Can you build a backyard rink on top of a septic system? We have seen this question pop up a lot in our Facebook group.
We were able to get an answer from a licensed septic installer in CT. He is a member of our group. His answer was straight up, NO! He went into further detail as to the reasoning:
You should not have anything with substantial weight on top of your leaching field. You will compress the leaching system, pipe, and sand/stone around it and cause quicker failure. Water weighs approx 8lbs/gallon. There’s 7.5 gallons in a cubic foot. An average rink of 20’x40’ with average of 6” of water in it has 400 cubic feet of water, or 2,992 gallons of water which equates to about 24,000lbs of water sitting on top of your liner or over your leaching system. This will severely affect the performance of a leaching system.
One of the members of our community has a nice unique lighting setup that we wanted to share with everyone.
1.5′ gutter downspout, ducked taped at the bottom
Sika fence post mix (Each package will stabilize 2 posts)
2” x 5′ PVC interior post that goes in the drain pipe
2 – 2′ pieces of rebar used to secure the 2×5 in the drain pipe
For the main post: 3” x10 ft PVC slipped over the 2″ PVC
3” cap to go on top
Screw hook used to secure the cap and hold the string lights
Optional: Flag post holder place on back of main post
Lights: 100 w LED found on Amazon
The light setup and installation is pretty straight forward. You start the process by digging a hole about 1.5′ deep by 1′ wide. Take gutter downspout and cut a section to about 1.5′ long. Then duck tape then end of it so that the fence post mix used later mix doesn’t enter the pipe. Place the 1.5′ downspout pipe in the hole. You can also use rocks to help stabilize the downspout in the hole.
Next, take one of the 2” x 5′ PVC pipes and place it in the downspout pipe in the hole. Then place the two 2′ pieces of rebar on opposing sides of the 2″ x 5′ pipe in downspout pipe to secure it.
Now mix the Sika fence post mix and place in the hole around the downspout pipe, making sure to not get it inside of the pipe. The post mix will expand in the hole and should be completed in approximately 3 to 5 minutes. Allow approximately 2 hours for the post mix to set completely before installing the fence or attaching gates,etc. to the post. After the mix is set you can proceed to back-fill the hole with dirt.
After the post mix has set, you can slip the 3” x10 ft PVC pipe (main post) over the 2″ PVC pipe (interior post).
You install the LED light by drilling a hole in PVC cap and securing the LED light mount with a bolt screw, washer on the outside and inside then a nut on the inside.
For the electric, you can run the cord (plus 8ft extension cord) from the LED through a drilled hole at the top of the post run down the inside of the main post and out a hole in the bottom.
If you are going to hang string lights between the posts, you should note that the posts might want to lean forward. So to counteract that, you can use 1.5” x 4’ metal fence posts and drive that into the ground on the back of the post and connect with a few screws
Thanks to the Tschudy family for sharing their lighting setup. Make sure you go and follow their Instagram account dedicated to their rink.
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
One of the our followers on Instagram, Kyle and his Dad, Kevin, have been building a their backyard rink for 16+ years and I have to say, it is pretty darn sweet. One of the features that caught my attention was the addition of a shade to help with the sun on the north side of their rink. I was talking with Kevin about his setup and this is what he shared.
They started with a hole about 10″ diameter * 3′ deep on one side of the rink and put a receiver pipe in there and filled with concrete. After assembling the boards, we put in a 12′ pipe into the receiver pipe with four support cables from the top to points east, west, north, south. The west cable runs parallel to the ground and crosses the rink at the right place so the shade’s shadow falls on the ice at the north end where the sun does the most damage. The west cable attaches to the deck. The first attempt which had the bottom tied down self-destructed in a couple of hours. Now they leave the bottom flapping in the breeze.
So you have built your rink. Your neighbors or loved ones might think your crazy, but that’s just because they haven’t caught rink fever yet. Filling your rink and laying your liner down should go hand in hand. You don’t want the liner down for a long time without water in it, as you could be inviting problems like animals running across it, or worse the wind!
The key to this process is obviously the weather. You need to watch it like a hawk. You are shooting for a time frame where you have a minimum of three days of both daytime and nighttime temperatures below freezing, preferably well below freezing and not just on the cusp of it. In addition you want little to no snow and wind if possible. These are the keys to a successful fill of the rink.
The reason for no snow is that the snow will just mess with the ice trying to freeze. As we know snow is an insulator and can cause the ice to melt. With regard to wind, this is for trying to lay a liner down easier.
Trust me on the wind issue. My rink is 30×60 and the liner is a huge pain to manipulate while you have wind consistently lifting it.
The end of outdoor rink season is always bittersweet. It means it’s time to usher spring and beautiful weather, but also means you have to break down the rink and pack it up for next winter. We have compiled a some helpful tips for the breakdown process, that will hopefully make it easy on you now and when it’s time to put it back up next winter.
