Anyone that has ever owned a backyard rink knows its maintenance can often be cumbersome.

One of the biggest hassles concerning outdoor rinks is shell ice. Albeit challenging, solving this problem is not impossible. This article will answer all your questions about how to fix shell ice on backyard rinks.

How Do You Fix Shell Ice On A Backyard Rink?

There are three popular methods you can use to fix shell ice on your backyard rink. They are breaking and scraping, drilling, and bucket dumping. Each method is good, but using all three together is a sure way to fix your shell ice problem.

Methods To Fix Shell Ice On Your Rink

Breaking And Scraping

The most widely used method of fixing shell ice is to break it down using a scraper or shovel. Then, remove the shards from the rink completely using a shovel.

While doing so, do not hold the shovel perpendicular to the rink, as it can damage the surface. Also, do not forcefully hit the shovel on the ice to avoid damaging the rest of the solid surface.

Hold the shovel at an angle to the rink’s surface and gently scrape the brittle ice off. Some people also recommend using a wide broom for this purpose. Flood the surface later with warm or hot water to ensure a smooth finish.


Another popular method is drilling holes in the shell ice using a nail or another sharp object. Make several holes across the rink’s surface and then flood the rink with water. The water will flow down these tiny holes to fill the space between the shell ice and the rink’s solid ice surface. This method produces fewer fragments and also promises a smoother finish.

Bucket Dump

You can also use the “bucket dump” method, which requires flooding the rink using buckets or barrels instead of a hose. Dump enough bucket-fulls of hot water to cover the rink’s surface evenly. Then wait for the surface to smooth over by itself.

Methods To Fix Shell Ice On Your Rink

How To Deal With Air Pockets Formed Due To Shell Ice?

If the shell ice leaves air pockets in the rink, fill the craters with snow. Spritz water onto the snow and use a puck or a piece of cardboard to smoothen it.

The key is to press and flatten the snow to level it with the rink’s surface. Repeat this procedure at leaset three times to get a tough surface.

Alternatively, if the crater is in the form of a shallow bowl, you can fill it with water and wait for it to solidify before flooding the rink. However, this method is not always feasible because it can lead to even more shell ice formation due to uneven freezing of the water.

Can Shell Ice Be Prevented?

To prevent shell ice, try to ensure the temperature is optimum during resurfacing. If you do the resurfacing while the temperature is warm, the surface water will not freeze evenly. Hence, avoid flooding the rink during the morning and afternoon with water that is too hot.

Similarly, if the temperature is too cold, the fresh ice might not stick to the layer of ice below. Therefore, the best time to flood the rink is evening.

Another factor that can cause shell ice to be created is excessively windy conditions, so avoid flooding and resurfacing if there are strong winds.

When flooding your rink, ensure not to overfill it.

Using more than the required amount of water will freeze more quickly at the top than the layers underneath. The water trapped between the fresh layer of ice and the original surface drains away, leaving shell ice and air pockets behind.

Try adding a thin layer of water and letting it freeze before adding subsequent layers. This prevents shell ice and produces a firmer surface.

Smooth backyard hockey rink

Can You Use An Ice Resurfacer To Get Rid Of Shell Ice?

Ice resurfacers are an essential tool for ice rink maintenance. They can be especially handy for removing shell ice.

However, you can not use a mechanical ice resurfacer for your backyard rink if it is smaller than professional rinks.

Instead, you can opt for a handheld resurfacer to scrape off shell ice. For bigger rinks, heavy-duty resurfacer machines like the Zamboni resurfacer are an excellent option that effectively helps remove shell ice.

Can You Directly Flood The Rink With Hot Water To Fix Shell Ice?

When you’re short on time, it may seem like a good idea to directly use hot water to remove shell ice. Although the hot water may help melt certain smaller areas of shell ice, you may notice several bumps after the surface refreezes. Hence, causing you to start all over again.

Therefore, even if you are in a hurry, take some time to scrape the shell ice before flooding it with hot water.

Why Should You Drill Small Holes In The Rink To Fix Shell Ice?

When employing the drilling method of shell ice removal, use a thin sharp object to drill small holes. Making bigger holes will not quicken the process but will cause more problems.

Bigger drainage holes might cause cracks in the ice rink, which may only become lengthier as you make more holes. As a result, you will have to construct your rink again from scratch. 

Can You Use A Hammer To Break The Shell Ice?

Technically, using a hammer will make breaking the shell ice easier. However, if you hit the shell ice harder than is necessary, you can risk damaging the rest of the rink’s surface.

Use a hammer to break shell ice only if you are a professional or have some extent of training with the tool. Otherwise, it’s better to stick with scraping the shell ice with a shovel or ice resurfacer.

Final Words On Shell Ice Removal

Outdoor rinks require a lot of maintenance, especially when it comes to shell ice, as it can even lead to accidents.

uncleared shell ice can cause a fall

Shell ice formation can be a pain in the neck for anyone that owns a backyard rink. However, using the methods tips above you will not have to worry about shell ice slowing your winter sports spirit down.

These methods do not require a lot of equipment or training and can easily help you get rid of shell ice on your backyard rink.