Make a Cheap Backyard Ice-skating Rink

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Introduction: Make a Cheap Backyard Ice-skating Rink

For 3 years now my family has been putting up a homemade ice rink in our backyard. The method was a very simple one only requiring a flat area, some PVC, a large plastic tarp, along with some extra tools, and of course water. This method is better then allot of the wooden ones for several reasons: wooden one are hard to put up and the wood will rot, aren't really portable, isn't really cheap for a vast area, and takes a bit more water (meaning more time it takes to freeze).
As far as I know, the Idea for the PVC ice rink came from my father, who was looking at building an ice rink. In his quest he found several professional ice rinks, that sold for allot of money (up to $600 dollars!), money that he didn't have. So then the Idea of the homemade PVC ice rink emerged!

Here are the instructions...



Step 1: Materials and Pricing

For materials you will need....

36 - 4" schedule 20 PVC sewer pipe = around $5-$8dollars* (we will be using 10ft pipes)
4 - 4" PVC corners = around $3*
1 - 40' x 100' 6 mil polyethylene plastic liner = around $100* **

Total cost = around $300
Total use = around 3-5 winters

These are the basic materials for building your average sized ice rink, but it all comes done to the tarp size and how much PVC you have. Also be prepared for strange looks at the home builder's store if you try this, we wiped out most of their supply of PVC and over heard many comments that we must be building a really big septic system!

*these prices were from about 4 years ago, and we bought are materials in Maine, so basically prices subject to change.

** All depends on what the size is, ours was actually double what we needed, but was worth it.

Step 2: The Real Step One, or Preparing the Ground and the Liner

The Ground-

After a foot of snow, it was time to clear a spot. Clearing a spot could take you about 1-3 hours mattering on how much snow you have, this isn't the most time consuming part, but it is pretty tough, especially if your using a shovel! This is also when having a PVC ice rink comes in handy because the PVC can be assembled after the ground is already frozen and is free standing (no stakes required). This location (in our backyard) has a grade difference of only 3-4". Make sure the area is free from sharp rocks and ice (ironic isn't it!).

The Liner-

To prep the liner I cut it in half, leaving you with a 40ft/50ft tarp. I cut it because I had decided to make a 36' x 46' rink this year and the liner is 40' x 100'. Halving the liner will give you an extra year out of the liner, and its great if something goes wrong! : P

Step 3: Preping the PVC

BRING ON THE POWER TOOLS!!!!

THAT'S RIGHT!, its time to start measuring, marking, cutting, sanding, and admiring! some of the pipes have to be cut because they are what holds the tarp down, even in some of the windiest weather. To do this half of the pipes have to be cut to create a 2 1/2 - 3 inch slot. This is enough to allow it to snap over another 4" pipe and not rip the plastic liner. To keep the cut some what straight, I clamped another PVC pipe to it so it would not spin. This operation took a while, 18 pipes meant 36 cuts on the table saw.

After making the cuts all the raw edges had to be filed and sanded to avoid sharp edges that could have ripped the plastic liner. This is a job where you could use some help, (kids, friends, pets, that guy trying to pond of candy to your kids.


P.S. If you are having trouble with this step just post a comment below I will try my best to get back to you : )

Step 4: Seting Up the Ice Rank...

This is probably the easiest part. All you need to do is put together the PVC and hop it goes together right, you also got to remember the size of your tarp. The size of our ice rink is 36' x 46', more then enough room for our family of 5 to ice skate on!

Now after Its put all together, check your corners and make sure there all the same. If not just move the PVC around till they do. I recommend you have a couple cinder blocks near by to keep the PVC still once the measurements are done. And easier way to remember this is equal diagonals means a perfect rectangle.

Finally its starting to take shape!

Step 5: Applying the Tarp (liner) and Water

Here we go again, another hard part...

To add the liner (tarp) first lay down the 6 mil plastic liner over top of the PVC frame and then snapped the PVC cap over the plastic liner. The cap provides a duel roll, holding the liner in place and providing protection against skate blades. From this picture you can see why the liner has to be larger than the frame. 4 foot extra on the sides is plenty to not lose any sides.

Make sure to keep the caps at least 2" away from the corners. Later I plan to make a triangular piece from wood to sit over the corner to protect it (if you make one please post a pic of it below). Notice the piece of wood under the corner. Use small blocks to shim the height of the frame so it is all at the same level.

I had some comments about the toughness of the PVC when playing hockey, or skating on it. The PVC its self is pretty sturdy and tough, and you could probably get a good 3-5 years out of it. It really all depends on what your using it for.

Once again, if you have any questions, just post a comment below and ill Try to get to them.

Step 6: Adding the Water, and Let Freeze...

adding the water is a simple step, all you need to do is add some water by using a hose, or doing a rain dance. Remember not to over flow or go to high with the water!
Also remember to do this were its usually below freezing, so it will freeze sooner, and stay frozen!

Ive also had many people ask me about the grass underneath the ice rink. As far as I'm concerned the grass wont die, as long as you but it away before spring, or as soon as you can. This will prevent the grass from dieing, though there are no guarantees as every bodies house is different.

