Basics of Boat Dock Construction

Dock Building

Unless you have Bob Vila-worthy skills and plenty of time, building your dock is usually best left to professionals. Boat Dock Construction Charleston SC has the experience and tools to ensure the project is done right, with straight cuts, boards that don’t cup, and a sturdy structure that won’t float away. Ideally, you want the bottom of your dock beams to be a few inches above the maximum waterline. This ensures that a standard-size boat can easily be docked.

Dock BuildingChoosing the right design is a key part of creating a boat dock. It is important to consider the type of environment in which the dock will be built, including factors like wind conditions, water levels and soil types. In addition, the amount of traffic the dock will need to support should also be taken into consideration. There are many different types of docks available, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some are more permanent than others, and they are designed based on the types of boats that will be moored to them.

Piling docks are your typical marine dock, and probably what comes to mind when you hear the word “dock.” They use pilings, large wooden beams, to connect the dock to the ground underneath the water. They are the best option for supporting larger boats, as they can rise and fall with changing water levels and weather conditions. However, they require a great deal of maintenance to keep them functioning properly. Often, they are subject to damage from boats, waves and currents.

Fixed docks are a more traditional choice. They are attached to the bottom of a lake, river or ocean and remain at a consistent height. They can be used to moor boats and are a great option for those who want the security of knowing their boat will be safe on the dock all year round. They are often used to store boats, and they can be fitted with a variety of other amenities.

Floating docks use barrels, steel tubes or air chambers to float on fluctuating water levels. They are very popular, and they are easy to set up and remove when the season changes. They are also a great choice for those who are looking for a more environmentally friendly dock.

Crib docks are a more permanent dock design that can be constructed by professional installers. They are made of large treated timbers that look a little like crates. These cribs are placed on the lake bottom at about 10 feet apart, and they are filled with rocks to provide a sturdy base for the rest of the dock. They are typically the most expensive option, but they are a great choice for those who need a durable and sturdy dock that can withstand the elements.

The material a dock is built from is a major consideration. It should be strong enough to hold a boat and other recreational boats when moored, and it should be stable enough to resist movement in windy and wavy conditions. Depending on the use of the dock, it may also need to be waterproof or at least water-resistant. Wood, steel or concrete are all good choices for the dock’s frame and outer posts. For decking, the best choice is cedar because of its rot-resistant properties. Cedar is expensive, though, and may not be practical for some budgets. Other options include pressure-treated pine or spruce (as long as local regulations allow treated wood in lakes), and synthetic plastic dock planking made from a blend of wood fibers and polymers that resists rot and splinters.

The bottom of the dock’s beam and joists must be kept out of the water as much as possible, but it is also important for the dock to be at the right height to accommodate boats and to enable people to enter and exit the water easily. A good balance is to locate the bottom of the beam a few inches above the maximum water level.

It is a good idea to consult a waterfront contractor in the planning and building of a boat dock. He or she will be familiar with the local conditions in the lake, river, pond or ocean where the dock is to be constructed, and can make sure the structure meets all the requirements for safe and useable docking.

A dock must be anchored so it doesn’t spin around in windy or wavy conditions, and the anchors should be made of galvanized metal for corrosion resistance. Whether the anchors are pre-made concrete or poured on site, they should be fastened to the shoreline support posts with thick, galvanized chains, crisscrossing them so that one anchor is adjacent to each of the corners of the dock.

Many dock builders overlook the need to mark for fasteners, but this simple step can save a lot of time and frustration in the long run. It is a lot easier to drive nails and screws consistently straight and evenly spaced when you mark for them with a tape measure and pencil lines than trying to judge them by eye alone.

Some states set size restrictions for docks, so it is important to consult state and county regulations before constructing a new dock. In addition, homeowners association (HOA) rules can also influence the type of dock you can build. For example, some HOAs require docks to be built from a specific material or cannot be enclosed using roofs or sides.

In Connecticut, for instance, docks are regulated by the Land and Water Resources Division (LWRD). The goal of the permitting program is to protect coastal resources, promote safe navigation, and balance private rights of access with public trust waters. The LWRD imposes requirements such as the minimum number of pilings required to support fixed piers, the maximum overall length of a dock, and the distance the seaward terminus of the dock can be from a federally or locally designated channel, fairway, or anchorage area.

