Designing a Dock That Upgrades Your Life

All photos courtesy ShoreStation Lakefront Systems

Many lakefront homeowners do not realize that upgrading their dock layout can be one of the easiest ways to improve the appearance and value of their property.  If it’s done right, it can even upgrade your lifestyle.

Designing a new dock can be a daunting task, particularly considering the wide variety of styles and materials available these days. To make it less intimidating, Don Rusch of ShoreStation Lakefront Systems in Lincoln, Nebraska, recommends the following three easy steps.

“It really comes down to choosing the right material, choosing the layout you want and picking accessories,” Rusch explains. “Above all, you want a dock that is functional, long lasting and aesthetically pleasing. That may seem like a big job, but by sitting down and carefully going over the following three steps, you can greatly improve your chances for long-term happiness.”

Step One – Choosing the right dock material
There are three primary materials used to construct most docks today. They are aluminum, wood and polyethylene. According to Rusch, each has its own distinct advantages.

“Aluminum is very low-maintenance and cooler to the touch than wood because it dispels heat better,” Rusch said. “With aluminum docks you are also able to avoid things like splinters and nails.”

If you decide to choose aluminum, it is important to get a non-skid, powder-paint finish that resists chipping and scratching over the years.

Wood is the material of choice for some people because of the warm traditional look and feel it offers. It can be stained or left unfinished. Either way, it is important to select a wood like red cedar that can withstand lakeside environments.

Many docks are also available in polyethylene and other types of plastic.  In Rusch’s opinion, the popularity of these durable, low-maintenance docks may have peaked in recent years. “With the improvements in aluminum docks, we’ve noticed that polyethylene is becoming less of a choice by consumers,” he said.

Step Two – Designing a dock layout
It may take a little more time to design your layout than it did to choose the material, but this can be a fun, creative process.

First you need to take into consideration your lakefront’s physical limitations. How much space do you have available? How far out into the water do you want your dock to go? Are there any local regulations that must be followed?

Then think about functionality. How will you be using your dock? How many and what type of boat or watercraft do you have? Are you planning to add any more boats or watercraft in the future? Will you be doing a lot of swimming or fishing dockside? Will you be using your dock at night? Will children, seniors or anyone with special needs be using the dock?

After answering these questions, sit down and draw a layout that fits your needs. Many companies offer dock sections in various shapes and sizes, making it easy for you to get creative and come up with something unique. Your local dealer can be very helpful during this process, with useful tips and ideas that you may not have considered.

Step Three – Accessorize
Perhaps the most enjoyable part of the dock selection process is picking out accessories that make your dock more functional and aesthetically pleasing.

The assortment of dock accessories will vary from company to company. Start with practical items like stairs, railings and boat bumpers. Then take a look at those accessories that improve the overall use, looks and convenience of your dock area, such
as benches, tables, lighting fixtures and flagpoles.

Whatever accessories you choose, be sure they are easy to install or remove so you can rearrange them from time to time.

One of the most important things to keep in mind is selecting a dock that makes it easy to add more sections and accessories as your needs change in the future. “Versatility is the key to long-term happiness,” said Rusch. “You don’t want to get locked into a system that won’t be able to grow with you.”

A little careful planning is all it takes to design a dock that will meet your needs well into the future. Following these steps will streamline the process and help you upgrade your lakefront life. To learn more about docks and dock accessories, visit

by Steve Roth

1 Comment

  • I’m planning to have a dock constructed in my beach house because this will protect my boat from the saltwater, which is why I’m currently looking for a service that may execute the job successfully. Well, it’s a great thing that you were able to elaborate here that the Aluminum is low maintenance. I’ll keep in mind to opt for a non-skid and powder paint finish.

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