How to Build a Private Dock

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In this article you will learn how to build a floating dock using a salvaged pontoon boat. Pontoon boats can be found in the classified ad section of a newspaper or online via such websites as Craigslist, or can sometimes be found sitting in yards and around marinas. They can usually be purchased for a low cost. The only things you will require from these salvage boats are the pontoons and the framework that attaches the boats together. The rest of the boat will generally not be used. Some items off the boat can perhaps be salvaged and sold, which will lessen the cost of your dock even more.

Things You'll Need

  • Used pontoons with cross members
  • Trailer (can be rented or borrowed)
  • 3/4-inch marine-grade plywood
  • Self-tapping screws
  • Drill
  • Drill driver
  • Sealant

How to Build a Private Dock

  • After locating your "salvaged" pontoons, transport them to the location where you will be building and floating your dock. The best way to transport them is on a pontoon trailer, which you can rent from a boat dealer if you cannot borrow it. You can leave the pontoon on the trailer during the rebuild, if you desire. Some pontoon trailers can be lowered and the pontoons can be set on blocks. Then, the trailer can be pulled out from under the pontoons.

  • Remove any furniture and/or seating and steering console from the boat. Some salvage boats have existing railing or fencing, which must be removed. Most pontoon boat decks have carpeting glued to marine plywood. This carpet is extremely difficult to remove and will generally cause a lot of damage to the underlying plywood. Determine if the plywood is usable as is or if it must be replaced. Generally, the plywood on a salvage boat is rotted and unsafe. Remove the plywood if necessary.

  • Check all cross members after the plywood is removed, and make any needed repairs. Determine the quantity of marine-grade plywood you require. Pontoon boats are generally 8 feet wide and 20 to 24 feet long. A pontoon that is 20 feet long will require five sheets of 8-foot-long marine-grade plywood.

  • Attach the marine-grade plywood to the cross members using self-tapping screws. Use only hot-dipped galvanized screws or stainless steel. Other screws will rust and break or loosen in the high-moisture environment of a river or lake. Drill pilot holes through the plywood into aluminum cross members using a drill smaller in diameter than the screws. Drive the screws into the cross members 12 inches apart.

  • The plywood can be used as is or sealed with a deck finish like Olympic water sealant. Any sealant designed to be used on decks is good and will hold up well. Marine carpet can be installed on the plywood, if desired. The salvaged fencing and railing, if usable, can be placed around the dock for safety. Be sure to leave a wide gate if you will be docking your boat alongside the dock. Install cleats for tying the boat to the dock.

  • Run cables and secure them to pilings or posts on the shore area to keep your dock in place. Launch your dock into the water, float it into position, and then secure it to cables. Pontoons usually have rings or "eyes" at each end that can be used to secure the cables. You may have to build a ramp or steps to allow easy access to the dock from the shore. if you live in an area where ice forms in the winter, which can crush the pontoons, you can retrieve the pontoon dock in the fall and store it on shore.

Tips & Warnings

  • This type of dock will last for many years if it is reasonably maintained.
  • Marine plywood is heavy. Having another person to help you is advised.

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