4 Things to consider when building a dock on the lake

No lakefront home, cabin or marina is complete without a great dock. A dock is a very versatile and valuable addition to a lakefront property. A well-built dock provides a place to tie up boats or jet skis, a flat space for lounging and sunbathing and an easy way for swimmers to get in and out of the water.

The difference between an attractive, useful dock and one that is unsafe or inadequate for your needs is how carefully you tackle planning and construction. Whether you're building a brand new lake dock or you're restoring an existing one, here are four important tips to keep in mind.

Consider the differences of stationary and floating

(Walcon Marina, by Yarmouth Harbour Commissioners & Walcon Marine)

The two main types of docks are stationary and floating.

Stationary docks are considered permanent structures and are also known as piling docks. These docks are built on wood or concrete piles that are sunk into the lake bed. Stationary docks are very stable and strong, making them solid option.

Floating docks float on the surface of the lake, making them a bit more versatile than stationary docks. These docks raise and fall with the lake's water level, which eliminates the problem of a big drop between the water and dock deck during the dry season. Floating docks are semi-permanent and may be taken out of the water for storage. If your lake freezes in winter, a floating dock that can be stored will eliminate damage associated with ice and high winds.

Inspect water depth and lake bed

If you decide to go with a stationary dock, you'll need to inspect the lake bed, as well as determine water depths.

The ideal lake bed for building a dock would be fairly flat and sandy. A rocky lake bed or one that has a big drop in depth from the shoreline to where the end of the dock will be can be problematic. Lake water levels will naturally and artificially raise and lower. If the water depth difference is minimal, a stationary deck will work fine.

If the lake bed isn't ideal and the water depth of your lake isn't reliable, a floating dock might be the better option.

Superior decking materials extend a docks life

(Port of Rochester Marina, by Edgewater Resources, photo by Walter Colley)

The better quality materials you use, the longer your dock will last - a pretty simple concept to understand.

Structurally, many docks are made of pressure-treated (PT) wood, aluminum and composites. Although it's not yet as widely known as these more traditional materials, modified wood is a great option for dock decking. Modified wood is beautiful and exceptionally tough. It's more moisture-resistant treated wood and contains no toxic chemicals. The end result is a very attractive deck that's comfortable for bare feet (unlike composite and aluminum), won't splinter, and will endure even the most extreme weather conditions.

Building a DIY dock vs hiring a professional

(Årstaviken Pier, by Grontmij Arkitekter)

Homeowners that already have some handyman skills may be able to build their own dock if it's a smaller floating dock. However, building a dock isn't an easy process, especially if you don't have experience with waterfront structures.

More often than not, the best route is to hire a professional. Although it may cost you a bit more upfront, you'll have the peace of mind knowing that your dock is secure and properly built.

A lake dock can be as simple or as ornate as you desire, but a common factor of any successful design is solid construction using long-lasting, durable materials. Take the four featured tips into consideration when you're planning out your own lake dock and consider a consultation with a local marine contractor. And don’t be afraid to speak with your neighbors to learn what dock designs have worked best for them on your lake.

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