As summer fades into fall, all dock owners get busy making preparations for the winter. Floating docks are an enjoyable addition to most lakefront houses, but if you live in places where temperatures cross sub-zero, you run the risk of ice damage. It can be stressful to think about the risks of ice on your dock, but with a few quick hacks and maintenance tips, you don’t have to worry at all!
Read on to learn more about preparing your floating dock for the winter season and tips to maintain your dock throughout the year.
Importance of Winterizing Your Floating Dock
Winterizing your floating jet ski dock is important for preserving its durability and structural integrity. Your dock and property are at risk throughout the winter for a number of reasons, including:
- Changing temperatures: Some dock materials, including wood, can contract and expand when temperatures change in the winter. Wooden dock boards can deform due to this constant movement. Polyethylene and other dock material types are resistant to expansion and contraction.
- Thaw and Freeze: Water levels may rise and fall as it goes through a cycle of thawing and freezing. Floating docks could scrape against the bottom of the lake if water levels drop too low. Fixed docks could become inaccessible and freeze over if water levels reach too high. Some dock types’ fasteners may become loose due to repeated freezing and thawing.
- Ice formations: Ice poses a serious threat to everything it comes into contact with it. It is inevitable to stop ice from forming over your dock, but the least you can do is shovel it away to prevent expensive damages.
- Dangerous conditions: Most water bodies freeze to dangerously low temperatures, and docks become slippery in the winter. The best approach to stop someone from attempting to access or use your dock during hazardous weather conditions is to store and winterize it.
You can save a lot of money, time, and frustration by avoiding exposure to these dangers. You’ll be that much closer to going back on the water if you take the time to winterize your dock because it will be much simpler to reassemble it in the spring.
Examples of Damaged Floating docks
During the winter, wooden floating docks are more prone to damage. Wooden boards may expand and absorb moisture if water is allowed to sit on them. The wood might also expand and shrink as the water inside it dries out or freezes, causing splintered and fractured wood as well as dock destruction.
Freezing ice water in lakes can heave the dock up or down, off of its moorings, or have the anchor posts damaged.
Additionally, there is a chance of ice flow, especially in river waters, where big chunks of ice might flow against the current and destroy a dock. Furthermore, if a dock is located in a frozen lake, springtime’s warmer temperatures will cause a huge ice mass to form, which could be pushed up and toward your dock and ultimately damage it.
If your dock is in luck and survives the pressure of ice this winter, it is unlikely to last as long for the coming winters.
Always keep in mind that a floating dock can easily suffer damage from ice. Even if winters in your area are brief and mild, if you are unprepared, a partial freeze is enough to cause significant harm to your floating dock.
How to Prepare Floating Docks for Winter?
Depending on the type of dock and the lake dock designs, winterizing a dock requires a very unique set of skills. However, follow these steps first if you’re taking the dock out of the water:
- Hire a professional: Seek the assistance of a strong, experienced professional before removing your dock for the winter. No matter how strong you are, it’s challenging to winterize a dock on your own, especially if taking it out of the water and storing it is the plan.
- Dress correctly: If you must enter the water, put on hip waders or galoshes. If it’s freezing outside, layer up with thermal wear and a quality waterproof and windproof jacket.
- Socket set for disassembling: Depending on how your dock is put together, you may need a socket set, a screwdriver, or even both to disassemble it. Bring a spare of whatever it is in case you drop one into the water.
- Winch for dragging: You’ll need a winch driven by gas or a four-wheel-drive vehicle with a cable or pulling straps to drag your dock onto dry ground.
- Bubble/De-icer: You might need an electric de-icing tool, or even more than one, to protect permanently fixed equipment (such as a crib or piling dock) from moving ice.
If your dock is installed permanently
There are several precautions you can take if you own a permanent, immovable dock, particularly a metal or wood building, to guard it against severe winter wear and tear.
Crib docks are usually made from timber cribs that consist of stones or concrete to make the foundation strong. You have only two ways to winterize such docks because they cannot be removed: resist the ice or keep it at bay. The same is the case with pile docks as they are affixed to piles or poles made of treated wood, steel, or concrete.
An electric de-icing tool might be a good choice if a dock owner doesn’t want the ice to harm the crib or pile dock. The tool keeps the water moving just enough to prevent ice from developing.
Before winter arrives, it’s a good idea to waterproof your dock, make sure the boat lift functions properly, and inspect it for structural issues. While getting your dock ready for winter can help minimize damage, it won’t completely protect it. Make sure you double-check your insurance coverage before the temps begin to drop.
