The Dock Primer - Final 1-24 by dfsdf224s

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									      DOCK PRIMER

                                             THE DOCK PR I MER
                                                               By Max Burns


                                                                    PAG E 4
                                                             GETTING STARTED
                                                           •A shoreline named desire
        Produced by Cottage Life                                    PAG E 7
          in association with
                                                     THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
     Fisheries and Oceans Canada
                                                             •The limits to thin
                                                      •Between a dock and a hard place
                                                             •Dock materialism
             COTTAGE LIFE                                           PAG E 1 2
54 St. Patrick Street, Toronto, ON M5T 1V1                       DOCK TYPES
    416-599-2000 fax: 416-599-0800             •Removable docks •Permanent docks •Specialty docks
                                                                   PAG E 2 0
    Fish Habitat Management Program               •Who does what? •Tips for easing the process
     – Ontario, Referrals Coordinator,
                                                                   PAG E 2 2
867 Lakeshore Rd., Burlington ON L7R 4A6
     905-336-4595 fax: 905-336-6285
                                                             FURTHER READING

                                  THE DOCK PRIMER                                                                                  Getting Started

                                                                                               proposed project all neatly drawn out,           frequently used areas such as horseshoe
                                                                                               cuts down on the red tape (see “The              pits or swimming areas, along with water-
                                                                                               Approval Process,” p. 20). Yet the best          intake lines, power lines, and telephone
                                                                                               reason to map your shoreline is that it          lines – basically everything.
                                                                                               greatly eases the task of choosing the loca-        If you are aware of shoreline nesting
                                                                                               tion, type, and size of dock best suited to      sites for waterfowl (remember the duck-
                                                                                               your needs and budget, whether you’re            lings that swam by in the spring?), fish
                                                                                               building it yourself or hiring a professional.   spawning areas or wetlands, mark these
                                                                                                  Begin the mapping process by locating         on the map too. But don’t include any
                       GETTING STARTED                                                         lot lines and measuring any structures,          as-yet-to-be-constructed docks – yet.
                                                                                               such as the cottage or pumphouse. Mark           Do, however, take pictures. In the sum-
                                                                                               your findings on the map. Same goes for          mer, definitely, but also in winter and

          n the beginning...there was a shore-   of this primer, which explains how I got      the shape of the shoreline, the direction        during spring break-up if possible. While
          line. Perhaps it already had a dock,   away with borrowing some research             of prevailing winds and currents, the            your cottage may be only a summertime
          one that no longer suited anybody’s    from it.                                      best views of the lake and shoreline, the        retreat, the shoreline is there all year,
          requirements. Perhaps the dock was        The most important thing to know           topography and vegetation on the land            and spring ice can tear apart anything
    falling apart, or maybe the shoreline was    about dock construction is that no dock       rising from the water and the land under         that you might decide to add – even
    devoid of a dock, an empty beach with        is a stand-alone structure. A dock has to     the water, noting its makeup (rock, sand,        reinforced concrete bunkers. If you are
    no place to moor a boat. For whatever        work in harmony with that sometimes           mud) at 12', 24', and 36' intervals. Also        new to the area, ask the neighbours
    reason, the decision was made, and that      uneasy marriage of land and water             mark the location of submerged naviga-           about the ice; longtime residents delight
    shoreline is getting a new dock.             known as your shoreline, and with the         tional hazards such as                           in frightening newcomers.
       Building a residential dock is not a      various uses you and your family envi-        rocks and sand
    difficult process. In fact, constructing a   sion for that shoreline. No two sites         bars. Note
    dock can be as easy as falling off a log,    are alike. And no two families are alike.
    often with the same results. Fortunately,    Celebrate this uniqueness by making
    building a safe and stable dock is only a    note of your shoreline’s prominent fea-
    little more difficult than building a bad    tures and hidden secrets. Then make a
    one, with the majority of not-as-good-       detailed map of it all. Graph paper is
    as-they-could-be docks existing simply       the preferred media for cartographic
    because the builder was unaware how          novices, as a scale can easily be assigned
    little separates good from bad. This         to the squares, such as one 1 ⁄4" square
    primer points both the confirmed do-it-      equals 4' or whatever is needed to fit
    yourselfer and the equally confirmed         your cottage shoreline onto paper.
    purchase-it-yourselfer in the direction         A detailed map of your shoreline is
    of good docks and good dock-building         your most valuable tool in building a
    practices. It also explains how to avoid     dock. For one thing, while I’m sure you
    some potentially damaging and costly         are a very nice person, you probably don’t
    errors. For the full scoop on docks –        want to build your neighbours a dock,
    including plans and full construction        which can happen when your carefully
    techniques – you will need to buy The        constructed masterpiece ends up on the
    Dock Manual (Storey Books), the only         wrong side of a property line (it happens).
    resource that can explain all facets of           Also, no matter where your water-
    residential dock construction. (See               front is located, chances are you will
    “Further Reading,” p. 22.) Coin-                 need to get approval from at least one                                                           Before you pick up a hammer, pick
    cidentally, The Dock Manual                      government agency, probably several.                                                               up a pencil and make a detailed
    was also written by the author                    Having a map of your site, with the                                                                  site plan of your waterfront.

