Design & DIY

How do you install a removable dock?

We want to put in a dock that can be taken out every time we leave the cottage. Any recommendations?
—Warren Peterson, St. Joseph Island, Ont.

Removable docks are generally either floating docks or pipe docks. The right design for you depends on your lake (and how many people you can rope into helping you with the dock at each installation and removal session). Floating docks are usually fairly easy and economical to build, and are good on a lake with fluctuating water levels. Since they’re held up by the water, the freeboard (the distance between the dock and the surface of the water) stays the same. But, depending on the design, floating docks can turn into rollicking amusement park rides every time a neighbour rips by on his PWC. Fun! Or annoying.

On the other hand, pipe docks (supported by long, skinny legs resting on the bottom of the lake) are stationary. Good, because they’re more stable; bad, if the water level fluctuates dramatically. Other nice features about pipe docks? They’re considered the least environmentally disruptive of all dock designs, since only the legs are in the water. Plus, you can put them on wheels for easier removal.

While we’re on the subject of removal: The lighter the dock, the simpler it will be to haul in and out. (The flip side is that the heavier the dock, the more sturdy and stable.) Many manufacturers sell modular dock kits. Some modules are so small and light that it takes only one or two people to install them. Plus, modular docks—both floating and pipe designs—can be rearranged or expanded by adding and removing modules, or changing their configuration. Sure, a modular dock might not have the charm of a classic wooden one. But it probably won’t give you a lower back injury.