Melting and Water Removal
I usually don’t mess with the ice. I just let nature do it’s thing and melt it. Once the melting is completed I pump out the rink. I put some back into my pool, where I took some when I did my initial fill for the season, and I also just pump some of it onto the lawn. Just keep in the front of your mind, where you are pumping so you don’t flood out your neighbors or ruin your lawn. Flooding too much water on to the grass can damage the grass roots and can cause dead spots on your lawn. Also, be mindful that repeated flooding can lower your ground’s grade.
If you don’t want to pump it out you can break down some of your boards on your high corner, if you have one. This will let all of the water flow out. This is the fastest way to drain your rink.
A quick tip to help along the melting process is to consider placing a dark colored tarp on ice sections to attract the sun’s heat.
Breakdown and Storage
You want to make sure you get your liner up before the grass really starts growing as you do not want to suffocate your grass.
If you are not keeping your liner for next year then you need to dispose of it accordingly. Some liners are recyclable. Start of by cutting the liner into manageable strips. Keep it to manageable sizes for you and for your recycling disposable company. Remember if the liner is too difficult to dispose of, they will leave it behind and it will be your problem. So roll up the strips to sizes no longer then 4 feet.
Once you get your liner up next to break down your boards. Before you break the boards down, it’s important to know where you are going to store them. The best place is typically in a temperature and humidity controlled environment (i.e.. garage, basement, or shed). If you must store your boards outside, make sure you put them in a place that is relatively flat and dry. If you have to store them outside try to cut part of your liner as a cover, if you are disposing of it, and keep the boards under it.
One of the most important parts of your outdoor rink build is the boards. In a sense they keep it all together. There are two main ways to go about your boards. You can use wood or you can go the pre-made route. They each have their pros and cons.
Wood boards allow you to customize how you see fit. Since you can cut the boards to any size you want to make your rink how you want. This is the more economical approach up front but over time you will have to replace your boards as they wear due to weather and what not. You can use certain wood boards with NiceRink brackets. NiceRink brackets allow you to use sheets of plywood with their bracket system. Your other option is to forgo buying pre-made brackets and build your own or use stakes.
Pre-made boards are a nice convenience. I haven’t personally used them but from what I have heard from others and read they seem sturdy and durable. NiceRInk make the most popular and they are thermoformed plastic boards that come in 4 foot lengths and 18 inches high.
No matter which method you go with, if you have a slope in your yard and you are holding back more than 12 inches of water you should look towards plywood with extra bracing to hold back the water. You can always read our article about measuring slope to learn more about that.
A key aspect to your build is your liner. If you live in a cold enough climate you can get away without one by packing the snow up to create the walls. However, if you get a mid-season thaw, you could very well be in trouble! The topic of liners could easily cause quite a discussion among backyard/outdoor rink builders, and everyone has their own philosophy, but I am going to go with my experience and research and share that with you. The biggest thing I do suggest is shopping around. There are a handful of vendors that sell liners and the costs seem to vary, so get out there and google away.
Does the color matter?
Most definitely color does matter. There are many different types of liners or alternatives, but in the end you want to make sure your liner is WHITE. The issue with a dark color facing up is going to potentially cause different issues with your rink. White on the side facing up towards the sky will help reflect the UV rays away from your ice and hopefully keeping your ice as cold as possible so that you can maintain that great skating surface we are all working so hard at.
There is, however, some debate as to whether your liner needs to be white on both sides. I haven’t been able to find any definitive answers that either confirms or denies the need for white on both sides. So, I think you are safe either way. The issue with not killing your lawn boils down to making sure you get your liner up early enough in the spring and not letting it sit there with water in it until almost June.
You might be researching liners and see them differentiated by thickness (6 mil, 8mil ,10 mil, etc). So what does that mean? The thickness is generally measured by mil (unit of length equal to .001 of an inch). Liners can typically range from 6 mil thickness all the way up to 14 mil thickness, and maybe even more. As the mil number increases that means the liner is getting thicker and the thicker the tarp the heavier duty the liner is. However, you might think that ticker is better, but that isn’t always the case with regard to your rink build.
Choosing a liner
This is where it gets difficult. The bigger your rink the more it’s going to cost you, but you have to be careful about what you are buying. You have to choose a liner to be big enough to cover your entire skating surface and then some. The liner should reach all the way up your boards and drop down the outside of your boards a bit, if you are using low boards around your rink. Typically you would add 4 or 5 feet to the length and width. For example, a rink that is 30 by 50 should use a plastic liner or tarp that is at least 35 by 55. It is always good to have extra liner just in case you need to use taller boards due unexpected slope issues. But of course you shouldn’t have that, because you already measured your slope right?
Buyer beware when choosing your liner. There are liners that are woven. Woven liners are typically 6, 10, 12 or 14 mil thick, however the bulk of their thickness comes from the woven reinforcement in between two very thin ½ to 1 mils of coating to hold the water. The woven reinforcement doesn’t hold water; the poly is what does that. Once that ½ mil coating is compromised you you’re basically left with a woven fabric that doesn’t hold the water. On top of that they are heavier and harder to work with. So make sure you know what you are buying.
