Backyard ice rinks are common throughout the northern US and Canada, where winters tend to string together long days of below freezing weather. In some areas, backyard ice rinks can be made simply by turning on a hose and filling a natural depression with water, while others require building a shallow pool. This section is dedicated to making shallow pool ice rinks, as that is what I am most familiar with.
A shallow pool ice rink is usually constructed by creating a form out of lumber and putting a tarp or sheet of plastic in the form to hold water. There are many ways to accomplish this goal, and there are many variations in the individual ice rinks.
I would like to thank elgoodbill, a Cubs fan who has successfully built a backyard ice rink of his own, and has been very helpful in my work to build one.
Experiences with Ice
I've grown up around ice rinks. Many hours of my youth were spent at the closest (1 hr drive) rink, where my dad would play hockey almost every week. Being too young to play myself, I had much time to check out the ice and watch the Zamboni resurface it. Sometimes the Zamboni driver would dump the snow outside the rink, so when we left I could get a snowball in July to throw at my dad. :-)
During winter, I'd often flood the back patio by dumping a bucket of water a day on it. We'd get a real ice puck out and play around in our boots or shoes; the ice never was thick enough to skate on. A porch swing was moved to the edge of the patio, and we'd pile snow around it and use it as a hockey goal.
We eventually moved, and didn't have a concrete patio to dump buckets of water on. The ice rink still was an hour away, and I wanted to skate more than just whenever I could. This lead to building an ice rink in the back yard. This was the beginning of my use of the shallow pool method. The ice rink was built on an unlevel surface, 17" deep on one side and 4" deep on the other. The water leveled itself off, and for the first time in my life I had made skatable ice.
I'm now building outdoor rinks much more regularly, and have tried various construction methods. The pages in this section will discuss the various methods of rink wall construction, and provide a guide to the maintainence that needs to be done to maintain the ice once the rink has been built.