What You Need to Know to Build a Custom Dock
Updated: May 5
Is the dock located on the lake or on the ocean? Is the location sheltered or exposed? Will it use lake dock hardware or heavy-duty ocean hardware? These are all important factors that will help determine how heavy the dock will need to be built, and may also play a role in what materials will be used for things like decking later on in the process.
Wood, steel, and aluminum are the most commonly used options for dock building. This is typically personal preference based on the service required and the desired aesthetic, but can also be narrowed down by using materials appropriate for a particular location as well. For example, wood may be a good choice depending on the location and usage, but some areas do not allow the use of pressure treated wood.
See our post "Building Your Dock: Wood or Aluminum" for more pros and cons on these materials.
All hardware should be hot dipped galvanized or stainless steel, fasteners included. This goes for a dock of any material type and in any location! Steel hardware is simply the most secure option for keeping a dock secure through adverse weather conditions and preventing rusting over time.
Always select the best quality flotation that your budget allows for to ensure long life. Roto-molded plastic shells with EPS foam fill, built to US Army Corps. of Engineers specs, are widely considered to be the best product for the money. Flotation sizes will need to be determined by the overall weight of the entire package and the freeboard height required.
Dock design also involves some important considerations. The frame must be strong enough to handle the maximum wave conditions for your location, the expected human load, and any other weight loads that are anticipated (i.e. chairs or other outdoor furniture, ladders, or other add-ons).
The overall size and freeboard load bearing capacity will all need to be determined as well. If you are replacing an existing dock that was well designed and provided good service, this design and the float used can be copied. If you are replacing a poorly designed and serviced dock, or if you don't have any experience or frame of reference for designing a brand new dock, we recommend contacting a professional for help with this step. At BARR Plastics Inc. we can provide detailed product information to guide you in choosing the best quality components to build your dock but we do not provide custom dock frame designs. It is up to every client to determine what will work for them or BARR Plastics Inc. can refer you to a qualified contractor or dock design engineer that can either design a dock for you or review your dock design.
There is a wide range of quality dock accessories available to outfit your finished dock. Add pile hoops, pile caps, rub rail, dock cleats, ladders, dock bumpers, and more to complete your dock project. Find all the gear you need at BARR Plastics. Check out our dock accessories here.
Contact us today for information and advice on getting started with your dock project! Our in-house experts are available for everything from accessories to a brand-new build. Visit our website to browse products, photos, literature, and more.