Posted on December 8, 2022
Your dock is only as strong as the quality of its construction and the material it’s built from. It’s also the centerpiece of just about everything you do on the shore. After all, you will be walking on this dock and any accessories you have on it to access the water and your watercraft. It’s important to ensure that when purchasing or upgrading a dock system, you review the dock decking options and materials.
Your boat dock needs to be strong to stand up to the rigors of outdoor and waterfront life. This dock could potentially be in the water year-round, meaning it needs to stand up to the water, sun, weather patterns, mold and mildew, and other natural phenomena. Outside of that choice, there are many personal choices and priorities that need to be weighed, including how much maintenance work you’re willing to do, your budget, and the aesthetics and feel of your dock.
ShoreMaster has not only pioneered the aluminum boat dock, but we’ve seen many different boat docks in our decades in the waterfront industry. Here are our thoughts on different dock materials, including our favorite, welded aluminum.
The traditional wood deck has remained popular for years for a reason. The look and feel of a natural wood dock can be magical. The price of wooden docks can vary based on the type of wood used—hardwoods take longer to grow and are more dense and compact, making it more expensive; softwoods grow faster and are less dense. Each type of wood contains natural oils and tannins that make them resistant to insects and decay, and these materials don’t need to be pre-treated with dangerous chemicals to look good at first.
The major disadvantage when comparing aluminum docks vs. wood docks is the maintenance needed for wooden docks. However, if you’re into big DIY projects, this might not be a deal breaker for you. Wooden docks require an annual power washing and a coat of stain or finish every three to four years to keep them looking and performing well.
Both composite and plastic decking can be a budget-friendly, low-maintenance option for a dock system. Composite decking is, as the name suggests, a composite of recycled inorganic and organic materials that are bonded with adhesives and other additives. Plastic contains no organic materials and may be injection molded, rotationally molded, or extruded. It’s also typically lighter. Both types weather better and require less maintenance than natural wood docks, although you should still wash them and keep an eye out for damage like mold, mildew, or cracking.
Our personal favorite, aluminum, is widely considered to be the best choice among dock owners looking for boat dock materials. While more expensive upfront than some other dock options, aluminum docks end up paying for themselves and extending your enjoyment of the waterfront for years. Aluminum requires virtually no maintenance apart from a good power washing if that’s your preference. Avoid boat dock rust, rot, decay, warp, or twist with aluminum. For the seasonal waterfront dweller, it also has the added benefit of being lightweight, making it easy to get in and out of the water as seasons change and with general maintenance and inspections. It holds up to years of wear and tear while still performing beautifully and feeling good, no matter what the waterfront throws its way.
Aluminum is also a great fit for the boat owner that wants their entire waterfront to be aesthetically cohesive and pleasing. Aluminum can be anodized, painted, or powder-coated to give it an array of colors other than plain silver (although you can have that as well!). You can even get aluminum dock decking powder-coated in a woodgrain pattern if you still love the traditional aesthetic but want the conveniences that aluminum dock decking offers.
You know that ShoreMaster is an industry leader in all things aluminum dock. We’ve been a waterfront leader for decades, pioneered the aluminum boat dock, and have the industry’s largest selection of options and boat dock accessories. Talk to a local ShoreMaster dealer to learn more about what makes aluminum a great choice and which of our options would work best with your unique shoreline and waterfront lifestyle.