Question: We enjoy ice-skating on our lake, but the natural ice is not very good for skating. What are some easy ways to flood an impromptu rink? — Lori, via e-mail
Answer: The easiest method, if you have a hose that reaches, is to flood a small area of your frozen lake. Or, consider cutting a hole in the ice with an auger so you can pump out water with a small horsepower pump to flood your rink area.
First, clear as much snow off of the area as you can, building up banks around the intended rink area. The higher the banks, the better – as the sun will reflect off the white snow and minimize ice damage.
If you want a backyard rink, do your groundwork before it snows. Level off a spot as best you can, and put down 2x6-foot boards, fastened end-to-end with scrap wood or door hinges, around the perimeter to make a frame. Make sure you also have support stakes every 8 feet around the wood border. Then, put down a vapor-barrier sheet (you can find these at home improvement stores) before it snows, pulling it over the wood frame and stapling it to the top or side. Now you can begin flooding, if temperatures cooperate.
One experienced homemade rink builder waits until the air temperature is at 5 degrees or colder to begin flooding. Another rink expert, with over 30 years experience, prefers to make ice when the temperature’s about five degrees below zero.
When “finishing” or adding the final layers to the ice, temps in the lower 20s are ideal. Patience is key, as a number of thin layers of water works best. Apply one layer of water until it looks slushy then wait until it’s frozen to add another.
You can begin flooding without snow, but make sure the initial flooding is 3 or 4 inches of water. An easier way would be to wait until there’s about 4 inches of snow (but not much more) to begin. Add water until it looks slushy and wait for it to freeze before adding more. You can also buy backyard rink kits.
The Ultimate Outdoor Rink sells rink kits that include almost everything you need (fasteners, liners, etc.), except lumber for the rink banks. Nicerink.com also sells rink supplies. You can buy liners, bumpers, fasteners and accessories separately or as a package deal.
A middle-of-the-road approach would be to purchase a liner (these are available in larger sizes than vapor barrier sheets and include patch kits), build your own banks, and buy a tool, such as the Ultimate Flooder from The Ultimate Outdoor Rink. A flooding tool like this will make flooding a lot easier than using a regular hose nozzle.