How to Build a Floating Dock

What complements a summertime home in the Okanagan better than a dock?

There are a thousand ways to set up your yard and home to accommodate guests and family excursions, though few make quite the same “splash” as a dock edging out into the waters of Okanagan Lake

But as the Winter sets in, snowflakes fall, and the cheer of the holiday season fills the air, who would be thinking of building a floating dock?

Well, depending on your current license/lease, you may need to apply for a Crown Land Tenure. That’s an application that takes approximately 140 to process once accepted by the Integrated Land Management Bureau (ILMB). If those last two sentences have provoked a headache, then consider getting in touch with us to plan your permitting.

So, although Summer seems a distant vision not yet even on the horizon, if a dock is on your wishlist then it’s in your interest to get your paperwork filed!

How to build a floating dock with polystyrene

Building a deck may seem easy at first, but only an expert can create one that stands the test of time

Floating docks are relatively simple in theory, but inexperienced builders may find that they quickly grow quite complex as things get under way.

Creating a basic floating dock involved constructing a deck that will stand atop some form of floatation material. Commonly, floatation billets are used to lend the deck buoyancy on the water. These can be stashed inside tank casings (barrels) or tucked underneath deck panels.

So, first thing’s first, how do we make the deck?

floating dock on lake in summer

Making a deck for a floating dock with billets

Here at Shoreline, we make use of either select grade wood (we use Douglas Fir) or concrete to build a deck for floating docks.

Wood may be decked with natural wood, composite, MoistureShield or ThruFlow panels – no matter which you choose, it’s going to look great. On the other hand, concrete is highly durable, stable, and professional in appearance when compared to wood platforms, though it may be cost-prohibitive.

Private decks for a residence can be crafted from either material – we can offer you a quote to get you started.

If you choose to use wood, the planks will need to be drilled together. First, a frame must be built to contain the floatation devices (in our case, polystyrene filled tank casings). Second, the top deck planks can be drilled into the frame.

Extra caution should be paid to the corners of the deck since they tend to wear away and erode most quickly. Steel plating can be applied to reduce the damage caused by water erosion.

Now that the deck is put together, we just need to secure the floatation to the deck and add the (several) finishing touches.

Securing floatation to the deck

This can be done in several different ways. Depending on the type of floatation devices being employed, they can be roped in, chained, or fully sealed in by the actual frame of the deck.

Considering weather’s effects on your dock

Whichever method is employed, special care must be paid to the ability of the dock to sustain extreme weather events. Further, care should be paid to how the dock will handle freezing waters – it’s not uncommon to see docks crushed by forming ice pushing it against the shore, causing pressure to build until it breaks.

Floating docks may be removed from the waters in Winter to prevent ice from causing catastrophic damage. Otherwise, it may be possible to park the dock against the shore where the prevailing winds and ice won’t cause harm.

Anchoring or pile driving a dock

The most critical part of installing a dock is securing it to the ground. Floating docks enjoy the flexibility of being anchored by piles and/or traditional anchors.

Piles are pipes that are driven into the ground at the bottom of a body of water. They are the most secure method for installing a floating dock since they offer a permanent solution that the dock can be attached to.

Having a pile driven dock offers these benefits:

  • Permanent (steel piles are effective for 60+ years)

  • Suspended above water level, preventing damage caused by wind and waves

  • Low maintenance

  • High stability and durability

  • Exceptionally safe

  • Able to be built anywhere (whereas docks kept afloat by polystyrene may only work in areas sheltered by wind and waves)

Conversely, anchors are non-permanent objects that hold the dock to the bottom of a body of water, however they may be less stable due to the flexible material that leashes the anchor to the dock.

Using piles on a floating dock may seem to defeat the point, however they offer superior stability and can be added to existing structures by a professional team.

Planning to build a floating dock

The first step towards having your dock ready for Summer is getting your permits in order. Once you’ve done that, you are ready to start exploring your options.

While you may feel capable of tackling this one on your own, the long-term viability of a self-made dock is… precarious!

Ensure your dock is secure and ready for whatever weather comes its way – get in touch with us anytime to learn more about building a floating dock at your residence.

 

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