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14 Different Types of Docks for Waterfront Homes

A collage of different types of docks for waterfront homes.

Docks add value to a waterfront property by setting the location for your boat’s mooring point, a launching pad for swimming and diving, or an entertaining spot that you can share with family and friends.

How you plan to use your dock should be taken into consideration since there are different types of docks to choose from that vary in sizes, shapes, and styles.

Your property’s shorelines, state or local rules and regulations, installation and maintenance, and accessories should all be included in your considerations when looking getting or replacing a dock.

Related: Boat Accessories | Hewescraft 180 Pro V Boat | Renting a Boat Slip | Boat Cost | Buying a Boat

A. Types

1. Floating Docks

Floating dock on a river.

Floating docks are among the most common types of docks that you will see. They are very convenient because they are able to be used in many different types of water.

As you can probably guess by the name, these floating docks simply float on the water. They are secured to the land but they don’t have a framework that sinks down to the bottom of the body of water.

Due to how these floating docks are designed, it is possible to use them in deeper waters. Other types of docks won’t be possible in waters that are too deep because it simply wouldn’t be practical to sink posts all the way to the bottom.

A good floating dock will allow you to have a docking solution no matter how deep your waters are. You will still need to make sure that the environment is right for this dock, though.

A floating dock shouldn’t be placed in waters that have rough waves. This will wind up destroying the dock if the waves are too high and could wind up damaging it even if they are just fairly high.

You will want to use a floating dock in mild waters or at least waters that don’t have extremely rough waves. As long as you exercise some caution, everything should be fine.

It should also be noted that floating docks can remain in the water during the winter months. It is recommended that you detach the dock from the shore and place it in a safe spot.

Sometimes people have a specific area of the water where they store the dock for the winter. It could be a small bay or another area where it will be protected.

2. Stationary Docks

A crane standing on a stationary dock.

Stationary docks are the opposite of the floating docks mentioned above. These docks are firmly attached to the bottom of the lake or whatever body of water your dock is in.

These types of docks are built at a fixed height and can be improved in many different ways. It isn’t uncommon for people to attach roofs to these docks and they even sometimes build certain amenities into them.

If you are going to try to make a stationary dock incredibly fancy, then you will want to be sure that the water levels are going to remain fairly stable. If the water levels were to rise significantly, then your dock would wind up being under the water.

Likewise, if the water levels sink downwards, your dock will wind up being way too high. This can prevent your boat from being able to use the dock and this is a big inconvenience.

Stationary docks are definitely best used in bodies of water that have fairly stable water levels. This allows you to be able to make full use of them without it being a big problem.

These types of docks can be built out of various different materials. Sometimes people build stationary docks out of wood and other times they might be built out of concrete.

As long as you are prepared for any eventuality and you know your waters very well, you should be able to have a good experience building a stationary dock. It will be a sturdy dock that will allow you to easily access the waters.

These types of docks are good for small boats and can even be great for larger ones as long as they are built properly. Your waterfront home needs a really nice dock and a stationary model may be your best bet.

3. Combination Docks

A combination dock is an interesting solution to many of the problems that were mentioned above. Both floating docks and stationary docks have their weaknesses.

Floating docks aren’t always the most convenient but they aren’t as negatively impacted by fluctuating water levels. Stationary docks can be excellent but high or low water levels can render them useless.

The solution to your problems may be to go ahead and build a combination dock. It essentially combines a stationary dock with a part of the dock that is floating.

You’ll be able to use both of these parts to their full potential rather easily. As long as you are prepared to build things properly, this solution can wind up being preferable to simply having one or the other.

If the water levels rise too high, then you will at least be able to access the floating section of the dock. Most of the time, you will likely want to use the stationary dock due to its higher utility.

Having options makes it so that you will always be able to access the water. It’s a way to counteract certain inconveniences that can pop up.

You will be building a stationary dock just as you normally would. Then a floating dock is simply attached to the stationary dock to act as a secondary measure.

There are many different design styles for people to about making combination docks but this is a simple explanation of how you can approach it. Determine whether or not this dock idea is going to be right for your waterfront home before moving forward.

4. Lift-up Docks

Lift-up docks are an interesting type of dock that stands up on legs. This is a dock that people turn to when they live on a lake that has a lot of ice during the winter.

If the ice on your lake winds up creeping very high, then you need a dock option that can stay safe. A normal dock would encounter problems when ice approaches the shoreline so you’ll need something that can solve this problem.

The lift-up dock solves this problem by being able to lift up high into the air. This type of dock is hooked up to a winch. The winch is capable of lifting the dock up and lowering it back down.

