Imagine spending summer months at the lakeside cottage, unplugged from the demands of your hectic work life: outdoor picnics, fishing with the kids, splashing around, boating and watching the sunset. Is there a more perfect place to do all these things than on a dock?
Adding a dock to your waterfront lot adds value to your property and provides a gathering place for friends and family both in the water and on land.
However, the background knowledge you need to buy a dock can make your shopping experience stressful. There are plenty of considerations you must take before making a purchase. Here are four tips to help you choose the right dock for your waterfront property.
1. Type of Shoreline
Before you begin shopping for a dock, you should have an idea of your shoreline landscape. Take a look at the area where you want to build your dock. Ideally, the location should be whatever part of the property has the most significant access to water.
Consider the following:
- What does the slope look like? Is it gradual or steep?
- Is there a lot of vegetation?
- Is the area rocky, or is it a clean, sandy space?
You’ll also want to look at how calm or active the current is and whether the water is shallow or deep. If you can, look to the lake’s bottom and check to see how silty the ground is. Remember that frequent storms, waves, and increasing water levels can cause sediment erosion, which can ultimately determine the type of dock you must buy.
2. Rules and Regulations
Similar to home renovations and upgrades, there are several rules and regulations you need to be made aware of before installing a dock. Contact your local government or state’s Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to find out what your options are.
Because some docks may impact the surrounding environment, there may be certain restrictions you need to follow to protect the shoreline and marine life.
It’s critical to do your research, make the necessary calls and obtain the required permits before purchasing and installing a dock. If you fail to do so, you may be required to pay a costly fine and remove the structure.
3. Type of Dock
The third step to choosing the right dock is determining its primary use. Do you plan to fish off of it? Should it be big enough to entertain a group of people or eat meals together?
Do you plan to buy your first boat, or do you already own one? If so, your dock should extend longer than your boat to make getting in and out of it more accessible. Likewise, considering whether you require a boat slip or boat dock for more effortless docking should also be a part of the decision-making process.
Once you know the specifications of your shoreline and the purpose your dock will serve, you should have a better understanding of whether you want a floating or standing dock.
Floating docks are usually made from non-wood materials and are ideal for shorelines with uneven depths. If you’re dealing with a muddy underwater surface, a floating dock is an appropriate choice due to it not needing support legs that reach the bottom.
Although generally inexpensive and easy to install, a floating dock may be best suited for boating or serving as a launchpad for swimmers. However, because it is not structurally supported, you tend to be at the mercy of waves. This can be a challenge if you plan to add seating or entertain. If that’s the case, you may prefer to install a standing dock instead.
If your shoreline allows it, a standing dock uses support legs made of pipe or metal to remain at a constant height above the water.
While they may be a more costly option than a floating dock, particularly when it comes to the required maintenance, fixed docks tend to be more stable, longer-lasting and can be adjusted as the water table necessitates.
If you intend to purchase a standing dock, you will likely need to hire a professional to install it. In addition to guiding you on the different types of standing docks that best meet your needs, their expertise will ensure that it is safe enough to hold one or more people at a time.
There are several materials available to build your dock. Some options include metal, aluminum and steel, each with its own pros and cons regarding rust prevention, conducting heat, and ability to withstand heavy storms.
Polyethylene may be another option for its heat resistance and stability on moving water.
Of course, wood docks are a cost-effective choice and environmentally friendly. According to the U.S. Forest Service, the best wood materials for floating structures are redwood, cypress or cedar. These three wood species are naturally rot-resistant and have a long life. However, you will probably want to stain and seal your dock to maintain its appearance occasionally.
Follow These Tips to Choose the Right Dock
Adding a dock to your waterfront property can significantly enhance your quiet time by the lake or with family and friends. Take the stress out of shopping by following these four tips and speaking with a professional to further help you make the right choice.