Ice Proof Boat Docks: Dock Freeze Protection
Tips for Preparing Your Boat Dock for Winter
As the temperatures start to drop and the leaves begin to change color, you know it’s time to start thinking about winterizing your boat dock.
Taking a few simple steps now will help ensure that your dock is ready for spring. Here are some tips to help you get started.
How to Prepare Your Dock for Winter
Depending on where you live, winter can be rough – heavy snowstorms, wind, and ice are the norm for the majority of the northern hemisphere. For dock owners, the season can be particularly stressful – what’s the best way to protect your property this time of year? And what should you do with a floating dock in winter?
Depending on where you live and the specific lake or pond your deck is on, there are quite a few things you’ll want to consider to make sure your dock is winter-ready.
How Snow and Ice Can Damage Your Dock
Ice can easily wreak havoc on a dock. Even if your winters are relatively short and mild, a partial freeze is enough to do some serious damage if you aren’t prepared.
As the ice expands and contracts, the pressure can cause your dock to become misshapen or unusable. Strong winds can also knock ice floats into your dock, damaging pilings and any other structures in their path. And if snow builds up on top of your dock, the weight of it can do serious harm if it isn’t removed promptly.
How to Winterize Your Boat Dock
As the temperatures start to drop, it’s important to take steps to winterize your boat dock. While ice formation can be a nuisance, freeze and thaw damage is no picnic.
Being careful and preventing hazardous situations by winterizing your dock is the way to go. Inspect your dock first to ensure no repairs are needed. Some boat owners with metal or wood docks need specific winterization routines.
These permanent docks may require tightening bolts and screws. Using sealant, sanding, and staining the dock. Preparing the dock by using a de-icer and dock bubbler.
In preparation for next spring, all docks should be cleaned and any accessories removed and stored.
Winterizing Floating Docks
For floating docks, simply clean the surface, then disassemble the rubber couplers. Be sure to store it in a dry and safe place.
If you choose to add wheels to your polyethylene dock, this will allow easy transportation and storage for your floating dock.
Do I Need to Remove My Floating Dock in the Winter?
There’s a bit of debate about what to do with a floating dock in winter – should you remove it, or will it be ok in the water? Here are some important things to consider:
- Does the area around your dock offer natural protection from wind and waves? If so, you may not have to remove it.
- Is your lake drained by city officials each winter? This practice helps to reduce ice damage to shorelines.
- Will your floating dock make contact with rocks when the water level is at its lowest? If so, it’s best to remove it.
- Will your floating dock bump any other objects as the ice moves? Two feet is an ideal amount of space to be able to move – any less, and you should consider removing it.
In most cases, we recommend removing your floating dock before ice starts to form. However, if your dock is situated in a well-protected area, such as a small bay, you can leave your floating dock in the water so long as you take the following precautions:
- Check hardware to ensure everything on your dock is secure and remove any accessories, including dock ladders and ramps.
- Loosen your floating dock’s anchor chains so that it can adjust to shifting water levels.
- Tie a line from the dock to a secure object on land to keep your dock from floating away.
- Mark your dock so that people on the frozen lake can see and avoid it.
Pipe docks absolutely need to be removed in winter to prevent ice from damaging the aluminum frame. And unlike floating docks, which move up and down with shifting water levels, pipe docks are stationary, so they can easily become submerged.
Safely Remove Your Dock & Follow Local Regulations
Check your local dock guidelines which may make it mandatory to remove your dock in the winter or advise you to mark where your dock will be so that passersby can see it. The last thing you want is to fully prep your dock just to have someone on a snowmobile crash into it.
Winterizing Fixed, Metal, or Wood Docks
Create a Winterization Plan
As any boat owner knows, winterizing a dock is essential to keeping it in good condition. Polyethylene and other materials can become brittle and cracked in cold weather.
It’s important to take steps to protect your dock system before the winter months. One way to do this is to create a winterization plan. Whether you have a permanent dock or a floating dock, a winterization plan is necessary.
Your dock maintenance may involve adding extra support to the dock, dock bubbler, sanding, and staining. It’s important to know where your dock deck and aluminum frame will be stored.
Taking these steps will help to ensure that your dock is able to withstand the winter weather and remain in good condition year-round. You can improve the functionality of your dock by inspecting it periodically.
Consult Your Owners Manual
Your owner’s manual will guide you to the best care for your dock. You will learn about the best time to inspect your dock, how to maintain it, and instructions on how to store your dock during the winter.
The owner’s manual will also provide which equipment and accessories are perfectly made for your dock. As an example, if you are looking for a watercraft lift or boat and pontoon lift, your manual will note the best option.
How to Protect a Permanent Dock
If you have a type of dock that cannot be removed, there are several steps you should take to prepare for the winter weather. You should purchase de-icers for the legs of your dock to oscillate the water so there is no possible damage incurred.
It would also be wise to waterproof your dock, check to make sure the boat lift works properly, and check that there are no structural problems before winter comes. While preparing your dock for winter can help prevent damage, it doesn’t make your dock 100% damage-proof. Be sure to verify your insurance coverage before the temperatures start to drop.
