Backyard Skating Rinks?

pixie_louNovember 21, 2012

Does anyone install a backyard skating rink year after year? The packages we are looking at online make it seem so easy - put together the frame, fill with water, freeze and skate. So I'm wondering if it's really that easy. And what the pitfalls are.

DD skates, so we are considering buying one this year. Yes - I know I have a pond. But it is way in the back yard, there is no light down there, and if for some reason DD fell thru the ice, the pond is 7' deep. So having a rink right by the house seems to make sense. DD could skate by herself, we would have ready access to a hose for watar and electricity for lights. And to think of all the money I won't have to spend for ice time!

FWIW, I'm looking at a rink from ice n' go.

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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Pixie Lou, one of our kids skated too, so we did put up a rink in the yard one year. It wasn't in a kit though. It was not the easiest thing to do at all. You have to have a very level surface. We thought our yard was level, but it had some slight high spots that had to be reduced to allow the water to fill level. So the grass needed some repair afterward. The weather was also a problem, because it had to be cold enough to freeze and it had to stay cold enough to use. Maybe because we were so inexperienced it was more difficult than it had to be, but it was enough work, that we only did it that one year. We amazed ourselves that we managed to get it up at

All that said, they had a GREAT time that winter! It was a lot of fun! They had friends over all the time. A few that were involved with hockey. We had ring side seats to all the action. Glad we had it for that one year at least.

    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 4:14PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Sorry, can't help, but if I had to do it again, I would have tried it! My daughter and son both play hockey, and I skate (if one would call it that, lol) and I always wanted to put a backyard rink in. But DH never wanted to bother. Now kids are older and not around as much, and I haven't laced up in a few years - and DH is older and crankier, lol, and even less prone to put one up just for me!

There are a few in my neighborhood that are put up every year (one VERY nice one in particular) and to be honest, the last year or two (well, let's say two of the last three winters) it looks like they've had some trouble keeping them frozen enough to skate! There were periods of time when they had ice, but I think the time without was longer.

My neighbor, one year when the kids were little, put in a very rough one - some boards that he filled with water, basically - and while it was small - probably only 12' by 12' - the kids had a blast! I'm not familiar with the brand you mentioned, but if it were me, I would give it a go if it were in the budget! I'm sure it does take some work, especially with leveling, etc., but I think it would be worth it. I'm regretting not doing it now.


    Bookmark   November 21, 2012 at 9:24PM
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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

We have neighbors who put one up every year for a while. They stopped when winter stopped being reliably cold. Given that it seemed to sprout up practically overnight, it couldn't be that big a deal to assemble.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 12:06AM
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We're looking at a 27 x 32 rink. It's about $300. The web site says it takes about 3 hours to assemble, not including leveling. I like the idea of a kit - I know I could buy some wood and a tarp. But I doubt it would be all that much cheaper and I'm betting installation would be a nightmare.

There are 2 in my neighborhood that I know of. One is professionally installed every year. The other one is homemade, and the husband has been working on it for a week now. Both looked at me like I was crazy to consider buying a kit.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 9:25AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

That's a nice-sized rink. I too would go the kit route - I'm not at all handy, so having something that comes with a plan and instructions would definitely be an advantage to me.

Funny that both of those neighbors thought you were crazy for considering a kit - one probably thought why buy a kit when you can build it yourself, and the other probably thought, why buy a kit and do it yourself when you can hire someone to do it for you? LOL

Let us know what you decide. I can live (and skate) vicariously through you, lol.


    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 9:57AM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Pixie Lou, that is a good size for a rink. Ours was at least that size. I don't think there were kits available when we were doing it back in the early 90s. We ended up buying boards and a large roll of 3ml plastic and I'm sure it cost us that much at least.

I wonder why your neighbor's think a kit is a bad idea?

If you do decide to do it, you could take photos and post, along with your experiences, for any future ice rink installers. (g)

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 5:15AM
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The rink is ordered. A 27 x 34. I sure hope I measured the lawn area properly. DH will *kill* me if it doesn't fit.

