Floating Dock: A Beginner’s Guide 2023 - Hiseadock
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Floating Dock: A Beginner’s Guide 2023

March 20, 2020

In recent years, foam dock floats have become permanent fixtures on lakes and seashores. Not only are floating docks easier to install and maintain, but these structures also do not damage the seabed as they are not embedded at all.

Whether you are a property owner wanting to fully enjoy your waterfront property or a contractor wishing to add a floating dock for sale on your list of merchandise, this article will help you in understanding more about dock materials, how floating docks work, and their different applications.

floating dock image
Source: Hisea Dock


What Is a Floating Dock?

As its name connotes, a floating dock is a floating platform that, with the aid of encapsulated foam or airtight drums, becomes buoyant on water. A gangway connects the floating platform to the coast or seashore. Floating docks follow the movement of water level, making them versatile and adaptable, be in still waters or in an area where waves can be unpredictable. Floating docks are held in place by poles embedded in the soil or by chains and cables that run along the ramp.

best floating dock
Source: Quora

Often found in small boat marinas and other small bodies of water, floating docks can have watercraft securely attached to the latter regardless of the current or tide. These kinds of docks are not only eco-friendly, but they are also durable.

Features of Floating Docks

Using floating docks lets you enjoy many of their benefits. Let’s take a look at some of their features below.

jet ski platform
Source: Pinterest

Low maintenance

There is little need to change floating dock materials since these docks can withstand most climate changes. The materials don’t splinter, rot or need paint. Floating docks are suitable for saline and freshwater environments too.

Quick to Install

Since a boat dock construction does not entail having these docks fixed to the sea bed or lake bed, it takes less time to construct. The boat dock ramp is also easy to remove.


There are custom docks you can order from manufacturers to suit your requirements. You can specify the size, color, height, and other features that you require for your floating docks.


Floating docks have a non-slip layer that enables you to walk barefoot on them without the fear of slipping or any related accidents. The grooves on the panels are designed to hold on to friction as you walk and to keep water away from your feet.

Heat -resistant

Floating dock materials do not transfer heat to your bare feet on sunny days. This allows you to walk on them without the fear of burning your feet.

How Does a Floating Dock Work?

Floating docks are unsinkable platforms that are designed to stay buoyant and adaptive to the natural and vertical movement of water. This means that floating docks follow the rise and fall of the waves together with the ebbs and flows of the tides. These docks are connected to the shore via a gangway. You can easily remove much of these floating dock sections whenever there is bad weather or for maintenance.

Floating platform
Source: Pinterest

These floating boat dock kits have buoyant and airtight pontoons that allow the entire dock system to be suspended and stay afloat on the surface of the water. These pontoons are often sturdy and made of polystyrene that, even when the drum is punctured, the floating dock ramp still stays floating on water.

Much of the working mechanism of the floating dock relies on buoyancy or the upward force exerted by a body of water. This force counteracts the weight of the floating dock. Since floating docks exert less force than the force of the water, the dock platform remains on the surface of the water. Floating docks need at least 70% of buoyancy to stay afloat.

How to Build a Floating Dock

You have three choices when building a floating dock. You can opt for boat docks for sale that are already pre-built, make your own, or you can hire a boat dock installer. Here are some pros and cons of each of these choices.

Ordering a Pre-Built Floating Boat Dock

When you order an already pre-built floating dock, you eliminate the need for a professional to do the dock installation, which could save you time and reduce your expenses. You won’t have to worry about the professional fees of a dock builder.

floating docks for ponds
Source: Hisea Dock

However, a pre-built floating dock limits your chances of customization. That being said, your choices of designs and shapes can be limited as to what the floating dock manufacturer can provide. Also, if you are new at anchoring floating docks, you run the risk of wrong dock installation.


Hiring a Boat Dock Installer

Having a professional boat dock installer allows you more leeway on the customization side. You won’t even have to worry about the permits you need, the type of floating boat dock kits to use, and the kind of material and color you want. You can take advantage of the skills and experience of the dock installer you hired. But, since you are hiring professionals, it could be more expensive since you need to pay them for their services.