Use Dock Bubblers
At this point, you may be thinking – “Hasn’t anyone come up with a solution to keep docks safe and ice-free during the winter?”
The answer is yes, and that solution is called a dock bubbler. A dock bubbler works by releasing air bubbles through a hose connected to an air compressor. The release of these air bubbles from the hose causes warm water to rise. This heats the water surrounding the dock and keeps the area free of ice.
A dock bubbler isn’t a perfect solution – before you decide to use one, consider the following:
- Changing lake levels: If the lake levels are low due to drainage or other circumstances, the dock bubbler may malfunction.
- Moving sheets of ice: While a bubbler will keep the area surrounding your dock free of ice, strong winds in the area could cause a piece of ice in the lake to hit your dock.
If you decide to use a dock bubbler, we recommend turning it on in late November and turning it off in late January when the ice has frozen over and become stabilized. In March, turn the bubbler back on as the ice begins to melt and shift once more.
Of course, depending on where you live, your winter may be longer or shorter – be sure to keep an eye on the weather and plan accordingly.
Inspect Your Dock Before and After Winter
For many southerners, Floridians, and northeastern boat lovers, the dock is the gateway to a world of fun and relaxation.
Whether spring swimming, fishing, or simply enjoying the view, your dock is an important part of your family fun in the sun routine.
Inspecting your dock before and after winter helps prevent damage to your dock. A floating dock or a permanent dock can benefit from regular maintenance to prevent algae growth and barnacles.
Make sure your dock’s system, benches, walkways, handrails, and electrical connections are in good condition. Note the current condition of your dock before and after winter to properly plan for your seasonal repairs.
Check Local Regulations
In relation to your dock, it is important to be aware of your homeowner’s association (HOA) or municipality’s regulations. Knowing local dock guidelines and restrictions helps you stay in compliance.
There may be a specific date your HOA requires for you to remove your floating dock or a preferred company that assists you in this process. These dock and mooring rules differ per property and state.
FAQs About Winterizing Boat Docks
Winter can be tough on docks, so it’s important to make sure everything is in working order before the cold sets in. Plan and implement boat dock winterization easily with these frequently asked questions.
Can I Leave My Dock in the Water All Year?
If the water stays above 32 degrees, rather than in an area known for frozen lakes in the winter, you might be able to leave your dock in the water.
Floating docks have been known to withstand lake freezes which can help avoid costly repairs. There is no guarantee due to unusually extreme winter weather conditions, so check your warranty and insurance for the damages covered.
In areas with harsh weather conditions, removing your dock is the best option. It’s always better to be safe than sorry. Permanent docks can benefit from de-icers that will prevent icing or melt ice formation.
How Do I Remove My Dock for Winter?
Before you disassemble your dock, be sure to remove outdoor furniture, lifts, and ladders. Detach each section of the dock carefully. Use a winch or a coupler installation tool to assist in detaching your dock.
Your owner’s manual will have specific instructions on how to remove your dock for the winter. The best dock freeze protection is not only removing your dock before the freezing temperatures, it’s also being sure to store your dock in a safe and dry place.
How Can I Prevent Shoreline Ice Damage?
If the body of water your dock is on tends to freeze, there are some solutions. The best guarantee to ice-proof docks during the winter months is to always remove your dock from the water.
It is important to prevent your shoreline from being damaged by ice heaving and ice jacking. When exposed to large chunks of free floating ice, your dock is at risk of being damaged or even destroyed.
Plant soil-stabilizing trees, and shrubs, and build seawalls to protect your shoreline, or use stone riprap such as boulders to protect it. Taking extra care of your shoreline can help prevent ice damage.
Do I Need To Remove My Gangway, Port, or Launch?
Prior to winter, remove as many items from your dock as you can. It is recommended that you remove your gangway, port, or launches if they are easy to remove. Be sure to store them in a covered and dry area.
What Do I Need to Do With My Dock in the Spring?
Don’t think that once the weather warms up, you can simply put your dock back in the water. It’s tempting, we know!
However, there are a few things you should do first to make sure your dock is ready for another season of fun in the sun. First, check the forecast to ensure that the winter weather is really complete for the season.
Then take a look at those notes from your winter plan and inspection. Be sure to compare the notes to your spring inspection. If no repairs are needed, start reassembling, and enjoy another season of water fun!
Check Your To-Do List Before Winter Comes
Just because you live in a cold climate doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy boating. Follow the directions above to secure or remove your dock and have peace of mind all winter. When spring comes around, you can be confident that you did all of your necessary preparations before winter and you’ll be ready to get back on the water.
Boat Dock Experts
Decks & Docks Lumber Company has a variety of lumber and composite dock supplies to choose from. Visit our website to get inspiration or to shop for your next dock. Contact us at 866.528.9663 or send us a message here. Our knowledgeable and friendly staff would love to hear from you and answer any questions you may have.