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NOTE: Does not include the necessary lumber. The information provided on this page assumes the use of 2" x 12" x 10' lumber which is widely considered the most cost effective method of attaining a functional sheet of ice. 2" by 12"'s require fewer Iron Sleek brackets because of their rigidity and will require fewer cuts, if any.
Another common choice is 3/4" plywood which is a better choice for rinks that have a long section of very high water and for rinkers who want more of an enclosure feel. Although plywood will cost a bit more money for the boards and will require more Iron Sleek brackets because it lacks rigidity, it is still well worth it. Some other benefits of Plywood over 2" by 12" lumber is for stacking and storage on the off season and it is lighter to handle.
On the contrary, plywood requires a little extra work, money, and skill. Plywood boards come in 4’ by 8’ sheets. The most common practice is to rip them in half with a circular saw and to support the boards minimally with an Iron Sleek bracket at the seams and every 4 feet. In addition, it is critical to bind the tops with Iron Sleek Mending Channel at all seams. The good news is that the local lumberyard may rip the plywood for you. Ripping plywood is not as easy as it seems. Ask someone skilled for help or ask the lumber store to do it for you. Plywood has very sharp corners so BE SURE TO USE IRON SLEEK BASE COVE to protect the bottom of your liner. Base Cove is truly a rink saver.
To Skate or not to Skate:
Once you have your 2" to 3" of solid ice, it is time to shift gears from Rink Building to Rink Maintenance. Hopefully, you did all the right things up to this point.
As a reminder, the most critical considerations for building a rink are solid Iron Sleek Corners, filled board gaps with clean soil or preferably Iron Sleek Base Cove, sufficient bracket spacing, and proper care when laying out the liner. The best way to test the ice thickness is to have an adult wearing shoes carefully walk on the ice around the perimeter. If water gushes up the sides, the rink is probably not skatable that day. Be very careful when doing this. DO NOT DO THIS WITH SKATES ON. A skate through the ice will slice your liner. That is a tough problem to overcome!
Think maintenance before you build your rink. If you have taller boards, consider how you can get a snow blower up on the ice and then back out. Snow must be removed from the ice surface. It acts as an insulator and works like a blanket to keep your ice warm. The rule of thumb is to try to remove the snow as soon as possible, say within 12-18 hours after the snow fall. The snow will degrade your ice surface for sure.
It's a good regular practice to walk the exterior perimeter of the rink. If you think that some boards are creeping too much because you underestimated the water level or because the weather patterns have softened up the soil too much or because a skater superman slid full speed into the walls, it is not a problem. If you used Iron Sleek as your supports you can still add supports after the fact. With Iron Sleek you can recover from some constructions oversights.
Repairing Surface Cracks:
Surface cracks are inevitable so embrace and repair them. Even NHL ice gets surface cracks in a controlled environment where the ice is kept at between 24 and 26 degrees Fahrenheit with a relative humidity of 30 percent. We have no control over those conditions so just enjoy the different types of ice you will be served this winter. The best recommendation is to simply make a bucket of slush to fill the cracks and big divots. You can smooth out the crack fill with a puck.
Resurfacing is an essential part of rink maintenance. It is the key to keeping a smooth health glass-like ice surface. There are many ways to resurface a rink. The first thing you need is a thorough snow shoveling. NEVER TRY TO CONVERT SNOW INTO ICE. Snow is an Ice Killer. Remove snow and coat with water. Some bring the hose out and spray a gentle layer of water on the ice. Others use a rink rake style resurfacer connected to a hose.
Your outdoor rink does not have refrigeration so it is recommended to only resurface when it is very cold out, say 24 degrees or less. It will only take 10 to 15 minutes to firm up. Think NHL for this: 24 degree Ice, 20 minute intermission! On more marginal days, you will soften your surface causing the rink to be unskatable so wait until night when you shut down the rink to recoat it. Let the cold winter night take it from there.
Slush is definitely a rinkers frustration. Walking on it is destructive to your rink surface, leaving footprints of your favorite boots all over the ice. The answer here is PATIENCE. Wait patiently until you can walk on a hard surface and then shovel away any loose snow. This problem will not be healed in a single day. Start by resurfacing the rink then skating it. After you skate it, most of the air-filled-slush-freeze will be knocked off or scrapped away. When you are done skating, give the rink a thorough shoveling and resurface it with hot water a few more times and you should be right back on track.
If you have a liner leak that you can reach the local pool store has what you need to patch the leak. That is, E6000 underwater glue. Use some underwater glue and an excess piece of liner as a patch. If you see the hole but cannot reach it, use hot water to cut through the ice so you can reach in to place the patch. Some leaks do not warrant fixing. If you have a slow leak nearing the middle to end of season, coat water in the area that is getting closest to exposing the liner.
Leaves and twigs:
This is really simple: pick up the leaves and twigs you can reach. If you are extreme, get white spray paint and paint the area where the leaves are embedded and then coat that area. This is not necessary but it helps.
