Waterfront dock with lifeguard float.

Dock Construction Guide

Who wouldn’t love a dock be it small, large or a complex one with design innovations? A dock brings you closer to nature and life around you and sets your house apart in design and style. Today we will consider what it takes to build a dock and what steps you have to keep in mind when constructing your dock.

Having a dock is one way to enjoy life and getting yours done locally is a great idea as these local providers will be there for you along the way! Check our Business Directory for great dock builders near you.

Looking for a dock builder or dock repairs near you? Find contractors near you at our Business Directory.

Types of docks

Before we get into the nitty-gritty of dock building and maintenance, what types exist out there? Are there options you should try? Let’s find out:

Floating Docks:

This type of dock is anchored to your shoreline, and it is supported by floating units also called pontoons. This type of dock is the most popular and versatile with dock lovers. This is due to the easiness to buy the materials, install it, configure it, and in a nutshell, get it constructed. The floating dock comes in handy due to the flexible nature that allows you to remove and reconstruct it. However, the floating dock has its draw backs. One of this is the lack of stability which is a crucial feature of it. A lot of people got uncomfortable and scared at the idea of walking on a floating dock because its movement is dependent on the waves and footstep. This isn’t the definition of stability though it is not tipsy.


A floating dock has advancements made for areas where the surrounding water level is unstable. As the name implies, these docks are built on a floating watertight surface on which the wooden platform is built. The dock needs to be installed with an anchor to keep its direction if a storm hits. The floating dock is a low-cost option and requires little maintenance. The floating dock also has several advantages as it is effortless to repair and can be taken out of the water if significant maintenance and repairs are needed.

Crib Docks

Crib Docks are docks that have a wooden (Typically wood) structure referred to as the ‘crib’ which is responsible for providing the support that holds the dock to the bottom of the lake. Ideally, for the most dock stability, you should make the width and length of the crib at least as large as its height.

Crib for a dock ready to be placed on the bottom of the lake.
Crib for a dock ready to be placed on the bottom of the lake.

They are the most permanent and expensive kind of docks to construct. The method of construction of a pier primarily fits cribs that are similar to crates. The creation of cribs requires using mostly treated timbers that are placed with repeated spacing in the lake and filled with rocks. These cribs serve as a permanent anchor for the dock upper structure and walkways. Crib docks provide the most integrity and strength.

A crib dock can be installed where sturdy structures are needed. This is built by the laying of a human-made foundation which stretches out into the area where the dock ends in the water. The wooden structure is then formed on top of the foundation giving a solid structure which needs a little amount of maintenance and repairs over time.

Post Docks

Another type of dock is the post dock which uses leg support assemblies placed about 10-feet along the pier to support it. The feet of the leg support sits directly on the lake bottom which makes the dock semi-permanent. The post dock is very popular, and they provide a sense of stability floating docks do not have. They are fairly easy to remove and install as this takes a couple of hours using the correct machinery, like piling machines.

The installation of a piling dock is the most traditional of the boat docks you could have installed in your perfect spot. This dock has a sturdy structure as it is still made with the same material used in dock installation for ages. These docks are built with wooden beams dug into the shoreline and wooden planks to support the structure. Several considerations must be made in the event you choose a piling dock installation. You must consider government regulations on the type of materials that can be used in the installation of docks in that area and the depth of the lake to avoid damage of the dock. Keep in mind that the climate of the area is important as a wooden dock could be susceptible to damage or be easily worn out if the walkway comes in contact with too much water.

Pipe Docks

The first step to establishing a pipe dock is choosing the perfect area. You have to make sure the area is a shallow as pipe docks don’t work anywhere else. Pipe docks are suitable for areas where there is a low incidence of over-flow into the land areas. Next, you will collect the necessary documentation for your desired area. Pipe docks are built to support lesser weight than the traditional wooden docks but work just fine. There are many boat dock installation companies that can handle this job with your satisfaction in mind.

The pipes are usually metal pipes and the decks on which they stand on can be floating structures allowing it to move up and down as the tide surges.

Northern Docks has a video on YoUTube showing how to install a pipe dock.

Let’s get to the construction of Docks. To build or construct a dock, you need to know your materials, understand local weather and have a design and layout of how your dock should be. Let us consider each of these.

Materials and Construction

Most DIY docks are constructed based on plans that have been purchased. These kinds of docks are built the old fashioned way and need materials like treated wood, galvanized screws, nuts and bolts. Some other materials like aluminium and plastic kits for decking material are mostly offered by suppliers today. Using the right materials provide durability, strength and weather resistance which is very necessary for a long-lasting dock. Woods require more maintenance which means time, unlike aluminium and plastic docks. The removal of a wooden pier is a near impossible task except with the aid of structures like a wheel system. Other hardware like screws and bots can be galvanized. When building with wood, these come in a lot handy.

