This question is very common among first time lakefront home owners. The preceding scenario is usually as follows: I just bought this house in June, the old dock is either gone or an accident waiting to happen, and I have NO IDEA what I even need, let alone want. Fear not my soon-to-be-lounging-lakeside friends, I’ve got all the information you need!
Perhaps the most important consideration when choosing a style of dock – whether it be permanent, sectional, floating, roll-in, etc. – is if you will need to remove it in the winter, or if it can stay in year round. In northern climates where lakes, ponds, and rivers freeze during the winter, the ice can create powerful forces that will wreck and remove your dock with ease. Your blogger has personally seen a number of docks and hoists frozen in ice 200 yards off shore that some lackadaisical lake home owner failed to remove in due time, perhaps a result of the prior summer’s borderline excessive lakeside relaxation.
If your lake doesn’t freeze and the water stays open all year, you should be fine barring some type of regular high water event. However, beware of moving ice sheets in the spring. Just because your part of the lake didn’t freeze, doesn’t mean a cove around the bend didn’t. Large moving sheets of ice during ice out often pose the biggest threats. If you are on a lake that is fairly large in size (think square miles, not square acres) but still freezes, you’re going to need to get them out. Ice will freeze and expand up onto shore crumbling your docks, or the ice will freeze around them and drag them out into the lake on ice out. Either way, you’re losing your stuff. Don’t bother with the usual tricks such as pounding the support pipes into the lake bottom or filling them with concrete as you are just making it harder for you to clean up the wreckage in the spring. Ice wins almost every time. The key is to instead have a dock that is easy to remove, whether that be from using light weight aluminum materials, removable deck panel designs, or easy roll-in wheel kits.
To sum things up, when new lakefront owners ask me about removing their docks every winter I respond with one simple question. What are your neighbors doing? They’ve been there for years, and if they’re all taking their docks out every fall, you should be to. If they’re all leaving them in, there’s a good chance you’ll avoic the winter’s wrath.