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12 Different Types of Boat Docks

A beautiful sight of private dock of boat on lake.

I spent years dreaming of purchasing a lakefront property. Once I finally found my dream home, I was confronted with an unexpected decision. What kind of dock should I choose? 

I learned that there are many types of docks. Which one is right for you will depend on your body of water, weather conditions, and what you plan to use the dock for. 

If you want a dock as a diving platform, you’ll have vastly different needs than if you want to moor your bassboat. 

1. Floating Docks 

A picture of wooden structure of the small floating platform on the lake.

Floating docks, as the name suggests, float in the water. 

Pros: 

  • Great for deep water
  • Suitable for changing water levels
  • Can be used to launch boats and other watercraft

Cons: 

  • Not for use in rough waters

These docks are excellent for bodies of water with fluctuating water levels. Since the dock floats, it is always directly on top of the water, no matter how much the water level changes. Other types of docks can become too high or too low in changing water levels because they remain at a set height. 

However, floating docks aren’t right for every situation. Strong waves can destroy this type of dock. 

They are secured to the land, which keeps them from floating away. However, they are not attached to the bottom as other types of docks are.

This makes them a great choice for use in deep water. Other types of docks require some type of support that reaches to the bottom of the lake. This can quickly become expensive and impractical as the water level rises. 

2. Modular Plastic Dock 

A view of modular plastic dock on the ocean.

Pros:

  • Inexpensive
  • Easy to install
  • Easily customizable

Cons:

  • Lower weight limit
  • Not particularly attractive

You may have seen a modular plastic dock. It’s made from durable plastic, which is typically blue. Plastic is lightweight, yet strong. It also floats easily. 

One of the best features of this type of dock is that it’s easily customizable. It’s made of plastic pieces that attach to each other. Think legos, for adults. 

 You can create the size and shape of dock that you want. It’s also one of the least expensive dock options. 

3. Inflatable Dock 

A inflatable dock captured at the lake.

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Transport to different bodies of water
  • Store when not in use

Cons: 

  • Can’t be used to launch boats or watercraft

An inflatable dock is exactly what it sounds like. Instead of being made from plastic or having floaters on the bottom, this dock is inflated. It works similar to a giant pool float or innertube. 

They are surprisingly durable and effective. You won’t be able to launch your boat from this type of dock. However, you can hang out with your friends on it. Some even have chairs and cups that are designed not to fall off the dock. 

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The Inflatable Dock 10, for example, provides 100 sq feet of on-the-water space. It has a weight limit of 1,500 pounds. 

One of the best things about this type of dock is its portability. Some other types of docks can be moved. However, they can’t be tossed into the car and easily transported to another area, or another body of water. 

In addition, you won’t have to worry about the dock when not in use. If you need a dock for a lake that freezes each winter, this type is easily put away safely.

4. Long-Term Docks

A sunset view of white Iron lake boat dock.

Some docks are designed to be moved, but long-term docks are designed to be stationary. These docks offer stability. You won’t have to worry about moving or securing them, because they are secured to the lake bed. 

Stationary 

Pros:

  • Can be improved with roof and amenities
  • Stable
  • Doesn’t need to be moved

Cons:

  • Not suitable for fluctuating water levels
  • Can be damaged by ice

Stationary docks are attached to the bottom of the lake bed by steel pilings. They are suitable for areas where the water level remains stable. If the water level is too high or too low, the dock becomes unusable. 

Stationary docks can be improved in many ways. Many owners add roofs or furniture to this type of dock. It’s very stable and is designed to be a permanent structure. 

Of course, you’ll want to be sure the dock won’t be underwater at times before adding furniture or other amenities to it.  

One issue with this type of dock in winter. Because it isn’t removed, it can be damaged by ice. If your body of water freezes in winter, you should choose a different type of dock. 

5. Crib Docks 

A view of deck on the lake at morning.

Pros: 

  • Stable
  • Lasts for many years

Cons:

  • Blocks water flow
  • Can affect habitat
  • Building is prohibited in some areas

A crib dock is made from cribs that sit on the lake or sea bottom. These cribs, or crates, are filled with rocks. This creates a very stable permanent dock. 

However, it has its downside. This type of dock essentially widens the natural shoreline. It blocks the water from moving under the dock. This can affect the natural habitat and water currents. Due to this, some areas prohibit the building of crib docks. 

6. Suspension Docks 

A photo of suspension dock on the lake.

Pros: 

  • Environmentally friendly
  • Attractive
  • Durable

Cons: 

  • Expensive
  • Difficult to construct

Suspension docks share some similarities with suspension bridges. Instead of being attached to the lake bottom, they are supported by suspension cables. 

This can be better for the environment. Other permanent docks, particularly crib docks, can block water from moving under the dock. This can affect the habitat. 

Suspension docks are functional and attractive. However, they can be expensive and time-consuming to build. 

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7. Removable Docks 

Cropped photo of plastic floating removable dock on the sea.

Removeable docks can be thought of as a compromise between a floating dock, which is easily moved, and a stationary dock. They are stationary, like a permanent dock. However, they can also be moved when needed. 

