The best part of having a homestead is getting creative with your land. You can get some crazy idea to build an ice rink and then go out and do it. I’ve built one on my property every year for the past five years, and each time I learn something new. Here are the basic steps to creating a DIY skating rink along with some mistakes to potentially avoid.
1) Find Flat Land: Scope out the flattest area of your property and then measure the space you will use for the rink. However, no matter how flat you THINK the area is, just a 2- or 3-inch difference can affect the depth of the rink exorbitantly. If it is not flat, one side will fill faster than the other, and the entire rink may not fill properly.
2) Purchase Materials: I used 4-inch diameter PVC pipe in 10-foot sections, with elbows and connectors to make a rectangular frame. Purchase at least .6 mil sheeting for the base. This can be purchased in rolls of 20×100 for under $100 in most places.
3) Assemble the Frame: For my rink, I made it 30 feet long by 18 feet wide. I cut off one foot of PVC from the “end pieces” so that the 20-foot-wide plastic would have a 1-foot overlay. This is important, not only to accommodate the depth, but also in case the ground is not actually flat and you have to increase the height of your sideboards. To secure the PVC at the junctions, I recommend using a piece of 2×4 and 3-inch screws.
4) Lay the Plastic and Secure with Straw or Hay Bales: Roll out the plastic into the frame and cut off the excess. Remember to leave at least 1-2 feet of excess. If you did NOT secure the PVC junctions with 2x4s, I recommend putting hay bales or straw bales against each junction to provide stability. These are also handy because the kids can sit on the bales and rest.
5) Fill the Rink: We fill the rink to about 3-4 inches. It takes close to 24 hours, depending on your water pressure. And, if the land is not flat, you will find one side filling up faster than the other.
1) Fill right before a two- or three-day cold snap: Letting water sit when it’s not freezing outside will allow for leaves and other debris to get into the water. You want to fill it right before a freeze to keep the rink smooth.
2) Increase the height of the frame with 2x4s if necessary: If your land is not level, then one side will fill faster. So to accommodate, I add more 2x4s to the frame on the side that is filling up faster, and then pull the plastic over it and secure with staples. One year, we had three 2x4s on one side of the rink and it ended up being about 10 inches deep, while the other side was a measly 2 inches. You will learn over time how to compensate.
3) Leave Plenty of Slack of Plastic: You never know when you’ll need to make your sideboards taller, so leave plenty of slack. Also, if you make it too tight, the plastic will rip when you fill it with water.
4) Sweep IMMEDIATELY after a snow: There’s nothing worse than a wet snow making your rink all chunky. If you get a dry snow, you can sweep it off easily. If you get a heavy wet snow, get out there and shovel it asap, or it will melt slightly and make your ice really bumpy.
5) Resurface with buckets of cold water: If you lose water over the winter or have a lot of usage, you’ll want to sweep off the ice-snow and then splash a few 5-gallon buckets of COLD water onto the ice to re-freeze. We all don’t have mini-Zambonis, so this is the best option. Using a hose is good too, but that brings in other troubles such as the water being too warm and melting pockets of the ice, or your hose getting frozen as well.
6) Use snow to reinforce the sides: As mentioned, I used straw and hay bales to reinforce the joints. But, if you have a heavy winter, you can shovel snow up against the boards and make it even stronger. One friend I know doesn’t even use boards or PVC, and just makes his out of snow.
7) Don’t forget some lighting and seating: Night comes early, so remember to put some lights around the ice. And a few straw bales make it easy for kids to sit and rest or change their skates.
Ben North lives and writes from a homestead in Iowa.