Even though I live in northern part of Somerset County, it is still considered to be Central NJ so I thought it was simply too warm for me to build a backyard ice rink (especially one that will last more than a week). However, it has been very cold with night temperatures in the single digits so I decided to try to build a small rink to see if it can be used for couple of months with full intention of upgrading it the following year.
In this post, I am going to share my planning and building strategies for 20′ x 40′ backyard ice rink.
I read that many people have built their backyard rinks using various framing materials such as 2×4 studs, pieces of 3/4″ plywood sheets with back bracing, etc. This person actually built a sizable backyard ice rink using 4″ schedule 40 PVC pipes!! (I assume his ground was very flat for this to work).
Based on my DIY experience, I decided to keep it simple and use wood studs and plywood sheets as the basis of my ice rink frame:
- Use 2″ x 8″ x 10′, non-pressure treated (NPT) studs to form a surrounding frame.
- Why this size? Because 2″ x 8″ studs are heavier and taller (7.25″ nominal height) than 2″ x 4″ and 2″ x 6″ studs without being too unwieldy for one person to assemble. By the way, 2″ x 8″ is actually 1.5″ x 7.25″ or 7.5″, depending on the lumberyard. I did briefly considered using 2″ x 10″ studs but they only came in either 8 ft or 14 ft lengths and it cost 60% more for 2″ x 10″ x 8′ than 2″ x 8″ x 10′.
- Wood will in direct contact with the ground. Shouldn’t it be a pressure-treated lumber (PT)? Yes, it probably “should” be PT studs but I rationalized that these NPT studs will only be used for few months and the remaining time would be stored inside my shed
- For the retaining walls, I decided on 1/2″ x 4′ x 8’plywood sheets (3-ply, NPT). Although most articles I read mentioned using 3/4″ plywood sheets but I thought that was an overkill for what I was trying to accomplish (which is to raise the height by about 4 inches above 2″ x 8″ studs. I think 3/4″ plywood is more appropriate for people who chose to replace the studs with plywood sheet and back bracings as the sole perimeter frame + fence.
Size of the backyard ice rink depends directly on the size of the liner. Since I was building this ice rink last minute, my only option was to purchase a roll of 20′ x 100′ 6 MIL (for quick explanation of the term “MIL”, go here) clear polyethylene (“poly”) sheet from Home Depot. Since it is very long, I figured I’d cut it in half to get 2 years of use out of one roll. (Note: The roll is actually “opaque white”, not clear as in transparent. Do not buy black or attempt to use a blue/brown tarp as they will cause problems).
If you are planning this out, your liner options vary, like Iron Sleek from Global Plastic Sheeting and NiceRink liners. Keep in mind that both options are pricey and I am not sure of their claims that the liners can be used over and over again (I may try one next year).
By the way, unless you are absolutely sure that you have a flat even ground, keep this very important fact in mind:
This formula provides extra 12 inches of length all around the perimeter which will provide some flexibility in dealing with sloping spots where the retaining walls will need to be higher.
Yes, this means 20′ x 40′ rink will be framed as 18′ x 38′ but trust me, I learned this the hard way.
WHEN IS IT A GOOD TIME TO BUILD
I think it is a good time to build an ice rink when the ground is NOT frozen, temperature NOT hovering in the teens and when it is NOT snowing (ha!)
Seriously, when I do this again next year, I would install the framing around mid December, install a liner the following week and fill the rink with water during the first week in January. Of course if you live in Wisconsin or Minnesota, you will need to move up these dates.