Keep ice away from your boat dock this winter with these tips

Keep ice away from your boat dock this winter with these tips

Accessible and attractive boat docks are one of the most important features of a waterfront home. Keeping them in ship shape is critical to making sure they continue to not only be usable, but remain an amenity that contributes to the value of the home and property.

For owners of docks in the upper Midwest and other northern states, winter can sometimes pose a problem when trying to keep their structures in good condition until they can be used again come spring.

Some dock owners are able to remove their structures during the winter months. However, others may have docks that are too large that they become impractical for removal. This is especially true for commercial businesses, including marinas, and other permanent structures that are not built to be removable from the water in the first place.

While the best way to keep winter elements from harming your boat dock may indeed be to remove it, that’s just not possible in some cases. In other cases, you may not necessarily need to remove the dock entirely, but there’s still one element of winter that can cause considerable damage if steps aren’t taken to keep it away from the structure.

Ice. It’s a significant problem, and one that every dock owner needs to take seriously. We have gathered some of the best tips for taking care of and preventing ice buildup around your boat dock if removing it from the water is not an option.

Ice can damage any dock

A little ice here and there won’t hurt, most likely, but too much for too long built up around your dock – whether it is wooden or aluminum – can create serious problems. Ice damage can cause anything from minor damages that can build up over time to structural issues due to significant impact.

Now, if you own a boat dock on a lake or other body of water that freezes solid for a length of time, then it’s advisable to remove your dock if at all possible. However, if your boat dock is a permanent structure or your waterfront property is on a body of water, such as a river, that has a current strong enough to prevent ice buildup from sticking around too long at any given time, then it may not be necessary to remove.

Even still, these pointers will help to keep ice from damaging your boat dock, devaluing the investment in your property that is that structure and potentially lowering the value of the entire property altogether.

Install deicers to break up and keep ice from forming

If you have a dock that remains in the water come winter, then you need to know about two types of equipment that you can install as defenders against encroaching ice – circulators and bobbers. Both can be effective in de-icing areas around boat docks.


Circulators are devices that come with floats and operate using a motor and propeller. These devices push warmer water from deeper underneath the boat dock and send it to the surface. Once it reaches the surface, this water helps push away ice and keep new ice from forming around the structure. Plus, with the floats, these circulators can be spaced out to keep a warmer perimeter around the dock.


Then there are bubblers. Before installing a bubbler as a de-icer, make sure to check with any local governing body because these devices are now always allowed on certain bodies of water.

This is because some municipalities do not want people using the ice for recreation to not be aware that some ice near bubblers and docks is suddenly not thick enough to maintain their weight. It’s a sensible limitation, but do check to see if bubblers are allowed as they are effective in keeping ice at bay.

Use deicers properly

It’s worth noting that there are several other considerations any dock owner needs to keep in mind when they are using a deicer to keep ice away from their structure. Many are related to safety and environmental concerns.

For example, deicers need to be controlled because:

  • Areas of thin ice too far from docks are dangerous to ice fishermen, skaters, snowmobiles and people participating in other recreation activities.
  • Open water areas too big can actually create more issues come ice out.
  • Altering a lake’s temperature by limiting ice and light can create more algae and negatively affect fish.

In all of the cases above, it’s safe to say that you do not want to be that person. Respect your neighbors and local regulations. In many cases, they have the lake, reservoir or river’s best interests in mind.

Remove accessories from your dock

Even if you are not able to remove your boat dock from the water completely during the winter, you still should remove any accessories that can be detached from the dock itself. This includes any ladders, benches, boat bumpers and anything else that could be moved around or damaged if ice does build up around the dock.

When you do remove accessories, be sure to find a dry storage place that is out of the elements. This will help them stay clean and away from moisture. As many accessories are made of either metal or wood, moisture can lead to mold, mildew or, over time, rust buildup.

This way, you are able to install your accessories again the following season without the need to repair or replace because of rough winter weather conditions.

Contact VW Docks for more information

VW Docks is a leader in sectional and floating docks here in Iowa, but also in Minnesota and Wisconsin. We have designed and installed docks of all styles on many different bodies of water – all in cold weather locales.

We know how to build docks that can withstand the harsh winters, and we know when not to tempt mother nature. If you are interested in learning more about a new dock installation, then contact us anytime or request a quote.

Let’s build your dream dock together!

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