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How To Build A 24’x40′ Backyard Rink For Under $250

I will never forget the first time I cautiously glided around on my backyard rink. My son had skated early on Christmas morning as I shuffled around in my boots, still unsure of the ice thickness and not wanting to break through. But it had been cold enough the day after Christmas for me to give it a shot. I walked out to the rink and sat in a chair, pulled my warm boots off and laced up my cold skates. I tied the stiff laces, took a look at my wife standing in the doorway, stood up, and pushed off. The ice held. The trees creaked, the moon shone down. I laughed. I had my own rink.

“You’re nuts,” they had said. “You know you have to shovel it, right? And water it down, and build it each fall. And then if you get a hole…”

I knew. But I didn’t care. I really had no idea what I was getting into that first fall and winter, but I knew it would be great. And it was.

What I want to share with you below is a rough approximation of my first backyard rink, the rink that gave life to my son’s love for hockey, my family’s connection to the game, hundreds of memories, and this website. There is absolutely nothing in this world that compares to having your own backyard rink. I want you all to experience what I have experienced.

My goals for your first backyard rink are twofold: I want it to be simple and I want it to be inexpensive. We’ve talked here before about the high startup costs of hockey. The same can be true for outdoor rinks, but it doesn’t have to be. What I’m aiming to do here is to keep the initial costs low to allow you to experience the primal joy of owning your own rink. Once you’re hooked, you’ll find that spending more money expanding or improving it is money well spent.

This rink design is for a 24’x40′ rink. The boards will be OSB with wooden stake supports, and they will be ~1′ high all around.

Disclaimer: As with all things backyard, this is not the only way to do this. It’s just how I did it. I used my setup for two years before I moved to a new house and a new design, but I’m confident that it would have lasted longer.

STOP! Have you read our instructions on how to determine if your yard is flat and level? If not, go read this post RIGHT NOW. Don’t come back until you know that your water level will be under 12″ at all four corners. If it ends up being more, adjust the instructions below accordingly (ie, bracing every 2′ and taller boards).


Though the specific materials can change, most backyard rinks share the same basic material list. You really need four things: a liner, a frame to drop the liner into, supports to keep the frame up, and water. Whether you spend $250 or $2,500, this list does not fundamentally change.

Boards: For your boards, you’re going to use 7/16″ OSB sheathing. This is the stuff that the big-box hardware stores usually have near the front of the store. It’s cheap, it’s sturdy enough, and best of all, the major box stores will cut it for you. You will need 4 sheets of 4’x8′ OSB, ripped into 1′-wide vertical strips. This provides you with 128 linear feet of board material, perfect for a 24’x40′ rink. (Note: while the Lowes employee was cutting my boards, I checked out the scrap wood pile. I ended up buying several 2′-high pieces of OSB just in case. Not a bad idea if your yard isn’t perfectly level, and always good to have some extras on hand.)
Supports: Containing thousands of gallons of water puts a lot of stress on the boards. To keep your rink square (and to keep the water from blowing out the boards), you need strong supports. Some folks use rebar for this, but I’ve had good luck using 2″ x 2″ x 24″ wooden stakes. Home Depot stocks them, but I haven’t had much luck at my local Lowes. They generally come in bundles of six in the lumber or landscaping department. And, as a last resort, even Amazon stocks them.
Liner: For your liner, you want something strong and durable. But because we’re trying to keep costs down, you want something at the right price. We’ve teamed up with our sister company, Elite Backyard Rinks, to offer you a deal on a liner perfectly sized for a 24’x40′ rink. The liner is 32’x45′, and made of white 6 mil plastic. To purchase this liner, CLICK HERE.
Water: Obviously, it’s best if you can fill using your town’s water supply. You may notice a blip in your water bill if you’re metered, but it’s only a slight increase, and if you were sane and money conscious, you wouldn’t be into hockey and backyard rinks to begin with. If you must bring someone else in to fill (as I have to), look in the Yellow Pages for pool water. I use a pool water company (for anyone in Southern NH, it’s Fortin out of Londonderry), and the driver says he fills a couple dozen rinks every winter. The cost for this runs me an extra $200 or so.
Extras: There are a few items you’ll need to finish your install, but the cost is trivial and the pieces can be purchased anywhere. The first is a series of small metal mending plates (see image), which I used to connect the boards to each other. You don’t have to use these, but I found it helps. Second, you’ll need at least four L-shaped corner brackets to connect the boards. I used eight (two at each corner), and where the cost is relatively immaterial, I would recommend it. Lastly, you’ll need screws to hold it all together. I suggest the stainless variety, or the type you use to build a deck. Make sure they’re not so long that they’re going to go through your boards and puncture your liner.

