Basic Boat Dock Construction

Learning about boat dock construction is important. Boat docks provide a number of functions including boat storage, boat access and a setting for near shore recreational activities. Properly constructed boat docks can remain in service for many years.

Boat Dock Construction Highlights

Building boat docks requires basic carpentry and mechanical skills. Before you build, you'll need to check on the zoning and inspection requirements in your area. Working on or near bodies of water may also require special permits from environmental agencies. Once you're ready to proceed, you'll need to keep the following items in mind:

  • Dock configuration. Boat docks come in a number of basic configurations, including straight, L-shaped and T-shaped. Each configuration has its own benefits. Straight boat docks are economical and work best in areas with shallow water. L-shaped boat docks can provide extra work or lounge area at the end of the dock. T-shaped boat docks can accommodate more than one boat at a time.
  • Dock sizing. The size of your boat dock will depend on its function and location. The length of most boat docks is based on required depth of water for your boat and the slope of the water bottom. The width of boat docks is based on the intended activity: mooring, loading equipment or lounging.
  • Type of dock. Cost and the type of water you'll be building in influence the type of boat dock you'll build. A fixed dock, using pilings sunk into the bottom, is the most secure making it appropriate for rivers or other bodies of water that experience moderate wave action. A floating dock can be inexpensive and is appropriate for lake and calm water applications. A flexible dock combines fixed and floating technologies and is perfect for creating a secure dock that can ride up and down on changing water levels.
  • Materials. Most personal boat docks are constructed from pressure treated wood in 2" thick sections. All hardware used in boat dock construction must be galvanized to stand up to water exposure. Heavy-duty screws or lag bolts should be used for superior holding strength. Flotation material should be non-toxic and able to withstand long-term exposure to water and ultraviolet radiation.
  • Basic construction. Many personal or recreational boat docks are constructed in a manner similar to building a deck. Heavy timbers (2"x6" or 2"x8" are used to construct a box-like frame of joists and stringers. Decking material (typically 5/6" wood) is used to cover the frame perpendicular to the orientation of the framing members.
  • Additional elements. Cleats (steel fasteners) along the edges of boat docks provide areas to secure boats using rope. Fabric or plastic bumpers along the edges of a boat dock help protect the boat as it encounters the deck. Hinged ramps at the water's edge help smooth the elevation transition between water level and shoreline.
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