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10 Signs That You Need to Replace Your Dock

September 29, 2020
Boats Anchored to a Dock
Source: Pixabay

Docks for boats are not indestructible. They may be designed to withstand anything that is thrown at them, but being at the constant mercy of the water, receiving barrage after barrage of waves daily is bound to leave a mark. Therefore, as a dock owner, whether it is next to a small lake or the ocean, you have to look out for signs of damage. Dealing with any form of destruction on your dock as early as possible can save you a lot of pain.

Before delving into signs that indicate dock damage, we must understand what boat docks are in the first place.

Table of Contents

Main Types of Docks

Boat dock lift systems come in varying sizes, each built for different functions. The type of dock you decide to set up on your property depends on very many factors like your budget, the location, and the number of vessels you may have in your possession. Based on all that, the following are the main types of docks.

Floating Docks

Floating docks are huge floating platforms that are usually created by arranging airtight drums, or anything with significance buoyancy, under a platform, and securing it to an anchor on the shore to act as a docking surface for various water vessels. They are a form of portable docks that can be built from scratch on-site or purchased pre-made from the various boat dock manufacturers spread out across the globe.

Floating docks are preferred by many people owing to the ease of building them up. You can quickly set up one from scratch using empty drums and jerry cans that may be idling around. Another reason for their popularity is their ability to rise and fall with the tide. You would never have to worry about your vessels getting swamped with water if you have a jet ski floating dock. This also makes them ideal for electrical installation, all you would need to do is simply place all the wiring on top and they would never touch the water surface.

modular floating platform
Piling Dock
Source: Pinterest

Piling Docks

Piling docks are made by driving wooden beams deep into the ground under the water to create a foundation for a platform above the surface of the water. The dock is then attached to the top using rollers or hoops that make it possible for the platform to rise and fall with the tide without leaving its fixed position.

Compared to floating docks, piling docks are more durable and sturdy; they can last for ages, especially if the ground below is made of solid bedrock. However, they cost a lot more to set up. This is the kind of setup you would find in a commercial harbor, not a domestic setup since it is not that flexible.

If you still choose to go with this dock for your domestic needs, make sure you do proper planning since it will involve a lot of structural engineering, meaning you will need to hire professional help. It is not something you can do on your own.

Pipe Docks

Pipe docks are similar to piling docks, but in place of wood, aluminum bars are used instead. Another thing that sets them apart from piling docks is that they are removable, a very good option for a small boat docks setup. They also cost much less to set up and are suited for shallow waters. One of the biggest drawbacks of this setup is that it is stationary. It does not rise and fall with the tide, so in case of a storm, the whole dock gets submerged in the water. The only way to counter this is to raise it higher during construction.

Because of this weakness, if you live in areas that experience frequent storms or severe winters, you may want to avoid pipe docks entirely. You would only be left dealing with costly repairs every year.

A boat docked at an L-shaped pipe dock
Construction of a crib dock
Source: Pinterest

Crib Docks

Crib docks are part of a boat lift system that are constructed from pre-made frames and crates and are placed along the bottom of the ground under the water. The crates are then filled with rocks then covered with decking to create a fixed dock. Compared to other dock setups, crib docks are very expensive and have the biggest impact on the environment. They basically alter the course of the water and disrupt wildlife since they are permanent structures. Due to this reason, many places around water bodies do not allow any form of crib docks to be set up.

If you go with this option, you will be trading flexibility for stability since the boat dock can last for ages. However, you will not be able to make many alterations to it once it is set up. For this reason, you are more likely to encounter a crib dock on a commercial harbor than finding one on private property.

Suspension Docks

These are docks for boats that hang over the water supported by cables as anchorage. They have a more modern look, and since they barely come into contact with the seabed, they offer no impediment to the flow of water, and neither do they disrupt any life. This makes them one of the most environmentally sound dock designs you can go with. 

The one major drawback to suspension docks is the time it takes to make them. The intricate engineering that goes into the design takes many resources and time, making it very expensive and energy-consuming. They are also stationary; if the weather gets really rough, there is nothing you can do other than hope they can hold it out without breaking apart.

A Suspension Dock Hanging Above The Water Surface
A brown dock at a foggy lake

Wood Docks

Wood docks are mostly found in residential areas as they are much easier to build, and it is a project you can handle on your own if you have the time and the resources. What makes them cheap to set up is the availability of the materials; dock blocks prices are low and you can get any type of wood from local hardware and get down to work within hours. 

However, wood boat docks come with a lot of disadvantages. For starters, they are vulnerable to insect damage and rot. Wood does not do very well in areas that have termites; those little bugs can eat through any untreated wood within months, affecting the integrity of the whole structure. There is also the issue of constant repairs and upkeep. Water weakens good very fast, which forces you to either keep replacing them every year or having to spend extra to paint and seal them against erosion and rot by water and insects.

