Posted on March 17, 2022

How Deep Should a Boat Lift Be?

How deep should a boat lift be?

Written by ShoreMaster Marketing

Although there are differences between boat lifts, they typically operate the same way. They’re designed to lift your boat out of the water to protect it and make care easier. But in order for your boat lift to protect your boat, it needs to be used in the conditions that allow it to work its best, which includes the proper water depth.

When it comes to the ideal water depth for a boat lift, we at ShoreMaster personally like our water to be three or more feet deep. However, depending on the kind of boat lift you use, you can go as shallow as nine inches plus the draft. The type of lift that you choose and its features will greatly depend on the depth of your water as well as other variables.

Mistakes When Using Your Boat Lift

Common Variables

No matter what kind of boat lift you’re getting, you need to have some basic information to narrow your search down. Know the fully loaded weight of your boat and everything that will be on it, including fuel, gear, and water, which determines the weight capacity. The style of your boat will also help you determine the lift and supports that you’ll need. If you’re attaching your boat lift to a dock, you should know the specs of your dock, whether it’s fixed or floating, and if there’s a power hookup available. Your water conditions and fluctuation will also be major deciding factors. Most lifts will add about 12 inches to the required water depth over the draft of the boat: the exact distance will vary based on the height of the cradle beam and clearance between the boat’s centerline and the top of the cradle. 

For an easy way to figure out how much water you need, add up the boat lift mainframe and carriage, the draft of the boat, and the water fluctuation.

In addition to that, we have some recommendations based on the depth of your water, divided into three depth ranges. Incidentally, there are three main designs of boat lift: floating, bottom standing, and suspended. These are your best options for boat lifts based on the depth of your water.

Less Than Three Feet

Most boat lift options work best with at least three feet of water, but shallow shorelines still have options. Go with a sling-style option to compensate for the lack of depth. Shallow water or kicked cradles are also beneficial for water that’s more shallow on one side of your slip than the other. ShoreMaster also has pontoon boat lifts that work well in shallow water. For PWC, our drive-on jet ski docks easily work in shallow water.

Three to Nine Feet

You have a lot of options in this range because nearly any boat lift system can work in water that’s three to nine feet deep. You’ll be narrowing your choices down based on waterfront conditions: floating systems work better for areas with high tides and fluctuating water levels that make it hard to make manual adjustments. They’re also great if you have electrical components that need to be kept out of the water.

More Than Nine Feet

While floating boat lifts are good for some three- to nine-foot water depth situations, they’re essential for water that’s nine feet or deeper. At this depth, legs and pilings don’t hold up nearly as well. Thanks to high-quality engineering and technology, floating boat lifts provide a very stable platform for boats to rest while they’re not in the water.

ShoreMaster Boat Lifts

ShoreMaster has been on the water and in the waterfront business for decades, and our premium docks, along with our expertise, continue to be the reasons we’re an industry leader. We pioneered the aluminum boat lift and always look for improvements and innovations we can make. ShoreMaster’s customer support team can help with anything from product recommendations to installation help. Our expansive dealer network can help you out locally as well. Contact a ShoreMaster dealer near you to get started.