Building a Dock: Why You Need to Think Twice Before Doing It Yourself

Building a Dock: Why You Need to Think Twice Before Doing It Yourself

Given that there are 17 million boats registered around the country, there is clearly no shortage of families who love to spend time on the water.

If you have land near a waterway, you might be inspired to build a dock. While building a dock might be an exciting prospect, if you don't know what you're doing you could be putting together a dangerous structure.

Here are four things to think about before you build your own dock.

1. Following Codes Is Complicated

If you're planning on building a dock on your own, you need to think twice about that. Building a dock might seem like a smart way to get access to nearby water and provide something for your boat to anchor to, however, there's a lot of engineering that goes into a dock.

Because of this, states regulate dock construction with codes and commissions. There are different rules in every region, but by and large, they aim to keep people, boats, nearby animal life safe. By creating a waterway on land, you're going to need to have a permit or otherwise, you're subjecting your dock to being dismantled.

In many states, this is especially serious because of protected water life, sanctuaries, and reserves. You'll need to put together a site plan before the state will even speak to you. After that, you'll need documentation to get consent for a dock.

If the state owns any portion of the water you're dealing with, regardless of their protective status, they have the right to get involved.

Not all docks will require a permit, but in some states, you should get a letter of consent from the state's department of environmental protection. This will ensure that they're aware of the dock and they don't see it as bringing any potential harm. Even if you're only repairing a damaged dock, you'll need to get some kind authorization before proceeding.

Hiring a contractor will put things on their shoulders, keeping you from being responsible for the learning curve of state regulations.

2. Sites Need to Be Prepared

No waterway works on it own. Every waterway connects to another one and so any changes made to one need to take into consideration the life in another. Even if you live in a fairly quiet cove, there is still life, water flow, and a relationship to other waterways.

Making a change to your waterway will cause drainage to change at other places in the waterway. If you interrupt the flow, you could be changing the ecosystem. Disturbing the bottom surface of the water could cause damage that you might not see for many seasons.

If you don't prepare your site properly, you could create a buildup of debris or silt. When it's clogged with branches or trash, aquatic life in your region could be changed for a long time. If your dock isn't finished properly and graded, you could end up with shoreline erosion that causes property to change drastically.

When you hire a contractor, you'll get someone who knows all about how to prepare a site. You won't be responsible for changes to the region and can rest blame squarely on their shoulders. Thankfully there shouldn't be any problems, because they'll work to ensure there are soil-anchoring and drainage systems in place.

Boats will be able to launch without fail and without problems due to having a well-prepared site.

3. Launch Areas Are Complicated

When you're thinking about your ideal dock, you might only have a vague idea of what you want. You may be seeing people hanging out in the evening. It might not be for water access at all.

If you're going to use your dock for something other than boating, you need your platform to hold up the weight of everyone on it. For having dinner, laying out on the sun, or jumping off to go swimming, you need your dock to be sturdy and the stairs need to be anchored.

For a dock that's intended to launch kayaks and small vessels, your dock should be close to the surface of the water to ease getting in and out of watercraft. If the purpose of your dock is more social, it should be much higher to keep everything from getting wet.

Large boats will put a lot of pressure on your dock. With lots of pushing and pulling from the moorings and ropes, it could be torn apart if it's not well built.

Make a list for your contractor to work from and you'll be sure to end up with a safe and sturdy dock.

4. What Do You Know About Storms?

While you might be able to rattle off some simple concepts about staying out of the water when there's a storm, dock construction needs to be built around storms. The way your dock is constructed will tell you how well prepared it is for a storm. If you have intense winds and high storm surges, you could be dealing with a lot of pressure on your dock.

If you also have boats tethered to it, you're going to need to be prepared for the damage that could be caused.

Your dock needs to be wind-proof to ensure that it won't flip over or move too much in the water.

Ideally, it should be able to rise and drop softly if the water changes often. If you're in a man-made lake, this might be a different issue. If you don't know how to build a storm-proof dock, you need to hire a professional to help build a dock that will last.

Building A Dock Isn't Simple

If you're considering building a floating dock on your own, it could take a lot of trial and error to get it done right. Building a dock isn't a simple structure but a small feat of engineering. If you want to do it on your own, at least hire a professional to help guide you.

If you're wondering whether or not this dock will add to your property value, check out our latest guide.

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