I guess I now need to go buy myself some new skates. I haven't skated in about 10 years. I already signed up to take skiing lessons at Nashoba Valley this winter. (I haven't skied in about 25 years) Skiing and skating will be my new sports this winter! For once I will actually be wishing for freezing temperatures and snow!

Dee hit the nail on the head re my neighbors comments. The ones who get their rink professionally installed hire people to do everything for them. The ones who are putting the rink together themselves, do everything themselves, as cheaply as possible.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 12:28PM
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We tried it one year, just for me. It was one of those years that we had 10 feet of snow, and DH would get it plowed, set up a time to get it filled, and then it would snow again. After about 6 rounds of that he gave up, having never had a long enough time period of little enough snow to get it filled. Two things I took away from the experience were that if it isn't level, or it's big, it takes a lot of water (hence getting DH's buddies on the volunteer fire dept to fill it as a pump training exercise); and the weather has to cooperate - cold enough for long enough, no 2 foot snowfalls, etc.

Last winter they tried it in one of the quads between dorms at UNH and it never got cold enough for long enough to freeze.

I skate on the nearby wetland when it freezes or at an indoor rink.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 12:37PM
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Our rink arrived and we set it up 2 weekends ago. We ordered it the day ofter Thanksgiving, and it arrived the following Wednesday. I thought that was excellent turn around - especially since the company is in Canada.

We haven't leveled it yet since we have not yet put the tarp on. I'm concerned about damaging the tarp - the rink is nothing if there is a hole in the tarp.

I've become a weather junkie - constantly looking at the long range forecast. We need 3 nights with nights in the 20s and daytime highs no higher than 35. First time in my life that I've ever been wishing for freezing temperature!

    Bookmark   December 16, 2012 at 2:33PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Pixie Lou, that is an interesting beginning to the new rink. I did hear an extended forecast in the Fall that suggested we would have some warm weather until the end of the year, but in January, things would start to be cold. So I hope they are right. It would be great to have it for School vacation. So that is part of the kit, is that frame give you some way to level the rink? It looks like a pretty good size too. Do they come in different sizes?

    Bookmark   December 18, 2012 at 11:14AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Hey Pixie Lou, just wondering how it's going with the rink. We've had some snow and colder temps here, so wondering if you've had any of the same that may have helped your rink along.


    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 5:07PM
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I've been meaning to come back and update this. I hate to say it, but the rink has not been very successful. Everything you read about installing a home rink is that your yard needs to be level. Everything goes on to say that you may think your yard is level, but it isn't. And lo and behold, our front yard isn't level! I'm really amazed at how unlevel it is.

We started to fill the rink on Xmas eve. Not sure if I mentioned it previously, but it was about 1.5-2 hrs to install the framework that I posted a photo of. Then it was another 1-1.5 hrs to lay and secure the tarp. Then we hooked up the hose and started filling the rink. After filling for 1 hour, one side of the rink - the corner on the far side of the photo - had water up to my wrist - finger tips on the ground. And the corner on the near side of the photo, had absolutely no water. In fact, half the rink had no water. We had already put all of our styrofoam leveling blocks on and we had exhausted our leveling abilities.

The good news is that we now own the tarp. DH is currently figuring out how to build a framework out of wood. We really like how the pvc pipes are used to secure the tarp - so he is trying to figure out how to incorporate the pvc pipes with the wooden framework.

    Bookmark   January 1, 2013 at 10:30PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Pixie lou, we also had ice that was deeper on one side than the other. We also really thought our yard was level. We had used wood for a framework and we just about had enough depth to accommodate the unevenness. I remember thinking that if we had higher sides, the issue of level, would have been less of a problem. Or if you built up the sides on the low side with additional wood. We didn't have that pvc frame to secure the plastic, and if I remember right, we just nailed it over the side of the wood. If we had done it a second or third year, we probably would have refined the way we constructed it.

Are you going to try it again this winter?

