Choosing the Right Materials for Dock Building

Many homeowners choose to build docks for launching boats, fishing, swimming, and relaxing on the water. Building a dock requires careful planning, construction, and maintenance to ensure that it lasts for years.

Dock Building

Docks can be built in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials. Handy homeowners may be able to DIY a smaller floating dock, but it’s best to work with experienced professionals for larger projects. Contact Dock Builders Near Me for professional help.

Pine is a common choice for dock building due to its affordability and longevity. It is treated with preservative chemicals to protect it from fungus, termites and other microorganisms that can attack natural wood in damp environments. While many different types of wood can be pressure-treated, southern pine (SYP) is usually preferred, as it has a unique cellular structure that allows for easy preservative penetration. It can also be treated with fire-retardants to help it char quickly when exposed to flame, thus protecting people and property from dangerous toxins.

Generally, SYP is treated with a chemical called chromated copper arsenate, or CCA for short. This is a relatively newer preservative and has lower biodeterioration rates than older preservatives such as pentachlorophenol, or PCP. The treatment process also uses a combination of steam and hot water to expand the pores in the wood, which further helps it absorb the preservative. The treated lumber is then typically rated for use in certain conditions, such as ground-contact, or UC4B for decks and piers. UC4B indicates that the wood is treated to American Wood Protection Association (AWPA) standards and has been kiln-dried, which further improves its durability.

Other types of preservatives can be used for treating lumber, but they tend to have less desirable outcomes for dock building. For example, copper ions can leach into the water, which isn’t ideal for lakes and other bodies of freshwater. While this isn’t a problem for most dock structures, it can be in areas that are periodically flushed with water, such as marinas.

Another drawback of using PT pine is its tendency to warp and twist, which can be a challenge when it comes to decking or stair stringers. This can lead to structural problems in these areas and may require frequent maintenance work, reducing its lifespan. It can be a good choice for joists, beams and other structural components, however, especially if it’s encapsulated behind sheathing or siding. Choosing the right wood for your dock can make all the difference in its longevity and functionality. Hardwoods like cedar offer a blend of strength and aesthetic appeal, while PT pine can be a practical option for dock structures that will see significant exposure to the elements.


Cedar is a popular choice for decking and boat docks, as it offers the visual appeal of natural wood with increased durability. It is resistant to rot, insects, and decay, and can stand up to the Florida sun better than many other materials. However, like other forms of natural wood, it can be expensive, particularly compared to composites.

Western red cedar is a softwood that can be shaped and stained to create a variety of aesthetic options. Its reddish-brown coloring can range from light to dark, and it often contains unique streaks or areas of color. The wood is also pitch- and resin-free, meaning it can be treated with a wide range of stain colors to achieve the desired look.

Unlike other types of wood, cedar does not absorb moisture, which helps protect it from the elements and extend its lifespan. Cedar’s high oil content means that it can naturally repel water and resist rot, mildew, and other unwanted pests. While it may require more regular maintenance than some other materials, this feature makes cedar well worth the extra effort.

As a result, it is also less likely to splinter or crack – which can be a major benefit for dock owners looking for an easy-to-maintain option. The wood also acts as a natural insect repellent, so fewer pests will find a way to make their way into your home or onto your boat dock.

Cedar’s strong resistance to the elements is why native people on the Pacific coast have long used it for their homes, boats, and other structures. In fact, the remains of ancient buildings constructed from cedar are still in great condition today.

In addition to its structural durability, cedar’s natural oils make it a popular choice for outdoor furniture and other structures that spend time exposed to the elements. It has a distinct aroma, which some find pleasing. It is also considered a symbol of purity and protection, and has been used in various spiritual rituals. For example, the Druids and ancient Celts used a type of cedar oil to preserve the heads of enemies that had been captured in battle.

Exotic Hardwoods

Exotic hardwoods are a beautiful and durable alternative to other materials. They can be used to create a rich and luxurious look to your boat dock. The woods are also rot resistant and very long-lasting. However, it’s important to understand that the initial cost of exotic wood is typically higher than other options. It’s also important to know that the woods may need to be shipped from another part of the world. This is important to consider, as it will affect the overall cost of your project.

It is important to work closely with your builder when you choose exotic wood. The woods are generally more difficult to work with than temperate woods like pine and oak. This can increase your builder’s labor costs. Additionally, the woods will need to be treated and sealed frequently.

While working with exotic hardwoods, it is important to be creative in your design. You can use the wood to define your space, create privacy walls or add unique architectural details. Additionally, the wood can be stained or painted to match your personal style.

Some of the most popular exotic hardwoods for decking include cumaru, ipe and garapa. Garapa is a dense and durable tropical hardwood that is easy to maintain. It’s also mold- and fungus-resistant, making it a good choice for docks that are regularly exposed to the elements. Garapa is also fire-resistant and has a light honey color that works well with any type of design.

Ipe is another tropical hardwood that’s extremely strong and durable. Ipe is a very attractive hardwood with deep reddish brown tones. Its natural grain and lustrous finish make it a great choice for decking and other exterior projects. Ipe is also a very long-lasting material that requires little maintenance.

Although ipe is a very durable wood, it’s important to work with a knowledgeable contractor when choosing this species. Ipe has a high price tag and can be vulnerable to damage from chemicals and oils. It’s also important to know that ipe is not as water-resistant as some other exotic woods.

Low-Maintenance Materials

Whether you’re building a private dock for your lakeside home or developing a public marina on your waterfront property, choosing the right materials will determine your lake dock’s longevity and aesthetics. Using durable and stylish materials will help to weather-proof your structure, make it more visually appealing, and reduce upkeep. Choosing the right materials will also impact the cost and environmental impact of your dock, as some materials require more upkeep than others.

When selecting decking materials, consider the location and climate of your lakeside setting. For example, you’ll need to choose a material that can withstand the unique challenges of saltwater environments like algae growth and corrosion.

Wood is a popular choice for docks because it offers a traditional and classic aesthetic. Additionally, wood docks made of pressure-treated pine or cedar can last for years without requiring any major maintenance or repairs. However, it’s important to choose a treated wood that is rated for freshwater use or higher (e.g. 2.5 CCA) if you’re installing your dock in a saltwater environment.

Steel and aluminum are other common options for docks. Both have a sleek appearance and are known for their durability, but they may not match the look of a traditional or natural-looking dock. Additionally, steel and aluminum have a high energy consumption, meaning they may not be as sustainable as other materials like concrete or wood.

Composite materials are another good option for docks because they have the appearance of wood but require less upkeep. Composites are made from a mixture of natural fibers and plastics, which means they’re moisture-resistant and resistant to rot and mildew. Additionally, most quality composites have a resin capping that protects them from marine pests and allows for easy cleaning.

Lastly, you’ll want to consider what type of foundation your lake dock is built on. Pilings, which are the pier-like supports that hold up your dock, need to be made of a strong and long-lasting material. The best pilings for lake docks are engineered and designed specifically for marine contracting, such as vinyl-fiberglass composite marine pilings. These pilings are a great choice for lake docks because they’re durable, resistant to corrosion, and can be molded into unique shapes for custom dock designs.