Hockey / How to build a backyard ice rink - Part 2

How to build a backyard ice rink - Part 2

Date:  Source: Minnesota Made AAA

By James E. Stoller

NiceRink President

Ice is ice, but for 25 years and tens of thousands of NiceRinks in people’s yards later, we’ve got a pretty good handle on what to do AND ALSO what not to do. Most of what we’ve learned, written and solved has just been reworded and reposted by others. Since 1991, the goal has been SIMPLE SOLUTIONS for the backyard rink builder. With time comes experience; with experience comes knowledge, knowing how to use that knowledge is what counts.

Let us help you be successful with our experience and knowledge!

A quick background of myself, NiceRink and its 65-year history. That’s right, our main company has been in the plastics industry since 1948, bringing you three generations of plastics know-how to back up our over 150 years of family hockey/skating history. A hockey history that includes playing, coaching, hockey directors, being a dad coupled with multiple state and national titles, and years of Junior A experience. We don’t just make and provide backyard rink products; we live and breathe hockey and everything that comes along with it.


10. How thick does the ice have to be?
A good finished shallow side ice thickness is four inches. The deep end will be determined by the pitch/slope of your site. If you have an eight-inch pitch, then you’ll have 12 inches of water on the deep side. Four inches will give you a good solid base to work with and usually enough thickness to maintain ice during the mid-winter thaws that have become unfortunately all too familiar.


11. Should I fill the rink up all at once or do it ice layer by ice layer?
There’s a lot of back and forth on this topic. In my opinion, there’s no reason not to use a liner other than the money a liner costs. Layering the ice will create a stronger ice block as long as that original ice block doesn't melt or get soft. Filling a liner will take WAY less time and give you a great base ice to work with. Using a liner might take 30-45 minutes to install; layering ice could take weeks and sleepless nights of spraying. Once a liner is filled to four inches of water on the shallow end, let it freeze and done. This first ice will be more like pond/lake ice. That means it will be a “softer” ice containing small air bubbles and you can cut into it. Once it stays cold and you can layer your top coats during resurfacing, you'll then build that hard ice you're looking for on top as long as that top layer stays frozen.


12. There’s water around the edges of my rink.
All rinks built with a liner will have a shallow end and a deep end. The water the rink was flooded with will ALWAYS freeze from the top down. Most of the time it will NOT freeze all the way to the ground and there will be water under the ice, especially in the deep end. When you have the backyard game going and 2-3-4-5 skaters head to one corner, the weight of everyone will force the ice down, and subsequently force a little water up in between the ice and the liner. It will even “gurgle” sometimes. Most of the time it’s fine and the little water that does come will either retreat and/or freeze at the edge.


13. Slush?
All is not lost! The BEST thing to do is nothing! If you have just filled your rink and it froze over with a little ice and you get a big snowstorm, the weight of the snow on the ice will force the ice downward. The underlying water will be forced up by the weight and pressure of the snow in-between the liner and the ice, turning the snow into slush on top of the skating surface.

If your ice is too thin to get on and clean, you basically can do nothing. The best scenario is for the weight of the snow to push the ice down enough to force enough water onto the top of the ice so it ALL turns to slush. Let the slush freeze, and then you can skate on that base if it’s smooth enough or resurface a few times to get it back to smooth.

If it snows on ice that is already pretty thick and the slush is only around the edges of your rink, then you can tackle cleaning it off. Personally, I would call “more than a few friends” over to help with this. Once you start cleaning slush off of a rink, DON'T STOP; it must ALL be cleaned off and smoothed. Whatever you leave on the ice, such as leftover slush, or stopping halfway will freeze at night and your ice will be full of FROZEN foot prints, shovel marks or the step-up where you stopped. Once it’s cleaned off, let the surface harden back up, then resurface as needed to get it back to glass.


14. How much water should I flood/resurface with?
There are several methods of maintaining the ice. There is the flood method, spray and squeegee method, spray-spray-spray-spray, Hand Resurfacer and the Zamboni method. I’ll go through all of them in detail and you can make your own decisions for your rink, as you are the "rink manager".

• The Flood –This method is simply that, flooding. To flood the rink, you’ll need to have the availability of large hoses and above average water pressure. You’ll need to get the entire rink completely covered with water before any of it starts to freeze. Do not use the flood method on smooth ice; you’ll wreck it.

