added advantage of delivering a large volume of water at once, which can promote a more even freezing process. When using a water truck, ask the driver to spray the water evenly across the rink to create a consistent ice surface.

As the rink fills with water, monitor the depth and adjust the flow as needed to maintain an even layer of ice. Aim for a final thickness of about 3-4 inches to provide a sturdy surface for skating and playing hockey.

Once you have achieved the desired thickness, allow the rink to freeze completely before using it. This may take several days, depending on the weather conditions and the size of your rink.

backyard hockey rink

Freezing and Maintenance

Understanding Ice Thickness

For safety purposes, it is crucial to understand the importance of ice thickness. The ice should be at least 4 inches thick for safe skating.

Start by flooding a thin layer of water over the rink’s surface and letting it freeze. Gradually add more layers, allowing each to freeze completely. Monitor ice thickness using an ice auger or drill with a measuring tape. It is important to remember that ice thickness can vary across the rink, especially if the ground beneath is uneven.

Resurfacing the Rink

Resurfacing a backyard ice rink is essential for maintaining a smooth surface for skating and hockey. To accomplish this, follow these steps:

  1. Remove snow: Using a snow blower, shovel, or ice scraper, clear any snow and ice chips from the rink’s surface. This should be done frequently, as snow and ice debris can accumulate and form bumps or rough patches on the ice.
  2. Examine the surface: Inspect the ice for any damage, cracks, or unevenness. Fill in any low spots or areas with thin ice by adding a small amount of water.
  3. Resurface with water: Once the rink is clean and repairs are made, use a resurfacing tool or a hose with a fine spray nozzle to evenly distribute a thin layer of water over the entire surface. This water will fill any remaining imperfections and create a smooth, glossy finish as it freezes.

Regular maintenance of your backyard ice rink will help ensure its longevity throughout the winter months. Additionally, keep an eye on weather conditions to determine the best times to resurface the rink, as warmer temperatures can cause the ice to melt and become uneven. Choosing the right time for resurfacing can also help with freezing, as colder temperatures will cause the water to freeze quickly and maintain the rink’s integrity.

Using Synthetic Ice

Utilizing synthetic ice is another option for those looking to build a backyard rink without relying on natural freezing. This type of ice can be a more consistent and easier-to-maintain alternative, making it a good choice for some homeowners.

Creating a Synthetic Ice Rink

Synthetic ice is made from durable plastic materials that simulate the glide and feel of real ice. It’s a great alternative for those in warmer climates or for year-round use. To create a synthetic ice rink, follow these steps:

  1. Measure the desired rink area and purchase an appropriate quantity of synthetic ice panels.
  2. Prepare a flat, stable surface for the rink, such as a concrete pad or wooden platform.
  3. Connect the synthetic ice panels by following the manufacturer’s instructions. They typically interlock like puzzle pieces.
  4. Install dasher boards or barriers around the rink to contain pucks and provide a realistic hockey experience.
  5. Maintain the synthetic ice surface by regularly cleaning it with a broom or specialized cleaner.
backyard hockey rink

Lace Up Those Skates

Building a backyard hockey rink is an achievable task, accessible to anyone with a bit of time, effort, and enthusiasm for the game. By preparing the land, setting the rink’s frame, laying a liner, and carefully flooding, your backyard can transform into a winter wonderland. It’s time to lace up your skates and let the fun begin!

And be sure to check out our list of the 10 Must-Have Pieces of Hockey Training Equipment!