They may be cheap to set up, but in the long run, they end up being an expense as time progresses.

Aluminum Docks

Building a boat dock out of aluminum supports and decking is without doubt, the most economical option out there. They may have a high initial cost,owing to the fact that aluminum is not cheap and also the fact that they are premade in the factory, but when you consider the little repairs and upkeep you will have to do, it is much cheaper.

Aluminum docks are a more durable type of watercraft docks as they are impervious to rot, and they do not rust when they come into contact with salt water. However, they are susceptible to corrosion over time. They get encrusted with calcium, and when exposed to the elements for long, they lose that shine and become dull. The only things you have to be on the lookout are the bends and the cracks that form due to handling heavy boats every day.

Aluminum Pin
Source: Pixabay
Floating Plastic Dock
Source: Pixabay

Plastic Docks

As far as convenience and affordability go, plastic docks are where your attention should focus on. Also called PWC docks, not only are they durable, but they are buoyant on their own; you will not have to set up intricate support structures to make a boat float. All you need to do is anchor them to the shore, and you can place anything on top. They are premade in the factory, and since they are plastic, a widely available commodity, they are much cheaper. They are also very durable as they are not prone to rust, rot, or being chewed out by termites and other bugs.

There is also very little maintenance involved, no need for painting or reinforcing with another material. The only drawback is that they are not very stable. Being that light and buoyant, PWC boat lifts move way too much, and this can pose a damage risk to heavy vessels that are docked on them. 

Signs that Your Dock Needs Replacements

Boat lifts and docks will sustain damage no matter how sturdy they are. There is no escaping this fact. It is now up to you to be sharp when inspecting your dock for any signs of damage because a lot depends on it. A damaged dock is hard for both human life and property, not to mention the environment too. The following are some of the signs that your dock is in bad shape and needs intervention.

The Foundation is Damaged

The foundation is what supports the whole structure up, and once its integrity is compromised, the whole dock platform can come tumbling down into the water at the slightest of nudges. If you see any signs of cracking or bending in the foundation, it is time to do a total overhaul, or if the damage is limited to one or two pillars, you can simply replace them with new ones. For a better assessment, get the services of a qualified professional who will be able to tell the exact extent of the damage.

A Damaged Dock
Source: Pinterest
rusted metal
Source: Pinterest

Rust and Corrosion

Water is a very corrosive agent, especially where salt water is involved. You may choose to use metal structures for support as they are more stable and last longer. Unfortunately, most metal types are prone to rust and corrosionThe ideal metal type to use is aluminum, but that has also been found to fall prey to calcification, which leads to corrosion. If you notice any signs of corrosion or rust on metal dock parts, it would be best to nip that in the bud as early as possible. Replace it before the whole structure is brought down.

Wood Rot

Wood is the main material used in making wood docks and some pilling docks. However, wood does not hold very well inside water. With time, water eats away the surface and soaks the wood deeply, leading to accelerated rotting. Wet wood rot  makes the foundation weak and could lead to the whole boat dock platform collapsing if the situation is not rectified. The best way to deal with rot is to coat the wood in waterproof paint that will hold out for a while before water starts to seep through.

An image of wood rotting
Source: Pixabay
A Wooden Deck
Source: Pinterest

Loose Decking

The deck is a vital part of watercraft lifts; it is the surface upon which the vessels are docked and where people walk across the water. Most are usually made out of wood or aluminum. Due to the heavy load that they support when water vessels are docked, they can become loose after a while. Inspect the decking once every week when they are free of boats and jet skis to check for any loose boards. A damaged deck can cause serious injury if your leg goes through. Hammer any loose board, back down, or get newer replacements immediately.

Warps, Bends, and Dislodges

In the case of a metal dock installation, warps are a common sight due to the powerful force the docks endure from the waves. Over time they may start to warp and bend in the opposite direction of the waves. This could be a potential source of injury since bends and warps affect the stability of the surface. In the case of wooden decking, the water may cause weak joints to be dislodged. If you notice any plank of wood sticking out on a decking that should otherwise be flat, hammer it back down and reinforce it with another layer on top to ensure the same does not repeat again.

Bent Metal
Source: Pixabay
Eroded Sand Bed
Source: Pixabay

Sand Bed Erosion

Sometimes the problem may not lie with the boat dock construction itself but with the sandbed. Crib docks and Piling docks suffer this the most as they have their foundations deeply embedded in the sand bed. Water being erosive may gradually sweep away layers and layers of sand, and with time, the piles become exposed, and they lose the anchorage they had in the ground. The only solution to this problem would be to shift the entire structure, including the boat dock ramp, to another shallower part of the water. You could also consider switching from a crib dock to a floating one.


