Do you own a boat? According to a recent survey, nearly 85 million Americans engage in recreational boating per year, totaling more than 26% of the country’s total population!
Part of being a responsible boat owner is taking care of your gear. This includes your dock. You use a boat dock to park your boat and store all of your boating accessories.
Keeping it in great shape isn’t just smart boat safety. It can also help you launch your boat smoothly into the water, and offer the best experience possible for all of your passengers.
Not sure how to keep yours in great shape? Today, we’re sharing a complete guide to boat dock maintenance so yours can always look its best.
1. Keep the Wood Clean
Dock maintenance is an important part of boat care. Most docks are made of wood because this natural resource is a sustainable building material and holds up well over time.
The key to expanding the lifespan of your dock? Keep that wood protected!
We don’t have to tell you that your dock will get wet over time. In fact, it will see a substantial amount of splashes, spills, and rainfall. In this way, it’s very similar to an outdoor deck that you might build onto your house.
A reputable contractor will remind you to always keep that decking wood protected and finished, and your dock is no different. If possible, try to build your dock with treated wood to help preserve it for as long as possible. This can help ward off the effects of rotting that can occur in non-treated wood.
If you aren’t building your dock from the ground up, you might not get to choose the specific type of wood that’s used. In that case, it’s smart to assume that yours isn’t treated. Go ahead and seal it to keep it from falling prey to mildew, which could weaken it structurally.
2. Pressure Wash Gently
In your quest to keep your wooden dock as clean as possible, resist the urge to get a little too aggressive with your pressure washer. While this can be a great tool, it can also damage the planks on your dock if you don’t use it correctly.
Look for a pressure washer with a fan-tipped nozzle. These distribute the flow of water as evenly and gently as possible, preventing you from delivering a strong stream of water to one small spot.
When you’re using the pressure washer, also pay close attention to how close you’re holding the nozzle to the dock. Try to keep at least one foot of space between the nozzle and the planks to avoid over-spraying them. If your boat dock is made of a softer species of wood, like cedar or pine, then we recommend lowering your pressure washer to the lowest setting, or skipping it altogether.
3. Don’t Skip Cleaning Day
If you’re going to be strict about general boat maintenance, then you need to include your dock in your regular cleaning activities. If you let too much time go by, it’s easy for dust, dirt, and debris to accumulate on the planks.
Then, when you go to clean them, you’ll find that it’s much harder to get that grime off because it’s been stuck on there for so long. While power washing can help you clean a large surface area at once, you may need to spend a little extra time on certain issues.
Use a scrubbing brush dipped in a mild cleaning solution to wash away any visible areas of mildew. You can also use it to peel away stubborn areas of mud and dirt. If you find that the dock is too filthy to tackle on your own, there are professional dock cleaning companies that can take the reins for you.
4. Keep It Eco-Friendly
Yes, you will need to use a variety of cleaning solutions to keep your dock in great shape. However, you don’t want those solutions washing into the lake water as you use them.
The unfortunate reality is that many boat owners prioritize well-known safety tips, but fail to think about how their actions could harm the environment around them.
Did you know that you can help protect local wildlife even before you build your dock? While you’re still in the planning stages, look for an area that’s accessible, but far away from any nearby maritime habitats.
Then, when you build, keep the footprint of your dock wide. By doing so, you help create a more gentle, natural flow of water underneath it. This way, you won’t disturb the valuable mineral deposits that lie deep below the surface.
When you’ve built your dock and you’re ready to clean it, try to use natural, homemade cleaning products whenever possible.
One solution to try is to mix three parts olive oil with one part vinegar. While this mixture isn’t ideal for cleaning the entire surface of your dock, it can be tough on smaller patches of grime. You can also use baking soda to soak up any oily patches you find.
5. Repair as Needed
This is one of our dock maintenance tips that’s about both aesthetics and safety. If you notice any part of your dock that needs repairing, fix it immediately.
A loose board is a trip hazard, and rogue nails can cause puncture wounds. These are just two of the issues that you might find. Take the time to walk around your dock and inspect it regularly.
In addition to walking on top of it and looking down at the boards, you may also find it helpful to get in your boat and look underneath and all around the sides of the dock, too. If any planks look worse for the wear, go ahead and order new ones to replace them.
The same goes for screws, nails, and any other accessories that are used to hold your dock together. Don’t wait until they’re in total disrepair to replace them. Go ahead and upgrade before a minor issue snowballs into a major danger.
In the same vein, take a look at your dock lights and make sure they stay in great shape. You can read about dock lighting online to help you choose the right fixtures.
6. Use the Right Stains
If you don’t like the look of natural wood, you can stain your dock. This step can help your dock last longer and also gives it an attractive finish. However, don’t just rush out to the hardware store and choose the first stain that catches your eye.
Look for a water-based stain instead of an oil-based one. These are considered better for the environment and are also gentler on your dock. While you can stain your dock at any time of the year, keep in mind that the water levels will be lower in the cooler months.
If you stick to the fall and winter, you can avoid the risk of your staining chemicals coming into contact with the water as you use them.
7. Prevent Rub-Related Wear and Tear
As you pull your boat up or take it out onto the water, it has the potential to rub up against your dock. If this only happens one or two times, then it might not make much of a difference.
However, if your dock and boat meet frequently, it can scratch your beloved boat. It could also damage your dock over time.
Thankfully, there’s a simple solution that can help mitigate this risk: rub rails. Also known as edging, this term refers to any material that dock owners put around the perimeter of their dock to keep it from bumping against their boat.
While you can purchase ready-made rails made specifically for this purpose, you don’t have to go that route. Some people even use the rubber from an old hose, though it’s important to take precautions. You want to make sure that the item you use as a rub rail is designated safe for marine environments.
Unless you know exactly how to install this edging, it’s best to let an expert take care of it. It’s easy to miss a spot, and even a small piece of exposed decking could impact your boat. You don’t want a streak of paint removed because you skimmed over a section!
Optimize Boat Safety With Regular Dock Maintenance
Your dock plays an important role in your overall boating experience. If it stays in great shape, you can walk across it comfortably and confidently. You can also rest assured that your boat will be safe and protected nearby.
This is one part of boat safety, but these tips aren’t exhaustive. Look for other ways to clean and repair your boat and its surroundings, and you’ll be able to enjoy it all year long!
Looking for more advice on everything from lifestyle to fitness? Be sure to check out our other helpful guides!