Rink Lines and Markings:
Lines on an outdoor rink are generally recommended, but if you choose to put in a blue line and a red line, use some extra white liner to cover them during the day. The sun will burn right through them if they are not covered.
Choose somewhere where the ground is firm and not being used for septic.
Firm ground will help keep your Iron Sleek brackets solid in the ground. It is probably best to not build a rink above a septic tank or septic field. A septic could act as a warmer from below. One rule of thumb would be if snow melts in that spot so will ice.
Size of Rink:
Choose a location to accommodate the size of your rink.
Make the right size rink for your family and your budget. Do not over do it! Too big of a rink could be a maintenance nightmare especially if things do not go exactly as planned. Start medium size or small and expand with experience. If you are in the position of choosing between length and width, go with the width. Width gives more room to operate for hockey.
Yard Slope or Pitch:
Try to choose a location with the least amount of slope.
Level is always better. A level rink requires less water and ultimately freezes and skates better. However, yard slope is reality. The best way to measure level is with a laser transit but a taut string with a line level should get you within a few inches. If you are good at reading golfing greens, you might get close to eyeballing the high spot (low water spot). Use that as a reference and start taking your measurement. For estimating the water level, consider 3 to 4 inches of water at the low spot.
The yard slope challenge is conquered by making the boards taller where the water levels will be higher. With 2 by 12's as boards, you can utilize the Iron Sleek Extender bracket. With plywood just rip the boards to be taller. Do not let a highly pitched site be a show stopper.
Chose a location near a water supply.
Your rink will require a fill up and regular maintenance. Make sure you place it in a location where you can fill it up and keep it up. It would be great to be near a hot water supply.
Neighbors and Pucks:
If you can, position your rink in such a way that you keep the noise and puck to yourselves.
Chose a location that will minimize afternoon sunlight.
The afternoon sunlight softens the ice on marginally cold days. The morning sunlight is not as bad because mornings are typically colder. Great shade helps extend the season. The downside of shade is that you usually spend a lot more time with branch and leaf clean up.
Chose a location near power outlets.
This often gets forgotten because we are dreaming up our rinks early in the season. It is dark before 5 pm in the winter. If you want to enjoy your rink to the fullest, be sure you get some lights. The moonlight will not cut it. Plan for lights.
Chose a location where you can build a campfire.
The only reason we are talking about backyard ice rinks is because it gets real cold outside. The fire pit needs to be well thought out. In the frigid cold, the fire pit is your only relief. Additionally, the aroma of the embers and the glare of the fire, will burn in memories that will last a life time.
Get your rink down before trees’ bud and the grass comes out of dormancy!! Do not rush to do this while the earth is still frozen but try to time it so that the earth is soft and the grass is still dormant. Pointer: Keep an eye on your local golf courses. If they are starting to pull up the covers from their precious putting greens that is the first sign that you need take down your rink.
Drain the Rink:
The best way to get your rink drained is to pump or syphon the water out. Pumping water out is a great way to control where it will go to prevent over flooding of a neighbor, over loading your own home’s sump pump, or disturbing the grade. My personal rink has nearly 40,000 gallons but it is 70 feet from my home, so I just pull the liner under the boards in multiple areas without worrying much about the process. Warning: Evaporation is not an option! You will be looking at your rink water until mid-summer and you will surely have dead grass if you choose evaporation.
DO NOT JUST WING THIS.
Be organized and get a few people to help.
Most of our customers will buy a new liner every year. Iron Sleek liners are LDPE 4 which means that they can be recycled. It is my firm and honest recommendation that you recycle your liner. It is not worth the risk of storing it and patching it properly for a year just to find out that you have a nagging hole. The 2nd best option to recycling your liner is to save it as a bottom protective layer for next year.
The liner removal step is a great opportunity to see how you did. This is how Iron Sleek invented our foam product called base cove. We consistently have found little holes on the board bottoms, thus, base cove.
Here are some helpful hints for recycling: Before you prepare your liner for recycling, make a lumber cover. A lumber cover is one of the most practical things you can do with last year’s liner. Determine what size liner section you would need to cut out to make a suitable lumber cover from your existing liner. Error on too big! Next, cut your liner into manageable strips that would fit into your blue recycling bin. I cut my liner into 4 foot strips and roll it up nicely for recycling. Do not try to just crumble and roll the liner. It will be unmanageable mess!!
Dismantling and Storing the Boards:
DO NOT PULL SLEEKS OUT WHILE ATTACHED TO BOARDS. Disassembly your boards first and then come back to pull up your sleeks.