                                       Getting Started                                                                           THE DOCK PR I MER

    A SHORELINE NAMED DESIRE                      roller coaster and older members of the
                                                  family refuse to board, complete your
    At this stage, what you have is the           dream in stages as your finances permit.
    “before” plan, the shoreline as it exists        Any successful shoreline structure also
    prior to any dock additions. Now, look        pays homage to its surroundings. The
    into the future – not at structures, but at   body of water fronting your property
    uses. Remember that the dock only facil-      exists because of a delicate balance in
    itates your needs. Make a wish list of        nature that has evolved over many mil-
    shoreline desires. Perhaps you need a         lenniums. That narrow band of earth
    place to moor the boat. (How big is it?)
    Or perhaps a place to swim, fish, launch
                                                  known as the shoreline – an interdepen-      THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME
                                                  dent conglomerate that includes the
    a canoe, and sunbathe. Or maybe just a        water and both exposed and submerged
    spot to sit and watch the world drift by.     lands – is the most ecologically sensitive

                                                                                                            he most common dock shape is            spawning areas. Then there’s the connec-
    Or any combination of the above and           piece of the planet most of us are likely                 the rectangle. It is, after all, the    tion of dock to shoreline and dock to
    more. Your needs and what you have in         to encounter. It’s also the reason we                     simplest and most economical            cottage, both of which are no slouches
    the way of waterfront property should         have chosen to inhabit this small piece                   shape to build. But often there         when it comes to disrupting that delicate
    dictate the shape, size, and type of dock,    of planet earth. Unfortunately, anything     are better choices, both from the shore-             ecological balance. The bigger the dock,
    not what the local lumberyard happens         we do at or near the shoreline will          line’s perspective and that of our cottage           the greater the potential for mayhem.
    to have in stock. Obviously, finances also    inevitably disrupt the balance, some-        wish list. The neat thing is that most vari-         “Bigger” also costs more to construct and
    play a role, but as we will see, docks are    times destroying not only the shoreline,     ations are based on the rectangle, often             maintain. So big docks are bad, right?
    usually modular devices, allowing you to      but also water quality and many of the       with one or more rectangular sections                Maybe. The problem is, build a dock too
    add and rearrange dock sections over          countless plants and animals that depend     joined together to make a more stable,               small and not only is stability compro-
    time. So rather than compromise your          on that shore area for existence. The        useful, and attractive dock.                                       mised, it might also fail to
    dreams with some substandard fright the       goal in successful dock building is not to       In most cases, dock sta-               DOCK SHAPES             serve your needs. That’s why
    kids love to use                              eliminate our impact – an impossible         bility increases with size. It’s                                   that map of your shoreline is
    as a floating                                 goal – but to minimize that impact. The      simply a matter of percent-                                        so important – it makes it
                                                             preservation of a shoreline’s     ages – the bigger the dock,                                        easier for both you and the
                                                              charm and abundant life, and     the smaller the impact your                                        various approval authorities
                                                              the realization of our water-    visit, or nature’s tantrums                                        to choose the dock best suit-
                                                             front dreams, need not be         for that matter, will have on                                      ed to both your shoreline
                                                            mutually exclusive goals. With     it. But it’s also true that as                                     and your needs.
                                                           a bit of planning and use of good   dock size increases, so too                                           The needs part of the
                                                          dock-building practices, it can be   does the risk of harming                                           equation is your wish list.
                                                           a single, shared goal.              nature. All docks possess                                          The list tells you what activ-
                                                                                               the potential to disrupt                                           ities are envisioned for the
                                                                                               currents enough to erode                                           dock, and these often dic-
                                                                                               submerged lands and                                                tate minimum size require-
                                                                                               shorelines (including those                                        ments. For instance, while
                                                                                               belonging to your neigh-                        U-shape            considered small craft, both
                                                                                               bours), increase the shading                                       sailboards and canoes can
                                                                                               of submerged lands, and                                            become serious dock hogs
                                                                                               disturb submerged lands via                                        when out of water, demand-
                                                                                               a dock’s seemingly benign                                          ing plenty of deck-acreage
                                                                                               footprint, all of which can                                        to swing around and launch.
                                                                                               destroy aquatic flora and                                          And things only get worse
                                                                                               destroy fish habitat and                        L-shape            should Aunt Mabel demand
6                                                                                                                                                                                                  7
                                   THE DOCK PRIMER                                                                    The Shape of Things to