If Your Dock is Removable
Most floating docks can be readily taken down before winter as well. A few docks are constructed from thin foam blocks that rise above the growing ice to prevent injury. Pull your non-foam floating dock out of the water with the help of a strong friend (or winch), then put it someplace secure and out of the way.
Detachable docks are usually built of aluminum frames that support composite or wood boards. Pipe docks are detachable and obviously not made to endure the ice of the winter. The boards should be unfastened and put away first. Then remove the pipes and frames from the water, fold them, and put them away.
Winterizing Your Docks
Follow these steps to winterize your floating docks:
- Dock cleaning: Don’t forget to clean the dock thoroughly so that you don’t have to work as hard for the spring cleanup. Let the parts of the dock air dry before your store them.
- All accessories detachment: If you have a detachable floating dock, make sure that you unhook and store all attachments such as launches, storage bins, slides, etc. in a safe place to use again in spring.
- Remove the pieces: The rubber couplers are simple to take apart. Remove the coupler bolt from every unit with caution at a time. Save all the parts that you remove in a safe container. You can attach a label with the proper assembly order to each section as you remove and store them for proper installation in the spring.
- Wheels installation: Wheels can come in handy when you want to transport the dock parts for storing and re-assembling. Since most dock wheels are constructed from the same polyethylene material as your dock, they are just as sturdy and damage-resistant.
- Dry storage: Dock sections and parts should be kept close to the coast in a dry, secure place for easy movement. Even though it is not compulsory, adding a tarp or selecting an enclosed storage space will reduce any dust or grime that might accumulate on the outside.
Tips to Maintain Floating Docks Throughout the Year
Even though your residential floating dock contractor will strive to make your floating dock versatile and strong, they need proper maintenance all year long to face extreme weather and temperature changes. Here are the best maintenance tips for floating docks that will come in handy.
- Don’t Dump Trash Near the Dock
The best and the most basic way to keep your dock and boat in good shape is to prevent dumping trash near the dock. It will not only attract fleas and pests but will also make the boat weak. Additionally, the floating debris will make the cleaning process slower in the spring.
- Use soap instead of paint
You might think that painting the dock with antifouling paint will make the surface secure from the elements, but actually, it will just enhance the growth of microorganisms. Additionally, the paint’s chemicals could damage the surface and degrade. Instead, use soap and water to clean the dock’s surface for better results.
Make sure to use environmentally friendly cleaning chemicals to remove stains from its surface when you are cleaning the dock in the water. You don’t want dangerous chemicals to contaminate the water body.
If cleaning products containing ammonia and phosphorus ends up in the water body, both people and marine life may be endangered. Therefore, be thoughtful and purchase a cleaning product free of these two substances.
- Remove the hard growth
If you don’t maintain your dock properly, you’ll find common hard growths on the docks like white worms, oysters, barnacles, and mussels, becoming large populations, within a few months. It’s natural for these growths to add hundreds of pounds of additional weight to the dock. This will cause your dock to sink over time.
You need to scrape these growths clean to prevent any disasters in the future.
- Remove the soft growth
You will also find soft growth, like marine algae on your dock if you don’t clean regularly. You can readily remove the soft growth from the dock by scrubbing with cleaning pads.
Note: Keep in mind that various dock surfaces call for different cleaning pads.
- Pressure Washing
Pressure washing is very effective in removing even the hardest growth on the dock. It will save you time that you would otherwise spend scrubbing. It will also make the cleaning process in spring easier. But if you’ve never used pressure washing, get professional assistance.
However, you need to control the pressure of the hose to prevent destroying the dock’s surface.
If you have a composite floating dock, it only needs to be cleaned around once a year. But you can use pressure washing to get rid of grime, dirt, and algae. Pressure washing will take the dirt off those cracks and crevices on the dock as well that are difficult to access.
- Check the weather in your area
If you stay in a region where the temperatures fluctuate a lot, it is better to store the floating dock system indoors.
Since nobody will be using the dock on the frozen water body nearby, take advantage of the floating dock’s mobility and modularity and put it away during those months of extreme weather conditions. This will not only will it extend the life of your floating dock, but it will also save you a ton of money on cleaning and upkeep once the weather returns to normal.
Can Floating Docks Stay in Ice?