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 9:41AM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Aw, that's too bad. I guess ideally, (and please know I'm just thinking out loud here, not trying to say you did something wrong) but ideally, it would be good to start this when it is warmer outside - the measuring, the set-up, the leveling especially, since it may be easier to work with the ground when it is warmer. If it's something one will be putting up year after year, it would probably be useful to really put some time into leveling the area really well. Of course, this is coming from the person who would probably be trying to put this rink on top of the snow that's fallen already, because I'd just be opening the kit now, lol!

My plan, if we had ever done it, was to put the rink right on top of our driveway. Our driveway goes past the house into the back yard, where it ends in this big old ugly square of asphalt. Not as big as I'd ideally like for a rink, but big enough to make a small rink, and certainly big enough to be gray and dull and ugly all winter, and also close enough to the house to walk outside and lace em up and jump on the ice! Of course, that was one reason why DH never wanted to put it up - that square is where we park, and he didn't want to park the cars in the long part of the driveway. And honestly, the asphalt isn't all that even anyway, so we'd have some leveling to do - which may actually be harder on asphlt than on soil.

I've really enjoyed this thread and I'm sorry it wasn't as easy as you had hoped. If you haven't noticed yet, I'm living vicariously through you here, lol, and I'm hoping you can get it up and working soon!


    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 9:46AM
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The funny thing is - when I look at the house foundation - how much foundations is exposed between ground and bottom of brick siding - it all looks even to me. There is no way there is a 6" or more difference between the 2 ends of the house. So it still really surprises me that our yard is so unlevel. When it rains, we never notice precipitation draining towards our driveway.

Not sure if we are going to try again this year. The whole thing is covered with snow right now. We never took it apart - I just drained it before we got that storm. So to start over we would need to first disassemble what we have.

We originally installed it shortly after Thanksgiving. On a relatively nice day. But we didn't lay out the tarp then - I was concerned about potential branches falling. Or neighborhood dogs running through it. And if you get a hole in your tarp, the tarp is useless. And we didn't level it then. Since we weren't sure where the frame would need to be leveled. And we have no means of checking the leveling over the 34 foot span. (And in hindsight, I would have leveled the wrong places!) The manufacturers instructions say to wait until you are filling the rink to lay the tarp, and they say to level it as you fill it. I just never dreamed that our front yard was on such a slope.

We own the rink now. In huge letters all over the box there are huge caution signs saying that you cannot return the tarp after you open it. So make sure your yard is level before you open the tarp. And I'm reading it saying Duh, how does someone not know if their yard is level or not. So I guess I'm that huge Duh!

My daughter is a skater, so I justified the purchase of this rink by telling myself that I wouldn't have to pay for practice ice time over the winter months. But instead I just bought ice time for January and February. The world is full of good intentions.

    Bookmark   January 2, 2013 at 12:22PM
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spedigrees z4VT

I'm sorry, Pixie, that your skating rink hasn't really panned out as you'd hoped. I have a very vague memory of a similar skating rink when I was a small kid. I think my parents bought it and set it up for me and my friends. I remember my Dad filling it and I remember using it several times. Then it snowed and my folks shovelled it so it was usable for a short time again, but then it snowed again, this time a heavy wet snow that froze into the surface of the ice, basically ruining it for the rest of the skating season.

I also have a memory of a neighbor flooding a portion of their yard so we kids could skate there.

In both instances the skating season was short and existed at the whim of Mother Nature, who was not too cooperative, at least for any length of time. I don't remember any levelling problems, but being a little kid, my parents' struggles and frustrations with that end of things would have escaped my notice.

My best skating memory was of going with my family and some neighbors to a big skating festival at a nearby lake somewhere in the Boston area. It had been extremely cold and the ice was thick. The entire lake had been cleared for skating and they had a bonfire on one shore where you could roast hotdogs and marshmallows, and hot chocolate and coffee for the adults. I had those double-bladed skates for kids to learn on, and that night was when I actually got the hang of skating. But like the home style rinks, I think big outdoor gala skating events too were limited by the weather conditions.