NiceRink made a great video showing that the quality of the material used really does matter. Give it a look.
Protection and Life Expectancy
The life expectancy of your liner depends on your usage of your rink and how well you are protecting it. You can expect your liner lasting somewhere between 1 to 2 years. It could last longer, but you have to be taking very good care of your liner. Two things that will help protect and extend the life of your liner is bumper caps and/or protecting the exposed liner from pucks and skates. I personally wouldn’t use the liner repeatedly, but would use last years liner as a protection layer underneath this years liner.
NiceRink Bumper Caps
NiceRink Kick Plate
Many rink manufacturers sell their version of their bumper caps. They do look like a glorified pool noodle, but it has a purpose of protecting your liner and it does this job well. I researched just buying pool noodles and using them, but it wound up being cheaper to buy them from NiceRink. Pool noodles typically come in 4ft lengths where as the bumper caps usually come in 4, 5, or 8ft lengths depending on the manufacturer. The other issue with using pool noodles is that it’s very hard to get just one color, as they are usually shipped in assorted color packs.
Protecting The Exposed Liner
The exposed line is that liner that is showing from the ice level to the top of your boards. Now some people trim the exposed liner so this isn’t applicable, but for those that don’t there are a few ways to protect the exposed liner. NiceRink has kick plates that will help protect the liner from getting cut.
In building your rink you need to determine what you are going to use for your boards and how to brace them. One of the biggest parts of picking your bracing is measuring your slope and knowing if you have to hold back a lot of water or not. This was one of of the toughest things for me, I knew I had about a 18″ difference from highest to lowest corners and wasn’t trying to bust the bank. You have three choices: build braces, buy braces or simply use stakes or rebar. I suggest you really dig into these options. If you are handy give the build option a whirl. The NiceRink brackets are a really great product and can work with plywood as well.
This options is where you can really get creative with your build. The options are endless and below are a few examples of bracing.
Small brace with rebar
Tall braces with rebar
The brace below is a major brand producing an amazing product.
This is the simplest option but you need to be careful when it comes down to your slope.
Simple wooden stake
Sport Court/Pond/Lake Rink Build
If you happen to be building your rink on your sport court, pond, lake or some other body of water, you can still build boards. You can go about this using two methods previously discussed. You can build your braces or you can buy your braces. If you go the build route you would build just like we showed above. On the other hand, if you want to buy your braces both NiceRink and IronSleek have a version of their brackets that can be installed on flat surfaces like a pond or sport court. Each bracket also allows you to reinforce with a stake or rebar.
One of the biggest issues when trying to build your rink is the slope of the area where you want to build. Not checking this before building could potentially cause you major headaches when you get to the flooding stage. There are a few ways to to check your slope. The first is the string and stake method and the other is the more expensive method by utilizing a laser level. You can usually rent a laser level from your local tool rental shop. If you want to use the laser level, make sure the level has the ability cover the distance you are trying to measure. Some are meant for short measurements and some for longer.
String and Stake
What’s needed for this method? A tape measure, marker, a string long enough to each your corners and a minimum of two stakes, but Ideally enough stakes for each corner you are checking. Additionally, you could use paper and pen/pencil to draw out the site so you don’t forget the different measurements.
Identify the highest corner (where you think it is at least) and place a stake there.
Take and tie one end of the string to the stake at a minimum of 4″ off the ground. (This is typical ice depth for your outdoor rink)
You would now take the string and run it out to each of the corners where you would have ideally placed stakes in the ground to help this process along. It’s not necessary but it helps.
At each corner you would pull the string as tight as possible and place a line level on the string. Then adjust the string up and/or down until the bubble is centered on the level.
Once the bubble is level, mark the stake appropriately. Then take your tape measure and measure the distance from the mark on the stake to the ground, not to the top of the grass but directly to the ground. This will represent the ice depth at this stake.
Repeat at each of the other corners to get a good perspective on the slope of your site.
Optionally you can document the whole thing so you know what you are dealing with.
Whats needed for this method? A tape measure, a piece of plywood or something that the laser would show up against for measurement and laser level. Again additionally, you could use paper and pen/pencil to draw out the site so you don’t forget the different measurements. You would perform this method similar to the string and stake method except replace the string for the laser level. The guys from NiceRink have a quick video on this process.
Identify the highest corner (where you think it is at least) and place the laser level there at a minimum of 4″ off the ground. Pointing it at the first corner you want to measure.
Go to the corner where you want to take your measurement and hold up your piece of plywood so that laser is hitting it.
Measure from the ground up to the dot from the laser. This will represent the ice depth at this stake.
Repeat at each of the other corners to get a good perspective on the slope of your site.
Optionally you can document the whole thing so you know what you are dealing with.