You can lift the dock up when you need to and this can act to keep it safe from the ice. It’s a very convenient option for those who have waterfront property in colder areas.

Most people decide to remove the decking on their lift-up docks for the wintertime as well. There are those who leave it on but taking it off can reduce the problems that come from snow building up on it.

Luckily, removing the decking shouldn’t be too arduous. You’ll be able to lift your deck and keep things safe without it being a big hassle.

This is another dock type that requires the bottom of the body of water to be firm. You need to be able to secure this dock properly in order for it to work well.

Docks that stand up on legs need to have the proper support. If your property isn’t going to work well for this type of dock, then you will need to look into other options that are better suited to your needs.

5. Pipe Docks

Pipe docks are another type of dock that stands on legs. The legs of these types of docks are usually built using aluminum. An aluminum frame is going to be able to provide the necessary strength to build a very sturdy dock.

On top of this, pipe docks are actually one of the most cost-effective solutions that you will be able to take advantage of.

These docks are very affordable to build and it won’t be too difficult either. You will need to make sure that your situation is right for this dock before proceeding, though.

Firstly, the bottom of the lake or another type of body of water is going to need to be sturdy. In order for the dock to stand properly, it needs to be positioned on the firm ground.

Pipe docks also work better with stable water levels. If your body of water stays at a fairly consistent level throughout the season, then this type of dock is going to work well for you.

You will be able to build one at a very inexpensive price and will love how easy it is to use. This makes it possible to build a high-quality dock without having to break the bank.

You will need to remove the dock during the autumn at some point in time. These docks can become damaged by ice so it is important to remove them for the season to keep things safe.

The decking used to build your pipe dock should be easily removable so this shouldn’t be a big issue. It will be easy to put it back up again when the season changes and you’ll see that it isn’t a problem.

6. Wheel-in Docks

Wheel-in docks are very similar to the pipe docks mentioned above. The difference is that there are wheels attached to the dock so that you can transport it in a little bit more easily.

With the wheels attached to the dock, you are going to be able to move it around as necessary. You can wheel the dock out into the deeper sections of the water whenever you need to do so.

Wheeling the dock back in shouldn’t be too tough either. You can make use of this dock a lot more easily than many other standard docks. It allows you to be a bit more versatile with how you are approaching your dock situation.

There may be times where you will want your dock to be further out into the water so having it come with a bit of extra mobility is a good thing.

Of course, this dock is going to have the same limitations as a pipe dock since it is so similar. It will need to be placed on a body of water that has firm ground.

Most people use these types of docks in lakes that are firm enough to provide the proper support. If your body of water doesn’t fit the bill, then you are likely going to be better off using a floating dock or another option.

Despite the convenience of these wheel-in docks, they aren’t really all that expensive. Much as with the pipe dock, this is going to be one of the more affordable options that are available to you.

When you want a dock for your waterfront property, it is sometimes necessary to go with the best deal that you can get. You will be able to buy one of these docks at a very reasonable price so you will want to get it so long as it matches up well with your situation.

7. Permanent Docks

Permanent dock and a stunning view of the water and mountains.

Permanent docks are going to be a good option for anyone who doesn’t want to have to fuss with a dock once it is built. These docks are designed to remain permanently and they will be able to stand the test of time.

This sounds like a great thing and for many people, it absolutely can be. Permanent docks will not be well suited to every situation, though.

Docks such as this have excellent stability due to how they are constructed. Most of the time, steel pilings are used to connect to the bottom of the body of water.

The frame is then built on top of the steel pilings. It is an incredibly sturdy option that will be able to be used effectively for many purposes.

The problem with this type of dock is that it isn’t going to be practical to build this everywhere. It will only work properly in certain bodies of water.

Aside from this, these docks can encounter problems when placed in areas that are very icy. If you live in a place that is quite wintry, then you may want to seek out a different option.

The ice can damage these types of docks during the winter months. It is best to avoid building this type of dock if you know that your lake is going to freeze over.

Also, permanent docks usually work best in bodies of water that have stable water levels. If things tend to fluctuate a lot where you live, then it may not work out well.

8. Modular Plastic Dock

Dock made of modular plastic on a tropical sea.

One of the simplest solutions to your dock needs is going to be to purchase a modular plastic dock. This dock is made out of a very durable plastic material and it is capable of floating.

It isn’t all that heavy but it is still very rugged despite its light weight. If you want to have a dock at your waterfront home, then this is going to be one of the most cost-effective ways for you to make it happen.

