How to protect your wood boat dock from the sun
Summer is finally here and for many boat owners and lake cabin residents that means one thing: The clocks are moving over to lake time.
For many families, there will be a lot of memories made on boats and at their lakefront homes. And while winter upkeep has hopefully been handled on both boats and homes, it’s time to protect another piece of property from the summer sun’s strong UV rays.
Yep, we’re referring to boat docks. The sun can do a number on any type of boat dock – from weather-resistant, outdoor-grade PVC to hardy, durable red cedar wood docks.
But it’s those wooden docks that sometimes need the most protection from outdoor elements, such as the sun. Protect them from the sun and they can stand out as beautiful structures in even the most crowded lakes. Fall behind on the upkeep and they can become an unfortunate eye sore.
Let’s go over the details of how the sun affects wood boat docks and how you can prevent or repair sun-damaged wood to keep your boat dock a quality, safe structure for years to come.
Why the sun’s UV rays are so hard on wood
Did you know that the sun and it’s UV rays can do more damage to wooden boat docks than nearly any other weather or natural element – including the water they sit on?
That’s right. When exposed to sunlight repeatedly, day after day, season after season, the wood used for a boat dock’s decking or posts eventually will lose whatever protective coating it had (natural or applied) and begin to allow more moisture to penetrate its surface.
Now, all wood has a natural protective element called lignin. This compound helps maintain the integrity of the wood’s cells and keep everything strong and durable.
Then there are also environmentally friendly finishing and stain coatings that can be applied. No matter the type of protection a dock has, the sun will eventually win by beating down on and cracking these surfaces through to the inner layers.
Either way, this process of the sun causing damage to wood is called photo-oxidation. This is when the process of many different chemical reactions begins and starts to break down compounds in the wood.
What happens when wood goes unprotected
This process can lead to two different outcomes, neither of which are great for boat dock owners: dry rot and wet rot. Both types of wood rot can occur on boat docks.
Both rots are the result of decay caused by fungi and can lead to serious structural damage. In both cases, it’s safest to remove any affected wood from the dock and have it replaced.
Of the two types of wood rot, dry rot is the least desirable, as it can spread easier and destroy much of the wood that it affects. Dry rot will cause deep cracks across the grain in wood with white growths also present. The affected wood can turn brown and will often crumble eventually.
Wet rot, on the other hand, is more common but often less serious if treated. It does not spread to dry areas of the wood. Wet rot can look like a black fungus on the wood, which may also feel soft or spongy when touched. There can also be some discoloration associated with wet rot, and any paint may even be rotting from the inside with no visible discoloration from the outside.
How to protect your wood dock from the sun
There are several methods of helping your wood dock’s appearance and structural integrity stand up to the sun and its harsh UV light. As with many things in life, prevention is key.
First, you should always clean wood surfaces (and all surfaces of your dock) with an environmentally friendly cleaning solution. This helps any finishes or sealants from becoming weakened and the wood underneath that they are protecting from becoming damaged.
Then, you should always reseal boards with a protective, marine-grade sealant. This is something that can be done in the off-season if you start to notice your dock needs more protection.
Additionally, you can look into building a dock using a composite wood that already has a component that will protect it from UV damage.
How to repair sun-damaged wood
Should you notice any damaged or rotting wood decking, posts or other parts of your boat dock, then you need to perform the necessary repairs. In many cases, if rotting is present, then you will also need to replace any affected wood parts.
Be sure to replace any decking that as soon as it starts to show signs of decay. This can be common on older structures. Be mindful of cost and overall structural integrity on these structures, as replacing the entire dock itself may soon become more cost effective than continually repairing and replacing individual portions.
When you are replacing, though, choose marine-grade wood as it will extend the life of your structure and prevent more frequent replacements and repairs.
Finally, if you stain your dock, then know that it will require additional coats from time to time to maintain that specific color. Though the sun will eventually make any type of stain fade, there are some options that are superior to others.
Select a water-based stain, as these are more environmentally friendly compared to oil-based stains. In addition, there are some stains made specifically for marine applications, such as boat docks, that frequently or constantly are in contact with water.
Does your wood boat dock need repaired or replaced?
Any dock maintenance, whether it’s wood decking repairs or a full replacement, can be quite the project. VW Docks has been in the dock business for decades – and we know a thing or two about wood docks.
Our sectional wood docks have been our one of our most popular styles since we began designing and building docks in 1959. Our wood sectional docks are easy to install and remove without ever needing to get in the water.
Plus, we use high-quality and weather-resistant Western Red Cedar wood for added beauty and lifespan.
Request a quote today! Let’s design your dream dock.
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