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.

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.