Many people like to label their boards before dismantling. My boards are labeled and I have a handy map I drew years ago showing the entire layout. After having labeled everything, start at one corner and remove all your screws from the boards. If a screw is stuck or if you have a staple or a splinter sticking out, HANDLE IT NOW because you will never remember those detrimental problems next year. I recommend using new screws every year to avoid these types of issues. Iron Sleek will provide you with new screws at no cost when we ship you next year’s liner if you use the Promo Code “GETSCREWS”. Throw your old screws out and let us provide you with a clean new set of screws next year.
Do not leave the boards flat on the grass for long because your grass will suffocate. Unfortunately, I learned this the hard way. Do not procrastinate, find a storage spot and put the boards away. It is preferable to store them indoors but, if you do not have space for that, a dry and shaded spot outdoors is a great option too. I store my boards outdoors in a well shaded area behind a paver wall in my side yard. I wrap them in white liner to keep them dry and cool. They have lasted a decade and counting. Also, do not rest the boards directly on the dirt when storing them. Keep them elevated from the wet ground by placing them on a bottom layer of 2 by 4’s, old lumber, or some bricks. It is also important to stack the boards properly so they do not warp. Boards that are set flat on uneven ground will warp! Keep them upright. That is, the same orientation as your rink frame. After your boards are stacked and secured nicely, wrap them with last year’s liner making sure to keep the liner tight. A loose liner will parachute away on a windy day.
Remove Sleeks and other Hardware:
IF THE GROUND IS STILL FROZEN, WAIT, WAIT WAIT!!
Do not break your back trying to pull out sleeks from the frozen ground. Sleeks are engineered to stay in the frozen earth. Give the ground a few more days and then pull them out when the top frost is defeated. The best way to pull out a sleek is to rock it forward and back while pulling up. If the sleek should pull up some dirt, remove the dirt from the sleek and fill in the lawn divot just as you would at a golfing tee box. It is convenient to stack sleeks inside each other for shelf storage but feel free to store them however you would like. I have extreme customers who wash and touch up paint their Sleeks at seasons end. As owner and patent holder for Iron Sleek, I do not even take it to that level.
Final Step ----DREAM, DREAM, DREAM----What will you do to take it to the next level next year??? Go Bigger, Rink Topper, Rink Rounds, Lighting Kits, Backboards, Liner Protection, etc. Keep checking in with us for new products as we continue to innovate to help make your rink building experience better every year.
Thank you for helping make this another great season!
Our church built its first ice rink (50 ft by 80 ft) last season and we wanted to make sure we constructed it well. We discovered the Iron Sleek products and made the decision to use them due to the excellent design and durability of the side board brackets and the ease of bracket and bracing installation. Another consideration for us was rink storage due to the amount of rink boards and brackets used for the rink build. The brackets are engineered to fold down, allowing for very compact storage. I've built several other rinks with other products on the market; the Iron Sleek bracket is definitely superior. Also, the extremely attentive level of service from the company cannot be overstated! These guys are passionate about ice rinks!
The Iron Sleek products truly helped our church achieve a successful inaugural season for our rink. I would heartily recommend working with the good folks at Iron Sleek if you want a great result.
- Wayne Postma (native of London, Ontario), Lombard Christian Reformed Church, Lombard, IL
"There are several reasons why I prefer the Iron Sleek System. For starters, the brackets are compact, and easy to store in the off-season. They are easy to install, and they don't stick out once they are installed (it is very easy to trip over brackets that stick out). And, most importantly, they work great, giving me a sturdy rink with reliable boards. I highly recommend Iron Sleek's system to any backyard rinkers, whether first-timers or old pros."
- Bob (Ontario)
Dear Iron Sleek,
Thank you so much for the incredible ice rink you built for us. Our girls had many hours of fun during the day and at night! They had many friends over that enjoyed skating and playing hockey. We also appreciate how fast the rink was built! It was a very exciting Christmas gift for our girls. Thank you for promptly answering our questions as to how to care for the rink, as we have never done this before. It was very easy to take down in the spring and our grass looked as good as new! We are all looking forward to its return this winter!
- The Schwichtenberg Family (Riverwoods, IL)
The Danz Family has used the Iron Sleek system two years in a row and it really works. We have a yard with a large decline and it is almost impossible to make a rink strong enough to hold the water. After we were done building our rink, the back boards had to be 20 inches in height (water was 18 inches deep) just to accommodate the decline. The Iron Sleeks held strong and sturdy. My husband and I were able to build our rink together and had a blast working on such a fun backyard project. The liner is thick and even withstood our dog's nails when she got off the leash and jumped in the unfrozen water! Once the water froze the water expanded the boards and the Iron Sleeks stayed put together and never broke.
At one point we had 15 people on the rink and it was solid. After a nice season of Ice skating we were able to drain the rink and clear the liner easily. The Grass under the liner was kept safe and is starting to grow green and strong.
I would recommend the iron Sleek system to any fun, ice skating, hockey loving family!!!
Thank You Iron Sleek!
- Erin and Jim Danz (Makenzie, John, Carly, Joseph and Rascal too!) (Elgin, IL)
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