Click here to see the exterior screw options on Amazon.com

Click here to purchase the board mending plates on Amazon.com

Click here to buy the corner brackets on Amazon.com

Total Cost:

Boards: 4 pieces of 7/16″ OSB sheathing at $7 each, or $28
Supports: 42 wooden stakes, $5 per 6-pack, or $35
Liner: 32’x45′ liner, $150 shipped
Extras: 12 board-connecting plates at 50 cents each, or $6 total; 8 large L-brackets at $2.50, or $20 total; box of exterior screws, $10

Total Cost: $249

Frame Construction

Construction is much easier if you have a helper. Plan on some extra time if you provide beer or if your helper is one of your non-adult children.

1.  Start out by staking out your four corners, ensuring that the rink area is square. To do this, simply take four stakes, measure out your length and width, and pound them into the ground. Then you need to check to ensure it’s square. To do this, measure diagonally across the rink from one corner to the other. Jot down that length. Then switch corners and measure the other diagonal. Once your two diagonals match, your rink is square. (Tip: for a 24×40 rink, your diagonal should be ~46.6 feet).

Once your rink stakes are square, run some string between each stake. When we build customer rinks, we then take some landscape spray paint and paint a line over the string. We then remove the string and stakes, and the spray paint provides you with a perfectly straight guide when installing your boards.

2.  Lay out the 1′ boards you had cut around the inside of your rink. Start in one corner, having a helper hold up two corner boards while you connect the boards using an L-bracket. From there, connect your boards to each other using the connecting plates, making sure to keep the boards in line with the string/paint you ran in Step 1. While you are connecting the boards, your helper can pound the ground stakes into the ground on the outside of the boards you have already connected. Start with 4′ spacing between ground stakes. (Tip: Pound the stake 1′ into the ground, which leaves the top of the stake level with the top of your boards. Then drive a screw through the inside of the board into the stake.)

3.  Continue until you have your entire frame built. Walk around and give the boards a little kick; add additional bracing where necessary. There is no such thing as too much frame support. If it moves, support it.

Liner Installation and Fill Day

Once your frame is built, watch the weather. Weather.com’s 10-day forecast will become your new favorite site, as you look for 3-5 days of sub-freezing temperatures.

To install your liner, lug the box out to the center of your rink. Carefully cut it open and begin unrolling the liner. It may take a bit for you to recognize which sides are your long sides, but just keep unrolling until it becomes clear. If you need to rotate it, an assistant makes it easier.

When your liner is completely unrolled, center it between your end boards and your side boards. Walk the perimeter of your rink and make sure the liner goes all the way to the bottom of the boards before you bring it up and over the edges. It’s not a good idea to staple the liner to the boards before filling, as you may need to provide more slack. I’ve used spring clamps to hold the liner to the top of my boards, and Nicerink’s yellow bumper caps serve the same function while improving aesthetics and safety.

If you can help it, wait to lay your liner down until just before you’re going to fill it with water. I have to have my water trucked in, and last year I had to lay my liner the night before. To help keep the liner from ending up in my neighbor’s yard, I ran my garden hose for an hour or two, filling with just enough water to keep the liner on the ground.

As you fill, keep an eye on the boards, bracing, and liner. If your boards are bowing out, pound in a ground stake. If the ground is frozen, use rebar. If the water level is approaching the top of your boards, you can slip in a piece of the extra 2′ OSB between the liner and the 1′ board, then make a note to increase the height at that end the next year. If the liner is pulling away from the boards toward the center of the rink, unclip the spring clamps and provide more slack. You want your liner to press right up against the boards and the ground around the whole perimeter, as this will reduce the likelihood that the liner will tear.


