Posted on February 27, 2014

Complete Guide to Best Dock Decking & Dock Materials

Your Complete Guide to Dock Decking Choices

Written by ShoreMaster Marketing

There is no element on any dock system that connects more closely to the dock user than the decking. And most important to someone purchasing a new dock, or upgrading an existing dock, is the amount of decking choices available to them. 

“Take Away The Decking, And The Dock Becomes Useless”

The decking on any dock system is the first thing that the dock user will see as they walk toward the dock, it is the first thing they will touch as they step onto the dock, and it is the first thing that creates a feeling of safety and stability as they continue their walk on the dock. All of these connections resonate deeply in the mind of the dock owner to create a perception of their dock which is categorized around the decking choice they have made. Take away the decking, and the dock becomes useless to the dock owner, a framework of aluminum gussets and welds, and a mere shell of its former existence. Sure, the dock frames, legs, or flotation are the foundation of any dock system, but without the decking they are simply potential, unrealized. If the dock frame and its frame components are the skeleton of the dock system, the decking is its soul. To fully realize the potential of any dock system, it needs the perfect decking.

Ask any dock owner to describe their dock and they will likely tell you two things, what style the dock is, and what kind of decking it has. A common response to this question is something along the lines of “I have a wheel-in style dock with cedar decking.” In some cases, a passionate dock owner will give you the brand name as well. The point here is that the decking on any dock is so highly regarded by dock owners, that it is used as key descriptor when asked to describe their dock system.

“Not All Dock Manufacturers Have As Many Decking Choices As ShoreMaster”

When it comes to upgrading an existing dock system, or purchasing a new one, there is no more important choice to the dock owner than the decking. When it comes to dock decking, more choices are definitely better than fewer. We all know that docks are used for varying reasons, as well as some common ones such as providing access to a boat or pontoon, or fishing and swimming. Docks are also used for work, special events, and relaxation. Not all dock decking is created equal, and not all dock manufacturers have as many decking choices as ShoreMaster. 

ShoreMaster is an Industry Leader in Dock Decking Choices and Quality

Long ago, ShoreMaster realized that not all dock decking is created equal depending on how you intend to use your dock. That’s why today, ShoreMaster offers the widest range of decking choices among all dock manufacturers in the industry, and ShoreMaster decking is regarded one of the highest quality decking options available today.

So How Do Dock Owners Choose The Right Decking?

ShoreMaster offers so many decking choices that it can be hard for consumers to grasp which option best fits their needs. Other dock manufacturers are much more limited in their decking options, which might seem like a blessing to a dealer who wants to limit their on-hand inventory, but limited decking choices really affect a dock users ability to truly get the best owner experience available in the industry. As a consumer, you don’t have to settle for what a dealer has on hand, or what they have access to from a dock manufacturer other than ShoreMaster. Remember, ShoreMaster dealers have access to the most decking choices anywhere, which is a major positive for dock owners looking to upgrade an existing dock system or purchase a new one. Even if your ShoreMaster dealer does not have your ShoreMaster decking choice in stock, they have access to it, and can likely get it in a very reasonable time frame as a part of ShoreMaster’s nationwide network of authorized dealers.

“Dock decking can represent anywhere between 25% to 50% of the total cost of a dock system”

While initial cost is obviously an important aspect when choosing decking for a dock system,  you might be surprised to discover that important factors such as how you will use your dock, how much maintenance are you willing to do yourself versus hire out, and how long you expect your decking to last all have major implications on the total cost of dock decking over the life of the product. You should also consider that; dock decking typically represents anywhere from 25% to 50% (or more) of total cost of any complete dock system. Some other dock manufacturers not only limit your decking choices, but hide the true price of their decking in complete dock frame packages. This not only hides the true cost of the decking, but it can hide other factor such as how much you are paying for the dock frame, or other dock components.   

Below, we’ll describe the different decking materials that are used to create ShoreMaster’s wide range of decking options, then we’ll list out some important considerations based on each decking material, and finally, we’ll describe the decking options available from ShoreMaster in each decking material category.

