Dock Protection 101: Piling Wrap, Caps, & More
Piling is an integral part of any dock project, so it’s well worth the additional cost to invest in piling protection. Piling wrap, caps, and sleeves help to protect your piling from the elements, prolonging the lifespan of your dock and saving you money in the long run.
Whether you’re trying to learn more about construction techniques or you’re looking for some help with an upcoming project, you’ve come to the right place to learn more about piling protection.
Why Piling Protection is Important
They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and that couldn’t be more true than when it comes to marine docks. Left unprotected, the sun, water, and even the sea creatures swimming around your dock can cause costly damage in a short amount of time.
In 2019, the piers and docks lining New York City’s 520 miles of the waterfront had suffered over one hundred million dollars in structural damage due to marine borers. Mariner borers are small aquatic creatures, such as shipworms, that eat and destroy wood piling. And they aren’t just a problem in New York—shipworms, also called pileworms, are common throughout the world.
The good news is that your pilings don’t have to suffer the same fate if you take preventative action. Something as simple as installing piling wraps on your dock can save you countless dollars and headaches in the future.
Types of Protection
There are three main types of piling protection: caps, piling wrap, and sleeves. Let’s break down each of those kinds of protection and look at how they work.
1. Piling Caps
Piling caps are used to protect the top parts of each pile. These tops parts are particularly prone to damage from the sun’s UV rays, water damage, insect damage, and roosting birds.
A piling cap seals this exposed area from potential causes of damage—and can provide a beautiful visual detail that adds a bit of polish to your dock.
Let’s talk about some different types of piling caps.
Copper caps are a tough and durable option, though they can be labor-intensive during the initial installation. But in exchange for the extra effort, copper caps can last for decades before needing replacement.
Additionally, copper won’t keep its shiny brown finish forever. When exposed to oxygen, copper fades to green—this is the same reason the Statue of Liberty looks green. It won’t impact the integrity of your caps or piling, but it’s a cosmetic side effect that’s still important to note. Many homeowners enjoy the rustic, distinguished look of copper’s natural patina.
Plastic caps are cheaper and easier to install than copper caps, and they can come in a variety of colors for visual appeal.
Plastic is a good all-around option, though they are less durable than copper caps and may require more frequent replacing over time depending on how much damage they’re subjected to.
Paint or Tar
Some homeowners may opt to paint their piling or seal them with tar. These are the quickest and easiest options, but they won’t provide nearly as much protection as copper or plastic, and won’t discourage birds from roosting.
And unlike plastic and copper piling caps, paint will also fade with time, and you’ll likely have to repaint every cap at least once or twice per year. For that reason, we at Decks & Docks recommend true caps made of copper or plastic for your dock.
2. Piling Wraps
Just like how caps protect the tops of your piles, wraps protect the sides. Piling wraps are made of durable materials, such as plastic or vinyl, and they affix to the outside of a pile to keep it safe from marine borers.
Wraps are convenient to install since they can go on after piles are already in place—so you can add piling wraps to any existing dock to help shield it from future damage.
Our go-to brand is SnapJacket, which can help extend the lifetime of piling that has already suffered damage. SnapJacket involves “snapping” plastic wraps around a pile and then sealing the wrap with concrete, which can fortify decayed or eroded wood and provide structural support, too.
3. Piling Sleeves
Sleeves are the ultimate way to protect your piling. They fit over the entire pole with a durable layer of PVC fitted at the lumber yard.
Piling sleeves are similar to wraps in how they protect piles, but they must be fitted before your dock is installed. The watertight sleeve is heat-shrunk to the pole at a lumber yard or manufacturing facility to ensure optimal protection and minimal exposure to the elements.
At Decks & Docks, we prefer DuroSleeve, which is the strongest defense you have against UV damage, marine borers, and decay.
What Types of Piling Need Protection
Maybe you’re looking at your dock’s existing piling or maybe you’re making plans for a new dock—either way, how do you know what kind of piling protection you need?
What you’ll need will depend on the materials your piling is made of. Let’s break it down:
- Treated wood piling. Treated wood is your standard lumber meant suited for ground and water contact. This hardy wood can withstand a lot, but its lifespan can be dramatically increased with the help of piling caps and either wraps or sleeves.
- Greenheart piling. Made of tropical greenheart wood, this type of piling is great for saltwater and freshwater docks. It’s prized for its durability and rot resistance, but it can still benefit from support. We recommend caps and either wraps or sleeves.
- Fiberglass piling. Fiberglass is incredibly strong and can withstand most anything the outside world has to offer. This type really only needs piling caps to ward off roosting birds—and add extra visual appeal.
What’s best for new docks?
Building a brand new dock from scratch? Doing your research now and picking the right materials can save you time and money in the long run.
We recommend options like Fortress Pilings and EcoPile, which are brands that construct piling from heavy duty fiberglass and are impervious to marine borers even without extensive protection. These fiberglass brands just need a simple cap to protect from birds and add a finishing touch.
If you want to go the natural lumber route, we recommend brands like SnapJacket
Contact Us Today!
Keeping your piling protected requires some work, but it’ll dramatically increase the lifespan of your dock and save you money and energy in the long run. If you need protection supplies, reach out to the Decks & Docks team today.
From piling wrap to caps and sleeves, we’ll have what you need—and we can point you in the right direction if you need someone to help with the installation process.