You need a new floating dock or you want to add on to your existing one, but money is tight, so you are thinking of building your own. The cost of a finished dock includes the following:
• The cost to manufacture the dock parts.
• The cost to transport the dock parts to the final location.
• The cost to assemble the parts into a finished dock.
It is easy to see that building a floating dock yourself can save you the cost of paying someone to assemble the dock for you. This article will show you how you can also save money on both the parts and the shipping, if you choose the right framing materials.
There are many companies that manufacture galvanized steel frames. These are often sold as part of a kit that includes floats designed to work with the frames. Typically these frames come in sizes ranging from 2×8′ up to 8’x10′. Usually each frame is a single welded assembly that is hot dipped galvanized after it has been welded. The larger frames can weigh up to 300 lbs, and depending on where the dock frames are manufactured, shipping can be a big percentage of the final cost of the dock.
The significant weight of a steel frame dock not only adds to the cost of shipping, but an 8×20′ steel framed dock with suggested flotation will weigh 930 lbs before the deck is attached. If your dock has to come out of the water every winter, this may not be the dock for you. Another disadvantage of steel frame docks is that the metal is protected by a galvanized coating. Holes cannot be drilled in the frame or the protective coating will be breached and the metal will rust. This makes it more difficult to add to or modify the dock.
Another option is to frame your dock with pressure treated lumber purchased locally. With this option, typically a hardware kit is purchased that has galvanized steel brackets and fasteners. The hardware kit is small and relatively inexpensive to ship. While framing your dock with local, treated lumber will save on shipping expenses, lumber framed docks can be just as heavy as steel framed docks. In addition, unlike galvanized steel or aluminum, treated lumber is not designed to be submerged continuously. This means that the dock must be built so that the wood frame sits on top of the floats and rests entirely above the water. Because of the design constraints and weight of the wood itself, wood frame docks can be even more difficult than steel framed docks to move in and out of the water.
Aluminum dock frames are significantly lighter than frames made from either steel or wood. But some aluminum frames are welded units that can still cost a lot to ship because they take up a lot of space on the delivery truck. So depending on where the dock frames are manufactured, shipping can still be a big percentage of the final cost of the dock. There are companies making aluminum dock frames that completely bolt together. These frames can be shipped in a set of small packages and can be shipped cost effectively even from coast to coast. The final dock will also be significantly lighter. Most aluminum dock frames are designed to work with custom dock floats (usually sold by the dock frame manufacturer), however there is at least one manufacture that has designed an aluminum frame dock kit that can work with the 55 gallon polyethylene plastic drums. Combining the aluminum frame and plastic drums, the same 8×20′ steel frame dock that weighed 930 lbs, will only weigh 520 lbs. This is a significant difference that will make the dock much easier to take in and out of the water.
For many reasons including dock weight and frame design, there have never been any floating dock manufacturers attaching wheels to their docks. However, in 2010, at least one manufacturer is now offering wheels with their aluminum dock frame kits. They can be rugged plastic wheels that allow the dock to be rolled up the beach and stored there for the winter. Or an actual highway axle and tires can be added to turn the dock into a floating trailer and allow it to be towed right out of a standard launch ramp just a boat. This can be advantageous if your waterfront property is steep you do not have a beach on which the dock can be stored for the winter.
Another advantage to aluminum framed docks is that the corrosion resistance is built into the aluminum and is not compromised if new holes are drilled for additions or modifications. Note: when bolting together aluminum for use in salt water or any water that has even a trace of salt, you will want to avoid stainless steel fasteners and use aluminum fasteners instead. Stainless steel and aluminum have an electrolysis effect in the presence of salt that causes the aluminum to corrode into a white flaky powder.
We hope you have found this article informative, and if you decide to build your own dock, you have a better understanding of your options to frame it!
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