Design & DIY

Modular docks: one piece at a time

When the old all-wood dock dies, consider replacing it with a more flexible solution. The two common types of modular kit docks, floating and pipe, solve a big closing-up challenge: making sure the dock is safe for winter. If you’ve ever cajoled all your peeps into helping you drag a gargantuan wood floater ashore, a knock-down design that one or two people can handle is very appealing. As your boat-parking requirements change, it’s easy to rearrange or expand a modular system—heck, you could even create a new dock every year.

How much will it cost?

For 100 sq. ft. of dock modules, roughly how much and how heavy?

• Jetfloat: $2,000; 550 lbs
• VersaDock: $3,780; 500 lbs
• Connect-A-Dock: $3,865; 760 lbs
• EZ Dock: $3,000; 570 lbs
• R&J Machine: $2,500; 230 lbs
• Interco Fabrications: $1,625; 400 lbs
• Dockmaster: $2,400; 240 lbs
• Naylor Systems: $2,500; 270 lbs
• DockinaBox: $2,465; 160 lbs
• Tier-1 Products: $2,000; 315 lbs


I want a modular dock. What type should I choose?


Jetfloat’s floating polyethylene cubes, each the size of a laundry basket, hook together with interlocking corner pins. Image courtesy of Jetfloat

Is it what I need?
On lakes with fluctuating water levels, a floating dock maintains a constant distance from water to dock surface (freeboard). The lower the freeboard, the easier it is to launch canoes, kayaks, and sculls, but the more likely it is that a wave will splash over your feet.

What are the options?
There’s a trade-off: Small Lego-like modules in systems such as Jetfloat and VersaDock are light enough that one person can install and remove them, but they also undulate more when waves roll in, making dinner parties on the dock a challenge. Choose systems with larger modules (Connect-A-Dock and
EZ Dock, for example) and you get more stability, but more weight; you’ll probably need help with set-up and takedown. Optional ramp modules let you beach your PWC
or small boat on the dock surface, a boon because a dry hull is a cleaner hull.

Pipe Dock

DockinaBox uses splayed legs, which give narrow or deep-water docks extra stability. Image courtesy of Dockinabox.

Is it what I need?
If you want a narrow finger dock (which may wobble as a modular floater), a pipe dock’s legs keep it stable. And with a rigid dock surface, your glass of Zinfandel won’t tumble when the kids jump off. But if lake levels drop, you’ll have to climb out of your boat. Is tradition important? Pipe docks with wood decking look more familiar than most modular floating docks.


What are the options?
Most systems use aluminum frames, which are strong and light, if a little awkward for one person to handle. It’s the decking that can get heavy; make sure it’s easy to remove. Some systems, such as those from R&J Machine, Interco Fabrications, Dockmaster, and Naylor Systems, offer multiple decking options (and you can often save cash by building your own deck panels). DockinaBox keeps the decking decision Model-T simple: No-maintenance, slide-in plastic panels come in whatever colour you want, as long as it’s grey or beige.

Don’t forget…

All of the docks come with extras (cleats, bumpers, etc.), so be sure to factor them into the cost. And buy about 10 per cent more connecting hardware than your design calls for. Those metal bits are apt to slip through frigid fingers, leaving you one nut or bolt shy of playing with a full dock.