    unobstructed sitting room for her and her      to dock stability – like training wheels on     BETWEEN A DOCK
    favourite deck chair while all this is tak-    a bicycle – and the shapes created help         AND A HARD PLACE
    ing place. That said, if your shoreline        to define designated activity areas. For
    includes a usable beach (check your            example, one end of a T-shape could be          The main problem docks experi-              CEDAR
    map if you forgot), some things – such         set aside for sunbathing, while splashing       ence is one shared with everything
    as swimming zones and sailboard stor-          and diving are moved to the other end.          else in the universe: entropy. Or the                      PLASTIC
    age, may be best assigned to the beach,        The shapes can also “capture” protected         idea that nothing lasts forever. Wood,
    reducing demands on dock size. However         areas of water for the mooring boats or         metal, plastic, concrete – all the basic
    (dock planning has no shortage of “how-        to create a children’s wading area.             ingredients of dock building – and even       While real
    evers”), if big boats are in the picture,         Breaking away from the basic rectan-         nature’s own bedrock, are all under con-      wood should
    there’s little point in opting for a small     gle allows us to direct foot and boat           tinual assault from two very destructive      be used for       PRESSURE-
    dock. Should nature make waves, and            traffic, and activity patterns, reducing        forces – stress and decay. The deleteri-      your dock’s        TREATED
    the dock isn’t up to snuff, it’s goodbye to    dock congestion. Therefore, less deck-          ous effects of stress (the result, say, of    framing, plas-
    both dock and boat. If the shoreline has       acreage is required to accomplish the           visiting boaters bashing into the dock, or    tic lumber can
    no usable beach – where water and land         same goals. This means less cost, less          nature hurling up huge waves, or spring       be an excellent
    meet at a steep cliff, for example – the       impact on the environment, and usually          ice pounding at your shoreline) can be        choice for decking. When installed
    dock then takes on the role of a beach.        makes for a more attractive shoreline.          reduced by distributing the loads. For        properly, it can offer a long working life.
                                                   And, as a bonus, those additional rec-          a dock to survive to its maximum life
                                                   tangles can be added or subtracted over         expectancy, all loads must be shared by       bers the dock with his new ski boat), a
                                                   time as needs – and finances – change.          as much of the structure as possible.         decided advantage to waterfront struc-
    With the exception of finger docks (we’ll         What shouldn’t be considered for             That’s construction rule number one.          tures. And things made of wood are usu-
    get to them later), 3' is the practical min-   budgetary reasons are finger docks.                Decay is often a keen partner to stress    ally easy to rebuild should nature prove
    imum width for any dock. You need that         Finger docks are long and skinny rec-           when it comes to destruction. Wood            the better of humanity once again.
    much room for two people to pass with-         tangles that run out from a much larger         rots, plastic degrades, concrete spalls and      On the other hand, wood is at its
    out risking one, or both, being bumped         main dock or breakwall. They are                cracks, metal corrodes, rock erodes – it’s    worst down at the waterfront – wet
    into the drink. Also, as you will see in       designed to provide the maximum                 all part of nature’s regenerative process.    and fat one moment, dry and skinny
    our discussion of the various dock types,      number of slips (stalls to moor a boat)            Generally, decay thrives in an envi-       the next. Therefore, joining pieces of
    most docks have minimum                                  in a given area, not to save on       ronment of warmth, a little moisture,         wood in dock building requires differ-
    size requirements and                                             construction costs.          and a little oxygen, all readily available    ent techniques than the accepted
    stability suffers if you                                                  Because of the       at your local shoreline. Too much or          practices of house carpentry.
    try to go smaller.                                                        reduced width        not enough of any of these ingredients           The preferred deck woods for dock
       If your needs are                                                      (sometimes down      and decay moderates its attack. The           building are western red cedar, redwood,
    modest (perhaps in                                                        to a foot), finger   secret to longevity, therefore, is to take    cypress, and eastern white cedar (in that
    rare harmony with                                                          docks wiggle        advantage of this weakness, using good        order), all of which offer reasonable
    your budget), the                                                         around just like     design and appropriate materials to dis-      longevity and beauty. For most docks,
    basic rectangle may                                                       fingers and pro-     courage the onset and growth of decay.        that’s also the preferred structural list,
    be your best option.                                                      vide wobbly          That’s construction rule number two.          but for dock cribs and permanent piles,
    However, by                                                              access to boats,                                                    stronger woods, such as Douglas fir,
                                                                                                   DOCK MATERIALISM
    adding a second                                                        but not much else.                                                    hemlock, and tamarack (in that order)
    rectangular sec-                                                      If your activity list    WOOD Wood is the most common ele-             are a better choice. Unfortunately, this
    tion perpendic-                                                      demands greater ver-      ment in residential dock construction. It’s group is not as resistant to rot as the
    ular to the first                                                   satility, or you don’t     relatively easy to work with, reasonably      first. For permanent piles, western larch,
    dock (at the                                                       relish that impending       priced, and has some “give,” allowing it      pine, and even spruce can be used if fir
    deep end), the                                                    doom feeling of a tippy      to bend slightly under duress. It’s also at   is not available.
    resulting T-                                                      dock, stay away from         its strongest under short-term loads             The downside of opting for the pre-
    shape or L-shape adds                                           finger docks.                  (such as when your neighbour Phil clob-       ferred species, such as western red cedar,
8                                                                                                                                                                                              9
                                    THE DOCK PRIMER                                                                          The Shape of Things to Come

