Prepare your boat dock for winter the right way

Prepare your boat dock for winter the right way

Summer has been a blast. The early morning fishing, afternoon joy rides in the boat and evenings spent outside have probably created new memories for you and the whole family.

But fall is here and winter, like it or not, will be here too - maybe sooner than you would prefer. In areas where lakes freeze over, that means it is time to think about how to prepare your boat dock for winter.

The first question some will ask themselves is whether they should bother to remove the boat dock before the water starts to freeze over. This is an important question and we will unpack the answer in a bit. There are also other dock winterization steps to consider.

So, let’s dive in.

Should boat docks always be removed in winter?

Whether or not a boat dock needs to be removed is a very common question among dock owners. The answer always depends on location.

Boat docks located in warmer climates, where lakes never freeze over, do not have to be removed for winter. Climates that have temperatures dipping below freezing are a different story. When in doubt, it is always a safer bet to remove a dock for winter if the lake it is on is known to freeze.

However, whether moving a dock out of the water is a possibility also depends on the construction type. A permanent, stationary dock can’t be moved. It’s just not feasible. But floating docks should almost always be removed or stored in a sheltered location. Pipe docks and their sections should be either removed or lifted up out of the water during winter.

Have a plan for ice

If your boat dock is located on a lake that freezes over and normally remains frozen for much of winter, then it is necessary to take proper precautions to prevent damages that can quickly add up to considerable repair bills. Property owners who decide not to take their docks out of the water, or at least take some sort of preventative measures, can quickly find themselves faced with regret.

In fact, ice can very easily ruin a dock. Water expands as it cycles through stages of frozen, melting and refreezing. Materials left in the water can be damaged by the pressure changes that are a result of the water expanding.

Ice is always moving, too, even on parts of the lake that may normally look very calm. Loose chunks of floating ice, especially large ones, can also be a very real concern for anyone who chooses to leave their docks in the water. Lake currents can send these chunks careening toward dock materials, inflicting severe damage. An additional problem that some unfortunate dock owners have to deal with is ice pulling their dock away from the shoreline in the winter.

Boat docks left over winter may not last as long

By leaving a boat dock in the lake over winter when water freezing over is a common concern, you are not only at risk of damaging your dock, but also harming its durability over the long term.

For example, say you have a boat dock that’s supposed to last about 20 years. Keep that dock in the water over too many harsh winters and you could be lucky to last a quarter of that time.

Remove and store accessories

Whether you are taking a dock out of the water or leaving it in for the winter months, you will want to remove any accessories that are found on the dock throughout the year. This would include chairs, benches, tables, ladders - anything that does not need to be left out in the elements.

Take these items and find a secure place to store them. An ideal storage area is one where the moisture and cold can’t get to them. Proper storage and care of accessories will save you money down the road that would otherwise be spent on replacements.

Perform some routine maintenance

Removing a dock from the water and winterizing it can be a process, but it will pay off in the spring when you want to get back out on the water and don’t find yourself with a heavily damaged dock.

So, while you are preparing for winter, take the time to do a little annual maintenance. Give your boat dock a close visual inspection. Look for any normal wear and tear that may need to be addressed. Many common routine repairs will be easier if the dock is out of the water anyway.

Consider using a deck cleaner to scrub away and algae and fungus that’s attached itself and grown on the dock. While you’re cleaning, spray the dock down with water and watch how successfully each part repels the water. This can show you where you may need to reseal materials that are more sensitive to water exposure.

Bubblers and de-icers may be an option

Bubblers and de-icers can be useful in defending your boat docks from ice.

These handy machines can work in a variety of ways. De-icers use propellers to pull warmer water from the depths back toward the dock, preventing that area of water from freezing.

Bubblers rely on an air compressor and tubing that lays on the lake bottom around the dock. The air compressor sends air down through the tubes, which have perforations that allow bubbles to form. As the bubbles rise to the surface, ice can have more trouble forming.

However, check with your local municipality or governing body because there are sometimes restrictions and regulations on how bubblers can be used.

Bring in an extra pair of eyes

If you aren’t sure about how to properly care for your dock before winter arrives, then it may be helpful to consult a neighbor. They may have more experience and knowledge of what works for their own boat docks and very likely would be more than happy to share that information with you.

It also may not hurt to bring in a professional who can advise you on the proper steps to winterize your dock. An experienced pro may also be able to help you perform repairs or identify parts that could be replaced over the off-season.

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