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7 Things to Consider Before Building a Dock

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

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Whether you are the new proud owner of a residential property on the lakeshore, or you are a commercial property owner, there are several things you’ll need to keep in mind prior to building your dock.

Building a dock is an exciting project, however, it requires careful planning to ensure safe and functional operation. In addition, you’ll need to ensure that your new dock is compliant with regulations.

Here’s some things to keep in mind for your dock:

1. Purpose

Before even beginning any work planning for your dock, first, make sure you know what the purpose of your dock is, since that will influence the details of the design and construction process.

Consider the long-term investment of a dock. Not only will it add value to your home or business’s property, but it will also require maintenance, so take time to plan out the purpose so you get the dream custom dock build you’re looking for!

For example, are you building a dock for:

  • Fishing?

  • Swimming?

  • Sunbathing?

  • Boating?

Will you need a large platform to entertain friends and family on the water, or do you prefer a smaller dock for personal use?

We always recommend that you ask yourself these questions and think about the activities you plan to do on the dock before you reach out to a dock contractor.

2. Location of the Dock

Now let's talk about the location of your dock.

For best results, there are a few aspects to keep in mind as you plan out your dock’s location:

  • Know where your property lines are so that you have a good idea of how much or little space you have and that you don’t accidentally spill over into your neighbor’s space.

  • You should choose a site that is both appropriate for your needs and that meets legal requirements.

  • To go along with this, you should check with local authorities to make sure that there aren’t any restrictions for building a dock, or if there are any required permits for the project.

  • During this stage of determining the location of the dock, you should also take into consideration the depth of the water, the type of soil or bottom, and the type of water current or wave activity in the area.

  • Lastly, consider accessibility to the dock and any other amenities you might want to add, such as a boat lift or a swim platform.

Questions? The dock builders at Radtke Contractors can assist you if you have any questions about location of your dock.

3. Budget

Be sure that you know your budget prior to starting your dock building project!

We recommend talking with your dock building team about how much you are willing/able to spend on the project. Having a budget up front will help you know what you can afford and what you can’t.

At Radtke Contractors, we know that the cost of a dock or pier construction project can rise fairly quickly, especially as details are added to make your dream dock a reality. Talk with our team today with questions!

4. Material

When choosing your dock’s material, you should consider several factors, including:

  • Overall cost of the material,

  • Durability and longevity,

  • How often you’ll have to maintain it,

  • Aesthetics and what best complements your property.

There are several options of material available. These include wood, concrete, steel, aluminum, and plastic. While a wood dock is a popular choice for its natural aesthetic, it requires regular maintenance to ensure that you can safely use it for many years into the future.

By contrast, concrete is durable, but expensive. Likewise, steel and aluminum are strong and require minimal maintenance, but can also be costly. Lastly, plastic is affordable and is low in maintenance, however, keep in mind that it may not be as durable as other materials.

Be sure to discuss dock materials with your Radtke dock builder if you have any questions. Our team can help you make the best choice, taking cost, durability, aesthetic, and maintenance into consideration for your custom dock project!

5. Size and Configuration

The size and configuration of your custom dock will depend on the purpose and the location.

For example:

  • Consider the number of boats or people that will use the dock at the same time and the space required for each activity.

  • Assess the water depth, the slope of the shore, and any environmental factors such as tides or currents.

  • Determine if you need a seasonal/temporary dock, such as a floating dock, or a permanent configuration.

When in doubt about the particular size or configuration that you'll need, no problem! A professional dock builder can help you design a dock that meets your needs.

6. Safety

Remember that safety is a top priority when building a dock. Here are some notes to ensure your dock’s configuration is safe to use:

  • The dock should be stable and secure, with a non-slip surface to prevent slips and falls.

  • It should also have proper lighting for night use and clear signage to indicate any hazards or restrictions.

  • Lastly, consider adding safety features such as railings, ladders, and life rings, especially if you and your friends or family plan to use the dock for swimming or boating.

7. Maintenance

As your dock ages over time, you will have to maintain it so that it continues to be safe to use and function properly.

The type of material you end up choosing for your dock will directly impact the amount of maintenance you’ll have to perform on your dock.

  • Wood: As we mentioned already, a wooden dock is going to require more maintenance than other, stronger dock types. Wooden materials will need to be sealed and painted regularly, or even repaired if damaged during inclement weather.

  • Concrete: A concrete dock won’t usually need repair, however, it may need to be pressure-washed to remove algae and barnacles.

  • Steel/Aluminum: With regard to steel and aluminum docks, you may require occasional cleaning and rust removal.

  • Plastic: Lastly, plastic docks are relatively low in maintenance, however, they may still need to be repaired or replaced if damaged.


In conclusion, by taking the time to design and build a safe and functional dock, homeowners and commercial property owners alike can enjoy years of water-based activities and create memories with family and friends. Whether you choose a piling, crib, suspension, or wood dock, Radtke has you covered!

If you have questions for the Radtke team, please do not hesitate to reach out to us! We have years of industry experience providing marine excavation services. We can give you tips on dock planning, what materials to use, how to maintain, and other tips. Contact us to get a quote on your custom dock project today!

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