Tools for the Rink

We wanted to make a few suggestions of some items you should keep around the rink for when it’s time to do some maintenance on the ice. These come from experience of myself and tips I have picked up from others along the way.

  1. Shovel – To remove the snow both from mother nature and from your skating lessons. I have been using a combination of your typical snow shovel and the ManPlow. The ManPlow has been a wonderful tool in my arsenal and I use it after every skate to clean up the ice.
  2. Ice Scraper or Floor Scraper – This is a great tool to have around to help take down the bumps in the ice.
  3. Snow Blower – I use a snow blower to get the bulk of the snow that Mother Nature throws at me off the rink. I made a make shift ramp to get it up onto the rink.
  4. Water Source and Hoses – Access to your water is key to less head aches when trying to resurface your rink. In addition, the hose that you choose needs to be long enough to reach all parts of the rink and needs to be made of pure rubber. You don’t want to have to be hauling water across your yard if you can help it.
  5. Ice Resurfacer – The ice resurfacer is the key to getting the ice nice and smooth.
  6. Propane Torch – It’s a cool tool to use in tandem with the ice scraper to help take down the bumps in the ice.

These are just a few items to have around to help maintain your rink. I don’t do daily maintenance, however the better maintained the surface the easier and more enjoyable your rink will be. Do you have a tip you want to share, contact us.

Rink Calculators

We have seen some questions arise with regard to what size liner you need and how much water will it take to fill the rink. Below are two calculators that will help you determine your minimum liner size, approximate water volume needed to fill your rink

All calculations are estimates only.

Questions, comments or suggestions? Let us know.

Making Ice!

I seen have a common question asked among some of the backyard rink building groups: How long does it take to make ice? Well, this can be a loaded question, as it varies greatly by the weather and depth you are trying to freeze. You can really dig into the science behind how ice freezes, but for me I was trying to find the bottom line answer. There were two charts that I found that break it down pretty simply. The first showing ice growth over a day and the other over a week. Since for the most part people are trying to freeze a minimum of 4 inches you should be able to do that over a weeks time.

As you can see from the charts the temperature is relative to the growth of ice. There can be other factors as well such as depth, wind and snow or rain fall.

Once you have your base ice frozen, you may want to build more depth through base building/flooding/resurfacing/watering (there are many ways people refer to this process). The same science from above applies to building ice or resurfacing, but since you are only laying down a very thin layer of water it should freeze relatively quickly with the right conditions. The below chart should guide you when trying to determine the right temperature for resurfacing or base building. I found this chart in the literature from my NiceRink Resurfacer.

Degrees (F)Degrees (C)ResurfacingBase Building
350 to 3MarginalNot Advised
25 to 15-4 to -9FairMarginal
15 to 0-10 to -17GoodGood
0 to -10-18 to -23ExcellentVery Good
-15 / Lower-24 / lowerGoodExcellent

Now I will put a disclaimer on this, as I am no scientist but someone who is merely interpreting what I read. With science there are many variables, but I do hope this helps you get the general idea of how long it will take to get your rink up and running.

Resurfacing Your Rink

homeboni

People use different words for resurfacing. Some call it flooding and others call it watering. In the end, the goal is to clean your ice and also build up your ice. Once you finish your resurface you should have a beautiful glass like surface. It is truly and ultimately a thing of beauty.

You should try to plan your resurfacing around the weather. It is best to resurface at night, when it’s not snowing and no or minimal wind. As far as temperature goes, you want to do it when its cold like in the teens, fahrenheit. Check out our article on Making Ice as these weather conditions tend to provide the best results and and produce ripple-free and shell-free ice. In addition to the right weather conditions, you should also remove all snow from the ice prior to your resurfacing, to help produce the best ice possible

You should resurface in small quantities. Over-watering or flooding when the temperature is not cold enough creates a shell of ice on top of the water. Ice that is only frozen on top is not suitable for skating, since the shell breaks when weight is applied on it. Check out our article, The Joys of Shell Ice to learn more about it.

You need to make sure the resurface layer you did is completely frozen before re-flooding your ice rink.

To preform your resurfacing, the best tool is what people call a homeboni also known as a rink rake. It helps you lay down a consistent layer while smoothing the ice as well. You can buy a homeboni or purchase one. We will cover this in another post in the future.

