The Top 6 Boat Dock Maintenance Tips


Boat docks serve as entryways to our nation's waterways. Not only do they offer convenient water access and a secure home for boats, but having a dock reduces boat theft and vandalism. Additionally, they shield your boat from harsh waves, winds, and currents.

Importance of Dock Maintenance

Because docks are such an essential part of the nautical lifestyle, it's crucial to maintain them. Everyone's safety depends on a well-kept dock, as it's a sturdy and safe place to enter and exit the water.

Tripping, falling, and collapsing are also risks associated with broken docks. Therefore, regular dock maintenance is a necessary component of boat safety. 

What is Your Dock Material?

Before making repairs, you must determine your dock's material. The four most common types of decking are pressure-treated wood (PT wood), hardwood, aluminum, and composite decking. 

  • PT wood docks are common, but they require more upkeep thanks to the chemicals used in treatment. (They're more susceptible to decay or rot over time.) 
  • Hardwood docks are incredibly dense and primarily water-resistant. 
  • Aluminum docks are popular commercially because they're durable. However, they lack the desired "natural" look. 
  • Composite docks are made of wood, fibers, and plastic. 

While this post focuses on wood-crafted docks, the tips below apply to all dock repairs.

Tips for Dock Maintenance

Maintaining your dock increases your safety and prolongs your dock's lifespan! Not to mention, well-maintained docks boost your home's resale value. Plus, docks make loading and unloading your boat a whole lot easier. 

Here are a few tips to ensure your dock is operating at its best:

1. Clean Your Dock

Before you say this is obvious, know there's a caveat. Never clean your dock with a pressure washer; it chips away at the deck material and splinters the wood. Instead, use a garden hose with a mild, environmentally-friendly soap to remove debris or algae.
You should give your dock a thorough cleaning once a year. Aim to patch it up, clean stains, and inspect for damage.

2. Regularly Inspect for Required Dock Repair

Next, check for signs of deterioration on the structure, including warped planks, damaged handrails, and rusty hardware. Ensure all bolts, screws, and nails are tight and not corroded. Then, fix any problems ASAP. We suggest inspecting your dock quarterly, as any issues can lead to more significant safety concerns.

3. Sand and Stain Your Dock 

During regular inspections, look for areas in the wood that need some TLC. Afterward, sand and stain the dock to repair any loose spots. And, of course, you should always sand the dock before staining.

If not, the stain may not adhere properly and will chip off faster. When using stain, look for one that is marine-friendly and designed for dock repairs.

Additionally, many boaters use a sealant on the stain for added protection. You might also consider installing bumpers and rub rails to your dock's edges. These items prevent dock damage from boats and other objects.

4. Cover it Up in Winter Months

After you've spent the warmer months improving the appearance and functionality of your dock, it's a good idea to cover it for winter. We recommend doing so when you winterize your boat for the season. 
To do this, cover the wood with a tarp or plastic and securely fasten it.

Keep in mind that this may be a two-person job!

Pro Tip: Watch out for icy docks in winter. They can be slippery and dangerous, especially for families with young children.

Read Next: How to Winterize Your Boat

5. Maintain Dock Lines

We recommend investing in chafe protection for dock lines for further protection. Dock lines are great for keeping boats attached to the dock, especially during harsh winters. In addition to replacing them every two to three years, consider using specific dock lines for the wintertime.

6. Hire Someone for Ease and Skill

Regarding boating and docks, hiring a pro for dock maintenance is not uncommon. And this is especially true for older people and those without proper help. Simply research reputable companies in your area and explain your needs to them!

Conclusion: Dock Maintenance Matters

Whether you DIY your dock repair or hire a local pro, dock maintenance is crucial for all owners. To ensure your dock stays in tip-top shape — and is protected from damage — make sure to clean and inspect your dock regularly.

Know that your dock's life extends significantly after cleaning, sanding, and staining. And covering it up in the winter ensures it will be in good condition in the spring

If you haven't taken the time to maintain your dock, this is your friendly reminder to do so. Good luck, you got this!