Home & Garden

Warm up to winter

Warm up to winter

Author: Canadian Living

Home & Garden

Warm up to winter

With winter approaching, a Canadian's thoughts turn naturally to skating, hockey and the backyard ice rink. Providing hours of family fun and exercise, the backyard rink offers convenience healthy fresh air.

Below are instructions on building your own backyard skating rink using a plastic tarp as a liner. Having this liner will help to prevent flooding in your garden, basement or neighbouring backyards when building the rink and during thaws caused by warm spells or sudden drops in temperature.

Picking a location
The first step to building a backyard rink is to determine where to place it. Rinks can be built on most backyard surfaces but the most important things to keep in mind are the following:

Pick a surface that is flat. Many backyards slope, so find an area for your rink that has no more than a 5-to 8-inch difference between the highest and lowest point to avoid putting stress on the boards.

Try to place your rink in an area that is relatively shady during the day. This will help prevent some melting on sunny days.

What you'll need

  • Wood (boards measuring 2 x 6 in or 2 x 8 in). The amount will vary on the dimensions you've chosen for your rink

  • Nails or screws to connect wood and make boards.

  • Thick, industrial plastic tarp (can be purchased in various sizes depending on the size of the rink).

  • Old rags or carpets or any other soft materials that can be used to fill in spots where boards don't sit flush with ground. They can also be used to cushion corners to avoid tearing plastic when you flood the rink with water.

  • Several days of sub-zero temperature, preferably –10ºC or colder. Check the local forecast so you'll have everything ready to go when that cold snap hits.

Building the rink
Attach your boards with nails or screws using extra cut 12-inch sections of the lumber to stabilize the corners and connection spots throughout. The framework will stand on its own when you're done.

Use old rags or carpets (or whatever works for you) to pad the bottom of the boards so framework is flush to the ground.

When the temperature is cold enough to flood your rink, get out there and spread the tarp across the entire rink.

Cushion corners and uneven connection spots on boards with rags or carpets to avoid tearing plastic tarp.

Fold the tarp over the outside of the boards and staple it in place. Be sure to leave enough give in the tarp so that it will lie parallel to the ground when filled with water.

Flooding the rink
Using a garden hose, spray water over small sections, moving the hose from side to side. Be sure to keep the hose off of the area that is being flooded.

During flooding, keep an eye on the tarp. It may come undone and require restapling.

Once the bottom layer is frozen, continue repeating the process until you have a finished rink with a minimum of 10-cm thick ice. Building your rink's ice in layers prevents rippling and shell ice (a thin layer of ice with water beneath).


  • Clean your ice after each day's skating or after snowfalls. Scrape ice with a metal or plastic snow shovel depending on your preference.

  • When you need to flood ice again because of wear and tear, follow the same layering process used to fill the rink originally.

  • If a crack appears in the ice, pack it in with snow before flooding to prevent the water from seeping down and creating shell ice.

Pick up a copy of the January 2005 issue of Canadian Living magazine and find out how one man has helped nearly a generation of kids get their ice skating starts (Canadian Living Salutes: Art Roth).


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Home & Garden

Warm up to winter