Assuming your fill day went well, all that’s left to do is sit and wait.  If you haven’t already, join the Backyard-Hockey.com Forums. Any questions you have will be answered by the brilliant minds that make up the group, and you can find ideas, suggestions, solutions, and a dash of humor in the archives.

It’s also a good time to read up on some of our other backyard rink articles, such as these:

-How To Drain, Dismantle, and Store Your Backyard Rink

-How to build a Homeboni (aka Rink Rake, Home Zamboni)

-How To Make A PVC Skating Aid

-How to Build an Official US Pond Hockey Championships Goal

Finally, now that you’re a part of our exclusive family, check out our Backyard Rinkbuilder’s Commandments. We wrote it for fun, but we also wrote it because it helps define the unwritten rules we all live by.

Owning a rink is hard work. I’ve tried to make these instructions as easy as possible, but don’t let that fool you into thinking any of this is simple. But as hard as it can be to get bundled up in the dead of winter to go shovel nearly a thousand square feet of snow by yourself, the return on your investment is unlike anything else.

Stop thinking about building a rink. Build a rink. And let us know how it goes.


“Frozen Faceoff” Announces Dates, Divisions, Dimensions

Sadly, the tournament has been cancelled due to ice quality concerns.

The surname “Falla” is to outdoor hockey what “Scorsese” is to mobster movies, so it should come as no surprise that another member of the Falla lineage is helping bring the roots of our game to the masses. Patrick Falla, brother to Jack and uncle to Brian, has teamed up with Ben Crosby to bring you the 2011 Frozen Faceoff Pond Hockey Tournament. This will be the second edition of the Ashfield, MA tournament, and will take place in late January. For the full details, see the full tournament press release below.

P.O. Box 165
Shelburne Falls, MA 01370

For Immediate Release:

Ashfield, MA
Ben Crosby and Patrick Falla, organizers of the highly successful Frozen Faceoff Pond Hockey Tournament, have announced the dates and expansion for the 2011 event. “We are expanding the Frozen Faceoff to two 24 team tournaments on January 29th and 30th. In 2010 we had to turn teams away, so by offering a 24 team Expert Tourney and a 24 team Intermediate Tourney we will accommodate all players and all skill levels,” said Falla. The Expert Tournament will be held Saturday, January 29th and the Intermediate Tournament will be held Sunday, January 30th.

The number of teams is not the only part of the Frozen Faceoff that is expanding, as Crosby explains: “The one critique from 2010 was the rink size. This year we are expanding the rink size and the number of rinks. We will build six rinks on the western end of Ashfield Lake plus a skating area in front of the Ashfield Lake House for the community.”

Last year’s inaugural Frozen Faceoff saw 400 players and spectators come to Ashfield for the day many of whom made a full day of hockey, skating with family, and enjoying the lake in midwinter. “After a few initial ice fishing holes in the rinks last year, the community really got behind us. Ben and I have had many people come up to us since last year asking if we planned on building the rinks and having The Frozen Faceoff again. Once we were able to get the circulation back into our fingers we decided to make this an annual event,” said Falla.

The 2010 Frozen Faceoff saw participants from Boston, Albany, Vermont, Connecticut, Berkshire and Franklin counties.

The Frozen Faceoff is a 4 on 4 pond hockey tournament with no goalies, slap shots, lifting of the puck or checking. Instead of nets each team protects or shoots at two six inch slots built into six foot wide pine boxes. Each team is guaranteed three games with the potential of six games if they go to the finals. Teams are made up of six to eight players. Players must be 21 or older to enter. For more information or to register a team contact Pat Falla and Ben Crosby at frozenfaceoff@yahoo.com or visit them on Facebook at Frozen Faceoff.

Press contact:
Patrick Falla

Signups for last year’s participants will happen first, with openings for the general population to follow shortly thereafter. Keep informed by linking up with Pat and Ben on the tournament’s Facebook page.

We’ll see you in Ashfield!

“Hockey In The USA” Teaser Video Clip

A couple weeks ago we told you about Hockey in the USA – Part I, the documentary by New Jersey filmmaker Steve Chernoski. The film, set to debut online on Thanksgiving Day, follows Chernoski up the East Coast to see what effect, if any, the Olympic hockey tournament had on the American hockey landscape.