• Spray and Squeegee – Again, simply spray water onto the ice surface and squeegee it out to the spots that need the most attention. Do not try and squeegee areas that have started to freeze. You’ll end up with mounds of frozen slush, which will have to be chipped or scraped off later when they freeze.

• Spray-Spray-Spray-Spray – The name says it all! The trick to spray coating ice is “wet ice is done ice.” In other words, start spraying a spot on the rink until it’s glossy and move on. Put the layers of water on as thin as possible to get a “nice” glass-like finish and also to prevent cracking or “lifting.”

How water freezes will help explain this. Water normally freezes from the top down and it also expands as it freezes. Therefore, if you put too much water on the surface and it starts to freeze, it will first freeze the top and you’ll have your base ice, a layer of water and the top layer of fresh ice. Three layers; base ice-water-top ice. The water in between the two ice layers will then start to freeze and expand as it does so. As it expands, it can only expand up into the fresh ice, therefore causing the “lifting” of the fresh top ice layer and making it bumpy and/or uneven again which is called “shale ice.”

If thin layers are applied, it will freeze solid with no expansion to give you the glass like finish that ice-skating has become accustomed to. This method is the most time consuming, but will give you the best ice surface without the use of the NiceIce resurfacer explained next. A 44 x 88 rink will take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1 ½ hours by spraying to get the ice back in glass shape, depending on the temperature and ice condition you have to start with.

• NiceIce Resurfacer – The NiceIce ice resurfacer is the best and most economical method of resurfacing any ice rink. My personal backyard rink is 44 x 88 and takes me a whole 12 minutes to put on a fresh coat of ice. It used to take me at least an hour to spray coat a new layer of ice and now, as mentioned takes about 12 minutes or less, with less water and a much better ice surface to skate on when done. I usually put two coats on when I’m out and the second coat takes less time than the first and provides a surface that rivals indoor ice quality.

The single biggest detriment to ice is the oxygen/air contained within the ice. You’ll remember skating out on the ponds and lakes and when you made a sharp cut you’d get a big groove in the ice. The groove could be formed because too much air was contained within ice, allowing the skate to easily dig in and groove out the surface. Your base ice is basically the same as pond ice until it gets resurfaced and layered a couple of times.

While utilizing the Patented NiceIce resurfacer, you will be laying down a very thin, fast-freezing layer of deoxygenated water that will then become your skating surface. You now have the same ice surface that is laid down on the indoor rinks and sometimes better as air temperatures determine outdoor ice quality. Indoor ice is kept at about a constant 21-24 degrees. Your ice can be as cold as the outdoor temperature.

Hard, deoxygenated ice is good, fast ice and will not get chewed up as much. It requires less maintenance time so there's more skating time! The NiceIce resurfacer is also great when Mother Nature doesn't cooperate like we would appreciate her doing so. When she dumps snow, rain, sleet or slush, it has a definite tendency to mess up a rink surface very quickly. The NiceIce resurfacer can lay down approximately ¼ to ½ inch of ice in an hour, depending on the outside air temperature which usually takes care of even the most severe rink surface in a maximum of 3-4 hours of walking.


15. My ice cracked, how can I fix it?
Inevitably when it gets cold the ice will obtain some cracks. You can do two things to get them repaired and help prevent further cracks.

Just like you may have seen on TV or the local rink when a hole is created in the ice, the ref/players will scrape some ice shavings, pack them in the hole, wet it and then smooth it over with a puck. Same goes for your backyard rink. Grab some snow, assuming you have some, and pack it in the holes and cracks, wet lightly and smooth over the best you can with a puck, or even a concrete trowel and let it freeze.

Before you get any cracks and/or when you fix any holes/cracks you have in the ice, and it's cold enough and going to stay cold enough to keep your ice frozen, you can and should put many "thin" layers of water/ice on the rink, letting each layer freeze before adding another layer. This will give you a harder ice surface on the top and be less prone to cutting, chipping and cracking as long as it stays frozen.

All in all, a backyard rink can bring you years of unlimited frozen memories to last you, your family and friends for a lifetime. The choices at NiceRink are infinite, the possibilities are limitless and our product reputation is second to none. Backed up by a superior customer service staff and years of knowledge to help you.

The right decisions make all the difference!