A permit for the construction of a dock must be obtained before beginning work. This permit is typically issued by the local county or township building inspector and must demonstrate compliance with all state, county, and city land use and shoreline regulations. The permit application may require detailed plans, including the elevation views of the dock and piers. For a floating dock, these may include the floor plan, framing plan, and details for how the floats will be connected to the dock pilings. For a supported pier, the plans should include a structural engineer’s stamp and details of how the pier will be connected to the dock.

For existing docks, modification or maintenance work may be eligible for a general permit (COP). However, COPs will not allow the construction of new residential docks, and they must be located where there are no resource, navigation, or public trust concerns. Docks that were constructed before June 24, 1939 and have been continuously maintained without significant modifications or repairs are considered grandfathered, and therefore do not require a COP.

A small residential floating dock can be permitted by a standard activity permit, provided it meets the size and location requirements and complies with other design standards and survey requirements. This type of dock is generally only allowed in areas with adequate water depths for boating.

When it comes to a boat dock, there are some very basic construction principles that must be taken into account. Whether your boat dock is for mooring boats or is simply for a place to relax and enjoy the view, there are several key factors to consider. It is also important to determine the purpose of your dock in order to ensure it complies with local ordinances and requirements.

The construction of a boat dock is usually similar to the construction of a traditional deck in terms of weight distribution, beams, and joists. However, there are some differences relating to the fact that a portion of the dock will be submerged under water. These differences can often be addressed through the use of certain materials and proper planning.

It is recommended that the initial construction process begins by preparing the foundation for the dock. This can be done by either laying a concrete pad or installing a steel frame. This will allow the dock to remain stable and secure, even in rough weather conditions. After the frame is complete, it is time to add the decking material. Wood, concrete, or steel are all popular choices for this purpose, and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Once the decking is in place, it is time to install the railing. This is usually completed in the same way as the railing on a deck, with the exception that it must be secured to the frame using appropriate screws or nails. It is also a good idea to choose a dock railing that is highly visible, as this will help prevent accidents and injuries.

One extremely popular trend in dock design is to incorporate seating directly into the structure itself. This can be done by using modified wood boards, and this can eliminate the need for additional furniture that will quickly wear and require replacement in a waterfront setting.

A well-constructed dock can provide years of enjoyment for families and friends alike. It is important to remember that the initial investment can be quite high, but it is a worthwhile investment when you consider how much it can enhance the quality of your waterfront experience.

How to Paint a Boat Bottom

Boat Painting

While painting a boat bottom is not quite the same as painting a gel coat, there are some similarities.

Many manufacturers recommend that you work in temperatures and humidity closest to the dew point. Also, like with a gel coat, make a test board. It can be as simple as a 2′ x 2′ piece of plywood.

Hull Preparation

When you paint your boat’s bottom, the preparation is more important than the actual painting. If you skip the prep, you will probably not get a good long-lasting coat of bottom paint. If you follow the proper steps, however, a fresh coat of bottom paint will give years of protection and make your boat look new again.

The first thing you need to do is wipe down the hull with a solvent wash such as Interlux 202 or Pettit Dewaxer. This gets rid of any mold release agents that may have been used on the boat in the factory, and will help ensure that your paint adheres properly to the hull.

It is also a good idea to clean the decks of the boat, as well as any fittings that are not attached to the hull. Wipe down all areas of the hull to remove dirt, oil and marine growth. Next, you will need to sand the surface of the hull with 80-grit paper. Be careful not to sand through any barrier coat that is applied to prevent fiberglass blistering. If you have any bare fiberglass, it is a good idea to patch them before proceeding.

If you are using ablative or copolymer paint, it is a good idea to apply extra coats of the base color in areas of turbulence such as the bow, rudder and leading edge of the keel. These coats will keep the underlying paint from being damaged by the vibration caused by the propeller.

Before starting the painting process, be sure to pick a day with a low chance of rain. If you have to work outside, cover the area with tarps or plastic sheeting to protect it from windblown debris and raindrops. You will also want to be in a sheltered area, such as a shed or covered dock, where you can still take advantage of the sun’s rays.

If you are using two-part polyurethane bottom paint, it is a good idea to use a respirator with filter, goggles and a mask. This type of paint must be mixed and applied within a short time window, and can give off harmful fumes.


If you’re looking for a top-quality marine paint job that will last several years, you have to start with a quality primer. This layer, sometimes called an undercoat, forms the foundation of the entire paint system. It lays down the base for the subsequent coats of topside and bottom paint, as well as protecting the underlying substrate.