Pipe Dock

Pros: 

  • Affordable
  • Great for icy conditions
  • Practical

Cons: 

  • Requires stable water levels
  • Must be taken up and reinstalled each year

A pipe dock uses legs, or pipes, made of aluminum. It stays in place during warmer months, allowing you to access the water similarly to a permanent dock. 

However, when cold weather comes, the dock is easy to remove. When the water thaws, it’s easy to put back up. In addition to being great for icy waters, this type of dock is inexpensive.

There are some things you should consider, however. First, like permanent docks, you’ll need stable water levels for this type of dock. Second, you’ll need a stable and firm lake bottom to support the pipes.  

8. Wheel-In Dock

A photo of wheel in dock on the lake.

Pros: 

  • Inexpensive
  • Good for fluctuating water levels
  • Can be moved in and out of the water

Cons: 

  • Requires a firm bed
  • Not suitable for rough terrain or drop-offs

Wheel in docks is similar to pipe docks. They can also be removed from the water when needed, and are inexpensive. However, they offer a feature many people love. 

They have wheels, which makes them easy to move. Not only does this make them easier to bring in and out of the water, but it allows you to change their placement. 

They are also great for fluctuating water levels. The height of the dock is adjustable. It can also easily be wheeled out into deeper water, or inland to shallower water. 

Like a pipe dock, this type of dock requires a stable bottom. You’ll also need to consider the terrain at the bottom of your body of water. Large rocks or drop-offs make it more difficult to move this type of dock. 

Other Types of Docks 

These docks don’t fit easily into any of the above categories. However, they are certainly worth considering.  

9. Combination Dock

Full view of a dock in the water lake.

Pros:

  • Suitable for fluctuating water levels
  • Stability of permanent dock

Cons:

  • More expensive than a permanent or floating dock
  • Can be damaged by ice

A combination dock offers the best of both worlds. Floating docks don’t provide the stability of a permanent dock. However, permanent docks aren’t suitable for changing water levels. 

The solution to these issues is a combination dock. 

A combination dock begins with a traditional stationary dock. Once this is built properly, a floating dock is installed. The stationary dock is the one you’ll use most often. 

However, if the stationary dock becomes unusable or inaccessible due to the water level, you can use the floating dock.  

10. Lift Up Dock

A photo of step docks being lifted on the lake.

Pros:

  • Great for icy waters
  • Convenient

Cons: 

  • More expensive than some other types

Lift up docks are a great solution for certain situations, particularly cold winters. As ice develops, it can cause serious damage to your dock. Lift up docks manage this problem by lifting above the water, and therefore, above the ice as well. 

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Instead of removing your dock from the water in the winter, you simply suspend it above the water. It can safely remain there until spring, and easily be lowered back into the water. 

This is the easiest method of storing a dock for winter. Lift up docks use a winch to lift the dock. 

11. Kayak Dock

A beautiful view of kayak dock on lake with nature background.

Pros: 

  • Easier to get into kayak
  • Kayak on the water storage
  • Attaches to current dock

Cons: 

  • Requires an existing dock
  • Takes up space beside your dock

Getting into your kayak from your dock can be challenging, to say the least. I must admit, I’ve taken a tumble or two getting into mine. A kayak dock solves this issue easily. 

A kayak dock attaches to a floating or permanent dock. It offers a space for your kayak or other non-motorized boats. On each side is a small floating dock. It also includes a handrail. 

This keeps the kayak steady while you get inside. Once you are ready to go, simply paddle your way out into the water. 

Related: 17 Different Types of Kayaks

12. Drive-On Dock 

A photo of boat in the drive on boat lifts on lake.

Pros: 

  • Easy  boat storage
  • Prevents in-water damage

Cons: 

  • Not suitable for icy conditions
  • Not suitable for rough waters 

If you want to store your boat out of the water, a drive-on dock is what you need. These don’t lift out of the water the same way a lift dock does. Instead, the dock rises up enough to get your boat above the water. 

Corrosion and other damage to your boat can occur with in-water storage. However, you know that moving your boat or watercraft out of the water for storage can be time-consuming. 

A drive-on dock offers the best of both worlds. No need to store your boat somewhere off the water to prevent in-water damage. 

Types of Docks FAQs

A beautiful scenery of dock at sunset.

How Long do Docks Last? 

A floating dock can last between 20-30 years. A stationary dock, however, can last from 25-35 years. 

Can You Leave Docks In Winter? 

This depends on the type of dock you have, and more importantly, the water conditions. If the water freezes in winter, it’s best to remove the dock. Of course, permanent docks will remain in the water year-round. 

 What Material is Used to Build a Dock? 

This will vary based on the type of dock. Floating docks, for example, can be made from plastic or aluminum. Permanent docks can be made from steel, aluminum, or wood. 

The top of the dock can be made from plastic, aluminum, wood, or PVC decking. 

What Type of Dock is Best? 

The type of dock that is best depends on several factors. These include the intended usage of the dock and the water conditions. A permanent dock allows you to build a roof, so you can relax on the dock. A floating dock, on the other hand, is great for changing water levels.