A guide to boat dock cushions and why you need them
Nobody wants a beat up boat, but everyone knows little bumps happen here and there.
So, to protect your boat as much as possible, you may want to install boat cushions, also called bumpers, on your dock.
Here’s a guide to help you learn more about the different types of boat cushions that are available for any residential or commercial dock project.
Why you need dock cushions
Look at cushions as a good insurance policy. You hope that you won’t need to rely on them, but chances are, eventually, you’ll be glad you have them.
Boat dock cushions can protect both your dock and boat from sustaining severe damage or even minor damage that accumulates throughout the boating seasons.
Cushions can also help prevent boat aesthetic issues, too, including dock rashes, scratches and sometimes even color changes that can happen following impact with a dock.
Types of dock cushions
There is a lot of variety to choose from when trying to select the best cushion. The type may first depend on where the cushion is going to be placed. While some are better suited to the side of the dock, slightly different cushions may be needed on the front of the dock.
Property owners will also need to think about the shape of their dock and what areas will be accessible to boats.
Side bumpers, for example, will protect your boat and other watercraft from scraping up all along their sides when they rub up against the dock or boat slip. Popular side bumper or cushion materials for the side of a dock include plastic edging and recycled rubber tires.
Plastic edging looks good and it does its job of protecting from scratches well. You’ll usually want something bigger for the front end of the dock, but this material easily gets the job done and is not as bulky as other materials.
Rubber tire bumpers are also a popular option. Normally made from recycled tires, these bumpers are highly durable and inexpensive, though they don’t have the aesthetic appeal as other materials. Boaters should be aware that the rubber tires can sometimes scuff certain boat hulls, especially those made of fiberglass.
Front bumpers can save a boat’s bow from more severe damage. These are more important for inexperienced boaters. This is why it’s highly recommended that a thicker, heavier material be used here.
Good front or back bumpers typically are thicker and bulkier. They may also come with a padded covering to protect boats even more and prevent nasty damage if the boat hits the bumper.
You should be able to find good options for front cushions that are made out of high-quality, vinyl PVC or a closed cell padding.
Corner bumpers are another option that may well be worth looking into. As the name suggests, these are placed on the corners of docks, which if hit by a boat, can really put a dent in a day’s fun via a blow to the boat.
Corner bumpers are typically made from marine grade vinyl, protect from high impacts and are easy to install on most docks using hand tools.
Other bumper types
There are also several types of less common dock bumpers that you may want to research and install on your structure.
These would include piling fenders, which can be wrapped around pilings to protect your boat if you happen to contact one.
Another type you might see around are dock wheels. These have two purposes: keeping your boat away from touching the dock and helping you bring the boat into its slip.
Make sure the material can withstand the elements
No matter what cushion material you end up going with and installing on your dock project, you will want to ensure the material can withstand the elements.
That includes water, but also UV light exposure from the sun. Some types of cushions come with added layers of protection for these elements in mind. Others even have a fungicide to help prevent buildups of mold, mildew and other funguses.
How to install boat dock cushions
The most reliable way to have cushions, or bumpers, installed on your boat dock is to have a professional dealer do the work. These pros build and maintain docks for a living. For many, including the pros who install VW Docks, there is hardly a dock type that they have not come across in their careers.
But, for the handymen and handywomen out there, bumpers are capable of being do-it-yourself projects with a little bit of planning and elbow grease.
You’ll need a wide range of tools for the project, including measuring tape, a cordless or electric drill and more. Take a look at the suggested tools needed in this DIY rundown over at Down at the Dock.
Once you have the tools, determine what type of cushion you want to install. From there, you need to review the dock material to figure out how you will attach the cushions.
After that, you will have to measure the dock for how much bumper material you will need. You’ll likely have to cut the material into individual pieces to fit your length needs.
Then, you’ll predrill holes for screws. Be sure to mark on the dock material where these screws will be inserted. Once that’s done, you are ready to attach the dock bumpers. Stainless steel screws are recommended.
Now, we’ve made this project sound very simple. It’s not the most difficult project, but you’ll want to check out the complete how-to post before setting out.
If this project sounds like a little much, then don’t fret. It’s definitely not a project to skip, as boat dock bumpers add a much-needed level of protection for your dock and boats.
VW Docks can tackle any dock project
Boat cushions aren’t the only thing we know a lot about at VW Docks. We can help lake or riverfront property owners take on any dock project and make their structures truly their own.
We specialize in designing a wide range of residential and commercial docks, including sectional and floating docks of different materials.
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