Dock Installation has a well-deserved reputation for being the most hated chore cottage owners face each spring. If you have a conventional wood and concrete dock, it may involve augering in deep muck and back-breaking work.
Fortunately, you can avoid this pain by following these simple tips to simplify your dock installation this spring.
The type of dock you choose depends on how you use the waterfront. Do you want a platform to launch boats, or do you enjoy kayaking and stand up paddleboarding? What about fishing? Will you need a place to store and moor boats when not in use, or maybe even a boat lift?
Depending on your climate and the type of waterfront, you may need to consider how well a dock can withstand winter weather. And, if your shoreline is within a buffer zone or in an area of wetlands, you may need additional approvals from local governments, state agencies, and sometimes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.
Many waterfront homeowners are also interested in a floating dock because they can be used all year round and won’t need to be removed for the winter. And, they’re often more affordable than other types of permanent structures.
Lastly, if you’re considering a shared waterfront, it’s important to learn as much as you can about how your community handles moorage and maintenance. Some communities have deeded boat slips, while others rely on a system of rotation and sharing.
As you consider your options, remember that a wooden dock is more likely to rot and require yearly maintenance than a vinyl or aluminum one. Cedar is the best choice because it’s naturally rot-resistant. However, if you can’t afford cedar, consider a composite decking material that’s made of wood fibers and plastic. This durable material doesn’t need painting and is extremely wear-resistant. It’s also eco-friendly. Regardless of your choice, make sure to choose an installation company that can provide quality work and the support you need during construction.
Know Your Anchoring System
When dock installation is underway, it’s important to have an idea of how your new floating dock will be anchored. The type of anchoring system you choose will determine how the dock behaves in high winds and wavy conditions, as well as how it adjusts to changes in water levels from season to season.
A concrete block anchor is the most common choice because it is easy to install and durable enough for most waterfront environments. If your dock is going to be large, you may want to consider additional anchors for added stability. If the area where you plan to put your boat dock is rocky, you might want to look into a cable anchoring system that attaches a series of cables to a shore or weight in the water.
You also want to consider the height at which you plan to set your dock. If you live in a windy lake area, your dock will need to be high enough to avoid being flipped by heavy gusts of wind. On the other hand, if your dock is near neighbors and is likely to see similar weather conditions, you might want to set it lower.
When you’re ready to put the anchors in, place long pieces of wood under them to avoid damage to your decking. Then, connect a chain to the eyebolts or rebar of each anchor to tie them together. Be sure not to cut the chain too short, as this puts extra stress on the anchors and makes them more vulnerable to moving or sliding.
You should also consider using a pole and sleeve style anchoring system if your waterfront has a rocky bottom. This type of system consists of stiff vertical sleeves attached to the dock that hold long poles made of galvanized steel. A winch and cable system runs through the sleeves to make it easier to withdraw them from the lake bed when necessary.
Mark for Fasteners
As anyone who has been around fasteners for any length of time knows, there are many different standards that provide specifications for various types of fasteners. These specifications cover everything from the material that the fasteners are made of to their dimensional tolerances and plating. Most of these standards exist to help standardize how products are made and to give buyers a sense of accountability and confidence in the product they are purchasing.
One of the standards that exists is called the Fastener Quality Act, which requires all fasteners to be marked with a unique symbol created by the manufacturer for traceability purposes. This ensures that the manufacturer can be held accountable if there is ever a problem with the product. The unique identifier that is used by Wilson-Garner can be seen in the image below.
Most of the different grades of fasteners are identified by a series of radial lines on the head of the fastener, with the exception of small (less than about 1/4″) and slotted or recessed heads, where there isn’t room to place the radial marks. The numbering system differs by grade and class. For example, a head with no markings is grade 2, while those with three radial lines is grade 5, and six radial lines means it’s grade 8.
Many manufacturers also mark their fasteners in other ways to identify their product and to make sure the end user has all of the information they need to properly use them. For instance, a lot of bolts have the manufacturer’s name or trademark printed on the head or hex portion of the fastener. Additionally, some have a special coating on their head such as Permatex Bolt Mark, which is a tamper-proof indicator paste that allows you to see if the bolt or screw has been stripped or tampered with.
Pre-Assemble as Much as You Can
Before you begin construction, it’s a good idea to pre-assemble as much of the dock as possible. This will save you time and money when you’re ready to get started. Most aluminum floating docks come in kits that include the components for the dock itself, as well as instructions. The kits are easy to assemble and modular, so even homeowners with limited DIY experience can put them together.
Before beginning, locate a concrete surface that’s free of obstructions where you can start to assemble your dock. Remove the pins and fasteners that were attached for shipping purposes and start to assemble your dock section by section. Look at the reference medallions on each section to make sure they are oriented correctly. Once the base is in place, you can start to install the decking. Make sure to space the boards evenly and leave a little bit of space between them for water drainage and prevent sagging. After installing the decking, you can then add bracing and cross members. These are important because they help distribute the weight of the boat dock more evenly and prevent sagging.
You’ll also want to think about how you’ll use your dock, such as for entertaining or mooring a boat. These factors can affect the size, structure and electrical capabilities of your dock. The type and style of your dock also impacts its final price. For example, permanent wood and concrete docks can cost more than a floating aluminum dock. Other factors that determine the final project price include climate, location and water depth. It’s also important to factor in the cost of annual inspections and cleaning. These services can run $150-$500 or more depending on the type of dock.
Float Over the Winter
Floating docks are a great way to get out on the water and moor your boat, but they can be subject to damage from winter weather. If you live in an area that has a cold climate, it’s important to plan ahead when it comes to disassembling and storing your dock for the season.
First, choose a day for your dock removal that is free from snowstorms and other inclement weather. It’s also helpful to recruit a friend or family member for assistance, especially if you have a lot of fasteners to remove. Having a good plan will help you make the most efficient use of your time, and you’ll be able to complete the job faster too.
If possible, you should store your floating dock sections in an enclosed area for the winter – like a garage or shed on your property. This will keep them safe from debris and weather, and will prevent the need to disassemble and reassemble them in the spring. If this is not an option, try to place your modular dock in a protected bay with at least two feet of room between it and the rocky shoreline. This will give the dock room to move when ice expands and shifts in the winter.
Another alternative to removing your dock for the winter is to add “skimmers” to it. These are little fans that can be submerged at the end of your dock to circulate water and avoid a buildup of ice, which would damage your dock. If you do decide to float your dock over the winter, be sure to mark it so that snowmobilers and other people don’t accidentally trip on it!