     is cost. It may last longer than other                       aside for treatment are            PLASTIC Plastic has become a                                  HARDWARE
     species, but it’s also becoming                                usually low, pressure-treat-     common building material for
     increasingly expensive. Granted,                                ed wood is typically more       docks. Compared to most                                       I cannot stress enough the
     that could be said for all                                      susceptible to warping and      woods, metals, or concrete,                                  importance of good hardware
     types of wood. Certainly,                                      cracking when exposed to         the types of plastic used in                                in building docks. Dock hard-
     the better decking species,                                    weather than the untreated       dock construction are rela-                                 ware is that bewildering array
     being naturally resistant                                      decking species, and even        tively low in strength and                                 of metal brackets (usually steel)
     to rot, will outlast species                                    some of the structural          lack hardness, which rules                                used to brace corners and joints,
     such as spruce, but what                                           species, such as fir. Most   them out for structural                                   connect dock and ramp sections,
     if the bank account won’t                                             of the problem wood       duties. Plastic is, however,                               hold the legs of pipe docks in
     accept that logic and                                                    is labelled S-GRN      the primary material for                                         place, and basically add
     demands a cheaper solution?                                                (the chemicals       dock floats and when sup-                                       strength to any dock con-
     That’s when we compromise.                                                 applied when the     ported by an appropriate                                       nection under load. Techni-
     One way to do this – already                                                wood is wet with    structure – typically made                                    cally, it doesn’t fasten stuff
     mentioned – is to reduce the deck                                          sap, and therefore   from wood, metal, or con-                                       together; it leaves that task
     acreage. Or we can try to extend                                         not as absorbent);     crete – plastic materials can                       to the nails, screws, nuts, and bolts.
     the life of lesser grades of wood.                                    pressure-treated wood     be used for decking. Plastic is                       Instead, once secured in place with
        Unfortunately, the standard route to                     labelled S-DRY is typically of      also waterproof and decay-                              nuts and bolts and the like, dock
     wood preservation – paint and stain – is      much better quality and longer lasting,           resistant, a decided advantage                           hardware shares and transfers
     not the answer for docks. Any coating         but also more expensive.                          when it comes to dock                                     loads, diminishing stress at cru-
     you put on a dock will fade, blister, and        Because it can leach chemicals into            construction.                                            cial junctures. Joints that are
     peel. Not only will this look terrible, but   the environment, pressure-treated wood               The cost of plastic                                  nailed or screwed together without
     damaged coatings also trap water, creat-      is banned for waterfront use in some              decking usually fits some-                                     the benefit of dock hardware
     ing an ideal spot for a wood-destroying       areas and, in all cases, construction             where between cedar and                                          will inevitably pull apart.
     fungi family to take up housekeeping. So      should take place well back from the              pressure-treated wood,                                               It doesn’t make sense
     you can either scrape and re-coat the         shoreline, with the finished dock being           although some variations are                                      to waste your time and
     dock every few years or use preferred         left to thoroughly dry and “age”                  more expensive than even the                                      money on second-rate
     wood species and do as many dock                           before being launched into           preferred species of wood deck-                                  hardware – whether
     builders advise – let the wood go natu-                       the water. Working with           ing. Typically, plastic deck-                                     it’s your own creation
     rally grey, an option that suits my                              pressure-treated wood is       ing comes in traditional        High-quality hardware,            (sorry), a piece of metal
     minimal-work ethic just fine.                                      more difficult, the saw-     “planks” of solid polyethyl- like galvanized corner               conscripted for a duty it
                                                                          dust considered toxic,     ene (PE), extrusions made       brackets, heavy-duty              wasn’t designed for (such
     PRESSURE TREATING But we’re                                            and each cut end         from polyvinylchloride          hinges, and corrosion             as barn-door hinges used
     not out of the protected woods yet.                                      must be sealed with    (PVC), and composites           resistant nuts, bolts, and        to join sections of dock),
     There’s still pressure-treated spruce                                     an approved preser-   of recycled PE and wood         screws is crucial if you          or even most hardware
     or pine, that Kermit-green                                            vative, all of which      byproducts. Unfortunately, want a long-lasting dock.              sold from mass-merchan-
     alternative seen on                                          exposes the builder (not to        all plastic decking has a                                         dising outlets. Whether
     countless decks, jun-                               mention the flora and fauna living in       propensity to sag, which means that            you’re buying individual pieces or
     gle gyms, and subur-                                the water) to some nasty chemicals.         decking cannot extend across the spans         acquiring the hardware as part of a com-
     ban retaining walls.                                    A reasonable compromise is to           of traditional dock designs (check with        pleted dock or in a kit, buy your hard-
     Pressure-treated pine or                               use pressure-treated wood for            the decking’s manufacturer).                   ware from an established dock builder.
     spruce is about 20–30%                                  the structure of the dock, keep-           Plastic decking is more fragile than        It’s an expense you’ll never regret.
     less expensive than the                                ing the preferred species for the        wood and more prone to splitting during           As for fasteners, screws and bolts hold
     preferred decking species,                            decking, thereby lessening the            installation (so follow the instructions),     a dock together much better than nails.
     such as cedar, but because                            odds of exposing skin to poten-           but when installed properly, it can cer-       The extra cost is minimal, but the increase
     the grades of lumber set                             tially harmful chemicals.                  tainly offer long life.                        in strength is not.
10                                                                                                                                                                                                   11
                                  THE DOCK PRIMER                                                                                         D o c k Ty p e s

