Best Dock for a Cottage: Types and Materials
Cottage owners have several types of docks to choose from when building a new dock or choosing the best dock to buy for a new install at the lake.
Dock types are typically categorized as permanent (fixed) docks or floating docks.
In situations where water levels don’t change, winter ice isn’t an issue, and the lake depth is shallow, a permanent dock might work. The structure is fixed to the bottom of the lake and remains in place all year.
A drilled-pipe dock is common in situations where bedrock exists to support the dock. Holes are drilled into the rock and the steel pipes are inserted, forming the base on which the steel dock frame is built.
The winter tends to be the best time to install the dock as the drilling can be done through the ice.
When the conditions are not suitable for pipes, the best option for the permanent dock is to use cribs. These are boxes made with strong timber and filled with rocks. The frame is then built above the cribs.
Most cottages have floating docks that attach to a permanent crib installed above the high-water point. A floating dock provides good flexibility. Sections can be added easily and the dock is usually disconnected and placed in a bay to spend the winter. Boards on the dock ramp can be removed and set aside until the spring.
Types of floating docks vary widely and the best dock to install depends on the shoreline conditions, the way you use the dock, and your budget.
A wood dock is often the cheapest option, although rising lumber prices are closing the gap. The frame is made of wood. Billets (floats) are attached.
A wood dock is a good choice in situations where the dock isn’t subjected to strong winds or high waves. The downside is that a wood dock will eventually wear out from heavy use and the exposure to the elements. Maintenance is required to keep it in good shape and boards might need to be repaired or replaced.
Steel Truss Dock
Docks that need to endure large waves, strong currents, or high winds might require a steel frame. The steel-truss dock tends to be more expensive, but the dock can withstand a challenging environment and should last longer than a wood dock. Decking material varies, including treated wood, aluminum, composite, and PVC. This would probably be the best dock to install when your cottage is on a lake with very rough water conditions.
Aluminum docks are similar to steel-truss docks, except the frame is made from a different metal. These are lighter and tend to be less expensive.
Note: It’s worthwhile to consider adding plates on the bottom of the billets on the wood dock or steel-truss dock to protect them in situations where the billets might rub against the rocks during times of low water levels.
Deck material for a dock platform can be wood, composite, metal, or plastic. The decision on which material is best depends on cost, use, and how you want the dock to look.
Low-maintenance plastic docks are also popular. The sections can be combined into various formations with ports for PWCs or kayaks. The material lasts longer than a standard wood dock and there is more flexibility in the dock design. This is a good option for situations where docking needs might change in the next few years.
Take a look at the docks installed at neighbouring cottages to see which type of dock is best suited for your property.
On a new dock installation, it is important to consider water levels when designing the length of the dock ramp. A longer dock ramp will reduce the incline when the lake level drops to its seasonal low points.
In some cases, a type of combination dock system might work best. Commonly called a lift-up dock, the dock has legs that sit on the bottom of the lake during the summer, but the entire kit is raised out of the water using a winch to protect it during the winter months. This is a good dock for lakes that freeze, or in situations where ice flows might damage the dock in the spring if it is left in the water during the winter.
The frame of a lift-up dock is typically made using aluminum and the deck boards are removed and stored for the winter months
This option has a lower impact on the environment and is becoming more popular for new dock installs.
Dock Accessories and Hardware
Cleats, bumpers, storage boxes, solar lights, and swimming ladders are common accessories, hardware, and kits for a dock. Some people also install a fish-cleaning station.