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Tips for Choosing the Right Docking Material

Updated: Nov 28, 2023

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When building a new dock, choosing the right material will be an important decision. The dock’s material will determine its overall durability, longevity, maintenance requirements, and aesthetic appeal of your dock.

There are several options available, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.

Let’s go over 5 important tips for choosing the right docking material:

1. Cost

When building a dock, one of the most important factors to consider is overall cost.

Wood will be one of the most affordable options. Meanwhile, concrete and steel will typically be more expensive. Lastly, while aluminum and plastic are also relatively affordable, they may not be as durable as some of the other materials.

Along with materials, you should consider whether it's a seasonal/temporary, such as a floating dock, or a permanent dock that you'll need on your property, since that will affect cost too. Example of floating and permanent docks include: piling docks, crib docks, suspension docks, wood docks, aluminum docks, and plastic docks.

If you’re on a tighter budget, when weighing cost with durability, you should consider a compromise. Talk with your local dock builders for an estimate of your dock construction project.

2. Durability

Another very important factor to consider for your dock is durability.

Do you live in an area that experiences inclement weather? Or do you plan to use your dock frequently?

These are important questions to ask. The more you use your dock or the harsher water currents and bad weather, the stronger your dock should be.

For example, wood docks, while a popular option due to their natural look and overall low cost, will require frequent maintenance. Consider that wood docks are susceptible to rotting, insect damage, or warping.

Plastic, similarly may not be as durable. However, concrete, steel, and aluminum are overall more durable and require less maintenance.

3. Maintenance

Maintaining your dock can include frequent sealing and painting (wood docks), pressure washing (concrete), or cleaning and rust removal (steel and aluminum docks).

From water and sun exposure, to buildup of algae and rust, there are plenty of reasons why you’ll need to perform upkeep on your dock. Overall, steel, aluminum, and plastic docks may require less maintenance.

4. Aesthetics

The appearance of your dock is also an important consideration, especially if you want to enhance the overall look of your property.

Wood is a popular option for its natural look, but it may not be as durable or low-maintenance as some of the other materials.

Concrete can be painted or stained to match your property's color scheme, but it may not have the same natural appeal as wood. Steel and aluminum have a sleek and modern appearance, but they may not fit in with a more traditional setting.

Plastic docks are available in a range of colors and styles, but they may not have the same natural look as wood or concrete.

5. Environmental Impact

Lastly, consider the environmental impact of your dock.

For example, concrete and steel may require a lot of energy to produce and transport, while plastic may not be biodegradable. Consider the environmental impact of each material and choose one that is sustainable and eco-friendly.

The Best Docking Materials

Now that we’ve gone over choosing the right docking material for your project, here is a list of some of the top best docking materials to use for your project, along with their benefits:

1. Cedar Docks

When it comes to cost-effective and time-tested options, cedar wood docks are one of the best choices for your dock. One reason many like cedar wood is because it’s both affordable and traditional for making boating docks. It also provides excellent value for money and also a significantly lower cost than other materials.

While cedar docks will need maintenance, (which may not be necessary for other docking materials), their classic look is unmatched. Cedar docks will complement a cabin or lake home, making it worth the investment and maintenance if this look is your preference! Here is a guide to choosing the best dock for your cabin.

2. Treated Wood Docks

Another docking material we recommend is treated wood.

While regular treated wood is suitable for freshwater docks (able to sustain at least .60 pcf), a more sturdy and heavier variety of treated wood (able to sustain at least 2.5 pcf) is required for saltwater docks due to water salinity and wave pressure.

3. Aluminum Docking

Aluminum docking is favored by builders because of its lightweight, low maintenance, and durability. This material is strong enough to withstand the elements, yet easy to build thanks to it being lightweight. Its strength allows for more unconventional designs.

One thing to keep in mind with aluminum is that it’s more expensive than other options. However, overall, it is widely regarded as the best docking type due to its low maintenance, and no warping, decaying, or twisting. You may clean the aluminum docking as it needs, but otherwise it is basically maintenance-free.

4. Plastic Docking

Lastly, plastic docking is one of the newest options in the industry for docking materials. It has a few benefits over some other alternatives, namely that it’s lighter and shinier than other materials, and requires no sanding, staining, or refreshing (when compared with wood types).

If you don’t mind the non-traditional look of a plastic dock, it’s ease of maintenance, longevity, and one-time investment will make this material type perfect for your needs.

Why Choose Radtke for Your Dock Building Project?

In conclusion, we recommend that you take the time to research each option and choose one that meets your specific needs and fits within your budget. For further reading, take a look at our guide to different dock types.

A professional dock builder, such as Radtke Contractors, can help you choose the right material and design a dock that meets your needs and enhances the overall look of your property. We are based in Winneconne, WI, but we serve clients in Oshkosh and beyond. If you have questions about your dock building project, please don't hesitate to reach out to Radtke Contactors today!

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