The average lifespan of a dock is about 25 years, which is impressive when you consider the amount of water force they have to endure day and night. Once a dock becomes too old, there is little you can do to salvage it, and a replacement will be required. Be on the lookout for aging signs of dock parts like dulled out metal surfaces, calcification, growth of mold and slime on wooden foundations, and the general appearance of splitters and bends. To be on the safe side, do a complete overhaul of the whole dock from the bottom up.

An Old Abandoned Platform
Source: Pixabay
Splintered Floor
Source: Pinterest

Creaking Sounds

The only sound that should emanate from your boat docks is the sound of waves splashing. The moment you start hearing creaking sounds or the sound of the decking graining even with a light load like a person using the floating walkway, then that’s a sign that the whole structure has become weak. Creaking sounds are a symptom of a weak foundation that is slowly losing its balance and footing. If left unchecked, you may wake up one morning and find the whole dock washed away.

Replace the foundation and apply a new decking if the creaking and groaning intensify.

A Wobbly Dock

When a dock becomes too wobbly to even allow a stable walk on the deck, it would be time to check on the connectors. Sometimes the screws connecting the different joints of a dock may come loose and even fall off, making the structure sway every time a load is applied on it. Check every joint thoroughly and replace anything that may be lost. Floating docks are the ones most susceptible to this issue since they are pre-made and depend on a lot of connections to link up the different segments into one.

Homemade Floating Platform
Source: Pinterest
An Old Worn Out Rope
Source: Pixabay

Faulty Auxiliary Structures

Boat dock accessories like cables, ropes, and rollers that make the loading and unloading of boat docks easier also need a lot of attention. If you notice a rope or cable coming undone due to overuse and overloading, then you would be doing yourself a favor by replacing it before it turns the dock into an accident scene. The last thing you would wish for is a cable to snap when you are loading up your boat. Oil the squeaking rollers regularly to reduce friction so they could last much longer.

Dangers of a Worn-Out Dock

Dock damage should never be taken lightly as it could lead to serious injury or death. The moment you notice any damage setting into various dock parts, do not waste any time in repairing it. Failure to address the weaknesses in your dock my result to the following disasters


Auxiliary structures like cables and ropes should always be checked on regularly as they are holding a lot of weight in place. If they were to snap while operations are ongoing, they could inflict serious injuries to people due to the force that gets released. They could also lead to the whole dock platform collapsing suddenly, and if you happen to be standing on it, you could drown or, worse, break something in your body.

Source: Pixabay
Damaged Boat
Source: Pixabay

Damage to Boats

Docks for boats provide anchorage to water vessels like boats and jet skis. The dangers of leaving your boat in the open are many, it could drift away with the tide, or if the waves are strong, it could be smashed against the shoreline, damaging it. The same could happen if your dock is damaged. Loose boards and sharp metal bends can rip your boat open if they come into contact with each other, and this will expose you to more expenses.

Electrical Hazards

A compromised drive on dock may get submerged in the water, along with all its electrical wiring. This may pose a serious risk for anyone who comes into contact with that water. You could be electrocuted the moment your feet touch the water, causing grievous injury and even death. Get in touch with a good electrician to help you set a safe electrical wiring system.

Naked Electrical Wires
Source: Pixabay

What to Consider When Replacing a Dock

When setting out to address the damaged areas of your drive on boat dock, there are factors that you have to keep in mind. The following is a buying guide  to help you along.

plastic floating bridge

The Cost

Pay heed to your budget. As much as getting your dock back into top shape is a priority, do not blow a hole through your savings just for that. You can look around for the best floating dock manufacturer, online and local, to get the ones that have the cheapest but quality products. However, do not settle for inferior products just so you can save money.

The Availability of Materials

Work with what is available. You do not have to replace the damaged boat lift parts with the exact replicas. It is okay to try out new options. For example, if your wood decking has been getting damaged too often, then you may consider switching to aluminum for a change if it is readily available in your local area. Be flexible with the repairs.

The Season

You have to consider the oncoming season as you plan your dock repairs. Since boat docks remain unused during winter, use the autumn season to do the repairs so that by the time spring comes around, you will be ready to be operational again. Avoid doing major repairs before the hurricane season if you live in those hotspots since you never know the amount of damage that may be in store.

The Effect on the Environment

Consider the environment around you when you repair your dock. Whatever you do, make sure your lake docks do not disrupt marine life in the water below you. Do not use harmful chemicals and try your best to minimize water pollution to the best of your abilities.


Always conduct an inspection of your dock every time you get some free time to avoid surprises later on. Make it a habit to bring on a qualified dock builder once or twice a year to do a thorough inspection as they may be able to catch something that may have escaped your attention.

A quality drive  on dock is a handy addition to your property, one that makes life more convenient if you live next to a large water body. Hisea Dock floating docks and systems are made keeping your needs in mind. Our plastic docks are easy to install, use, and store. We can also customize the docks to your exact needs. Get in touch with us today. to know more.

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