Floating dock kit project
Source: Pinterest

Building a Floating Dock

Building your own floating dock gives you more freedom to choose how long or how wide that could be. The best place to start working on a floating dock is to be as close to where you want to put the dock as possible. Finished floating docks can be hefty and you might find it difficult to load and move if you are building your floating dock somewhere else. Below is a set of instructions for a DIY floating dock.

Floating dock barrels
Source: Pinterest

Here are the things you need:

For the floating dock:

For the ramp


Floating dock barrels
Source: Pinterest
floating dock
Source: Instructables
floating dock
Source: Instructables
how to make a floating dock
Source: Instructables
diy floating dock
Source: Instructables
diy floating dock
Source: Instructables

To create the ramp:

Source: Instructables
A wooden boardwalk
Source: Instructables

What Are Floating Docks Made Of?

The material used in making the floating docks are one of the most important considerations whether you are building your own floating dock or buying the pre-built one. The right kind of material will impact the length of time your floating dock would last as well as the maintenance that is involved with it.


Wood has a rustic natural feel to it. This material is 100% renewable, and it does not contribute to air and water pollution. However, a portable dock made of wood can be expensive, especially when it’s made of synthetic wood. Also, wood upkeep can be costly, especially when the boat duck ramp has structural damage.

boat near wood dock
Source: iStock

Wood is also prone to insect damage. Untreated wood is a nesting place for bugs and insects. You can’t find them through visual inspection until these insects have emerged from nesting. By that time, the insects would have greatly damaged the internal structure of this material. Replacing dry rotted wood is more expensive than building a new set.


Aluminum is one of the most common boat dock materials known for its durability. This material is also weather and scratch-resistant. Aluminum decking platforms create gapless seals that provide a watertight capacity.

floating dock image
Source: Pinterest

However, among the dock materials, aluminum is often the most expensive initial cost. Its anti-rust character makes it a great floating dock material; however, it is highly corrosive, which greatly impacts its structural integrity.


Plastic is a practical choice because this material is durable, inexpensive and easy to install. While plastic cannot top the beauty of a wooden pond dock, the upkeep for plastic floating docks is much lower than that of wood. Since this material is robust, you get the most out of your investment. Plus, plastic pond docks are easily reconfigured depending on your growing needs.

floating dock image
Source: Pinterest

There is no denying that among the three common floating dock materials, plastic is the most durable. Wood needs regular maintenance, and you need to check aluminum floating docks for rust and mold. On the other hand, plastic floating docks don’t have these aforementioned issues. The plastic ones only need sweeping and a block of simple soap and water to maintain it as good as new.

What Are the Types of Floating Docks?

Floating docks have large platforms and drums underneath them to allow them to float. You can often find these docks pre-built that are easily configured and reconfigured to any desired shape.

Impounded Floating Dock

The impounded floating dock or a wet dock is often a commercial floating dock placed alongside a waterway. A lock gate separates this from the tidal waves. This kind of dock allows ships to stay afloat even during low tides.

floating dock impounded
Source: Wikipedia

Floating Jetty

A floating jetty is another type of floating dock. This one is supported by pontoons and connected by a gangway to the shore. Pilings or vertical poles hold this jetty in place. You can oftentimes see a floating dock hoisting a watercraft to it in a marina or lake.

floating jetty
Source: Wikipedia

Which Type of Dock Is the Best?

Whether you are putting in a new floating dock gangway or remodeling a new dock decking, chances are, you want these things to last longer that you don’t have to do repairs or maintenance. High-quality materials should enhance durability and dock traffic safety but you should not also scrimp on appearance, especially when you are for building floating docks for commercial use.

Before you decide on dock materials, you should compare all the options to know which one of the materials would work best for you. Ideally, you’d find that the best dock material should be low maintenance and can last longer despite the amount of foot traffic.

Lakeside floating dock
Source: Pinterest

Wood and aluminum have a lot of advantages but floating docks made of plastic are, by far, offer the best quality for both the initial and overall costs. Whether you are having the floating dock installation on saltwater or freshwater environments, plastic docks still require very minimal maintenance. When looking for plastic floating docks, be sure to check out the ones that are slip-resistant, eco-friendly, and easy to install, replace and reconfigure.