Design and Layout

Three types of design layout exist for docks. These are T-Dock, L-Dock, U-Dock and Y-Dock. Dock designs are dependent on the configuration of Lake Bottom as well as local restrictions and regulations. When planning to build a new dock or expand an existing one, it is essential to know what is applicable is your locality. When designing, take into account, the shoreline and the kind of boats that will be available on your dock. You need to take into account the wind direction as well. L or T shaped extensions protect buffeting winds, and they add stability to your dock.

  • Weather Worries: when building your dock, it is essential to consider the weather or climate over that region. For example, if you plan to make your dock in freezing climates, it is necessary that you have a plan to keep your dock alive with the ice. You may choose to bubble or go with removal of your dock; this depends on how your dock is constructed and with what materials.
Fort Lauderdale waterfront on the Intracoastal.
Fort Lauderdale waterfront on the Intracoastal.

When you are planning to build a dock that meets your style and taste, there are a ton of resources to help you get going or to even restart creation of your already existing dock. When constructing your dock, here are some things you need to consider:

  • Be honest about your budget: on a regular basis, docks take a couple of thousands of dollars to construct and may go even higher when one is trying to get a complex construction done. It is better to know what you are against and get prepared for it. Even if you decide to design your dock yourself, you may consider the fact that more time and resources will be spent in getting your dock in shape as against hiring a professional to handle the job. So, consider your budget and go for what it can hold.
  • Consider your design and Lake Bottom
  • Understand the climate of your location


Looking for a dock contractor near you?

Max Francisco

16 thoughts on “Dock Construction Guide”

  1. Ah, man, I didn’t even know there was a difference between a floating dock, crib dock, and post dock. My parents live on the water and were thinking of putting a dock out. I might have them reach out to an engineering company to see if they can’t get help.

  2. It’s interesting that post docks take only a couple hours to put in, especially because the leg support is about ten feet long. I just bought a house very close to the lake and I want to have a dock to park my boat. I’m glad I read this so I understand a bit more how they work.

  3. I do like the explanation that post docks have leg support assemblies to support it. My uncle bought a lakefront house, and he wants to get a dock in his property. Post docks sound great, but it will be best if he hires professional and see what they recommend him.

  4. I love that you said that removing and reconstructing floating docks is much easier than the other types of docks. We just bought a lake house and we want to have a nice dock to sit on. My husband will be happy to know that floating docks are easy because he hates building.

  5. It’s helpful to know that there are local restrictions on what is allowed to be built in different areas. My wife and I just bought a vacation home by a lake, so we want to build a dock there so we can go boating. Finding out what we’re allowed to build here would help us make a good decision.

  6. Thanks for mentioning that floating docks are great for areas of wavering levels of water. My uncle recently bought a bought and is looking for ways to maintain it. He plans on looking into getting a boat lift to keep any fungus from growing onto his boat.

  7. I’ve been planning to have a dock constructed in my patio, so our guests will have a better view. I guess you’re right; when having a dock built, it is important to consider the weather and climate over my region. Also, I agree with you that the budget must also be considered because more time and resources will be needed for this construction.

  8. Thanks for the tip that pipe docks need a shallow area where they can be built. I’m considering to buy a waterfront property soon and that would be a good opportunity to take up boating as a hobby. Having the right dock supplies would surely be half the battle in order to make that happen.

  9. It was really helpful when you said to find screws, nuts, and bolts to build with. My husband is wanting to build a boating dock for our home in a couple of weeks, and he wants to make sure that he can choose the right materials for it. I’ll make sure to pass these tips along to him so that he can look into finding marine nuts and bolts to use for our boat dock.

  10. We built a floating dock with barrels, 2 years ago and LOVE it! As per this article you do need end weight at each end just to stabilize it in the water, that’s as simple as buckets with rocks tied to eye bolts at the ends of the dock. For more stability you can add brackets that metal poles can go through to each end of the dock. As for cost we built it for around $760 it’s a 6’wide by 16′ long. It took my husband 2 nights after work. This is a great article to show you all your choices of docks, as we consider a crib dock to place an extended walkway to our floating dock for this up coming season.

  11. Thank you for the advice that it’s crucial to take the local climate into account when constructing your pier. I’ll be sure to share this with my cousin so he may keep it in mind when he builds one, since he wanted one because he intends to invest in boats. I’ll also see if any dock builders can assist him with this.

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