                                DOCK TYPES

                 lthough nature considers        turbed by anchors, spuds, or pilings (the
                 all docks to be removable,      most popular ways to moor a floating
                 floating docks and pipe docks   dock in place). In fact, if secured to the
                 are the only ones cottagers     shore only, there may be no contact with
     usually consider removing, either for       submerged lands at all. However, floating
     repairs or to protect the dock from the     docks can block sunlight to aquatic plants
     ravages of winter ice and spring breakup.   – destroying fish habitat – and they may
     Given Canada’s climate, that means          also cause the erosion of shorelines.
     removable docks are extremely popular.         So, floating docks won’t work every-
                                                 where. For instance, a floater must have
                                                 sufficient draft to keep its floats resting on
                                                 water, rather than bumping into sub-
     Floating docks The people’s choice          merged lands (which can harm both the
     award goes to floating docks. Floating      dock and aquatic habitat). A depth of 3'           For maximum
     docks are relatively easy and economical    (measured at the low-water mark) is the            stability, a floating
     to build, adaptable to most shorelines      normal accepted minimum, however, less             dock should be
     and, because they are held up by the        may be possible if the water level never           heavily built and
     water, the distance between the top of      varies and the area is not subjected to            solidly anchored.
     the dock’s deck and the surface of the      harsh wave action.
     water – known as freeboard – remains                  Floating docks often lack stability.
     darn near constant, varying only with                    Not that it isn’t possible to         wide, low, and heavy. The consensus            offers the advantage that it can be
     dock load and high seas (both variances                   make a stable floater – hun-         among dock builders is that 6' x 20' is the    removed from the water in the fall and
     being minimal on a well-designed and                       dreds of good designs exist,        minimum size for a stable floater, this sin-   replaced in the spring (albeit with no
     well-built floater). And because a                            some so stable a user            gle section weighing in at about 1,000 lbs,    small effort in some cases). That said,
     floating dock is not dependent on                              could mistake the dock          minimum. And bigger is even better.            many floaters are left in all year where
     submerged lands to hold it up,                                 underfoot for a water-             As usual, the drawbacks to bigger are       wave action and ice conditions permit.
     there is no maximum water                                       front boardwalk. Unfor-        increased initial cost, increased labour to       In addition to size and shape, float type
     depth that prevents its use.                                     tunately, the stable of       install (and remove) and, of course,           and float location also contribute to stabili-
        From an environmental                                         stability disasters is even   greater impact on the shoreline’s ecosys-      ty. A discussion of float types is beyond the
     perspective, floating                                            greater. But it ain’t the     tem. A pipe dock – which can be made           scope of this booklet (see “Further Read-
     docks cause minimal                                             dock’s fault, folks, it’s      smaller and still remain stable – may be a     ing,” p. 22) but as a general rule, installing
     direct disruption to sub-                                    bad construction practices.       preferable choice in shallow water.            floats towards the perimeter of the dock,
     merged lands; typically                     When it comes to stability, a floating                In areas where ice conditions prohibit      rather than set back towards the dock’s
     from the small areas dis-                   dock works best when it’s made long,               a four-season solution, the floating dock      centre line, greatly enhances stability.
12                                                                                                                                                                                                  13
     THE DOCK PRIMER                                                                        D o c k Ty p e s

                                                       Pipe docks If you can imagine a 4' wide        enced, such as on busy river channels
                                                       wooden ramp, sitting about a foot above        where the wakes from passing boats may
                                                       the water, supported by long skinny legs       be a problem. However, with waves pass-
                                                       running from the ramp down to sub-             ing under the dock unobstructed, any
                                                       merged land, you’ve just mentally built a      boat moored to the opposite side will be
                                                       pipe dock. Building one in reality is only     exposed to the full brunt of wave action.
                                                       a little more difficult, and not a lot more    This makes a pipe dock a poor choice for
                                                       expensive (pipe docks are typically the        creating protected areas.
                                                       least costly dock option). And because            Severe wave action can put some of
                                                       most of the dock sits out of water, with       the lighter aluminum pipe docks at risk.
                                                       contact with land and shading of aquatic       However, lighter construction also
                                                       plants held to a minimum, a simple pipe        means less labour to install and remove
                                                       dock is typically the least disruptive to      the dock, and less initial cost to pur-
                                                       the environment of all the dock types.         chase. And in the right situation – a pro-
                                                          Unlike the floating dock, the pipe dock’s   tected bay for instance – a lightweight
                                                       freeboard varies as the water rises and        pipe dock is certainly up to the task of
                                                       falls. Should the lake or river at your        mooring smaller boats. For larger vessels
                                                       shoreline do a gentle retreat through the      and harsher wave action, boat lifts or
                                                       season, the pipe dock’s deck can usually       marine railways are a better choice. (For
                                                       be lowered on its legs to accommodate          more information about these options,
                                                       moderate fluctuations in water levels,         see The Dock Manual.)
                                                       and even more extreme fluctuations can            Because a pipe dock is propped up on
                                                       sometimes be handled by relocating the         legs, it can be built smaller than a float-
                                                       dock further out on the shoreline. (The        ing dock yet still remain stable. The
                                                       dock’s light weight is a real advantage        basic rule for pipe docks is that the
                                                       here.) Some pipe dock legs
                                                       can also be fitted with
                                                       wheels to make moving the
                                                       dock an even easier task. Be
                                                       aware that the slightest
                                                       amount of ice movement
                                                       can fold up a pipe dock like
                                                       an accordion, so plan on
                                                       moving the dock at least
                                                       twice a year. Or buying a
                                                       new one each spring.
                                                          Because a pipe dock’s
                                                       deck and framing remain
                                                       elevated above the water,
                                                       there’s very little surface
                                                       area exposed at the water-
                                                       line for nature to take a
                            Because they have little   whack at. This makes the
                           contact with submerged      pipe dock a good candidate         Where ice and currents
                         lands, pipe docks are easy    for situations where plenty        permit, rock-filled cribs can
                       on the aquatic environment.     of surface activity is experi-     make a solid dock foundation.