I honestly don't think you will need help for this step... :(

Step 7: Maintaining the Ice Rank

I'm going to go through this step quickly, because I'm planing on making another instructable to cover this.

The Scraper--
Pic 1-One way to maintain the Ice is making a scraper (cleans of bumbs, and small impurities). I made the scraper seen in the photo below scraper out of an old broom handle and an old screen door channel. Anything with a hard edge will do. This one is about 6 foot in length making it fast to clean the ice.

The Sprayer--
Pic 2-To fill in the holes made by skating on it you could make a sprayer
unit to make this job easier. It is made of a 10 ft piece of 3/4" PVC pipe cut to a 4 ft. section and two 3 ft. sections to form the shape of a "T".
Pic 3-Adding a valve and a quick disconnect make the job much easier. The valve is great for regulating the flow rate of the water.
Pic 4-I drilled 1/8" holes every 2" across the bottom and attached a board with a 2 1/2"wide rubber belting to act like a squeegee to smooth the water.

If gotten several recommendations on using hot water to smooth it out. It basically is supposed to melt down the imperfections, then lay a new sheet of ice on top keeping he ice smooth. This is a great idea, but the reason I didn't use it is because the mini, hand held, Zamboni we made runs from water from a hose. As far as I'm concerned I cant get hot water from a hose at my hose.
But I defiantly recommend trying that out, especially if you don't have the materials to make the hand held Zamboni shown in the pics.

Step 8: Any Questions...

If you have any questions or would recommend a technique you use for your ice rink please leave a comment below, PM me, or Em@il me at zktech at aol dot com

Also if you do end up making one please post an image below, even if its not PVC, as long as its a Homemade ice rink!

Please don't abuse my email, I'm putting it up there because I under sand that this is a hard project, and want to help if anyone's having any trouble.

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    122 Comments

    Approximately how long does it take to make it all out of snow and water?

    Its a great job!
    I was looking for something similar. But I have a question, if the field is in a place which is between -5 to 5 grad, how to maintain it? Is there any artificial cooling included? Is there a way for that?

    unless this is 10 years ago... 4" schedule 20 pvc is more like $10-$15 / 10ft piece. For that price, might as well buy an "all-in-one" kit or use wood.

    1 reply

    nevermind, this WAS 10 years ago LOLOL

    Thanks for this. I live in Texas where it never snows and my organization wanted to build a rink to raise money and thought of this idea. What are your recommendations on building one of these in the not so cold part of the world? lol We were thinking of doing this in the month of December and one week into January. Also how many can skate at one time on this size rink?

    2 replies

    I recommend an 8th-grade science course. One that includes that pesky freezing point of water thingie.

    wow, thats super helpful, im sure they didnt mean a coolant system or anything, thanks for being such a big help, please jump off a cliff

    What would you recommend if part of where the rink will go is uneven or slopes? Can you build it up with packed snow before laying out Pvc and tarp?

    2 replies

    I built a rink following this insructable and found my yard was more uneven than I thought (one corner was low that I didn't measure). I added some water, let it freeze and then lifted the pipes in that corner and put bricks under the pipes. That's the best I could think of in a pinch. Better would be to somehow level out the low spots along the perimeter ahead of time. Another thing to note is that thin wall pipe needs to be used for the clips that go over the frame (frame can be thicker pipe) so that it can flex enough to go over the pipes and hold the liner. Also, it is very easy to tear the liner when putting the top pipe clips in place. E6000 w/ Tyvek tape works pretty well to seal tears. Next time will sand the top pipe edges more.

    Ok thanks fot the tips. Ya i think ill wait for the first good snow fall level it out with snow, water it down to make it solid then build the rink on top.

    Hey, great instructable. Would it offend you if I pointed out some grammatical errors?

    I checked this out and think it is cool but what advantage is there to using PVC over wood? For less than the price of the PVC you could buy PT and never have to replace those materials. I would think the set up and dissassembly would be easier with a simple circular saw and wood screws. Also, wood is much more forgiving than PVC.

    1 reply

    The PVC in PVC method is nice because it secures the tarp, but I agree that it is a lot of unneeded material. I personally opt for the snow only method! :P

    I wish I'd found this before I built my rink. How do I smooth out bumpy, chunky ice? I've tried everything; hot water, cold water, spreading water out with a push broom. Still....chunky ice!

    I tried the email address and it bounced back. :-(

    4 replies

    If you have an iron with no holes in it, you could try that to smooth down the chunky sections.

    I'm hoping Mother Nature fixed it for me. We had rain which melted my chunky ice, then freezing rain, and now the high tomorrow is supposed to be 0. If this dang rink doesn't freeze up nicely tonight and tomorrow I'm not sure if anything will help it. I'll throw down plywood and buy the boys rollerblades!

    The best way to keep out bumps is to fill the rink in stages not all at once put down 55 gallons at a time until you have full coverage it will be smooth as silk

    how long did this step take you? How long do you think it will talk 9 teens and 2 adults?

    1 reply

    What do you do if your rink is more than 40 feet wide which is the widest tarp?