How Long Will My Dock Last?
A simple guide for new/current dock owners
While it would be great if every aspect of living by the sea were easy, the reality is, things need to be maintained. Just like any other structure, docks need to be managed. They are subject to weather changes, general wear and tear, mildew, and decay. Of course, the option to look the other way is always available. But who would want to let that kind of money/beauty go to waste?
Without maintenance, your dock may last between 15 to 20 years. However, if maintained, you can add up to10 extra years! Annual cleaning and a hand inspection are highly recommended. A home owner/inspector may visually look at the dock and notice a few loose deck boards however, they do not have the experience to accurately give you a report about the structure and safety. Therefore, it is important to have your dock inspected by a dock design specialist.
Moving forward, there are several types of decking materials to choose from, and they are all dependent on an individual’s needs. For most, it’s easy to picture a traditional wooden dock stretching out towards the water. It blends in with mother nature’s beauty, and is aesthetically pleasing. That being said, there are three types of wooden docks to consider: Treated, IPE, and Garapa. Another option is composite decking, but we’ll visit this again later.
If the “natural” look is at the top of your list, treated yellow pine is probably your best option and is amongst the most popular in the low country. Treated wood should be inspected more frequently than the others, and routine cleaning/sealing (every 1-2 years) would be ideal for this material to prevent splitting, cracking, or warping…
There are plenty of at home remedies to clean and take care of your dock. First, it is important that you use a broom to sweep away any dirt/debris on the deck and a putty knife in between the cracks. Next, mix a 3 to 1 blend of olive oil and white vinegar to rid of any stains, mildew, and even algae.
If some stains are tougher than others, try scrubbing with baking soda and water. If you’d prefer to buy a product from the store, make sure it does not contain toxic chemicals such as oxalic acid, as these are corrosive and damaging to marine life.
As for resealing, there is a simple test you can use to determine whether or not your wood needs resealing. If you sprinkle water on the deck and it beads up quickly, you may not have to reseal just yet. However, if the moisture soaks right in, the deck can be sealed. There are videos available on the internet if you wanted to try this yourself, but the work is tedious so we’d recommend hiring an experienced individual to ensure the job gets done efficiently.
Moving right along … unlike treated wood, IPE decking needs little upkeep, but that does not mean it is maintenance free. This product, as most other docks, will be exposed to natural elements so it’s crucial to protect it. As mentioned earlier, you’ll want to sweep, and hose off the wood once a week and it is essential to test the wood each year to see if resealing is necessary.
Much like IPE, Garapa is a low maintenance decking material. Of course, it is important to clean off any dirt and debris, but Garapa can be left alone to weather naturally.
Last but not least, if zero maintenance is your goal, then composite docks are right for you. Most composite woods are made from recycled plastic and wood chips or saw dust. What’s better? Once down, the dock won’t rot, splinter, or twist. That being said, these docks do not need to be inspected as frequently, but should be looked over after damaging weather. Routine maintenance involves spraying the surface off with a hose.
All in all, maintenance is important regardless of the type of material you decide on. It is important to clean, inspect, and reseal your dock annually to ensure proper care and survival. Your journey to the sea starts here!