Backyard Ice Rinks 101

Ever dreamed of a backyard ice rink? 360 SportScapes is the #1 backyard hockey rink installer in New England and located right in Windham, NH. We specialize in customizing ice rinks and hockey rinks for every backyard & budget.

Let 360 turn your backyard from a dormant place to a winter wonderland!!

We have thought of everything from rink liners, boards and brackets to netting, underwater lights and accessories. 360 is your 1-stop shop for all things hockey and skating and is the backyard ice rink superstore. Check us out and you may just find yourself spending more time out in your backyard this winter then you did in the summer!

WHAT IS OPTIMAL BACKYARD ICE RINK SIZE AND BOARD SIZE?

This is a personal preference that depends on many factors, but bigger is not always better. Consider the following:

Backyard Ice Rink sizeThe bigger the ice rink, the more time, and logistical challenges you will face, such as finding a flat enough area of your yard (see my commentary on slope above), backyard liners are more expensive and awkward to lay out, filling takes considerably longer, shoveling and resurfacing takes longer, set-up time takes longer, and requires more space for offseason storage. That said, a rink of 1,200 SF will be great for elementary age kids playing 3-on-3 but gets rather crowded if numbers increase anymore and/or bigger skaters are present. You will also want to consider distance from your house to the rink, and whether that’s an issue for the skaters in your family. If a smaller rink is footsteps away, vs a bigger rink that is 100 yards away, which one will your 8-year-old want to skate on?

Board size. There’s no doubt that taller boards are great for keeping the puck in play and allowing your kids to practice lifting the puck off the boards, but there are also issues to consider. Taller boards make it tougher for smaller kids to get onto the rink itself (unless there’s a door), requires a larger liner (assuming you want your liner to go up and over the boards), tougher to get snow up and over the sides while shoveling, and without a door will be nearly impossible to lift a snowblower onto the ice. That said, consider that knee-high boards (24” high) generally end up with even less height from ice to board top, depending on whether your yard’s slope and how many inches of water was required at the point. With lower boards the puck will bounce out of play more often, and there’s greater chance that a kid will occasionally trip and fall over the boards throughout the winter.

Taken altogether, there are tradeoffs either way so make sure you have your eyes wide open about the challenges with either strategy.

 

WHAT IS THE IDEAL SIZE OF LINER COMPARED TO BACKYARD ICE RINK SIZE?

Conventional wisdom is to use an ice rink liner that is at least 5 feet wider and 5 feet longer than your ice rink boards, but the real answer depends on a) height of your boards, and b) do you want the liner to go up and over the boards (which we recommend), or do you intend to trim back the liner after freezing. If your boards are two feet high, then 2.5 feet on each end (or 5 feet longer, or 5 feet wider, in total) should be fine. But if your ice rink boards are higher on one of both sides, then you need to consider rink length + board height on both ends plus 12” inches of slack (6” on each side). If you have four-foot boards all around, for example, then you will want a liner 9-10’ taller (and/or wider) than your rink. If you have excess liner after filling and freezing, then just trim off the excess if you wish.

You will also want to leave some slack in the liner when filling so the water can fully reach every inch of the ground within your rink without stretching the liner at the top. You’ll also want to secure the liner to top of your boards just enough so that the entire liner stays above the water line during filling, but still with slack, and then after filling is complete you can create tighter fit with your liner all along boards.

 

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO FILL YOUR BACKYARD ICE RINK?

First you need to calculate how many gallons of water is required. Each gallon is 7.48 cubic feet. Cubic feet = length x width x height (or ice thickness, in our case). So, take the average desired ice thickness across your entire rink (which for me was three inches of water in some areas, 18 inches thick in others due to slope, so overall roughly an average of 10 inches) x 50 feet length x 25 feet width = 1,041.67 cubic feet x 7.48 gallons/cubic feet = 7,800 gallons! That’s a lot of water.

Next question is how are you going to fill your backyard ice rink? There are several tanker truck companies that can deliver you water, but it’s not cheap at $400-500/truck and generally each truck can only hold 5,000 or 6,000 gallons, so that gets pricey. Or, you can use your garden hose. Many variables such as faucet PSI, hose length and thickness will determine flow rate of a garden hose…but many commentators believe it’s around 12-13 gallons per minute (or 720-780 gallons/hour). So at 7,800 gallons, my rink should take ~10 hours to fill…which is close to accurate.

Other Backyard Ice Rink considerations:

  • Water will flow to lowest elevation area first and will slowly expand outward from there. It may take literally hours until water covers the entire base of your surface before it begins rising vertically.
  • Consider whether your exterior faucets remain on during the winter, or do you have the sprinkler company turn them off? If they are off, then consider two solutions: 1) hire the water truck, or 2) consider running a hose from a laundry room or utilities room inside the house. Yes, it gets messy and requires a longer hose, but it works.

How do you know when fill is done? In the highest elevation area the water would only need to be three inches deep, so use measuring tape or homemade dip stick to dip into water at that point (assuming it’s along boards, of course) to estimate the depth. Err on the side of >3 inches if you can, just in case there is a slight leak somewhere.

If you would like a custom rink please contact us or call us at 877.937.4360!