One final tip is to use pure rubber hoses, not your usual garden hose. The typical garden hose will freeze and not allow the water to flow.

Common Ice Maintenance Problems

The following chart describes some of the common problems with outdoor rink ice and suggests some remedies for consideration.

Problem Cause Remedy
Shell or Shale ice Heavy flooding, leaving ponds of water which freeze on top and run away underneath
  • Scrape away, and fill with wet snow, or gradually build up with warm water resurfacing/flooding.
Cracked Ice Cold temperatures
  • Fill cracks with a wet snow slush and resurface/flood.
Pebble or Rough Ice Too much snow on ice, or flooding while snowing, or scrapers not flat or not sharp enough, or you could be using too little water, if it ripples you are using too much water
  • Make sure the ice is clean of all snow before resurfacing/flooding, or repair/sharpen scraper or blades or use warmer water.
  • Make sure you are applying the correct amounts of water.
Ice Chipping Brittle ice from severe cold weather
  • Resurface/flood with warm water.
Spring Deterioration Warm weather or painted lines absorbing sun’s rays or sun reflecting off the rink boards
  • Do not allow skating and place snow on melting areas as a thicker layer of ice will help prevent melting in warm weather. Some rinks may have as much as 30 cm (12″) of ice by the end of the season.
  • You can also try and bank snow up against the outside of the boards throughout the season will have an insulating effect in the warm weather.
Low Spots on the Ice Excessive use, usually in goal crease, behind net, at players boxes, etc.
  • Flood utilizing the bucket dump method in the evening after all the patrons have left.

Cracks in the Ice

One of the scariest feelings is resurfacing/flooding the rink and the ice is cracking. The sound puts a pit in your stomach the first time you experience it. I immediately went and started to research to make sure I didn’t do anything wrong. I luckily found a Facebook post by the guys over at NiceRink.

The short answer is that it’s normal.The moisture in your slab is acting as the glue to keep it all together.  When it’s extremely cold out that moisture dissipates and can cause settling. You then go and shock the ice with a resurface and which in turn can cause cracks.

Luckily it’s not that big of an issue and its a pretty straight forward fix:

  • Pack any larger holes, chipped cracks, etc. with a slush mixture of snow and water. Make sure you pack it in and smooth it out and let it freeze. Don’t just fill it with with water, as the water will expand when it freezes and you’ll have little bumps.
  • Then commence resurfacing/flooding and apply a layer of water. You can repeat this over and over again pausing between each flood allowing it time to freeze. Usually a minimum of 15-20 minutes or as some have told me, the time it takes to drink a beer.

The Joys of Shell Ice

A topic I see come up frequently on a Facebook group (Backyard Ice Rinks) I am a part of is shell ice. It is a big pain and there are various methods for taking care of it. So lets get into this.

So what exactly is shell ice? Shell ice is created either naturally or after a resurfacing and is really brittle ice that tends to be formed in small areas from a couple of square inches but can range up to several square feet or more.  It is formed when the new water (rain, slush, or from resurfacing) is much warmer than the ice surface and the air temps are really cold/windy.  The new water doesn’t have a chance to form a bond with the existing ice, so it creates it’s own layer of ice, thus the shell affect. Using hot/warm water for a resurfacer is definitely better if you have it, but try to avoid resurfacing in extreme cold conditions or extreme hot water as you might be making the right conditions for shell ice.

Well you now know the basics of shell ice, so how does one take care of it? I haven’t found one common theme when researching this topic so I will share the different methods that are suggested.

  • One method is to chop this shell ice up completely with something like a heavy duty ice scraper, remove it from the ice surface, and make a couple of resurfacing passes. Some say to fill the areas with snow so that when you resurface it creates a slush that should then freeze.
  • You can also use a sharp object, such as an nail, to make holes in the shell ice. Then the next time you flood, water will fill up the empty space in under the thin layer, and if the temp is low enough, it will freeze to form solid ice. This is better than just destroying the shell ice, as very few ice fragments are created this way, which means there is less chance of getting a rough surface when you flood.
  • There is more of an extreme method and that is to perform the “bucket dump” method. We will be covering more on that in another post.

 

Photo credit: Joe Mason