Primer paints come in a variety of formulations. Some are designed as a sealant, while others provide a filler that can hide small repairs and surface imperfections. The number of coats of undercoat required depends on a combination of factors, including the colour of the new paint. For example, a dark-coloured undercoat may require two or three additional topcoats than a light-coloured one.

For above-the-waterline applications, a 1-part acrylic or polyurethane primer provides a hard base that easily accepts a compatible topside finish coating. These types of primers are ideal for do-it-yourselfers and work well on fiberglass, wood, and aluminum surfaces.

Below-the-waterline, a different type of primer is required to prepare the metal or wood for an antifouling boat bottom paint. Designed to be resistant to hostile marine environments, these products are typically available in both water-based and solvent-based formulas. If using a water-based product, it’s important to choose a rust inhibitor to protect the metal from corrosion during the curing process.

A good primer will ensure the paint adheres to the hull and prevent water damage. It’s also essential to remove any hardware, like cleats and rails, or any teak or other wooden trim on the vessel, prior to priming. The boat must be washed from stem to stern, de-waxed, and thoroughly sanded before applying the primer and painting.

It’s also critical to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on sanding and drying times. Once the sanding is done and the primer is dry, the preparation stage is complete. A fresh coat of high-quality marine bottom paint will help your boat last longer than if it weren’t properly prepared. The result will be a beautiful and durable boat that looks like new for years to come.


Painting a boat is an expensive, time-consuming process. But if you do it correctly, your paint job will last for years. The key is preparation. As any good painter will tell you, 90 percent of the work is in preparing the surface. So, it is important that you carefully clean the entire hull before beginning any actual painting. Use soap and water and a scouring pad to remove any potential contaminants. This will help ensure that the new coat of paint adheres to the surface.

Once you’ve cleaned the hull, you can proceed to prep and sand the hull for your first coat of paint. Start with a good power washer and clean away all dirt, oil and marine growth. If you have the time, sand the hull with 120- to 180-grit sandpaper. But be careful not to sand through the gelcoat, which could leave you with a serious mess to clean up.

Next, you’ll need to determine what type of antifouling paint to use. There are many different types, so do some research to find the best one for your specific boating needs. For example, if your primary goal is to prevent fouling from barnacles, zebra mussels and other marine growth, you might want to consider a copolymer ablative paint. These types of paints release their biocide at a controlled rate, so you don’t have to worry about excessive sanding during haulouts.

You’ll also need to decide if you’re going to spray or brush the paint. Spraying is faster, but it requires a higher degree of skill to avoid runs and sags. If you choose to spray, be sure to wear a mask and fully cover any other nearby vessels with dust sheets to protect them from overspray.

Finally, be sure to carefully tape off any hardware you do not want to get paint on. If you skip this step, it will likely peel along with the paint once the final coat dries. And, if you’re not careful, you might have to go through the entire preparing and painting process all over again.


The topcoat is the final step in a thorough painting job, adding protection and beauty. Our one-part polyurethane paint offers superior self-leveling, stain and abrasion resistance, flexibility, UV protection, and color retention. It also has a gorgeous high-gloss sheen or can be converted to matte with an additive.

As with the primer and undercoat, before you begin applying a topcoat, the surface should be clean. Use a de-waxing solvent such as acetone to remove any wax or grease residue that remains on the surface. Then, wipe the hull with a soft cloth using a two-rag wipe on/wipe off method. Change rags often to avoid re-waxing the surface and reducing the quality of your finish.

It is best to plan your painting schedule ahead of time, allowing plenty of drying time between coats. Thin the paint according to the manufacturer’s instructions, based on substrate and air/hull temperature and humidity. It is important not to over-thin the paint, as this will sag when sprayed and can lessen gloss retention after curing.

Once the primer has dried overnight, sand the primer with 220-grit sandpaper on a hand sander with a foam pad. This will prepare the surface for painting, and help the primer adhere to the underlying hull. After sanding, wipe down the surface with the solvent recommended by the primer manufacturer (e.g. xylene or mineral spirits).

Then, sand the surface of the paint again with 320-grit sandpaper on a DA sander, to knock down any gloss and smooth out any runs in the product. Wipe down again with the solvent recommended by the product, and allow to dry.

Be sure to mask any areas that will not be painted, such as the area around the boat’s hardware. If this is not done, the hardware will eventually rust and start to peel paint off the hull, creating more work for you later on.

If you are removing an existing topside, it is best to strip the gelcoat first, using a chemical stripper such as our TotalBoat TotalStrip. This is a safe, easy-to-use, odor-free and biodegradable product that will not harm fiberglass or gelcoat.