Design & DIY

These six easy tips will help you do right by your dock


Looking to take your dock to the next level? Here are six suggestions for how to maintain, enhance, and upgrade your favourite lakeside perch.

Check connections

Replace hinges between sections of a floating dock with dock connectors, designed to limit movement (but keep hinges where the dock meets land). DIY tips: turn a pin-and-sleeve hinge 90° to create a makeshift dock connector, or install additional hinges above or below existing ones. —Blair Eveleigh

Get rid of moss and lichen

A wood dock is prime habitat for mosses and lichens. Great for them; bad for you and your dock. Mosses and lichens absorb moisture, making rot more likely. Also—wipeout alert—lichens lead to slippery surfaces. (If you stepped on wet moss, you’d likely just dislodge it.)

Mosses and lichens are hardy—that’s why they’re all over cottage country—and the only earth-friendly way to get them off your dock is elbow grease. Use a scrubbing brush and plain water. Unfortunately, this won’t keep the mosses and lichens from returning, so keep in mind that this is going to be a recurring chore.—Jackie Davis

Install shock absorbers

Rough water is hard on a floating dock, snapping it against its anchor chains. One solution is a shock absorber made from rubber tie-down straps available at hardware and automotive supply stores. Hook one of the strap’s S-hooks onto the chain near the anchor, leave some slack in the chain (roughly equal to the length of the strap stretched to the max), and attach the other S-hook farther up the chain. When the strap is in place, squeeze the S-hooks closed with a hammer or pliers.—David Zimmer

Chain it right

Got a floating dock? Make sure you anchor it properly. Experts recommend steel chain, with links that are at least 2″ long, with a thickness of at least 1⁄4″. You’ll need, at minimum, two anchors for a small dock. The lines should be crossed: the left anchor links to the right corner of the dock; the right anchor links to the left corner. This configuration helps to restrict movement. Thanks to waves, rocks, boat traffic, and floating debris, dock chains take a beating. Inspect yours every season for wear and tear.—J.D.

Prep for launch

Before you put in your dock in the spring, check for rust and rot under peeling stain and paint, where parts meet, or around hardware. Replace or repair as needed. On floating docks, check floats for dents, cracks, or holes. On pipe docks, look for wood degradation where legs meet the frame. Apply grease to threaded metal components to avoid rust.—B.E.

Care for your crib dock

Your old crib dock is showing its age. Decision time: fix it or replace it entirely? The answer depends on the state of the current dock—how much rebuilding does it need? Is the substructure still sound? Do entire joists need replacing?—and any bylaws, environmental regulations, or permit requirements that may restrict what you can do.

First, assess the workload. Replacing a few surface boards is simple. Taking the dock down to the existing cribs and rebuilding, or even removing structural components, is a much bigger job—one fraught with environmental danger. Crib work can seriously disturb the lake bottom, harming fish and other creatures. And once you start, building codes can force you to reduce the size of the dock and change the materials to update it to current standards.

Next, think about your lake conditions. Does the water level vary wildly? This situation is not ideal with a crib dock because it exposes the dock to more rot. (Rot is most likely to occur where the waterline meets the wood. The parts of the dock consistently under water are less susceptible.) In this case, replacing your old dock with a floating version might be the best choice.

Before you do any work, call your municipal building department to check into any government restrictions.—J.D.