Make Your Backyard Ice Rink Freeze All the Way Through in a Warmer Climate

Edited by Eng, Lynn, Alma, Liezel and 4 others

Making an ice rink for your kids in the winter provides great family fun and bonding moments. But if you live in a climate where it's only sub-zero during the night, it can be hard to get your rink to freeze enough to support the weight of an adult. I had several years where I could only skate about once or twice over the winter, which is hardly worth the effort! However, I stumbled upon a fantastic trick to get your rink to freeze almost completely, even in warmer climates. So backyard outdoor ice rinks are now possible :)

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Outdoor hockey fun


  1. 1
    Use a white tarp and keep leaves and debris out of the water.
    When the sun hits even when it's -4 degrees celsius the ice will melt just around the leaf due to heat absorption of the dark color. Also, paint your boards around your rink white.
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  2. 2
    Higher boards also prevent direct sunlight.
    Keeping the sun off your rink is huge when temperatures are -4 degrees celsius and above.
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  3. 3
    Now on to the main trick.
    You will need a water pump. I used the one from my bubbling rock. I believe a pump from an outdoor pond will work too. If you have an electric water pump you use to close your pool in the winter, you could use that. If not, just purchase one online. You can buy an electric water pump from any place that sells outdoor pond equipment or any pool installation company.
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  4. 4
    Locate the deepest corner of your ice rink.
    If your climate is warmer this is the corner that freezes the least. We will take advantage of this problem and place our pump in this corner.
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  5. 5
    Break the ice in the corner, being careful not to make to much of a mess and definitely be careful not to nick or poke a hole in your plastic liner.
    If you are reading this before constructing your rink then you can do what I do. I built a wooden box to house the pump while I was setting up the rink. I constructed it out of a 2x4 frame with plywood on the bottom. This way the pump will rest on the plywood and not on my plastic liner. Since it is made of wood you need to screw it to the boards otherwise, it will float and ruin your ice in the corner. That was my lesson from year one of this technique so learn from my mistake :) I tried weighing it down afterward with a brick but that did not work out because then it was not deep enough for the pump to be submerged. So save yourself a headache and just screw it to boards going around the rink.
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  6. 6
    Hook up your garden hose to the pump.
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  7. 7
    Put the pump into the hole lowering it into place using the hose you connected to it in the previous step.
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  8. 8
    Turn the pump on and flood the ice with no more than about 1/4 inch of water.
    Do it layer by layer.
    Flooding rink with backyard outdoor ice rink trick
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  9. 9
    Wait an hour or two and it should be completely frozen.
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  10. 10
    Repeat as many times as possible.
    Try to build up 6 to 8 inches of ice so you can get through warm spells where the temp is above 0 for a few days. If it snows just before a warm spell do NOT remove the snow. It will act as a blanket to seal in the cold. The snow will melt first giving you a layer of protection before the warmth gets through to your ice.
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  11. 11
    Do not use pool water (like I did) if you have a salt based chlorination system.
    The salt will cause your rink not to freeze. The ice will be soft and slushy all the time. I tried this thinking I had a great source of near 0 degrees water. I didn't realize there was a hole in my pool cover and the salt water was leaking into the water on top of the pool. So I was pumping salt water into my ice rink. What a disaster!
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  12. 12
    Once your rink freezes all the way through just flood with your regular garden hose (hooked up to your house).
    I find the best time to flood is at night when the temp is at least -8 degrees Celsius.
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  • This technique works because it takes advantage of the fact that the water under your ice that never seems to freeze is actually very close to 0 degrees C (freezing point). Normally it doesn't freeze because the ice on top acts as an insulating layer. This is great for fish who need water to not freeze all the way through, but it is bad for ice rinks. Moving the water to the surface exposes it to the cold air, freezing it quickly.
  • Be careful not to puncture or damage the tarp/liner on the bottom of your ice rink floor. Leaks do not make for a good ice rink.
  • If you do happen to damage your liner, you can repair it with a special water sealant tape sold at most places where hockey rink liners are sold. You will need to lift the liner out of the water and dry it completely. Then apply the tape. This can only be done in the corners effectively.

Questions and Answers

What is the best way to freeze water in ice rink?

In making ice rink, you should always consider the temperature where you will put or place the rink. Find or locate the coolest part of your backyard. Try to keep it out of direct sunlight as long as possible because it will reduce the speed of freezing water and can melt the ice. Do not make a rink under a tree because leaves cause that fall in the water cause the area around the leaf to melt. Much better to build a rink in the shadow of any other large structure of the house. The appropriate temperature should range up to zero degrees.

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The best way is to do it layer by layer. Apply about a quarter inch of water or less each time and wait for it to freeze before applying the next layer. This makes sure that each layer is really hard enough before you actually apply another one.

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How long for backyard ice rink to freeze?

It depends on upon the size of your ice rink. The bigger the rink the more water you must fill. And the more water it contains the longer it will takes to freeze. The normal range of water that uses in the ice rink is approximately 1 ½ to 2 inches deep and it will take two days to frozen. Just let the water stock in at least less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

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For 18 feet X 32 feet size if ice rinks, the water level minimum of four to five inches. After one day it will freeze up to 1-inch thickness only then after three days it will be three inches thick and if it reaches into four days it will definitely turn into solid.

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It could take a few days of cold temperatures and constant adding of water to get it to freeze. If it gets super cold a couple nights (below -5/10 degrees C) then if could freeze even faster. It really all depends on when you add the water and how fast it gets cold.