Choosing Wood Decking For Your Dock System 

For many traditionalists, wood decking such as red cedar or IPE hardwood is the only way to go when it comes to decking for docks. This is because these types of woods contain natural oils and tannins to resist rot, decay and insects without having to be pre-treated with potentially dangerous or harmful chemicals. Plus, many dock owners like the look and feel of a natural wood decking on their dock. It is important to note that wood decking will require more maintenance than aluminum or composite decking. A general recommendation is to power wash your wood decking annually and apply a coat of finish or stain every three to four years to keep it looking great. When choosing wood decking, it’s important to consider that natural wood decking can absorb the sun’s rays and become warm to the touch on especially hot days, on the flip side, wood decking will generally feel nice and warm even on cool days with plenty of sunshine.

Deciding between Hardwood Decking and Softwood Decking For Your Dock

Wood is a great natural looking and durable decking material for your dock system. ShoreMaster offers two types of wood decking material for your dock, IPE, which is a tropical hardwood, and red cedar, a softwood.

The first thing that you are likely to notice in the difference between hardwoods and softwoods is price. Hardwoods take longer to grow than softwoods, and this is attributable to the higher cost for hardwood material. Another difference that you’ll encounter is the density, or, the hardness of each material. Because hardwoods take longer to grow, the wood is more compact and dense; this makes hardwoods heavier than softwoods.

Softwoods grow quicker than hardwoods, and the wood is less dense, making it easier to cut and drill than hardwoods. Softwoods such as red cedar can have varying levels of hardness and resistance to insects and decay. This is directly related to the amount of heartwood in the boards. Heartwood grows near the center of the tree, which makes it harder, and more resistant to insects and decay. Sapwood grows near the outer part of the tree, and can be a bit softer and more susceptible to decay. The red Cedar decking supplied by ShoreMaster contains more heartwood so your decking is less susceptible to early weatherization and insects.

Whether you choose a hardwood or a softwood decking material for your natural looking dock, you’ll be glad to know that each type of wood contains natural oils and tannins to help protect it from insects and decay. And no matter which choice you make, each type of wood will require about the same level of maintenance to keep it looking good. In general, you’ll want to power wash your wood decking annually, and apply a finish or stain every three to four years to keep it looking great. If no stain or finish is used, you will still want to power wash your wood decking annually. Both IPE hardwoods and red cedar softwoods will weather to a nice silver-gray color when no stain or finish is applied.

 ShoreMaster Wood Decking Choices

Cedar Wood Decking

When ShoreMaster sources cedar decking from its suppliers, it searches for boards that contain more heartwood, which makes your cedar decking less susceptible to insects and decay. This way you can be confident that your cedar decking will resist decay and remain safe, while also looking great on your shoreline. Besides, to most dock owners, nothing feels better on your bare feet than the soft, natural beauty of red cedar decking from ShoreMaster.


Choosing a Composite or Plastic Decking For Your Dock

Composite materials are another great decking option for docks. Composite decking is usually chosen as a lower maintenance alternative to wood decking. One advantage that composite decking has over wood is that it never needs to be sanded, stained, or refinished. Composite decking is not necessarily maintenance free, however, and because many types of composite decking actually contain some wood fibers, it is important to keep them clean. Mold or mildew can grow in damp or shady areas of the decking which will then begin to show signs of decay if not cleaned regularly. It is important to note that some people may also lump plastic decking into the composite decking category. However, unlike composite decking, which is usually made out of a combination of wood fibers and plastic, true plastic decking is generally composed of 100% recycled and / or virgin plastic. Plastic decking eliminates the potential for decay caused by mold or mildew, but can sometimes be prone to cracking. In general though, composite or plastic decking is a great upgrade from wood when it comes to low-maintenance and long term durability for your dock application and where the feel of real wood decking is not important.

The Difference between Composite Decking and Plastic Decking

Plastic decking or composite decking can both be a fantastic, low-maintenance choice as decking for a dock system.

Composite decking often includes recycled inorganic materials like polyethylene or polypropylene combined with organic materials such as wood fibers. The inorganic plastics, and the organic wood fibers (or other materials) are bonded together using adhesives and other additives to form the deck boards.

Plastic decking contains no organic materials. This type of decking is typically made out of polypropylene, polyethylene, polyvinyl chloride, or some combination of the three. The deck boards can be injection molded, rotationally molded or extruded. Typically the boards are lighter than composite boards, and they can sometimes have a shinier appearance than composites.

