A photo of Grayson, Dillon, Ainsley, and Rayleigh skating on the rink for the first time.

Building a Backyard Ice Rink

Given the rising COVID-19 case numbers, we opted not to do a lot of the normal winter activities that fill our days—skiing (downhill and cross-country), snowshoeing, and ice skating. However, we still wanted to be able to take advantage of outside time as much as possible this winter. We have some hills on our property and are able to sled, but the river never freezes solid enough to ice skate, so Kelsey had the brilliant idea to build a backyard ice rink.

1. Measure and Lay Out Materials

A photo of lumber laid out roughly in a rectangle on the yard.
First, you have to measure the space for the rink and set up guide lines and lay out your lumber to be staked down.

2. Pound In Supports and Attach Boards

A photo of Dillon hammering in a support stake for the rink wall while Kevin holds the installation tool.
Next, you need to hammer in the support stakes until the midpoint is flush with the ground.
A photo of Kelsey screwing in a support stake to the rink wall while Rayleigh and Grayson help support the boards.
Finally, screw in the support stakes to the rink wall lumber to hold it in place.
A photo of the fully framed in rink.
Once all of the supports are installed, the rink is fully framed, and its time to install the liner.

3. Install the Liner

A photo of Kelsey installing the plastic liner inside of the rink frame at night.
The liner needs to be installed semi-loosely inside of the frame so the water stays contained inside of the rink and does not rip the liner as it expands when it freezes.
A photo of the finished rink, with liner and foam edge protectors installed, at night.
We finished the rink pretty late in the evening. Once the liner is installed, we needed to add the edge protector, which is essentially made of special pool noodles that are slit down one edge.

4. Fill It

A photo of Kelsey in overalls carrying a sump pump down the bank to the stream while Dillon looks on.
To get the water in the rink, we sunk a sump pump in the stream under the culvert pipe and pumped the water uphill.
A photo of Kevin holding Kelsey above the stream by her overall straps while she installs the sump pump.
The trick here was to get everything connected without falling in the stream.
A photo of the sump pump in the stream connected to the one way valve and the pipe leading up the hill.
This was version 2 of the hookup – the first version migrated sideways and slipped out of the rubber one way valve, so we used a sledge to sink a few pieces of signpost into the stream to hold it in place.
A photo of Kevin wearing a pair of soaked pants.
When the one way valve connection failed, I took the brunt of it. Thankfully, I was wearing my hiking boots, which are waterproof. My pants, however, were not.
A photo of the sump pump connection leading to the pipe that goes up the hill to the rink.
This is a zoomed out shot of the connection between the sump pump in the stream and the pipe going up the hill to the rink. We ended up weighing down the one way valve connection with a sledge so that the pressure would not cause it to slip vertically.
A photo of the water pipe heading across the yard from the hill.
Here is where the water pipe crested the hill and went across the yard. We got 100 feet of 1.5 inch poly pipe, and it was just a few feet shy of the rink, so we had to join it to a shorter run of flexible pipe at the end.
A photo of the water pipe terminating in the rink with Dillon looking on.
The rink slopes slightly, so we used gravity to best advantage in our positioning of the water pipe.

5. Skate!

A photo of three feet of snowfall on the deck, viewed through the sliding door.
We got three feet of snow after filling the rink and letting it mostly freeze.
A photo of three feet of snow on top of the rink and surrounding yard area.
It is hard to tell from this photo, but the rink is behind the tree and firewood pile in the foreground, buried under three feet of snow.
A photo of Grayson, Dillon, Ainsley, and Rayleigh skating on the rink for the first time.
The first skate. The kids have become significantly better skaters in the few weeks since we built it. In this photo, it is taking all of the concentration that Grayson possesses to not fall over.
A photo of Kelsey teaching Grayson how to skate.
Skate lessons started on day one. Kelsey helped Grayson to not be afraid of moving his feet.
A photo of a fire pit in a snowy yard surrounded by Adirondack chairs.
We set up a fire pit for hot cocoa breaks.
A photo of Grayson, Ainsley, Rayleigh, and Dillon skating at night with patio lights overhead.
We installed some patio lights in early January so we can skate at night.


  • Rink size: 28′ x 44′ (1,232 ft²)
  • Filled to an average depth of 4″ = 410 ft³ of water
  • 1 ft³ = 7.48 gallons
  • 1 gallon = 8.3 lbs
  • 410 ft³ of water = 3,067 gallons
  • 3,067 gallons = 25,456 lbs
  • 25,456 lbs = 12.7 tons
  • Pump running @ 2gpm
  • 3,067 gallons @ 2gpm = 26 hours fill time





2 responses to “Building a Backyard Ice Rink”

  1. Cathy Avatar

    Hi! Jay has been enjoying your blogs with me and would like to receive them too. How does he go about getting on your list? Register via the browser view? Thanks!
    Wishing you guys a happy and safe 2021!
    Cathy Cotten

    1. Kelsey Ernst Avatar

      New users can always register via the browser view. But I was happy to add him to our list today. 🙂

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