Yes, it is not advised to leave any dock in the water throughout the winter, but some shorelines make it a hard nut to crack to relocate a floating dock somewhere dry. If so, keeping the dock submerged in water by properly detaching and securing the fingers might be the only choice.
You can tow your dock to, a calm, protected bay without ice shoves. Make sure to cut off all hinged connections if you decide to do so. Disconnect the floating dock connecting brackets if your floating dock includes fingers, a T or L shape arrangement, or both to let each part float independently.
You should tie the dock to a tree or something that is sturdy enough on shore to allow the dock to move freely and sink through the ice. It is advisable to remove your anchor chains from the dock and do this. Everything stays put and the weights are still attached to the main dock. The process takes roughly 5 minutes to disassemble.
If there are no trees along your shoreline, you can allow for the same by letting go of your anchor chains by a few feet.
If you leave your dock in the water over winter and it gets damaged by ice, there are chances that the dock won’t last as long as it should. Even minor damages can force you to buy a new dock much sooner than you would prefer.
For example, if your dock has a lifespan of 20 years or more, you could be lucky to get to more than a quarter of that lifespan if the dock endures too many harsh winters. Think about the negative ramifications of leaving your dock in the icy water before you do that.
Should You Winterize Your Dock If You Live Somewhere that Doesn’t Freeze?
You’re lucky! A dock doesn’t need to be winterized if there is no ice, although there are a few exceptions.
It is a good idea to take down your floating docks for the winter if the lake level where you live lowers significantly. A dock could suffer damage if it bottoms out on rocks or a section of the shoreline during a period of low water.
Most people who don’t winter their docks or don’t do it properly, find it difficult to deal with leaking brown foam in spring. It will cost you a complete engine replacement to repair frost damage. That will be a lengthy process and by the time your boat is in functional order, a significant portion of the boating season will have passed. Don’t wait until the spring to repair the damages. Instead, work in the winter to prevent damage and enjoy the boating season in spring.
Most boats require from an hour to a day to winterize. Experts advise winterizing your boat if you plan to go boating anywhere other than Hawaii to reduce the chances that an unexpected frost might make your boat unusable in the coming season.
How to Anchor a Floating Dock to the Shore?
The most vital step in constructing and installing your new docking system is anchoring your dock. You must have enough anchoring to guarantee that your dock is stable on the water. The best piece of advice we can give is that too much weight is better than not enough weight. Keep in mind that you don’t need to remove these anchors once they’re in the water.
After determining to know what you need, how many anchors you need, and where they will go, you will go on to anchoring your dock. We advise setting the anchors on long planks of wood to protect your decking.
Once you have three to four anchors in place on the dock, put a chain through the rebar in each anchor to connect them and then cut the chain. After connecting every anchor together, elevate the wooden boards to let the anchors slide into place. It’s not a concern if the anchors don’t land on one another.
Can You Leave a Dock in the Water Over Winter?
The answer to this question depends on the type of dock you have. A step lift dock can be a better option if you live in a place where the shoreline frequently becomes covered in ice. This type of dock rises higher than a typical lift dock and hinges back from the shoreline. If floating docks are anchored for the winter in a safe location, like a small bay or channel, they can also be left in the water. If not, they too should be taken out.
How to Build a Floating Dock?
If you are wondering, how to build a floating dock, then follow these easy steps:
- The first step to building a floating dock is to cut the wood to the proper length. Our measurements are according to a 10′ x 12′ dock, but you can alter the measurements according to your requirements.
- Next, you need to install the stringers to form the foundation of the frame. Make sure that they are 2 feet apart from the center.
- Ensure that the inside corners are vertically centered in every corner tightly, using a socket wrench. Use three support boards to align the frame perpendicular to the stringers.
- Then, set the angles and use the boards to secure the frame with screws.
- Make sure that the edges are smooth and even.
- For the last part, you need to fasten the floating dock to a strong structure in the water. Do not shortchange the tethers or skip this step! Your dock shouldn’t drift away in the dark of the night.
Docks add aesthetic value as well as monetary value to your property. But if you don’t take care of your docks, especially in winter, you run the risk of damaging and decreasing the longevity of your dock. Your first step should be to build or get a strong dock that can endure all weather conditions.
Hisea Dock has over ten years of experience in manufacturing plastic pontoons and successfully delivering floating dock systems to clients in more than 80 countries. Offering premium products at affordable prices has helped them establish a strong reputation throughout the years. From the moment they procure raw materials to delivering the end product, they strive for top quality. If you are interested, feel free to request a quote today!