Perhaps you can solve the levelling challenge and build up the low side of your daughter's rink. The singular backyard skating memories I have as a child are bright memories even if they did not last or continue throughout the winters.

    Bookmark   January 5, 2013 at 7:10PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Pixie Lou, I saw this on Yahoo today and thought of you. Very interesting video of one family who constructed a home made ice rink.

Here is a link that might be useful: Man Builds Backyard Ice Rink

    Bookmark   January 17, 2013 at 6:31PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

OMG, that is friggin awesome! I would *love* to have that in my backyard (not to mention a backyard that big and level).

I didn't listen to any audio that was with it, so maybe I need to check it out again, but I was disappointed that the article told more about how he set up the camera than how he set up the rink. You could see that the ground wasn't level, but he didn't do anything further to level the ice surface (or at least, the video didn't show him doing anything.) But then again, there is that adage about water leveling itself, so maybe that's all it took.

And the biggest question - where on earth did he find a tarp big enough to spread in that rink, lol? I wonder if he secured several of them together.

I can't access it at the moment, but a hockey newsletter I subscribe to always has a backyard rink photo contest, so I will try to find the link and paste it here. I haven't looked at this year's entries so far.

I was also reminded of a feature I saw during a hockey game last year or so, about Pat LaFontaine (a former hockey star for those who are not familiar with the game) and his backyard rink. I tried to find the video, but couldn't, and couldn't even really find any really good photos, but there is a link below that has a small story on the charity game he holds there. I think his rink may actually be a bit smaller than the one in PM2's link (hard to believe, but maybe?), but LaFontaine does have the great views of Long Island Sound to make up for that!


Here is a link that might be useful: Lafontaine's backyard rink

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 3:33PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

LOL Dee, wasn't that cool? I really enjoyed watching him put it together and we definitely would have loved that in our yard too, along with cold enough weather to use it. Theirs is quite an upgrade from the one we made!

The tarp we had for ours was that big and was one piece and was 3mil thick. It cost us $300. and the cost of the wood added to that. And that was back in the Early 1990s. I can't remember where we found it. Our frame was only 2x6s all around it. I think because his sides are high, he can fill it high enough for it to level itself.

Glad you enjoyed it Dee and thanks for the link to the article about Pat LaFontaine. That is a great backyard rink too. I guess what I know about hockey is minuscule. I was a fan during the time Bobby Orr was playing and our family had to have watched every Bruins game for a three year period. But that was it.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 5:50PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

Wow, so tarps really do come that big, huh? That's something.

I found the link to the backyard rink contest.... sorta. I could have sworn you could see all submissions, but there is nothing up yet for this year - perhaps after the January 30th deadline. In the meantime, you can see the two top place rinks from last year - rather an interesting video. One family decided on which house to buy based on whether there was room for a rink!


Here is a link that might be useful: CT Hockey backyard rink 2012 winner

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 7:01PM
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prairiemoon2 z6 MA

Dee, I'd never heard of a backyard rink contest. I really liked that huge one that won the contest last year, and I noticed that the family that won it was from Newtown CT. Thanks for the link.

    Bookmark   January 18, 2013 at 7:41PM
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diggerdee zone 6 CT

If anyone is interested, it looks like CT Hockey has updated their site with more entries in the backyard rink contest. Kinda cool, because not only do they provide several pictures of each rink, but they give some background info such as size, cost to install, etc. See link below.


Here is a link that might be useful: CT Hockey backyard rink contest

    Bookmark   January 31, 2013 at 6:35PM
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In years like this with hard frozen soil followed by heavy rain and then below freezing temperatures, mother nature provides me with skating opportunities. Here's my current and sure-to-be-temporary skating pond at the far end of the corn field from the house. Once the soil rewarms enough for water to drain through the silty soil, the surface will crack and my at-home skating will be over for this winter.

    Bookmark   February 2, 2013 at 2:09PM
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