How To Build a Backyard Skating Rink This Winter With Tarps

Getting the kids outside in the winter can be challenging, especially if your neighborhood or yard lacks a sledding hill. It’s time to consider building a backyard skating rink. Even a small yard has the space you need.

Questions to Ask Yourself Before Getting Started

Before you do, make sure a backyard rink is possible. Certain criteria are needed to make a backyard rink possible.

Is Your Yard Flat?

You need to have a flat section of the yard for a backyard skating rink. If your yard is uneven or sloped, you might not be able to safely set up a skating rink. Never put the skating rink over a septic tank or leach field. If that’s the only flat area, a skating rink isn’t going to work.

Is It Cold Enough?

If it’s not consistently freezing or colder, the ice is going to thaw and freeze repeatedly. Ideally, you want nights in the teens or single digits and days in the 20s and 30s, which is warm enough for kids to spend a lot of time outside.

Do You Have a Good Source of Water?

If you’re on a well that’s low on water or you live in an area where water usage is restricted due to drought conditions, filling the skating rink isn’t a good idea. If it’s been rainy, you could save rainwater from your gutters and use that for your skating rink, but you have to plan ahead.

An ice skating rink needs to be filled initially and another layer of water may be necessary throughout the winter to ensure the ice is smooth and not filled with divots that make it hard to skate. Ideally, you want a surface that’s at least four inches thick, so it can take a lot of water to fill and maintain all winter.

Can You Properly Store Equipment Through the Spring, Summer, and Fall?

To build a backyard ice skating rink, you need tarps, lumber, and brackets. If you leave the tarps on the ground all summer, mice and other rodents will burrow under them and chew through them.

Once winter is over, you want to make sure that you have a plastic storage bin you can store the skating rink’s tarp in. Wash it, dry it thoroughly and place it in the storage bin until it’s needed again.

Is the Area Shaded?

Sun can start to melt the ice. It’s not ideal for skaters who want to use the ice and are experiencing slush. If you have a shady area, it keeps the ice colder, which is beneficial and prevents the repetitive melting and freezing that can shorten the number of hours the ice is useful.

If trees are the source of shade, make sure you’re constantly checking for twigs, branches, pine needles, and leaves. If they freeze on the surface of the ice, they become a hazard.

Gather the Supplies You Need

If the conditions are ideal for your rink, you need to gather the necessary supplies next. This is what you need.

  • Lumber
  • A white vinyl or heavy-duty poly tarp
  • A secondary tarp to protect when not in use
  • Angle braces and screws
  • Bricks
  • Tent stakes
  • Power tools

Prepare the Ground:

As fall arrives, rake any leaves and branches from the area you plan to use. Mow the grass as low as you can. Make the area a little larger than the size of the rink you’re building.

Build the Frame:

Start with your lumber. Pressure-treated wood is going to stand up to the snow, water, and ice. Boards that are sized 2” x 6” or 2” x 8” are best. Measure the size of the skating rink, ideally, make it at least 20’ x 40’ to give ample room to build speed.

Using a power saw, you’ll cut your frame. Use wood screws to secure the four corners. Cut another piece of wood that will fit diagonally across each corner to add support. Additional metal angle braces on the outside of the frame heighten the support once the water is added.

As most lumber comes in lengths of up to 10 feet, you may need to connect boards. Connect them using wood screws and connectors placed on the outside of the frame. Any trimmings you have while cutting corner braces work well for this job.

On the outside of the skating rink’s frame, install a small wedge every five feet. Drill a hole through that board that you will secure a tent stake through and into the ground leaving about an inch exposed for the tarp tie-downs. Have bricks available for added weight.

Add the Tarp:

You have the frame in place. It’s time for the tarp. Always use a white tarp as it’s not going to attract the sun as much as a colored tarp will. There are two options for white tarps that will work.

White heavy-duty poly tarp – A heavy-duty white poly tarp is one option. It’s available in sizes up to 40’ x 60’ or custom sizes if that’s not big enough.

White vinyl tarps – A vinyl tarp is thick and UV-treated for outdoor use. It’s also tear resistant and resists abrasion, which makes it another great choice for outdoor ice skating rinks. The one thing it offers that a poly tarp doesn’t is that it’s waterproof instead of water resistant. Purchase vinyl tarps in custom sizes or sizes up to 10’ x 20’.

Purchase the tarp so that it extends the rink’s frame by about a foot. Once you’ve put the tarp over the frame, stretch it out to remove any wrinkles and push down the tarp along the inner edges to make sure it’s flat to the walls and ground. The excess gets secured to the tent stakes and weighed down by bricks.

Depending on which tarp you’ve chosen, the grommets are placed every 18 to 24. Use a cable to secure the tarp to the tent stakes that you’ve placed into the supportive wedges.

Once the tarp is flat and secured to the stakes, start filling it with water. Aim for at least four inches of water. If the depth is enough for six to eight inches of water, that’s even better.

Maintain the Surface

Keep people off the ice until it’s fully frozen. It may take several days. If there’s snow in the meantime, clear it off. A second lightweight tarp over the skating rink can make this a lot easier to manage. It also helps keep sticks and twigs from falling on the ice while it’s still freezing.

We Have the Supplies You Need

Chicago Canvas sells the tarps you need for your backyard skating rink. A white heavy-duty poly tarp or white vinyl tarp are both available, and a blue poly tarp is a good choice for covering your rink in between use. We sell them all at discounted prices. Many of our tarps are also available in custom sizes.

If you want to put a roof over your rink and have a patio heater nearby for warming up, a fire-retardant canvas is an ideal material to use for a temporary outdoor shelter. Our live chat support team is here to answer any questions you have about using our tarps to build an outdoor ice skating rink this winter.