With all the various weather conditions we’ve experienced over the last couple of weeks around the New England area, your ice on your backyard ice rink is likely also in various states of goodness too. Here are some quick “ice types” and a few of the tips and tricks to address each. As no two backyard ice rinks are the same, nor are the ice conditions or solutions; many will be trial and error and you’ll have to find out what works best for you and your backyard ice rink. Either way, every season is a huge learning one, and you’ll be well on your way to becoming a Rink Master.
Shell Ice – created either naturally or after a resurfacing with your Homeboni. It is the really brittle white ice usually formed in small areas from a couple of square inches to several square feet. It is formed when the new water (rain, slush, Homeboni) is much warmer than the ice surface and the air temps are really cold/windy. The new water doesn’t have a chance to form a bond with the existing ice, so it creates it’s own layer of ice, thus the shell affect. Using hot/warm water for a Homeboni is definitely better if you have it, but try to avoid resurfacing in extreme cold conditions or extreme hot water as you might be making the right conditions for shell ice. Treatment – chop this shell ice up completely with something like a heavy duty ice scraper, remove it from the ice surface, and make a couple of passes with the Homeboni. In extreme situations, the “bucket dump” method could be used too – more on that in another post.
Bumpy Ice – usually as the result of slush or sleet freezing on the rink. In the early season like we are now, this can be caused when the snow on your rink is absorbed by the rink water/thin layer of ice. It’ll look pretty cloudy in appearance, and feel bumpy to the touch. As a rink owner, this will bug you big time. Little kids are not bothered by this – they just want to skate. *Note – early in the season, this might be your best friend. This slush mixture will actually freeze faster than water, giving you a solid base faster and sort of pushing down whatever existing layer of ice you had before. Who is this slushy mess really going to bug if you’re not even at skating ice depth yet? In this case, be patient and let it sit. Treatment – a few heavy passes with the Homeboni should do it, but it might be over a couple of days. Skating will naturally grind down these bumps too. Again in extreme situations, the “bucket dump” could work. You also could get out there with an open hose and just go back and forth to provide a quick, heavy application of water to both melt down the bumps a little and also to fill in the bumps. Don’t leave the hose running in one place, as it’ll melt the ice where its constantly contacting (think ice cube melting from running water). And don’t over do it with the water; your rink is already holding enough that you don’t need to add multiple inches more.
Slushy Ice/Standing water – the predecessor the bumpy ice, the cause is pretty self-explainable so re-read the above description for a recap. Difference is this is for a prolonged period of time (days). You get it when it’s too warm out, or it snows and you’re rink isn’t frozen through, or it rains, or any combo of these. Treatment - if it’s slushy and you can get on your rink, try to remove it. I use the SnowPusherLite and a regular plastic shovel and it makes quick work of even a couple inches of the frosty slop. It’ll be tough work, but recovering the ice surface is tougher and takes longer; you want to be skating when it’s cold, not repairing. If it’s really wet, try to remove it by siphon or pump. Your rinks have more than enough water in them, so every extra inch of water is completely unnecessary, puts added stress on your rink boards/supports, and generally just ruins all the good winter fun. Plus, why wait for more water to freeze when you’ve waited so long for your existing skating surface. Try to maintain the minimum depth of 4 inches in the shallow end all season long – that’s the bogey.
Leaf holes – leaves or any other dark object, even pine needles, are pure evil to a rink; especially near the surface. Some folks even go the extreme of painting them. But we all have to accept the fact that this is going to happen – I have to keep repeating that to myself too. Really, when was the last time you got EVERY SINGLE leaf off the lawn in the fall? When these dark objects are in or on the ice (more damage the closer to the surface they are), they will melt the ice around them, creating little craters. Treatment - if you can, get them off the ice. Grab a screwdriver and chisel them out if you can. Repair these intentional craters you’ve now created just as the pros in the NHL do….get some snow/ice shavings, a cup of water, and a puck. Put the snow in the crater, pour some water on it, and pack it down/smooth it out with the puck. Rinse and repeat. A couple of Homeboni applications later and you won’t even know that leaf ever existed. But don’t go overboard and create more/bigger craters just to get a small leaf up. You’ll figure out the right balance of give and take with your rink.
Crusty Ice – when snow falls on the ice it will often naturally “melt” a little of the surface, and then if left will stick/freeze to the ice. Sort of like frosting on the ice, but not nearly as tasty. Treatment - scrap off what you can, then resurface.
Notice how “smooth” ice surface condition isn’t listed here? That’s because if you have it, no one needs to tell you what to do with it, you just know. And you, in turn, just need to tell everyone you know that you have it and what you did with it. Like posting on this blog, or on the Backyard Ice Facebook page, or Tweeting about it.
Have other ice conditions worth mentioning or have more detail/corrections on the ones I’ve mentioned based on personal experiences? Share the wealth of info you have with others in the same boat!