How to Build a Floating Dock

Learning how to build a floating dock is the way to go, if you're looking to save money. Floating boat docks are inexpensive and perfect for structures located on ponds or sheltered lakes. Best of all, basic carpentry and mechanical skills are all you'll need.

How To Build A Floating Boat Dock That Will Last

Most personal or recreational boat docks are made of wood, using construction methods similar to those used to construct backyard decks. Many companies offer floating dock kits that include all hardware and instructions needed to build a complete structure. Here's how to get started:

  • 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. You should consider 4 feet a minimum width.
  • Calculating flotation. Most floating boat docks require between 30 and 35 pounds per square foot of floatation to provide a stable platform. Consult your dock plan, calculate the square footage and acquire the number of rated flotation elements you'll need. For example, a 6' x 20' dock has 120 square feet. 120 x 35 = 4200 pounds of required flotation. If your floats were rated at 500 pounds, you'd need nine floats for your dock. 3600 / 500 = 8.4, rounded up to 9.0
  • 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 or made of marine-grade stainless steel. Heavy-duty screws or lag bolts should be used for superior holding strength. Flotation material should be environmentally sound and able to withstand long-term exposure to water and ultraviolet radiation.
  • Getting help. Once you've constructed sections of your floating dock, you'll need to move them into the water. Try to arrange for as much help as possible to move these heavy units off dry land. Also, make sure to start construction as close to the waterline as possible.
  • Dock framing. Floating boat docks are typically built using rectangular frames that are fitted together to construct a larger structure. As in home deck building, the frame is built using 2"x8" or larger timbers to construct joists and stringers. Depending on the size of the flotation material used, you may need to double the height of your frame. All wooden members should be screwed or bolted together. Some kit-built docks come with special corner brackets for added structural support.
  • Installing floats. Special hardware or techniques may be required, so follow the manufacturers instructions for installing flotation in your dock framing.
  • Decking. 5/6" decking is laid perpendicular to the framing members and cut to size. The decking is then fixed to the framing using galvanized or stainless steel hardware.
  • Secure your dock. Floating boat docks are typically anchored to the shore using cables attached to the near shore corners. The cables can be fixed to piles driven into the shore or to poured concrete bollards set into the ground. Additionally, your floating dock can be secured at the waterside corners with pilings driven into the water bottom. These outboard pilings are typically secured to the dock using pipes sleeves or pile guides.
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