Buying one of these docks is very easy and it will act as a floating dock. It’s basically just a mass-produced version of a floating dock that is made out of plastic.

You might think that it would be low quality but this isn’t the case. The dock is able to stand up to regular use and can last for many years.

The weight capacity is usually a little low on these docks so they won’t be good for heavy-duty purposes. Even so, they can be excellent docks to own that will allow your children to play on the water. If this type of dock appeals to you, then you will be able to easily buy one and start making use of it.

B. Materials

1. Cedar

Dock made of cedar on green waters under blue sky.

Cedar is one of the best types of lumber that people use when making docks. The look of cedar is very popular and it can definitely make a dock stand out.

If you want your dock to look great while being very sturdy, then cedar is a really good choice. You should be able to get cedar boards that you can use for the project at a reasonable price too.

Your local hardware store will definitely have plenty of cedar boards that you can peruse. These boards can be stained if you wish to have the deck appear more vibrant.

Some people enjoy having their docks look a little more worn. It just comes down to personal preference when determining which type of look you would like to achieve.

Cutting cedar boards to build your dock shouldn’t be too tough. You’ll be able to build the dock that your waterfront property needs and it will look really nice.

Don’t be afraid to look for advice on how to build a dock if you aren’t experienced with this type of thing. The process is actually easier than you might think.

2. Aluminum

Aluminum dock on water.

Aluminum is one of the common materials that people use for the legs of many docks. The legs need to be sturdy and so does the frame. You will find that metals such as aluminum can do an excellent job of giving a dock the stability that it needs to function well.

So long as the legs were sunk into the ground properly, it should be possible to use your new dock for a very long time.

It is possible to purchase posts and aluminum framing from many specialty retailers. You shouldn’t have an issue finding everything that you need to get the job done.

Simply ensure that you are buying the best materials possible so that your legs and frame will turn out great. This will give you a good docking experience and you will be glad that you went with an aluminum frame.

3. Steel

Ice-covered boat dock with steel frames.

Steel is also used to make frames for docks. It can be very useful to sink steel pilings into the ground to act as legs for your dock, too.

It just depends on the type of dock that you are making. Everyone knows that steel is one of the most durable materials known to man.

When your dock is built using steel for the frame and legs, you will be able to be confident in it. The dock will be properly set up to stand the test of time.

Even harsh weather shouldn’t be a problem for a properly built dock made from steel. Just follow the best dock building plans that you can and things will turn out swimmingly.

4. PVC Decking

PVC Decking

Source: Home Depot

PVC decking is among the most common types of materials that people use to build many docks. This type of decking looks very nice while also being very durable.

If you want to build a dock that is going to look really good while being able to stand up to the elements, then this is going to be a smart choice. It is made to last and will definitely be able to provide you with a beautiful-looking deck.

People sometimes put this PVC decking over the top of concrete slabs. Sometimes concrete is used as a dock building material and it can make a good base.

It isn’t the most aesthetically pleasing material, though. PVC decking can really make a difference when you want things to look nice while remaining very functional.

Another advantage of this material is that the colors do not fade easily. This means that your PVC decking can remain vibrant even after going through several seasons.

It snaps together very easily and you will be able to use it without having a lot of know-how. This is a good solution to make use of when you need to build a dock.

5. Concrete

Concrete dock built on an ocean.

Concrete can make for a good base when you are building a dock. It likely isn’t the first material that you would think of when the word dock is brought up.

Even so, many of the sturdiest docks around have been built partially out of concrete. It is pretty common to see stationary docks that are built using concrete but they usually make use of other materials as well.

Typically, decking is placed over the top of a concrete frame. There are various ways that concrete is used to help make docks but it usually isn’t going to be part of the surface that people will use.

Smoother wooden planks or PVC decking is used for the surface that people will walk on. It is surprisingly easy to make use of this method so you will be able to use concrete as a base for your dock without having to worry about it being an eyesore.

6. Plastic

Plastic dock on an ocean.

Various types of plastic are used to make docks. Plastic is one of the most prevalent materials for just about everything in the world. Many things are made out of plastic and docks are no exception.

Floating docks often make use of plastic billets to stay afloat and there are many other examples of plastic being used for docks too.

Sometimes docks will be made using composite plastic materials. This type of plastic is very durable and inexpensive, making it a cost-effective solution to your problems.

It isn’t going to be the perfect material to use for everything but it certainly does have a place in the dock-making process. Modular plastic docks will be a very practical solution for many people who need inexpensive docks for their waterfront homes.