How Do I Create a Backyard Ice Rink?

Rebecca Harkin

A backyard ice rink can be built fairly easily and inexpensively in an afternoon. Most backyard ice rinks have a wooden frame around the edge and are lined with either a large plastic liner or tarp. A garden hose can be used to fill the rink with water.

A flat piece of land is required when creating a backyard ice rink.
A flat piece of land is required when creating a backyard ice rink.

The first step in building a backyard ice rink is to locate the flattest piece of land on which to build the rink. Next, using a measuring tape, lay out the rink at the size you want and securely pound four wooden stakes into the ground at the four corners of the rink. To check how level the area is, tie and tautly stretch twine diagonally across the stakes. Hold a level at the middle of the taut lines and have a helper adjust the line on each stake until the twine lines are level.

A measuring tape is needed to make a backyard ice rink.
A measuring tape is needed to make a backyard ice rink.

Now you should measure how high off the ground the string is on each stake and then subtract the lowest height from the highest height. Add 2 inches (5.1 cm) to this difference to compensate for the thickness of the ice. This sum is how high the ice will be at the lowest point of your rink. Next, add approximately 3 inches (7.6 cm) to this value, which will allow for a wooden lip above the ice, and that final sum is how wide the lumber will need to be for the border of your backyard ice rink.

Boards that are 8 inches (30.5 cm) or 10 inches (25.4 cm) wide are a good width for a backyard ice rink border. If the final sum of the rink height is less than 8 inches (30.5 cm) or 10 inches (25.4 cm), then you can use these standard sizes. Any sum greater than 10 inches (25.4 cm) will require you to use more expensive, wider boards. Instead, you may want to relocate your rink to a flatter spot.

Next, you need to calculate the size of the plastic rink liner. The rink can be sealed with a liner that will need to run up the inner edge of the rink frame, down the outside of the frame, and tuck underneath. To accommodate this, you will need to add 38 inches (96.5 cm) to the length and width of the rink dimensions if 8-inch (30.5-cm) wide boards are being used. If 10-inch (25.4-cm) wide boards are being used, then you will need to add 46 inches (116.8 cm) to the length and width of the rink to get the final size of the liner needed.

At the hardware store, you will need to purchase lengths of 8-inch (30.5-cm) or 10-inch (25.4-cm) wide boards that will fit the perimeter of your rink. If the correct size is not available, you can ask the store to cut the boards. Be sure to get 1-inch (2.5-cm) thick pressure-treated lumber for the frame. You will also need to purchase a box of 1-inch (2.5-cm) long coated screws, eight 90-degree angle brackets, and a plastic liner or tarp. If you have to piece boards together to make up the edges of the rink, you will need to purchase two straight brackets for each joint.

At home, lie the boards out along the perimeter of the rink. If boards need to be joined to make up the length of one edge of the rink, use two straight brackets at each joint. Next, attach two 90-degree corner brackets at each corner to make the rink frame. Place the liner inside the rink and, as smoothly as possible, run the liner up and down the inner and outer edge of the frame and tuck it underneath. Stuff hay, leaves, or snow under any gaps in the frame so that, when the liner is filled with water, the water does not pull the liner out from under the frame and cause a tear.

Using your garden hose, fill the rink with 2 inches (5.1 cm) of water. Depending on how cold it is, it may take a few weeks for the ice to completely freeze. Once the ice freezes solid, your backyard ice rink is ready for business.

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Discussion Comments


Backyard ice rinks can be a lot of fun, but they can also be a lot of work. Be sure you have an idea what you are getting into ahead of time. One of the big concerns I have heard about is the forming of bubbles on the ice. This can happen when the water freezes too quickly.

When this happens you can usually take care of the problem by popping the bubbles and filling in the spots with snow. Then you can pour hot water over the spots and allow it to refreeze.


I like the outline for the building of an ice rink as described in this article. The construction sounds simple enough and sounds like the price would be reasonable. I have seen the elaborate backyard ice rinks that look like miniature versions of the rinks professional hockey teams play on, and I imagine the cost of putting one of those types in your backyard is considerable.

I would simply like to have a defined frozen surface where the family and neighbors can gather during the winter and skate and play games. I have heard that you can use PVC in place of the wood and lower the cost of the project. PVC is also good because not only is it less expensive, but it is also more durable. Wood can rot when exposed to water and the elements.


In Canada, backyard hockey rinks are very popular. It would be a big exaggeration to say that they are as popular as backyard basketball goals are in the United States, but they are popular. I think the large number of backyard ice rinks account for how good the top Canadian players and teams are.

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