DIY Dock Construction: A Good Choice or Terrible one?

DIY Dock Construction: A Good Choice or Terrible one?

If you own waterfront property, installing a dock is a no-brainer. After all, it’s a better way to enjoy the outdoor environment, the water, and your favorite outdoor activities – all in the comfort and privacy of your backyard. You will have a convenient launching area for your personal watercraft and boats, an ideal swimming spot, the perfect area to work on your tan, and a great gathering point for family and friends.

In our experience, docks range from simple structures that cost a couple of thousand dollars to very complicated systems that cost a lot of money. How you choose to upgrade or construct your dock depends on your experience and how handy you are, the type of the available shoreline, your budget, the lake bed you are faced with.

The versatility of a dock is essential, but durability and safety are the keys to making the most of your precious dock. So, should you hire licensed dock installers or you find a DIY approach to dock construction and installation more appealing?

What’s your handyman status?

When choosing the specific route to take in the design and construction of your dock, it is recommended to take stock of your dock construction skills and experience. Suppose you have a Bob Vila-worthy experience, an amenable shoreline, excellent water depth, and plenty of time. In this case, a “kit” dock is a perfect budget-friendly option. Such DIY dock kits, which assemble at the shoreline and simply drop in place, are becoming common these days.

However, if you cannot get up to camp for two or more days, or you are not one to handle a significant job, it’s best to hire a licensed dock installer to design and install your dock. The initial cost will higher than purchasing materials and constructing the dock on your own, but the benefits of professional dock construction outweigh the costs. Indeed, your dock will be constructed and installed right, which means it can last for decades. Besides, you don’t have to spend several weekends measuring, drilling, and hammering. You can spend that precious time more profitable or fun activities.

Have you checked the lake depth and bed?

You probably have the experience and fortitude to design and construct your dock, but there are limitations that may slow down your DIY project. For instance, the general configuration of a lake’s bottom coupled with the shoreline layout will determine whether you need professional help with dock design, layout, and construction.

The general rule for most lake bottoms: Sandy and flat lake bottoms means you will have some trouble. In case the depth varies by a few feet from the shoreline to the estimated end of the dock, that could be OK because many kit docks (floating) have enough built-in adjustability to accommodate the difference. However, if the lake bottom is rocky and varies widely in depth from the shoreline to the estimated end of the dock, you must hire an experienced and licensed dock installer.

Measuring the right depth accurately will be the most challenging task. Note that many lakes in Iowa are drawn down refilled regularly, depending on the local water needs and season. In case your preferred lake’s water level or depth varies dramatically over time, the dock project is likely to take on an entirely new dimension; you require that you can continually adjust for the changing water depths. That means a floating dock will be your only option or a dock that you can quickly move up the shoreline and out, depending on the prevailing lake depth.

Once you realize that the nature of the lake’s bottom and shoreline configuration doesn’t make DIY dock design easier, talk to the VW Dock guys. They can help figure out the right dock type to install, and this will mean the success of your dock design and installation project.

Get to know the basic dock types, materials, and construction.

Now that you know your handyman status, the nature of the lake bottom, and shoreline configuration, it’s time to consider the type of dock that best suits your waterfront property. One of the common dock types is a floating dock, which is anchored to the shoreline and lake bed and supported by floating units – pontoons. It is the most versatile dock type as it’s to purchase, install, and configure. Another benefit of a floating dock is that it rises and falls with the lake water level, and if the lake freezes during the winter, you’ll find it easy to remove the dock.

Post docks, on the other hand, use leg-support assemblies carefully placed every ten feet along the dock to effectively support it. The leg supports often sit deep on the lake bottom, which means post docks are semi-permanent. These docks are very common as they offer a sense of permanence and stability that floating docks don’t have.

Crib docks must be designed and installed by professionals because they are the most permanent and expensive dock type. The crib section refers to the support structure that holds the entire dock to the lake bed. Every ‘crib’ looks like some kind of crate. The crates are built using large treated timbers, then carefully placed every ten feet on the lake bed and filled with rocks. This provides a permanent anchor for the entire dock structure and walkways.

It is essential to mention that complex regulations in Iowa make DIY design, layout, and construction a really bad idea. Your dock must adhere to the state’s set criteria for standard docks. Besides, it would be best if you got the right permit from the Iowa Department of Natural Resources.

It’s up to you

No matter your choice, a carefully planned dock can offer decades of enjoyment. If you need a professional’s help to design, construct, install, or replace your dock, consult with VW Docks. We have been in this business since 1959 and pride ourselves in providing excellent quality and lasting docks.

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