Project: Backyard Ice Rink (Part 1)

Estimated reading time: 5 minute(s)

We’ve got a project underway here at the Campbell home. We’re trying to freeze a large portion of our back yard. (Well, more accurately, a large quantity of water, covering our back yard…)

One thing is for sure: we’ve learned quite a bit of what not to do along the way!

It all started with a slight modification of the original plans.

When we first thought we’d attempt to make an ice rink in our back yard, we thought we’d follow my brother-in-law’s simple rectangular model. But then, being one to investigate online, I found a post with (very loose) instructions for setting up more of an oval rink, so pucks won’t get trapped as easily in the corners. It looked straightforward enough. All you do is add another board, cut in two, on the corners. Easy!

First mistake. 🙂

We determined the amount of wood needed. Even divided it up in the 2 x 8, 2 x 10, and 2 x 12s, according to where they would be placed in relation to the grade of the land. (Which, is probably a tad too steep for an ice rink!) We had it all nicely planned out, and even laid out.

And that’s when I discovered I hadn’t really though far enough ahead…

See, not only did we not account for the different angles needed (two boards cut to make a “corner” of an oval are not cut at 45º angles… it’s true! They’re not!) we—or rather, I?—did not remember that the length of the boards was also an important factor!

So that meant breaking out old algebraic formulas (and some very handy angle calculators on the internets…) to figure out that we needed cuts of 22.5º to but up against the long flat boards, and cuts of 11.25º in the middle of the two cut boards. Nice! The fun part there was trying to set the saw to an angle of 11.25º!

Once we had cut all the boards, we had to fit them all together. Sadly, we did not measure the length of the angled boards very meticulously. What we did was just push the boards out as far as the angled boards “forced” us to go. (This will come into play just a bit later in the story. Stay tuned.) Once we had made our oval based upon that, we discovered that we had about an 8-to-10″ gap left! HA! NOT what we were expecting, but we knew we could fix it later.

Now all we needed was to get the plastic liner.

A few calls to various local hardware stores (and a trip to big-box Lowe’s) revealed that this was not actually an easy part of the process. Not many places have a plastic sheet big enough to fill a rink area of approximately 24′ x 32′. My brother-in-law had gotten a piece big enough for his rink last year at a local store in Buffalo, so I figured I’d give them a call. Bingo! They had it, I purchased it right there on the phone, planning to either make the trip all the way over there, or meet brother-in-law in the middle somewhere.

The biggest issue we were facing at this point, early December, was that the weather was NOT cooperating! No sign of freezing temperatures anywhere in the near future!

This meant that we didn’t make getting that plastic liner a priority. And that would turn into several snafus later down the line.

But I’m getting ahead of myself. Here’s the next spot things went south. (Why is the south equal to “bad”?)

Being the generous sort (and quick with numbers), my brother-in-law had a proposal. Once he used what he needed for his rink, the remaining liner would be enough (according to our stated dimensions) for our smaller rink! This is quite generous because the plastic we bought ran just slightly over $100, and that was the cheapest option out there!

I hesitated slightly—no, more than slightly—because I wondered if the dimensions of his rink were wrong, or the plastic might be cut wrong, or we might have the wrong dimensions… so many things could possibly go wrong here, and we’d be out of luck as the place we got our liner would be out of stock by the time we figured it out. But, after much thought, I decided to go with the generous offer, since it sure seemed that we’d have more than enough.

ALWAYS trust your gut. Always.

Once we got the plastic upon a post-Christmas visit with family in Buffalo, we were eager to get it installed in our rink. We had to wait a day, due to inclement weather. (That was slightly encouraging though, as we knew the cold was on its way!)

Two days post acquisition of the liner remnants, the boys and I headed out to Lowe’s to get another board and the remaining stakes needed for the frame. (Unfortunately, it took us three trips to correctly acquire all we needed!)

We cut the board, placed it, and hammered in the remaining stakes. Now it was time to lay out the plastic liner! Whoohoo!

But, huh… is that really going to fit???

Though that small piece of plastic, well-rolled, did surprise us with its coverage area, we were definitely short. By probably about three feet on either side, length-wise.

“I knew it!!” were the only words I could say. I knew this would happen… I should have trusted my gut!

Now, before you go blaming my brother-in-law, read on.

Since it was clearly short, I wanted to know if he had been shorted on what he purchased, or, well, just what in the world went wrong. We broke out the measuring tape and walked it off. “Huh. Look at that…” 40.5 feet long? Weird. Measured the width. 28.5″ wide. Strange!

We had forgotten to measure again, once we resized the frame according to the angled/cut boards (as I mentioned earlier).

Now what?!?!

Sadly, it was unlikely that the 30′ x 100′ plastic we had purchased previously and returned were still available, so we went with Plan B: tape!

(Yes… tape.)

… to be continued tomorrow!

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