This week we bring you a four-minute teaser clip from the documentary. This particular scene takes us to Hershey, Pennsylvania, home of the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears. While the town may be better known for its famous confectionery and theme park, the Bears routinely lead the AHL in attendance, averaging around 9,000 fans per game. Affiliates of the NHL’s Washington Capitals, the Bears have seen on-ice success in recent years, winning the Calder Cup in 2006, 2009, and 2010, and finishing second in 2007. All of this points to Hershey as the epicenter of minor league hockey in America, and an obvious stop on Chernoski’s voyage. In this clip, he speaks to native Hersheyites, hoping to figure out why hockey is so huge in such a small Pennsylvania town.

Coming from a hockey-loving AHL city (that actually bested Hershey in attendance in ’05–’06), I understand what these people are saying. I worked for six years at the arena where the Manchester Monarchs played, through college and afterwards. I was a hockey fanatic before the team came to town, but I would show up for work and people who previously didn’t know Wayne Gretzky from Wayne Brady could be found discussing the latest L.A. Kings injury or poking through the Monarchs’ yearbook. Years later the fury has died down some, as it does in so many minor league towns, but on any given night you will still find thousands of people at the arena, hoping to catch a glimpse of the next Kings superstar. The addition of the team to our community strengthened an already-tight bond with the game and made hockey fans out of people who otherwise would never have watched a single faceoff.

Is that enough to grow the game in the United States? Is the answer to hockey’s growth problem to put a minor league team in every town from Tacoma to Tallahassee? We’ll have to wait until Hockey in the USA – Part I comes out on Thanksgiving Day. Until then, you can visit the film’s Facebook page or follow Steve Chernoski on Twitter.

Kaspars Daugavins’ Nasty Shootout Goal

Part of what makes backyard and pond hockey so much fun is the ability to try crazy things without fear. I can’t tell you how many times I landed flat on my back after I “invented” a breakaway move where I stand on the puck on one skate (note: when it works, it’s nastiness; when it doesn’t, it hurts). But that’s the fun of freelance puck: doing stuff you could never pull off in a real game.

Then there are guys like Kaspars Daugavins, who have such an insane level of skill and confidence that they bring these ridiculous moves from the safety of the practice rink to the professional stage. Daugavins, a winger for the AHL’s Binghamton Senators and a 2006 Ottawa draft pick, used the move in a shootout, and was the only Senator to bury a shootout tally during a 4-3 shootout loss to the Hamilton Bulldogs on Sunday night.

I’ll never be a huge fan of the shootout as a way to decide wins or losses, but with guys willing to try out moves like this, they certainly have some value in the game for sheer entertainment. Take a look below, then give it a shot on your rink this winter.

Bonus points for the rodeo-inspired celebration at the end!


Thanks to Yahoo’s Puck Daddy, we now have a new camera angle. Half the camera shakiness, but now with twice the white balance! (Same amount of nastiness).

The Backyard Rinc Song

I know what you’re thinking. It’s October, the leaves are falling, the nights are getting colder. It’s almost time to drag the boards out, you’re about to buy a liner, and you can’t wait to use that new homeboni you built. But there’s something amiss. You have all of your tools and rink parts, but something it missing. Then it hits you:

You don’t have an anthem.

Fret no more. Greg Michalski, a songwriter, rinkbuilder, and owner of Backyard Rinc, Chicago’s premiere all-purpose backyard rink installer, has you covered. Written by Michalski and recorded by Chicago’s own Thrift Store Heroes, “The Backyard Rinc Song” might just be the first ode to the fine art of rinkbuilding ever created.

Head over to Michalski’s website and have a listen. Heck, loop the song while you build your frame and you won’t have to wonder why all of your friends are drinking apple cider and carving Jack-o-lanterns with their kids while you pound rebar into your lawn with a sledgehammer. The image of the “3-year-old in double blades” will keep you going.

Great lyrics, great tune, and great time of year. Rinkbuilders, your anthem.

In Chicagoland and want a rink? Contact Michalski at greg@backyardrinc.com.

Tap on the pads to Michalski’s Boston-area counterpart, Alex Rogozenski of www.backyardice.com, for being the first to point me to this song on Twitter.