14                                                                                                                                                  15
                                   THE DOCK PRIMER                                                                                      D o c k Ty p e s

                                                   Crib docks A “crib” is a container. It           above the high-water mark,
                                                   could hold farm produce, or a child that         using the strength of the crib
                                                   hopefully will soon go to sleep or, in the       as an anchor or attachment
                                                   context of waterfront construction, a few        point for other structures
                                                   tons of rock and stone. Cribs should not         such as floating docks, can-
                                                   be confused with gabions. Gabions are            tilever docks or pipe docks.
                                                   inexpensive wire or plastic mesh baskets            From an environmental
                                                   designed to hold stones, rock, or concrete,      perspective, cribs aren’t the
                                                   the baskets wired together to serve as           most destructive kind of dock
                                                   unattractive retaining walls. At first glance,   (see “Concrete pier,” below).
                                                   they may seem like a good idea for dock          But because a crib covers
     Concrete piers are expensive and              building, but time has proven gabions to         a large area of submerged
     environmentally destructive.                  be better at tearing skin than retaining         ground, essentially smother-
                                                   rock under siege by strong currents,             ing anything beneath it, crib-
     width of the dock should be at least 3'       waves, and ice, all of which will distort        based docks often claim a
     and never less than the depth of the          the basket’s shape, causing the gabion to        close second on the list of
     water. Because stability suffers as legs      sag and flatten (along with your bank            bad-guy installations.
     get longer, about 6'-7' is considered the     account when you replace them).                                                   Sunk deep in the ground,
     maximum water depth for pipe dock                A proper crib is made from new,               Concrete piers The con-          piles made of wood, steel,
     installations. Choose one of the other        square-cut timber, not wire or driftwood         crete pier is basically a big,   or plastic make a great
     dock types – such as a floating dock –        or round logs tacked together with small         monolithic block of cement       base for a stable dock.
     for deeper water.                             nails and hope. (Occasionally, steel or          and aggregate, bound togeth-
                                                   concrete castings are used in lieu of            er in apparent perpetuity, often with an        However, concrete piers are expensive
                                                   wood.) The timbers are assembled in              integral boat ramp. Most often, they are     to construct, and no dock does a better
     Residential permanent docks (as opposed       opposing pairs, one pair laid out on top         found in commercial or municipal set-        job of disrupting the environment. Ero-
     to commercial wharves) can be divvied         of the next, creating a slatted, box-like        tings. As with crib-based docks, practical   sion of submerged lands at the base of
     up into three categories: crib docks, con-    affair boasting an integral floor. Threaded      water depths are limited to about 8', and    the pier can often be a problem too.
     crete piers, and permanent pile docks.        rods run the full height in each cor-            the piers can be merged into shorelines      And unlike the slatted sides of the crib,
     The term “permanent dock” is more a           ner to secure the timbers in place.              to provide a shoreline interface for other   the concrete pier provides no substitute
     reflection of objective than reality,         The box is then filled with rock, pro-           types of docks.                              home for refugee aquatic life. In most
     because permanence is not a concept           viding the bulk necessary to face off                                                                   cases, there are better solutions
     recognized by nature. Shifting ice can        against nature. (Of course nobody – not                                                                 for residential docks.
     topple cribs, lift piles right out of sub-    even Gretzky – wins every faceoff.)
     merged land, and push concrete piers up          Maximum water depth for a crib is                                                                    Permanent pile docks
     onto shore. However, blessed with sound       about 8'. For optimum stability (required                                                               The permanent pile dock is a
     construction techniques and the appro-        to fend off attacks from nature more                                                                    heavyweight, long-term version
     priate conditions, a permanent dock can       than humanity), a crib’s total height                                                                   of the pipe dock – still a ramp
     be made nature resistant, perhaps serving     should at least equal its total width.                                                                  on long legs, but definitely not
     faithfully for several generations.           Obviously, this can make for a very large                                                               portable. Instead of resting on
        Because freeboard will vary with fluctu-   container, which in turn needs a ton or                                                                 the surface of submerged lands
     ations in water level, permanent docks are    more of rock to fill. And all of this rock                                                              (as the legs of pipe docks do),
     often used in conjunction with floating       must be taken from onshore sources, not                                                                 long poles of wood or tubes of
     docks, the floaters attached to the more      from close-at-hand submerged lands               Cantilever docks                                       steel or plastic – all referred to
     permanent structure in a manner that          (which would disrupt fish habitat). For          don’t disturb                                          as piles – are sunk into planet
     permits the floater to move up and down       this reason, and from an environmental           the water or                                           earth, either by force or by
     in concert with changing water levels.        standpoint, cribs work best when placed          submerged lands.                                       being set in pre-drilled holes.
16                                                                                                                                                                                              17
                                     THE DOCK PRIMER                                                                                  D o c k Ty p e s

