Want Your Own Backyard Ice Rink? Here’s How

scraping the snow off the pond so some pond hockey can be played

Plus, a step-by-step guide if you want to go DIY

The outdoor, backyard ice rink has a cemented spot in the Canadian psyche, and is where some of the hockey’s greatest names, led by Wayne Gretzky, learned how to play the game in their youth.

Backyard rinks were especially popular during pandemic lockdowns and, even with the lifting of many restrictions, many Canadians with backyard space are starting to think about a rink as the fall months approach. It’s important to know that it’s best to start planning early before the ground freezes over.

Option #1: Buy a rink kit

If you don’t want to make a rink entirely yourself, there are drop-in options in which you purchase the size kit you want. There are companies that let you choose from various options and price points, including one 30-foot by 60-foot option that will supply you with all-white, 5-foot interlocking boards made from the same plastic as NHL sideboards. Straps and buckles, and red brackets that brace the boards and the ground, are engineered to hold all the water for the ice.

Option #2: Get a rink made for you

This saves you the time and effort of doing it yourself, and gives you the peace of mind of knowing your rink is built by a professional. Centre Ice Rinks builds custom ice rinks, from a basic sheet of ice for you and the kids to skate on to a full hockey arena. You can even have a rink built in your basement. Many of these rink makers will also dismantle the rink at the end of the season and store it for you as well.

Rinks For You is a Toronto-area company that builds backyard rinks, installing about 150 rinks in the Toronto area every year.

“You can take two pictures of your yard, and email that back to us for a virtual estimate,” says Nunzio Giambattista, co-owner of Rinks For You. Allow up to three or four days for construction depending on the size or customization of the ice rink, he adds.

Option #3: Do it yourself

The DIY approach is also another way to go. All you need is space, freezing temperatures and the willingness to put in some time and effort. Here is Giambattista’s step-by-step guide:

Pick a size

Decide on the size of rink you want to build (and your backyard can handle). It can be small, like 16 feet by 32 feet, or NHL size, which is 85 feet wide by 200 feet long.

Check your yard’s slope

Pound in some posts, run a line between them and make sure the line is level. You can buy a line level for this. You can build your boards to compensate for the slope or level your yard. You’ll spend more in lumber and use more water if you build with the slope in the yard. It might be better to level out the yard for the rink. “We do not recommend building a rink with a yard with more than three feet of slope over 30 feet,” Nunzio says.

Get your boards and supports

Pick up pressure-treated wood boards, which will be the walls around the perimeter of the ice surface. Get the wood cut into one-foot sections. Rebar or landscaping stakes are good to hold up the boards. Or, you can build triangular brackets by using 2x4s.

Remember, your perimeter rink boards need to hold thousands of gallons of water. Square up your rink when you lay down the boards before putting in the liner. Measure corner to corner on both sides, so the measurements match up.

Get your liner

Buy a strong premium poly one that can take cold temperatures and hold the water you’re going to add. It’s the most important piece of equipment in building a rink. Place the liner inside of the rink (when the weather freezes), and make sure it has two to three feet hanging over each edge of the boards. You’ll want that liner to be white on both sides or clear, and between 6 mm and 14 mm thick. You’ll need clamps to hold the liner in place.

Fill up your rink

Fill the rink with water (at least three inches of ice to skate). You might be out there quite a while with the hose, especially if you have to even out the ice surface because of any inclines in your yard. Give the ice surface a fresh coat of water 20 minutes after use, too, to keep the ice fresh and level. Shovel off the rink after big snowfalls.

Before you start on any rink project, though, check your city’s bylaws to make sure you are complying with municipal regulations.

There are insurance considerations as well. Speak to your insurance agent or broker to make sure you have enough third-party liability coverage. You could be liable if someone gets injured on the rink, or someone fires a puck through the neighbour’s window, or if the rink melts and water floods the neighbour’s yard. There’s also the risk of flooding your own basement if the rink melts.

In the end, the look in the eyes of kids, when they see your rink for the first time, will make all the effort worth it.

This information and the opinions expressed in this blog are based on research and interviews with the authorities identified, conducted on behalf of Allstate Canada. They have been provided for your convenience only and should not be construed as providing legal or insurance advice.