It can be easy to overlook dock maintenance. After all, we tend to be more focused on what’s happening around the dock – the boats coming in and out, the people walking up and down. But for the sake of your wallet and your safety, dock maintenance is something you simply can’t ignore.
Whether you manage a hundred docks for a commercial marina or have just one residential dock for the family boat, it’s important to maintain your investment. Keeping your dock in good shape now can help you avoid more costly repairs down the road. It can also prevent accidents caused by deteriorating and rotting wood.
Prolonging the life of your dock is surprisingly easy with the right know-how and the right supplies. Read on to learn how to keep your dock looking like new for many years to come.
Maintenance Depends on Material
The first thing you’ll want to consider is what decking material your dock is made from.
If you haven’t built your dock yet, now is a good time to consider the amount of maintenance you’re willing to put into it. Let’s go over the different types of materials and the type of care they require.
- Pressure Treated Wood: Pressure treated (PT) wood is the most cost-effective material for a dock, but it’s also the most work. You can help ensure your pressure treated dock lasts longer by choosing premium kiln-dried wood that is certified “Marine Grade”. It’s important to keep this wood sealed to keep out moisture and prevent rot.
- Ipe & Other Hardwoods: Premium Ipe lumber is considered one of the most beautiful and durable decking options. To maintain the dark, rich colors of a hardwood dock, you’ll need to clean and oil the surface regularly – otherwise, the hue will fade to a silvery gray. But because hardwoods are so dense, they’re highly resistant to water and bugs, making them easier to care for in some ways.
- Composite Decking: Made from a combination of wood, natural fibers, and plastics, composite decking is nearly as moisture- and insect-resistant as Ipe. Top brands like Trex make composite decking with a special resin capping that protects the structure underneath from mildew and decay. Because composite materials don’t suffer from the same problems as wood, they are typically the easiest to maintain.
Cleaning Your Dock
The most simple thing you can do to keep your dock in good condition is clean it at least once per year. We don’t just mean a quick sweep – you’ll need to clear out gaps, scrub away stains, and carefully inspect the dock for signs of wear and tear.
If you can, avoid pressure washing your dock. While it’s a quick and easy way to clean, it can also chip and splinter the wood if done incorrectly. In most cases, we recommend using a simple garden hose instead.
Sanding & Staining
Now that your dock is squeaky clean, it’s time to put on the finishing touches.
If you have decided to go ahead and pressure wash the dock, sanding is a must. This will help smooth any wood that’s been roughed up by the water. Even if you went with the trusty hose, sanding is still essential to prep your dock for staining.
How often you should stain a dock depends on the quality of stain you use, but we suggest restaining along with your annual cleaning. It’s best to do this in the fall and winter months when water levels are lower so that you can access as much of the structure as possible.
Common Dock Problems & How to Fix Them
We’ve talked about ways you can prevent damage to your dock, but what should you do when damage occurs? Here’s how to tackle some of the most common dock problems you’re likely to face.
- Rot: Even with the best treatment and care, wood that frequently comes in contact with saltwater is going to show signs of rot at some point. Luckily, this is easy to fix if you catch it early. Replace small areas of rotted wood with new lumber right away to avoid a much costlier problem in the future.
- Rust Stains: If your dock uses a combination of wood and metal, you’re also going to want to keep an eye out for rust. There are many home remedies for rust stains, such as white vinegar or dish soap. For more stubborn stains, you may have to turn to commercial rust removal products.
- Warping & Bending: You should inspect the structure of your dock for signs of bending and warping at the start of each season. While it’s possible to flatten warped boards using a bar clamp, it’s typically easier to replace the affected boards.
- Discoloration: Has your beautiful reddish-brown hardwood deck turned grey despite your best efforts? A simple restaining will bring it back to its original condition – just remember to wipe away any excess oil when you’re finished.
Repair or Replace?
Does your dock still have a few good years left, or is it time to say goodbye? Being able to tell the difference between a repairable dock and one that’s in dire need of replacement can help you save money or prevent serious injury.
Some signs that it’s time to replace are:
- Excessive Rot or Rust: While small problem areas can be treated, rot and rust become serious problems when the damage is spread out across your entire deck.
- Foundation Damage: Without a solid foundation, your dock will become unstable and pose a significant safety risk. This type of damage is often the result of many years of exposure to ocean waves and underwater creatures. A good rule of thumb to follow is if you can’t set the dock’s posts at least 4 feet in the ground, it isn’t safe to use anymore.
Get the Supplies You Need at Decks & Docks
Whether you built your dock using high-quality lumber from Decks & Docks or another lumber supply company, we can get you the supplies you need to maintain it. Stop by and pick up a gallon of Penofin Hardwood Formula to protect your Ipe dock or some Spa-N-Deck from Flood to preserve your PT wood.
Whatever you need, whether it’s a treatment solution or simply some advice on how to best care for your particular deck or dock, the pros at Decks & Docks can help. Swing by one of our coastal locations or simply give us a call to learn more!