How to keep ice from damaging your boat dock this winter

How to keep ice from damaging your boat dock this winter

Ice on lakes and rivers is Public Enemy No. 1 for boat docks in winter. It can cause damage to docks that remain in the water during boating's off-season and delay recreation until repairs are made.

For homeowners or commercial businesses with docks, it's normally very strongly recommended that those docks be removed during winter when ice begins to form. This is the best way to make sure docks aren't damaged by ice, which can happen frequently in parts of the country that see their lakes or rivers freeze over regularly.

How ice can damage boat docks

The fact that water freezes and ice forms is not what dock owners need to worry about. Ice movement is what ends up damaging boat docks.

This movement occurs when water freezes and expands into ice, then contracts when it melts. That expanding and contracting creates a pushing and pulling effect, sending ice one way and then the other. Wind can also play a role, pushing loose or lingering chunks of ice across the water and into shorelines - or docks that have been left in the water.

Ice damage takes a toll

Boat docks left in the water during winter may not last as long as expected if they take a beating from ice. Even if the damage to the dock isn't severe, anything above normal wear and tear could mean you will need to invest in a new dock much sooner than you would like.

Let's say your boat dock has a life expectancy of 20 years or so, for example. If that dock sees too many harsh winters, then you may be lucky to last more than a quarter of that lifespan before it needs to be replaced.

Take this into consideration before you decide to leave your dock in the water.

Remove boat docks before winter sets in

First of all, it's highly recommended that, if possible, you remove boat docks and lifts if you live in an area that sees its bodies of water ice over in the winter. If you live in Northwest Iowa or anywhere else in the Midwest, then this advice applies to your property.

The general rule of thumb for when to remove boat docks is sometime in autumn before the cold really begins to set in. Docks can be returned to the water when the ice is out, which occurs sometime in the spring depending on how harsh of a winter the region has experienced.

Now, this takes some advance planning because removing and reinstalling docks is not always the simplest of tasks. Some dock designs have made this task easier, such as docks that can be rolled in and out or taken apart and put back together piece by piece.

However, there are ways to try and fend off the chunks of ice that break off or are pushed by wind toward the shore - and your dock.

Install equipment to protect your dock

If removal is not an option, or you're willing to chance it, then there are steps to take to winterize your boat dock and help it better withstand ice and other winter weather elements.

Many dock owners take advantage of equipment that can be installed that will help keep the ice at bay.


An example of this is a circulator and a float. A circulator operates using a motor and propeller to push water beneath the dock and then to the surface. The circulators can be attached to floats, which help stretch out the propelled water and help prevent ice from forming around the dock.


Another option is a bubbler system. Bubblers use an air compressor and tubing that has been placed on the bottom around the dock. The air compressor sends air down through the tubes, which have small holes spread throughout them. Bubbles form through those holes, rise to the surface and create water movement that discourages ice formation. If multiple units are used and are properly spread out, bubblers can prevent ice in a rather large area, too.

Winterize docks

Whether you have decided to remove or keep it in the water, winterizing docks is key. Winterization of boat docks come with several steps.

First, you will want to remove all accessories (chairs, ladders, benches, etc.) and then find a secure place to store them until spring rolls around. Don't store dock accessories anywhere that is exposed to moisture or extreme cold temperatures.

Next, check for ways you can better waterproof your dock. Again, you should be doing this in autumn before temperatures have reached freezing or below freezing.

Just splash some water on the dock, or pull out a hose and spray it down. However you get the water there, it'll show you if there are areas that aren't repelling water anymore. You'll be able to tell by looking at what the water does on your dock. If needed, re-seal your dock before winter storms start to come in.

Taking some time to check how your dock is withstanding water can really pay off in the long run, whether or not it stays in the water over the winter months.

Keep an eye on the weather

One last tip: No matter what you use to try to fend off ice, just remember to keep close tabs on the weather forecast for your area.

If you're lucky, then you will get sunny days that help your bubblers or circulators keep up with the ice. On the other hand, a string of frigid days under cloudy skies can really give the ice the upper hand.

Learn more about protecting your dock

VW Docks leads the industry in high-quality, affordable docking systems. Our docks are known for their stability, functionality, ease of installation, and beautiful appearance. We enjoy taking on the challenge of helping customers design their ideal boat docks.

If you are interested in learning more about docks, how to protect them and more, then visit our blog. You can also request a quote today and we can begin working on your dream dock.

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