How to winterize your boat dock the right way

How to winterize your boat dock the right way

Preventative maintenance and careful planning ahead is important for every property owner. But people who own boat docks on property along the shores of lakes and other bodies of water need to know how to care for an additional property feature: their boat docks from winter weather.

Protecting boat docks during the winter months is important in regions of the U.S., including the Midwest, where lakes, reservoirs, ponds and rivers often freeze over. It’s not the ice forming that usually harms the docks, but rather the thaw that eventually comes once warmer weather arrives.

Until then, though, dock owners – both residential and commercial – need to know the best ways to winterize their docks.

How ice and winter weather can damage boat docks

Winter weather needs to be watched very closely if you live in an area that can see lakes and other bodies of water freezing over. This is even more important when that ice moves in and stays for a few months in the coldest of climates.

Docks that are not moved run the risk of being damaged as the water freezes into ice. It’s this freezing, melting and refreezing that causes expansion, which can do a number on boat docks left in the water.

Visually inspect the structure for problems

The first step toward proper winterization of any dock structure is to give it a thorough visual inspection.

If you have a boat lift, then be sure to get it out of the water and verify that it’s still holding air. If you see bubbles, then the lift is not going to work properly.

As for the dock itself, look for any loose bolts that need to be tightened or nails that need to be pulled up and secured better. Look at dock cables, too, and check for any that have too much wear. Replace any that are too worn out.

Clean the dock

One of the best times to give your boat dock a good, deep cleaning is when you are pulling it out of the water and storing it in a sheltered area.

Use a deck cleaner to remove any dirt, fungus or algae that may have gathered on the structure over the course of the boating season. If you have a wood dock, then it’s a good idea to spray the wood with water. If the water does not bead, it’s a sign that the water is not being repelled away from the wood. This suggests your dock needs to be re-sealed.

Decide whether to remove the dock from the water

For people in our Midwest region, the question of whether you should remove a boat dock from the water before winter has a very obvious answer. Still, it’s a common question.

If your property is located in a region where winters are mild and the water doesn’t ice over, then you may be able to get away with leaving the dock in the water. There are still ways to winterize the structure, but they aren’t as intensive.

It’s those regions where temperatures go and stay below freezing where boat owners must remove the dock and make sure it’s stored in a way that won’t threaten its structural integrity.

Store removed docks the right way

Docks that have been pulled out of the water need to be stored in a somewhat sheltered area and in a manner that leave them totally exposed to the elements. Stack any dock sections on top of some other material, such as wood, so that the dock itself is not touching the ground. Also, make sure you clearly mark each section so that it’s easy to put back together next season.

If you have any accessories on your dock – whether for your boat or for the dock itself – then make sure to remove those so they do not get damaged over the winter months. Common accessories that you may need to remove include ladders, railings and benches.

Finally, try to find a spot close to shore to store the dock so that you don’t have a long haul back to the water ahead of you in the spring.

What to do with permanent or stationary docks

There are some dock types that can’t be easily moved in and out of the water. These are more permanent and stationary structures, or they are used for storing large boats that can’t easily be removed from the water.

This is more often a scenario for commercial docks, such as marinas. But some residential dock owners may find themselves in similar situations.

Dock bubblers may be one solution

Dock bubblers are one solution for both residential and commercial owners. A dock bubbler pushes warmer water from the depths up to the surface, discouraging ice formation and keeping existing ice at bay.

However, installing a dock bubbler won’t make your structure invincible against ice. Sheets of ice, for example, could still move toward your dock. A strong, sustained wind won’t have any problem pushing ice toward the dock – and the bubblers won’t have a chance.

Bubblers are also less effective when lake levels get too low. Without enough water to move, a bubbler can stop working altogether.

A dock bubbler could be the solution for you, though. Do your research before making a purchase or installing a bubbler. You will want to find one that has enough power to protect your dock the right way and do its job.

Maintain your dock – or plan a new build

Boat dock owners know that they need to regularly maintain their dock, no matter the material or style, in order to keep it in ship shape.

VW Docks has all the parts you need to do this work yourself if you fancy yourself a handyman DIY type.

Plus, if you are ready to dream up a new dock, we are more than ready to help with that, too. VW Docks has experience building sectional, floating, handicapped-accessible and other docks for both residential and commercial customers.

Request a quote or reach out to share your dream design today.

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