Creating an Ice Rink

By Rich Carrigan, Ice Rink Expert

Step-by-step guide to creating the perfect ice rink this winter

Got a case of the winter blues? Can't justify watching "Friends" on Netflix for the second time already this year? I recommend finding something you can look forward to that gets you outside in your leisure time. Some people love sledding, some love skiing, and others love ice fishing. Myself, I’ve always loved building and skating on an outdoor ice rink. Whatever yours may be, if you focus on having fun and get yourself outside this winter, you’ll be surprised at how quickly these chilly months slip by.

It’s said that creating a fire can keep you warm in three different ways: collecting the wood, chopping the wood and finally burning it. Building an ice rink is much the same. You keep warm while building it, stay warm by maintaining it and can even work up a sweat while using it.

Here, we’re going to discuss the first two steps: Building and maintaining.

Whether you’ve decided to build in your backyard, on a lake, or on a pond, the first thing you should consider is space. Remember, it’s not just the size of your rink but how you are going to use it. Is the area surrounding it safe from flying pucks if you play hockey, or is it more secluded if you’re looking for some privacy or just learning? If you’ve chosen open water of any kind, it is important that you are confident in the thickness of the ice before stepping out there. Once out, make sure to check for holes, cracks and fissures in the surface, as these can be telltale signs of weakness.

The next step is prep!

It’s time to break out the shovel if necessary and clear off the area you intend to use. Backyard rinks require a boxed in frame that is held together and supported, made up of solid 2x6 (minimum) wood or other material. This should encase your rink like a sandbox filled with water. Support the outside frame with stakes or brackets that are secured into the ground so there is no chance of your frame collapsing. If you have one big enough to cover the entire frame, a white tarp will help contain the water even more as you fill. Any other colour could attract heat from the sun and will melt your ice.


It is recommended that you flood your rink slowly. Be sure that temperatures are set to remain well below 0 degrees C for some time and that there is no snow in the near forecast. If your rink is not frozen solid, even a light dusting of snow can create dimples, leaving an uneven ice surface. You will find that thin layers of water will freeze faster and more densely rather than filling your entire space with inches of water and waiting. If you have the luxury of a hose, use it. Otherwise, tracking 5 gallon pails to and from your water source is a sure way to get in your steps as well as strengthen your back for the shovelling ahead. For backyard rinks, you’ll want a minimum of 2” of ice before it’s ready to be skated on. Once you’ve built yourself a decent surface, try adding a layer of hot water. It bonds well to the ice, freezes faster and will give you that mirror like finish you’re looking for.

Shovel, flood, fun, repeat

It cannot be stressed enough to keep your ice clean and clear of snowfall. If it helps, picture how you would keep your driveway if Grandma was coming to town. Any snow build up, if left there, will be detrimental to your rink’s finish. From experience, a single neglected snowfall can result in multiple floods before you’re back to square one.

Time to get creative

We must discuss Zambonis! A squeegee is always a good choice after a light watering. It helps to clean up debris while filling in any depleted sections. If you’re looking to get innovative, try constructing PVC pipe in a T form with a hose hooked to one end and holes drilled in the other. A shirt or towel tied to the ice end will help disperse the water evenly and smooth out the surface as you go. Always give the rink suitable time to freeze after flooding and before use.

You’re ready to skate!

The whole reason for putting in this work is to be able to step on the ice. Maybe you’re there for practice, maybe it’s for your kids, or maybe it’s just you trying to feel like a kid again. Whatever your reason, this winter oasis will glide you through the season and before you know it, spring will be just around the corner.