     Either way, because of the heavy-duty          Cantilever and suspension docks The
     equipment required, a pile dock is not        cantilever dock works in the same man-
     the stuff of home workshop projects.          ner as an overhanging apartment build-
        Piles should always be braced to           ing balcony: the dock’s frame stretches
     prevent sway, and although there are          from shore over the fulcrum point and
     no theoretical limits to depth, if the        then out over the water. The maximum
     exposed portion of the pile extends 25'       length of the dock, and what proportion
     or more above supportive soil, con-           of that length is land-based, is deter-
     struction costs will skyrocket.               mined by how well the land-based end
        The permanent pile dock shares many        – the end that supports the load – is
     of the environmental advantages of the        tagged to the shore. Customarily, a can-
     pipe dock – minimal contact with sub-         tilevered dock requires 2' of onshore
     merged lands, free flow of water under-       dock for every 1' hanging beyond the
     neath, and the ability to build a relatively  fulcrum, although I have seen cantilever
     narrow dock that is still quite stable.       docks incorporated into wood bulkheads
                                                   (walls built parallel to, and usually at, the
     Specialty docks Specialty docks include       shoreline) using a leverage ratio as little
     cantilever docks, suspension docks,           as 1' on shore for every 1' of overhang,        With its decking removed,
     and lift docks. These docks can be            and even less when the land-based end           a lift pipe dock can simply be
     dramatic to behold, and expensive to          is embedded into a concrete bulkhead            winched up in the air to escape
     purchase. Some design and construction        or solid bedrock.                               damage from winter ice.
     similarities exist between specialty docks       The suspension dock, on the other
     and the docks discussed above, but spe-       hand, has more in common with a mas-            cantilever and suspension docks are not     types will disturb the shoreline, particu-
     cialty docks are more complex, typically      sive suspension bridge than an apart-           the answer for locations that experience    larly the cantilever dock, which in turn
     making their construction and installa-       ment balcony. Picture half a Golden             extreme water level fluctuations.           has the potential to disrupt both aquatic
     tion beyond the skills of even many pro-      Gate Bridge. But instead of connecting             Both dock types have practical lim-      and land-based life.
     fessional dock builders. So these are not     two bits of land together, it connects          its to the length of overhang: About
     docks that lend themselves well to the        one bit of land to water and your boat.         8' for cantilever docks (which normally     Lift docks These come in three flavours
     average tinkerer.                             What you get is the Golden Gate Dock.           equates to a minimum of 16' of onshore      – lift pipe docks, lift floating docks, and
                                                                 Unlike the cantilever dock,       decking), and about 50' for the suspen-     lift suspension docks – each based on its
                                                              a suspension dock’s deck does        sion dock. Greater distances are not        non-lifting parent. The freeboard of each
                                                              not rely on large chunks of          considered cost effective.                  is the same as for non-lifting versions.
                                                              shoreline for support. Instead,         A short cantilevered overhang of            In concept, the lift dock appears to
                                                              a rectangular tower holds up         about 1'–2' can work very well along        function much like the classic draw-
                                                              a pair of cables anchored well       bulkheads, cribs, and the like. And when    bridge. Yet while the drawbridge was
                                                              back on shore to keep the            a large, shore-based deck is desirable      historically raised to protect the castle
                                                              deck suspended over the water        (such as over a boulder-strewn shore-       from unwanted weekend guests, the lift
                                                              (just like the entrance to the       line), the cantilever dock again becomes    dock gets raised for its own protection,
                                                              aforementioned bridge). Both         a reasonable option.                        hoisting it up out of reach of winter ice.
                                                              cantilever and suspension               Cantilever and suspension docks cause    (Although I suppose a lift dock could
                                                              docks sit completely out of          the least disruption to the water or sub-   still be used in the traditional sense if
                                                              the water, so neither dock           merged lands – it’s difficult to disrupt    unwanted guests arrive by boat.)
                                                              demands a minimum depth              what you don’t touch. However, as with         Size restrictions and environmental
                                                              of water for installation. And       floating docks, the resulting shading of    impact for the three versions of lift
                           A tower and thick cables keep a because freeboard will vary             the aquatic environment could be delete-    docks are the same as for their non-lift-
                             suspension dock up in the air. with water level fluctuations,         rious to aquatic life. Also, both dock      ing counterparts.
18                                                                                                                                                                                           19
                              THE DOCK PRIMER                                                                            The Approval Process

                                                                                             do it all, but the only surefire way
                                                                                             to find out is to ask (see
                                                                                             the contact infor-
                                                                                             mation on
                                                                                             p. 23). It’s also impor-
                                                                                             tant to remember that
                                                                                             some municipalities
                                                                                             now require building
                                                                                             permits for dock con-
                                                                                             struction, so you’ll need
           THE APPROVAL PROCESS                                                              to check there too.
                                                                                                The size, shape, and