Considered the most practical compared to other kinds of docks, floating docks do not require a lot of requirements for installation. These docks also follow the ebbs and flows of the tides so any electrical systems attached to the docks do not complete submerge. In extreme weather cases and the plastic floating docks are not in use, these docks can be kept in a safe storage location and put back in when the weather becomes normal.

What is the Cost of a Floating Dock?

The cost of a floating dock construction depends on the size of the dock, the number of drum barrels used, and the type and weight of the docking. Depending on the size and material used for the decking, the cost of the floating dock can range from $20 to $35 per square foot. A complete boat dock cost starts from $3,077 to $26,176.

dock repair
Source: Pinterest

Prefab floating docks come in cheaper at $1,000. Take note that your budget does not only depend on the materials you’d use for the boat dock building plans but also on water depth, climate, location, and the body of water you wish to install it in.

How to Protect a Boat Dock?

You are going to spend some amount of money building your floating dock; you might as well need to be ready when extreme weather, calamities and normal changes in weather happens. Dock maintenance is something that you simply have to add to your to-do list.

Lakeside dock
Source: Pinterest

Make sure that your dock is properly installed.

Whether it’s a stationary dock or a floating dock, a dock repair would cost you thousands of dollars. To avoid this, you need to have your floating dock construction properly installed right from the beginning.

Make a habit of periodically checking your floating dock for changes.

Every few weeks to months, check your dock for any changes. The best way to do this is to take photos of it for comparison. You may not notice a small slope or fade by just visual inspection.

Regularly clean your floating dock.

Your dock is exposed to different elements all the time. There would be signs of wear and tear which might not be so nice to see. Plus, the more debris builds up on your floating dock, the greater the tendency of your dock, particularly if made of wood, to rot. Cleaning your floating dock also means you get to remove splinters that might cause injuries to people walking on it. 

Use marine dock bumpers.

Sometimes a boat bumps against the floating dock and damages the latter greatly. Before this happens, consider putting bumpers between the boat and the dock. This is also particularly effective during stormy days when you can’t remove the dock out of the water.

Marine dock bumper
Source: Pinterest

How to Repair a Boat Dock?

Boat docks don’t need to be replaced all the time. Sometimes you just have to repair a thing or two and your floating dock with barrels is as good as new. Here are the common issues with floating docks and viable solutions you can do for your floating dock.

floating dock repair
Source: Pinterest

Is the floating dock shaky?

You cannot do dock repairs if there is a serious erosion. Pilings are still driven deep into the ground. Make sure to check their integrity and replace them immediately once they become dislodged.

Does the floating dock have cracked and warped wood?

If the floating dock is made of wood, it can crack, especially when wood touches the water. It can also become warped and bent as wood absorbs moisture and expands. Replace beams and wood pieces when only a small part is damaged. Otherwise, replace the entire floating dock.

Is the floating dock rusty?

Metals do not sit well with water. Eventually, your floating dock and floating dock anchors have to be replaced. While there is still no serious damage, use galvanized or coated metal for your floating dock. Doing so gives more life to your floating dock, from the poles down to the screws.

Does the floating dock have rotten wood?

Wood, when exposed to various elements, can get rotten. It is not an issue when a small rot size is present. Make sure to replace that part when you see one. Don’t allow it to spread as that could potentially harm the structural integrity of your floating dock.

How Do You Anchor a Floating Dock?

Improper connection of your floating dock to the shoreline can pose several problems. Anchoring your floating dock should present the same flexibility as that of the boat to the pier.

floating dock image
Source: Pinterest

Here is the proper way of connecting your floating dock to land:

How Long Do Floating Docks Last?

The lifespan of your floating docks depends on your usage, repair, and maintenance. Ideally, this kind of dock should last more than a decade. Factors such as environmental elements play a big role in how long your floating docks last.

Plastic floating dock
Source: Hisea Dock

Floating Dock vs. Fixed Dock

Floating docks float and move depending on the waves and tides but the fixed dock stays stationary regardless of the water’s movements. You can almost always see floating docks in areas where there is a constant movement of water. The fixed dock, on the other hand, is mounted on posts, providing a reliable platform in bodies of water that don’t have constant water movement.


Floating docks are great add-ons if your property is located beside a river, lake or beach. Do you have other features of floating docks in mind? Do you have other questions? Share them with us in the comments below!

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