Hack it: better dock removal and storage
Does it float? You may be able to just leave the thing in the water (towed somewhere sheltered if need be). “It’s very likely that people bring in docks when they don’t actually need to,” says Daniel Jones of CanadaDocks. A dock that is configured as a rectangle withstands the lake’s icy grip the best, says Joshua Cooper, the sales manager and dock designer at On the Water Designs in Kilworthy, Ont. If yours is U-shaped, “take it apart and raft the pieces together like canoes into one solid shape.”
If you’re removing it, does it come in sections? Store each piece in the order that you’ll need to access it come springtime, says Jones. “Put the bottom section where you can get at it easily, because it will be the first section to go out.” If you can, store your dock in a shed or a boathouse. If not, protect the sections with a tarp. If the boards are wood, store them upright, says Cooper. “Moisture can build up under the tarp. But if the boards are stored vertically, then any water has the chance to drip off the face of them.” Even non-wood docks are vulnerable to damage. “The biggest risk is something falling on it,” says Gord Wiltzen, the area manager at Sandale Utility Products in Surrey, B.C. By something, he means part of a tree: “It seems random, but it does happen. You need to make sure you’re not storing a dock under any tree with limbs that are likely to fall.”
Is it heavy as hell? Add wheels. Dock manufacturers sell all kinds of accessories; consider putting a wheel kit at the top of your list. Replacing a standing dock’s foot pads with wheel kits makes dock removal easier because, instead of having to haul up heavy sections piece by piece, you simply roll your dock in and out, “like it’s a cart,” says Jones. The kits by CanadaDocks come with telescopic legs, meaning they can be adjusted to suit varying heights and can be attached to many existing standing dock systems. (You can also outfit floating docks with wheels.) Also crucial with a heavy dock? Having others on hand to help you, says Jones. He’s seen lots of customers make the mistake of thinking they can remove a dock themselves. Bad move: there’s plenty of room for injury. “Get as many people there as possible,” he says. “Make it an event.”
Repair as required
It’s easier to do any fixes or cleaning jobs when your dock is out of the water. And even if it’s staying in the water, fall is the ideal time for that pre-emptive maintenance. Does the dock need new cleats, boards, or bumpers? Are there any loose bolts or screws? In the winter, “things move around,” says Wiltzen. “Accessories come loose and fall off. Then, in the spring, you’re left with replacing these items.”
Repair and replace damaged or rotten dock sections to prevent them from deteriorating further in harsh weather. Use a handheld belt sander to smooth wood that has become rough; use a hose, not a pressure washer, to clean wood decking. To remove oil stains, make a paste of baking soda and water; scrub it in; and rinse off when dry.
The end of season is also the time to get organized for spring—and save money. “If you need to make upgrades, order everything in the fall so that it’s ready for you to pick up in spring, when stores are swamped,” Cooper says. “You’ll also see big discounts in fall from a lot of dock manufacturers. That’s when you’ll see the smoking deals.”