Backyard Zamboni

Zamboni, everyone knows what it is, everyone wants to drive one, and everyone is facinated by it. Who doesn’t stop what they are doing when they are at the rink and watch it go around in amazement as it resurfaces the ice. It’s almost calming. However, people tend to call all ice resurfacers Zambonis and to be technical, Zamboni is a company and they make a ice resurfacer just like a handful of other companies, but the Zamboni Company was the first market with an ice resurfacer and was the most popular resurfacer that it became the name everyone knew and turned it into an adjective to refer to all resurfacers. Enough with the history, onto the fun stuff.

Who wouldn’t want one for their rink in their backyard or on their pond/lake. That got me thinking and perusing the internet to find some of most dedicate people out there creating amazing ice resurfacers aka Zambonis for their rinks. I did find an Instructable showing you how to make you own, how cool! And of course there are those people who take their rink to the next level and get themselves a real Zamboni for their rink. I hope some of these inspire you to do great things with your rink.

 

And of course we can’t talk about Zambonis without mentioning our favorite all hockey band The Zambonis. Enjoy this classic tune.

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.