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See more questions like this: How long does it take an ice rink to melt

When should I put water in my ice rink?

Before you fill your ice rink with water, you should wait until the temperature becomes 0 degrees Celsius. That temperature commonly happens during the night and before sunrise. That climate only possible to a place that experiencing winter season or have a cold climate in which you can able to play in the snow. The best time build ice rink is before the snow starts to fall in your backyard.

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You can regularly put water on your ice rink, let's say twice in a day. This is alright as long as you don't put too much. You should just create a thin layer of water and that should be it. It will be able to freeze and it will not melt the layers of ice.

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Does my ice rink need to freeze completely?

No, but if it is not frozen all the way through as your kids play on it water will come up the sides and flood the first couple of feet on all the edges. Its not great but it is unavoidable until your ice is frozen all the way through. You need about 2 inches of ice to support kids and about 3 inches for adults. Keep flooding the rink with more water once it's frozen all the way through to build up at least 6 inches so you can weather those days when the temperature goes about 0. If you can do 8 inches you will be able to handle even a week above 0.

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How can I keep the ice from melting during a warm spell?

If it is going to be warm covering your rink with a white tarp will reduce melting greatly but you MUST get the tarp off before it freezes into the rink so be very vigilant with this technique! If you have access to snow and it is not going to be raining, cover the rink with a few inches of snow. The more the better. Unfortunately, this may save your ice but you will need to do a few floods to compensate for snow frozen to the top of the ice. If you can shovel it back off just before the warm spell ends to prevent a slush layer from freezing on top of your ice layer.

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How long does a 4 inch deep ice rink take to freeze?

It takes 3 days below freezing for enough ice to form to start skating unless the temperature drops really really cold (below -12C). If it's the first freeze of the year sometimes 4 days. Again the big trick here is to pump water from under the ice on top repeatedly. Each flood you can add about 1/4 of an inch. After 4 days you have an extra inch of ice. The freeze is much much quicker with water that is almost 0. You may think by using house water you are getting away with it because it freezes over, but you will notice your ice will crack, and what you don't realize is that the cold in the ice is being drawn on. Then the ice melts underneath and you are no further ahead in terms of overall ice thickness.

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There are a couple things to take into account. If the water is already sitting then it gets cold, it will take longer. It will be quicker if you wait till it's already cold before filling the water. Just make sure to let each layer freeze before adding more water. The first way will take probably 3-4 days of consistently cold temperatures well below 0 degrees Celsius to freeze it solid. If you do the second method and let it freeze in small layers at a time, depending on the cold it could be done in a day or two.

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Adding an inch of water to an already frozen rink?

After adding an inch of water to my rink, how long before it could be skated on? The overnight temp was -10. Water was poured about 7 pm.

You cannot skate on 1 inch of ice. It will crack. Perhaps a 7-year-old and younger could skate on it without breaking it. Be very careful because if it breaks and a skate goes through to the liner it will be extremely hard to repair.

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What type of water pump? Do you know what type of water pump to buy?

Need to flood rink, Do you know what type of water pump to buy?

I used the water pump from my bubbling rock. I take it in the house right away after each use so it does not get broken from water freezing inside it.

How to find leak in ice rink?

Well, the best way is to look for discoloration in the plastic liner you used. When water gets under the liner it changes color slightly showing through a little more of whatever color the base is under the plastic. I use a white tarp so I can see this. White is also key to reflecting as much sunlight as possible so the sun does not melt your ice. Once you have identified the area you think the hole is at you can repair it with ice rink tape which is typically sold where you bought your plastic tarp. You can only do this repair when the ice is melted so if it is frozen over there is no hope. Just keep adding water is all you can do. To fix the hole is tricky. You need to lift the tarp above the water or drain most of the water out of the rink if you cannot manage to lift the tarp. Have a towel handy. If possible do this when temperatures are above freezing because after lifting the tarp you need to towel the area dry and hold it out of the water and let the air dry it completely before applying the tape. If it is below zero degrees celsius the air is likely to freeze any residual water instead of drying it which means the tape will not stick well. To be sure tape around the initial piece of tape that covered the hole. Tape over all four sides of the tape overlapping. Good Luck!

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How full does liner need to be before starting to use a pump?

Do I fill my rink up to its finished depth before starting this technique? (mine usually ends up about 8 inches in the deep end, 4 inches in the shallow end). . Do I need to wait to be able to walk on the ice to start flooding using the cold water from below? otherwise, how to flood - rink is 28 x 40 feet.

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When you are filling your rink, it is best to basically fill one inch at a time. You will want to wait for each layer to be completely frozen before adding the next one. This will help you avoid some of the depth issues you have had in the past. Also, ice contracts and expands which is why you will have different level depths no matter what you do. If you use a pump, the filling will go faster but there will still be wait time for each level to freeze before adding more water.

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Pumping of water from the bottom is not always a solution?

I think you need to clarify that this technique will only work with a fairly level playing field because if you have large grade changes the ice will crack and create uneven areas that are very hard to fill and potentially fix later.. . I would also suggest that if you plan on having an annual rink that you invest in grading the yard properly to avoid a deep end and shallow end that way you will use much less water to reach a consistent 4" depth that should freeze quickly when temperatures reach -10C

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With temperatures around 0, are you still able to have a skating rink?

With temperatures around zero to minus 5, is it still possible to have an outdoor rink? If so, are there anything we need to do extra? Our temperature fluctuate from minus 5 to plus 10 on average. Is this still possible?

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