1. Pick a shady site so the ice doesn’t soften under the sun. Avoid building directly under overhanging trees, though, because branches, leaves, and other debris will cause surface melting and marring. Avoid your septic field, too: The weight of the ice may compact the ground, reducing percolation.
2. For the system described here, the best time to start setting up is after a deep freeze, when the ground is hard, but before the first snowfall. (Otherwise, you’ll have to snowblow the surface before a good ice base is established.) If you’re using stakes, install them before the ground freezes.
3. The rink should be near your water source. Drain your hose after every use, to avoid freezing and cracking.
4. The downside of being close to the house is damage from flying hockey pucks. Check placement of the goals relative to windows and institute a “no lift” rule.
5. There’s nothing better than nighttime skating, so consider the placement of your exterior lights. Paul complemented his porch and deck lights by attaching floodlights to the backyard swing set.
6. Don’t forget the skate guards. You want to encourage even little ones to lace their own skates, so let them do so in the warm house while their fingers are still nimble. Keep skates and guards in a basket next to the door.
7. As long as the liner doesn’t leak, your grass will be fine. Jane notes that the grass is always greener under the ice rink because it acts as a little incubator.
8. The trick to a glossy surface is not spraying or aerating; water crystallizes fast, creating rough patches. Instead, Paul applies a layer of water and smooths it with a homemade resurfacing tool. (See the photo, top.)