Backyard skating rink – The Beginning NEWLY UPDATED!

The warm fall weather helped me continue my planning of building my skating rink; in essence it helped me procrastinate a little longer than I should the work that needed to be done to get my rink ready.

Now here we are, 1 week before Xmas and my rink is actually well underway and basically ready to be used by the kids. I can sense in advance your eager eyes asking me how did I get to this point, what did I learn and what made me swear ? Have I lost a finger or any other digit to frostbite?

Back to basics

Lets go back about 1 week to the actual start of my rink… I had planned to use a plastic poly ethyl film to cover my backyard back in September. Well, last weekend, shortly after the first small snowfall (only 30 cm), I rushed to tape up my well-selected poly ethyl vapor barrier (lets call it plastic for short) together as it was layed out in my living room, into the dinning room and then into the kitchen. You can understand that I met with some resistance when I extended my work into the kitchen. Luckily I was able to complete the job in a record 45 mins with an assortment of French and English colourful words… In my defense, I started using these words 10 minutes after the kids ended their helpful shift of 4 mins. Thank you TV and commercial breaks for ruining my kids’ attention span!

Once I was done, I proudly brought what I thought was a properly taped up plastic outside to lay on the packed snow. Alas, I was forced to use more colourful words yet again: the duct tape just wasn’t ready for the cold, it came apart in less than 1 minute. To add insult to it all, when I brought my useless ball of duct tape inside, it stuck to me like a leach. Insert more colourful words here.

TIP 1: Tape your plastic together in mid-fall when its warm enough to do it OUTSIDE and put waterproof tape in three locations:

  1. use double-sided tape where the plastic overlaps,
  2. use normal tape to attach the top edge of the overlapping plastics to the other section,
  3. use normal tape to attach the underlying edge of the overlapped plastics. 

I proceeded to place the plastic on the ground and layed some 2×4 that I had handy to keep the whole plastic down and call it a day. If I had kept going, I would have ripped the whole thing to shreds. Truth be told, the backyard water tap was frozen and I didn’t want to mess with it and risk a flood in the house (especially since the water tap was installed by the builder about 1 foot above and 3 inches to the right of my 200 Watt electrical panel).  I may consider hiring commercial electrical services to fix that problem.

As many homeowners would hire immediately contractors and services near them to avoid any miscalculated damages within their home especially who lives in Vancouver WA. This would really be a thorough approach if you don’t want to mess with your future living.

TIP 2: plan laying the film when its warm AND before the first snow fall. it’s also a good idea to plan the edges properly especially if your yard slopes on both ends. 

Water Boy

The next day, I was fortunate that is was warm enough to be able to use the backyard water tap. I connected my hose, my sprayer and turned on the water. Well, I can tell you that while I was spraying water on my backyard plastic, I ended up with about 1 inch of ice on my gloves and boots…

TIP 3: Tighten the sprayer onto the hose IN THE GARAGE where its warm. 

The following day, I changed my plan of attack (the backyard tap was frozen again) and decided to use my backyard hose and connect it to the hose in the garage. This time I tightened the hoses together and ensured the sprayer was secured properly and without a leak in the warmth of the garage and tested it inside so as to not soak myself once outside. Success! I went out to spray the rink 3 times over the last 4 days. Heck, its been minus fricking cold outside that is froze over in less than 3 hours each time.

TIP 4: Use the warmth and the proper tool to get yourself ready. 

I have just come inside from my third spraying and its looking very good, see for yourself.

Steaming cold rink

It’s actually warmer than yesterday evening, its only -14°Celsius so its was easy to stay out there and spray. One thing to know, as soon as the water from the hose hits the ice, expects to hear some cracking: your ice is reacting to the 8°Celsius of the water coming out of the tap.

TIP 5: If you’ve been doing this for three nights, Stay warm with a beer in your hand, you wont feel so cold.

Maybe the Habs want to practice here?

If you’ve layed a good base, you shouldn’t see the plastic anywhere or any trapped air bubbles. Dont worry about seeing cracks in the ice, they are normal, as long as ‘sections’ are not separating, then you’ve got a problem. My best advise, and I havent had this happen to me yet, would be to try to fix those up by pouring hot water on them to help them fuse back together.

Things they don’t teach you at school but that you want to share with other idiots wanting to freeze their fracking n%ts off over the winter

All in all, I’ve learned a lot so far from my week of being a backyard rink owner:

  • Plan early (September);
  • Start early (early November);
  • Prepare your outings in the heat if possible;
  • Dress warmly, frostbite sucks (duh!);
  • Spray often;
  • Scrape the surface for unwanted chunks and bumps AND sweep it clean, there’s no point in scraping them to just move them;
  • even out the surface the easy way: fill up a garbage can with water and tip it over on the ice, let gravity do the rest;
  • Dont put undue pressure on yourself by telling the kids it almost ready, they only hear ‘ready!’;
  • I’m really lucky to have backyard spotlights, if you don’t, invest in them.

I’ll keep you posted on how we fare. Lets hope the weather stays cool. I’m going to drink my hot chocolate. Hey, who took all the marshmallows?!?

The Morning after

Well, its all ready and the kids really enjoyed it this morning. A few bumps didn’t stop them, even the youngest one (2 yrs old) was having a blast.

Morning family skating session

Then after the 75 minutes skating session ended, it was time to water once more. Thanks to my faithful assistant, i was able to capture an ‘action shot’.

Rink watering in action, its too early for a beer though

Happy Holidays to all!


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