The Benefits of Floating Docks
No lake house, no matter how beautiful, is complete without a dock. Docks allow us to experience nature more fully, providing us with a place to tie up our boats, board our jet skis, dive into the water or simply lounge in the afternoon sun. They also add tremendous value to our lakefront properties, making an eye-catching addition to any real estate listing. Contrary to popular belief, however, this added value does not have to come at a steep price. In fact, there is an extremely simple alternative to traditional dock construction which has the potential to save you big money and countless headaches: the floating dock.
How Does a Floating Dock Work?
Traditional docks are supported by a frame of fixed piles, embedded deep into the ground. This frame is in constant tension against the forces of gravity and the movement of the water, causing even the most well-built structure to wear down significantly over time. Floating docks solve this problem by ingeniously resting the deck on a series of air or foam filled flotation devices, harnessing their natural buoyancy to support the structure. Although floating docks are sometimes stabilized against winds and waves by underwater cables or non-load bearing pipes (as seen in the image below), they are otherwise free to move with the waterline.
Caption: Floating docks are often braced against horizontal forces, such as winds and waves, via hoop brackets around non-load bearing pipes.
This flotation system drastically reduces the costs, labor and materials required to build your dock. A fixed dock, in comparison, requires a skilled contractor to ensure that it is structurally sound as well having access to the specialized equipment to drive the piles into the ground. Since fixed docks are a permanent structure, they must go through a more rigorous permitting process before they can be built, making them an expensive and time-consuming proposition. The construction of a fixed dock is also affected by a variety of external factors such as soil conditions, water depth and equipment availability, often causing their costs to exceed $40 per square foot.
Floating docks, on the other hand, are significantly more affordable and can often be built for as little as $20 per square foot. They require much less expertise to be put together and no special tools. To speed along the process even further, prefab floating dock kits, which snap together in a matter of minutes, can be purchased from several major traditional and online retailers. This is why many homeowners choose to build their own floating docks as a fun DIY project for the summer, it’s so simple that even the kids can help out.
Caption: Floating docks are supported from below by either air-filled barrels or foam-filled drums.
Maintenance and Winterization
When deciding what type of dock to build, it is not enough to consider the construction process, you must also take into account the costs associated with maintaining and repairing your dock in the years to come. Here, again, floating docks are the best choice for your budget. Since they move with the waterline, very little of their structure is exposed to the elements at any given time, greatly increasing their longevity. The portions of the frame that are exposed are available in both rot-resistant wood and in metal that has been treated with an anti-rust coating. As for the decking, many owners opt take the money they saved on construction costs and use it to purchase synthetic wood decking, which offers the same beauty as natural wood without the recurrent staining, painting and sealing.
In addition to needing less regular upkeep, floating docks make winterization a breeze. Their plastic flotation devices are more resilient to ice damage than traditional piles, and can often be left in the water all year. Floating docks can also be effortlessly removed in the winter, or in the event of a major storm, and reinstalled the following season. In contrast, fixed docks require annual winterization, usually with the help of bubblers or underwater fans, known as aerators, which prevent ice dams from forming around their piles. This equipment increases the owner’s operating expenses, maintenance and liability.
Caption: Fixed docks do not move with the waterline, making them more susceptible to flooding.
Safety and Sustainability
Speaking of liability, let’s talk about dock safety. If you have young children that are learning how to swim, a dog that loves to jump in the water, or you are simply getting to a point in life when climbing in and out of the lake is becoming more difficult, then you should seriously consider purchasing a floating dock. Since they move with the waterline, they will always be in the perfect position to grab ahold of when someone falls in or tires of swimming. Many floating dock kits also come with rubber or PVC edge guards which protect hands from splinters and watercraft from scratches.
Not only are floating docks safer for you and your children, they are safer for the environment. As mentioned earlier, they are constructed without driving piles into the ground, meaning that they can be built without destroying natural habitats, damaging lake bed vegetation or increasing sedimentation (a leading cause of man-made erosion). These impermanent structures are the perfect way to enjoy the lake without negatively impacting its delicate ecosystem.
Caption: This floating dock has been modified to include drive-on jet ski parking, ensuring that the jet skis are always at the perfect height.
Floating docks may have a minimal impact on the world below the surface but that does not mean that they can’t have a big impact on the world above it. The final benefit of floating docks is that they offer the ultimate in design flexibility and customization. They can accommodate a much wider variety of accessories than fixed docks, including boat lifts, jet ski ramps, operable swim platforms and PWC lifts. And, because the dock floats, you never have to worry about your gear being submerged. The same goes for any furnishing you may add, such as lounge chairs and storage benches.
Many floating docks for sale are based on modular systems that enable them to be reconfigured and expanded to suit new watercrafts or changing lifestyles. In fact, these systems allow the dock to be easily disassembled and transported to different locations, meaning that you can even move to a new lake house without leaving your favorite dock behind.
There are many dock options out there, each offering their own benefits and drawbacks, but if you are looking for a smart, safe and stylish solution for your lake house than look no further than the floating dock. It offers the best price, the simplest installation and the least upkeep, allowing you to relax and enjoy the full potential of your lakefront property.