A Guide to Choosing the Right Boat Dock Design

A Guide to Choosing the Right Boat Dock Design

And with only much real estate available on current docks, waterfront properties, and marinas, expansion can be a daunting task. Such situations require a well-thought-out dock design and construction.

With thought and proper planning, you can land on a combination of deck and frame that will have you and your loved ones singing, “sitting on the dock of the bay…”

Here are important considerations you must make when choosing dock design.

1. The use case

An essential step in landing on a great residential dock design requires you to answer a fundamental question – what’ll the boat dock predominantly be used for? Your answer will determine your boat dock’s structure, size, materials, and, most importantly, cost. Note that there are many use-case combinations and options such as diving, swimming, boat mooring, and entertaining.

If you will be using your dock for boat mooring, the boat size will play a crucial role in determining the suitable dock design and size. Entertaining and swimming will require a spacious, wide dock.

2. Location

Some site-specific considerations will dictate your boat dock design and preferred material choices. The primary goal here is to set up a boat dock that can perform within the specific constraints of a particular location. Here are essential considerations you should make.

  • Water level change throughout the year
  • Water depth & drop off
  • Wind and water waves impact
  • Shore geology
  • Lake bottom conditions

Each boat dock type is designed to perform according to a specific set of environmental factors. For instance, a floating dock is considered unstable and, therefore, an improper choice in an area subject to strong waves and winds.

3. Your budget

Your project budget is also a key consideration when choosing a boat dock size, design, and construction materials. A boat dock with a significant footprint will, as you would expect, cost more than a small dock. Ongoing maintenance and the cost of necessary repairs are other important considerations. Similarly, a large boat dock will cost more in terms of maintenance than a small dock.

It is recommended to construct your boat dock using high-quality materials that will last under harsh sun conditions, wind, and water. Therefore, get ready to make compromises depending on your budget. Be sure to establish your budget at the outset of your boat dock project, as this will help you keep expenses under control.

4. Don’t ignore the fine print

It’s in your best interests to perform a thorough investigation of the laws & regulations governing boat dock projects in your area. Are boat docks allowed in your locale and water body? Are there specific rules governing these types of structures? Do you need permits before the onset of dock construction?

If you are unsure how to proceed, contact a professional boat dock builder to learn the specific regulations that may prove challenging to navigate. The dock builder can also help you make other important choices regarding construction materials, location, budget, and more.

5. Dock structure types

Now that you have specified your dock use case, chosen location, set budget, and other considerations, it’s time to choose dock structure type. There are two main categories of docks – removable and permanent docks. Each category has various types of docks, all of which have a set of advantages and limitations.

Permanent docks require less labor each spring and fall because you don’t have to remove or replace them as seasons change. However, in areas with harsh winter and ice build-up, permanent dock structures can get damaged or shift. If you intend to construct a permanent dock, you can build either a crib dock or pier dock.

Removable docks, on the other hand, can be removed from water every autumn and replaced during the spring. One advantage of these docks is that they‘re not subject to damage associated with winter weather and ice build-up. Also, you can adjust your dock every season depending on the existing water levels. The removable dock types include tower docks, pole docks, rolling docks, and floating docks.

6. Materials

Once you have specified the dock type you want, it’s time to choose the material type to be used in the construction of your deck and its support structure. For the structure, you have three basic material options – steel, wood, and aluminum.

Steels is a great choice if you need a strong boat dock. However, steel is heavy, and unless you get it treated, it’s likely to rust over time. The advantage of a wooden boat dock is the undeniable aesthetic and ease of construction. But with constant exposure to wind, sun, and water, your dock is likely to degrade and eventually require replacement.

On the other hand, Aluminum is strong, rust-resistant, and lightweight. This makes it potentially a suitable option if your dock must be removed every autumn or replaced in the spring. However, aluminum is expensive, sometimes costing three times as much steel. Consult with a professional boat dock builder to make the right material choices for your dock.


There are many boat dock designs and plans available to waterfront property owners and other investors in need of modern docks. You may also have your dock design ideas. So, before you make a dock and decking choice, seek out a boat dock builder or contractor familiar with the specific features of your water body.

An experienced and reputable dock builder can successfully guide you through your choices, material options, and designs best suited for your preferred boat dock. Remember, climate and location are likely to influence your preferred dock and necessary material type. With proper planning and foresight, you will be sitting on your new or renovated boat dock. VW Docks has been designing, building, and installing boat docks for more than five decades. If you need help with your dock, do not hesitate to contact us.

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