Aluminum Framed Dock Benefits And Considerations
Updated: Nov 12, 2021
Aluminum framed docks offer a number of advantages over traditional wood docks | BY Mark J. Donovan
Aluminum framed docks are the way to go if you need to install a new dock. They offer a variety of benefits over a standard pressure-treated wood dock. For example, aluminum-framed dock sections are much lighter than same-size pressure-treated wood dock frames. This makes them much easier to install in the spring and to remove in the fall.
Aluminum framed docks also don’t decay, rot and weather, like wood dock frames. The ultraviolet light from the sun, as well as the constant contact with water, wreak havoc on wood-docks. With aluminum-framed docks, the sun and water do not damage them.
This said, if you choose to use cedar decking panels on top of the aluminum deck frames, which many people do, the cedar deck boards will bleach out by the sun. However, cedar holds up extremely well in the sun and is water-resistant. So replacement of the cedar deck panels is a rare occurrence, possibly once every 10-15 years. You can also apply a water sealer or stain to the cedar deck panels to lengthen their life.
Aluminum frame docks are also stronger. Instead of joint sections being screwed or nailed together with wood-framed docks, aluminum framed docks are welded together at the seams.
Aluminum decks typically are attached to aluminum or galvanized steel pipe legs. If your dock is to be installed in an area of water that has high boat traffic or large waves use galvanized steel pipe legs for mounting the aluminum dock frame. Galvanized steel pipe legs will hold up better and longer than aluminum legs. Also, make sure the deck installer uses foot pads for resting the pipe legs on, versus pounding the pipes into the bottom of the lake, pond, or river. With the footpads, the silt and sand quickly wash over the footpads, and as they do the footpads create a firm and solid base for the dock to rest on.
Also, make sure that cross members are installed at least at the outer end of the dock. This will prevent the dock from racking sideways under rough water conditions. In many cases, cross members may be needed at the end of each section of the aluminum dock frame installed. The last thing you want to have happened is to come up to your lake home on a Friday evening and find your boat tied up to a collapsed dock.
There are a plethora of aluminum framed dock accessories such as ladders, jet-ski ramps, and various bumper and padding items that can easily be attached to them. In addition, there are typically several aluminum dock frame fabricators around each large lake. So make sure you get quotes from each one before selecting a deck fabricator and installer. You’d be surprised at the variation in price quotes. I’ve seen price quotes differ by as much as 100% for the same exact dock construction project, using exactly the same materials. So if you have plans for installing a new dock consider investing in an aluminum framed dock. Yes, they cost about twice as much as a wood-framed dock but they’ll hold up much longer and are much easier to install and take out of the water each year.