           he approval process begins        What shape of dock will best accommo-           location of your dock – or
           with you. Makes sense; it is,     date your wish list of activities? Make         perhaps even whether you
           after all, your dock. With the    copies of your original site map and let        can have one at all – will all
           map of your shoreline and         members of the family explore different         come under review by the
your wish list of shoreline desires spread   solutions. When a consensus has been            powers that be, so don’t be
out on the kitchen table, use what           arrived at (through democratic process          surprised if you’re asked to
you’ve learned about dock shapes and         or dictatorial rule), the next step is to get   make some changes. But mak-
types from Sections 2 and 3 to look for      approval from whatever government               ing adjustments at this stage –
   solutions. How will a dock work           agencies might take an interest in your         when your dock is still in erasable
      here? Perhaps it would be better       proposed dock.                                  pencil on paper – is much easier
         at the opposite end of the             Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO)            and more economical than altering           deck by summer. Having a shoreline
            shoreline? Based on the ter-     has the responsibility to protect fish          the finished work. And, of course, fines    map, photos, and a well thought out
               rain – both submerged         habitat anywhere in Canada. And since           have yet to be imposed for noncon-          plan eases a bureaucrat’s job (and they’re
                  and above-water –          shoreline alterations can affect the life       forming plans (at least at the time of      all overworked, remember), which in turn
                      what type of dock is   and times of a fish, your dock falls            this writing).                              will definitely improve the odds of getting
                         best for both you   under the jurisdiction of the DFO. Nat-                                                     a timely “okay” to proceed.
                           and the envi-     urally, this being Canada, the provinces                                                       And no lemonade tastes sweeter than
                                                                                             TIPS FOR EASING THE PROCESS
                               ronment?      have also got into the act (the Fisheries                                                   that sipped from a deck chair on your
                                               Act, to be specific), as have regional        Begin the mapping and designing             own dock, while your mind drifts with
                                                  Conservation Authorities. Perhaps          process in the summer when you can          the breeze. Now, let’s see…maybe an
                                                  it doesn’t need saying, but when it        accurately assess current and proposed      L-section attached to the end would just
                                                comes to getting approval for any            waterfront activities. Present your plan    be enough to get the chair out into the
                                                kind of shoreline work it’s always           to government agencies in the winter        sun. That’s the other thing about docks
                                                best to start at the bottom and work         or late fall when those in charge of        – when construction stops, invariably
                                                up. So in Ontario, your first stop for       approvals have the time to look at your     the wish list begins anew.
                                                  approval should be the local Con-          proposal and suggest alternatives should
                                                     servation Authority, then the           there be a problem. Waiting until spring
                                                       Ministry of Natural Resources         to talk to the government gang could
                                                      (MNR), and finally the DFO.            result in long delays before your plan is
                                                  You may not have to talk to each           even considered, and don’t expect much
                                               of these agencies separately. For             personal attention. By getting all the
                                             instance, some Conservation Authori-            paperwork taken care of when the lake is
                                             ties may handle the entire process on           frozen, you could be building your dock
                                             behalf of the others, or the MNR may            in the spring and sipping lemonade on its

                                   THE DOCK PRIMER

                        FURTHER READING
     MOST WELL -STOCKED BOOKSTORES WILL            •Docks & Projects, Cottage Life Books,
     either carry, or can order, any of the        Toronto, ON ISBN 0-9696922-1-8
     publications listed below.                       A compendium of fun and useful
                                                   things to make at the cottage, from
     •Cottage Life magazine, 54 St. Patrick St.,   deck chairs and loon nesting platforms
     Toronto, ON M5T 1V1                           to games, snow huts, and much more.                         CONTACTS
        Published six times a year, Cottage Life   It features docks, too, with complete
                                                                                                                     COTTAGE LIFE
     is an excellent source of information for     plans for two floaters. The portion on
                                                                                                      54 St. Patrick Street, Toronto, ON M5T 1V1
     anyone owning, or even renting, residen-      dock building was written by me and
                                                                                                           416-599-2000 fax: 416-599-0800
     tial waterfront property.                     subsequently expanded and updated in
        Phone: 416-599-2000                        The Dock Manual. (Contact info the
        Fax: 416-599-0500                          same as for Cottage Life magazine.)                    FISHERIES AND OCEANS CANADA
        E-mail:                                                                Fish Habitat Management Program – Ontario,
                                                   •The Dock Manual, Max Burns, Storey                           Referrals Coordinator,
     •Cottage Water Systems, Max Burns,            Books, Pownal, VT                                  867 Lakeshore Rd., Burlington ON L7R 4A6
     Cottage Life Books, Toronto, ON               ISBN 1-58017-098-6                                      905-336-4595 fax: 905-336-6285
     ISBN 0-9696922-0-X                                The only book dedicated to residential           E-mail:
        Not about docks, but if preserving         docks. All topics are covered in detail,
     your bit of God’s country is important        from site planning to every dock type           ONTARIO MINISTRY OF NATURAL RESOURCES
     to you, this is the best book available       and the many variations available.                          Lands and Water Section,
     for people living or vacationing on           Includes extensive how-to sections with                      300 Water St., Box 700,
     property not serviced by municipal            lists of required tools and materials. Also                Peterborough, ON K9J 8M5
     sewers and water (the situation for           features sections on mooring a dock,                    705-755-1694 fax: 705-755-1267
     many waterfront residences). The book         shore access (ramps), winterizing, boat                  E-mail:
     discusses where to find water, what           lifts, and marine railways. There are also                Web site:
     could be in it, how to get the water          ten sets of plans and a list of suppliers
                                                                                                              CONSERVATION ONTARIO
     into the cottage or house, pumps, water       and dock builders – everything you need
                                                                                                                 120 Bayview Parkway,
     treatment, sewage treatment, outhouses,       to know in order to build the best dock
                                                                                                           Box 11, Newmarket, ON L3Y 4W3
     alternative toilets, and even how to             for you and your shoreline.
                                                                                                           905-895-0716 fax: 905-895-0751
     cope with your plumbing                              Storey Books
     when the world around                                Phone: 800-793-9396                                  Web-site:
     you is white and frozen.                              Fax: 802-823-5819                     (This Web-site for the Toronto region lists contact info
     (Contact info same as for                              E-mail:             for Ontario’s 38 Conservation Authorities. Click the
     Cottage Life magazine.)                                Web site:                 link for “Things you should know about us.”)


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