One of the major benefits of a home on the ocean is the opportunity to have your own private dock. Of course, a private dock comes with maintenance responsibilities. Know the common problems that your dock may face, so you can make an informed decision on whether to repair or replace it as issues surface.

1. Damaged Dock Supports

No dock support material is immune to warping and cracking. Pressure against the supports is what causes support damage. Constant pressure from pounding waves or the wakes of other boats on the water will eventually lead to warping.

In some cases, the platform of the dock can be saved even if the supports are damaged. Damaged supports, on the other hand, will need to be replaced, since weakened supports can pose a danger.

Pro Tip

Although the force of ocean waves and currents cause some support damage, much of the damage to dock supports is the result of trauma from boats bumping into them when you are pulling into the dock or moored in place.

Once repairs or replacement is completed, install dock bumpers on the sides and front of the dock so that your watercraft won’t cause more damage to the supports. The bumpers absorb the shock from a boat hitting the dock so it isn’t transferred into the supports.

2. Platform Damage

Both wooden and metal platforms can degrade over time. Wood platforms typically degrade due to a combination of rot and weathering. Moisture rot is common as the wood absorbs the damp and the wood fibers break down. Dry rot can also occur, especially on the top side of the platform, from the heat of the sun and the drying of ocean breezes. Eventually, the boards become soft or badly cracked.

Metal platforms are prone to rust and corrosion. Even so-called rust-proof metals can develop damage when they are constantly exposed to saltwater. Minor damages such as dents only speeds the process.

Pro Tip

Inspect your dock annually and replace any rotted wooden boards. For rusted metal docks, small areas can be sanded and sealed. These two tasks will prolong the dock’s useful life.

Another option is to install a decking made of damage-resistant composite or vinyl. You can replace wood boards with one of these options as they rot out, or you can simply replace the entire dock at once as soon as rot issues first surface.

3. Weathering

Weathering primarily affects wooden docks. The main causes are exposure to sun and moisture. UV rays can dry out and break down wood fibers, while moisture causes fibers to swell and warp. Weathering mainly affects the parts of the dock that are above water, such as the platform boards, railings and ladders, and exposed support systems.

A weathered dock may develop a rough surface and splinters. This is a problem if you use your dock for activities like swimming and fishing, or if you sit on the dock or walk on it barefoot. Peeling paint can also be a problem, as can shrinking wood that causes attached accessories like mooring hooks to loosen.

Pro Tip

You can prevent most weathering damage by upgrading to a non-wooden dock, such as one made from a composite or vinyl. Otherwise, you can apply a fresh coat of paint or a weather sealant to all exposed wood. The paint or sealant should be applied at least once a year, or whenever moisture stops beading up on the wood and instead soaks in.

If minor weathering has occurred, it can usually be repaired. Simply sand down the weathered wood until it is once again smooth. Then, promptly seal it.

4. Foundation Failure

The foundation of your dock consists of the pilings and how they are installed. Concrete pilings are the least prone to damage, but over time, cracks and crumbling can become an issue. Wood pilings are prone to rot as well as cracking. Erosion can also cause issues that result in leaning or loose pilings.

A common issue with the pilings and foundation is that they are not set deeply enough. Generally, the pilings should be set 5 to 6 feet into the ground, but deeper pilings may be needed on shorelines with heavy erosion problems or ocean waves. In some cases, a concrete base needs to be put in place to further secure the pilings and guard against erosion.

Pro Tip

A floating dock can solve many causes of foundation failure since there is no need for a piling foundation. Floating docks are an especially good choice if it isn’t possible to set the pilings at a sufficient depth, such as on rock or shale shorelines.

Another benefit of a floating dock is that it can be pulled ashore during heavy storms and wave activity, thus protecting the entire structure from damage.

Contact Abbotts’ Construction Services, Inc., for more assistance with dock maintenance and replacement.