Dock Designing 101: What You Need to Know About Designing a Dock

July 28, 2022

If you own a cottage on the lake, your property likely comes equipped with a dock. If it doesn’t, or you find your existing one has seen better days, now is the best time to replace it!

A well-designed and built dock will provide years of excellent service.

Here are some boat dock design ideas and how to implement them into your cottage property.

When Designing

Before moving to the building phase, list all the features your dock design should have. Is it only suitable for diving and swimming? If you live in a Lake of Bays cottage destination, you may desire a place to dock things like boats. Do you need any storage for your paddleboards and canoes? Will you use it for sunbathing and relaxation? Are you thinking about floating dock design ideas or traditional ones?

Taking into account these and other factors might significantly alter the project’s scale and assist you in deciding how to construct the ideal dock for your family.

The general site parameters and water depth will determine your boat dock design ideas. The breadth of the dock sections, the dock structure, and the arrangement all affect how sturdy your dock seems. It may be necessary to make long, straight parts wider, more securely anchored, etc. Design sections with an “end” portion whenever you can for stability.

Make sure you have enough personnel to help lift big objects and move pre-assembled dock components into position if you’re building your dock.

Make sure the water is deep enough to accommodate the boat’s draught before using the dock to dock a boat; it’s best to go at least 2 feet deeper. When planning and constructing a dock, keep in mind the seasonal variations in water levels.

Don’t skimp on construction if you’re building a floating dock. If too many people use the dock, it will move too quickly, and the waves will worsen the situation. The stability of a floating dock often increases with size.

The gap between the top of your dock and the water is known as a “freeboard.” By adding more floats to a floating dock, you may prevent the weight of people from tipping the dock while they walk on it and maintain a more constant freeboard.

Verify again that the composite deck materials have a good warranty, don’t weaken in the hot heat, and have enough traction, particularly when wet or covered in snowy or icy conditions.

Storm surge protection is essential because docks can become very tense in high wind areas or during storms. Make sure your dock is strong enough in its design and construction to withstand the test of time if it is situated in a region prone to this type of weather.

If you’re not confident in your abilities to do it yourself, get a reputable professional and the right hardware for the job at hand if you’re working in a saltwater environment.

When Building

Use high-quality hardware, especially in areas with a lot of traffic and wind or where bigger boats will be docked.

Before beginning any digging in the area, be sure any underground utilities have been discovered. Underground utility lines aren’t present in cottage country, but it’s not always the case.

Consider the most powerful storms in your area when deciding how securely to anchor a floating dock. You should always proceed with caution since you never know what the weather will bring. This will only increase your sense of security if you are not at the dock.

You’ll enjoy boat docking at your dock even more if you add enough high-quality bumpers in the appropriate locations. Bumpers won’t replace knowing how to dock a boat properly, but they will undoubtedly increase your sense of security after you have mastered it. Additionally, they’ll keep your boat safer all season.

Plan to construct as much of the dock on land as you can and then relocate it when the time is right. This will save you a lot of trouble, not to mention damaged power tools, unless your lake’s bottom is relatively flat and sandy.

Use high-quality lumber when building your deck so it will last longer, look better, and provide you with a better return on your investment.

How to Maintain

Lichen, moss, and other undesirable plants should not be allowed to grow on or close to your dock because they draw moisture and increase the risk of decay. They can present a trip or slip risk. It also makes them unsightly to look at, and if you have a cottage with a view of the water, you don’t want it tarnished by a dirty or crumbling deck.

If you’re going to take your dock down for the winter, be careful to mark it so you can put it back up correctly and quickly in the spring. Once out of the water, the parts remarkably resemble one another.

Every year, give the dock a thorough inspection and replace any hardware or parts that are missing or broken. Failure to do so will significantly increase the likelihood and rate of future damage.

Take immediate action to strengthen any weak points you find, such as hinges holding your dock to the ground or other critical connector hardware, as the next storm might be the one that destroys your dock. Making a simple update beforehand will almost certainly be cheaper than having it fixed later.

The dock will look better and function more safely if any rotten or damaged boards are replaced. On a dock, getting your leg stuck in a hole might result in serious harm.

Before you have to resort to minor surgery with tweezers, you may find and correct rough places by periodically inspecting the deck boards of your dock, followed by a little sanding.

Check your dock for elevated nail or screw heads at least once a year, ideally in the spring, and ensure they are drilled below the surface. The feet of your family will be grateful.

Making sure that your family maintains a reasonable level of cleanliness and order on the dock will ensure that everyone enjoys themselves safely. This may be harder said than done if your family is like mine.


We would be happy to assist you if you were considering moving to Muskoka!

To start your 2022 trip to cottage country living, get in touch with us! The top realtors in Canada make up our team. We know real estate in Muskoka, and we take great satisfaction in matching each of our clients with the ideal home.