Both types of decking will weather better, and require less maintenance than natural woods. Special attention should be paid to composite decking that is manufactured with organic materials as they can be slightly more susceptible to decay caused by mold, fungi, or mildew than plastic decking.

ShoreMaster Plastic Decking Choices

Flow Through Decking

Flow through decking from ShoreMaster is a great addition to your dock system. Its design allows water, dirt and sunlight to pass through the surface of your dock. This means your decking dries faster, stays cleaner, and may even have a positive effect on the waterfront environment because of its ability to allow sunlight to pass through the surface of the decking.  Flow through decking from ShoreMaster incorporates a safe, slip-resistant texture that is easy on the feet and looks good on your dock.

Vertex Decking

You’ve decided that you want a low maintenance decking option that isn’t wood or aluminum, but you just don’t like the idea of all those holes in the surface of the “through flow” decking options you’ve looked at. You also don’t want to risk dropping your fishing lures or your boat keys on the dock, only to have them fall through one of those holes and into the water. Then ShoreMaster’s Vertex decking is the perfect choice for you. Vertex is a very low maintenance, lightweight decking that is surprisingly safe, and non-slip, plus it feels incredible on your bare feet. Vertex decking is available in an attractive tan, non-slip flagstone pattern.

Choosing an Aluminum Decking For Your Dock

Aluminum is considered by many dock owners to be the best choice for decking material because it requires no maintenance, will not rot, decay, warp, or twist and it only needs to be cleaned as you see fit. Aluminum decking from ShoreMaster is also incredibly lightweight while remaining extremely durable. Aluminum decking can be powder coated, painted, or anodized and color options are virtually unlimited. Most aluminum decking that is to be used on a dock system is either left plain or raw, or powder coated. Some of the natural wood traditionalists have recently chosen to give up the annual maintenance rituals of wood decking ownership and upgrade to an aluminum decking that is powder coated to look very similar to real wood.  ShoreMaster’s Wood Grained Aluminum Decking is a great example of this type of aluminum decking, and a smart choice for wood decking traditionalists that want to reduce the amount of work required to maintain their old wood decking. Another advantage of aluminum decking is that it tends to stay cooler in the sun because of its ability to reflect and dissipate heat.

The Difference Between Aluminum Decking and All Other Decking Options

When comparing decking options, you may find yourself choosing between aluminum and all other options that are available. One thing to consider is that in almost every comparison, aluminum decking is, by far, the superior choice for a dock system. Generally speaking, aluminum decking will be much lighter than wood, composite, or plastic decking which means it will be much easier to remove the aluminum decking for inspecting the dock frame, or removing the panels for seasonal dock decking storage. While just about any style of decking can be painted, or powder coated, aluminum decking will not rot or decay, and when powder coated, will provide the best paint durability of any decking choice. Aluminum is a great choice when it comes to decking for dock applications, because it is lightweight, and will not rust, twist or warp over the life of the dock system and requires no maintenance except for the occasional cleaning as preferred by the dock owner.

ShoreMaster Aluminum Decking Choices

White Painted Aluminum

ShoreMaster’s white painted aluminum decking will add years of worry free, maintenance free enjoyment to your lake living experience. Because it’s manufactured from aluminum, it will never rot, twist, or warp, and you’ll never have to worry about applying stain or finish to keep it looking great. Powder coated in brilliant white, you’ll get a clean, modern looking surface that stays cool to the touch even on warm summer days. Our aluminum panels are treaded to provide you with a safe, slip resistant surface that is as comfortable, as it is beautiful.    

Tan Painted Aluminum

ShoreMaster’s tan painted aluminum decking gives you a worry free, maintenance free decking that makes lake living so much easier. Because it’s manufactured from aluminum, it will never rot, twist, or warp, and you’ll never have to worry about applying stain or finish to keep it looking great. Powder coated in natural tan, you get an attractive surface to compliment your waterfront property. ShoreMaster’s tan aluminum decking stays cool to the touch so you can truly enjoy every summer day on your dock. Our aluminum panels are treaded to provide you with a safe, slip resistant surface that is as comfortable, as it is beautiful.    

Woodgrain Painted Aluminum

You’ve just selected the perfect dock system, and you’ve even decided on a natural wood decking to match it beautifully, but you simply do not have the time or the desire to keep up with annual power washing and staining recommended for wood decking every couple of years. What to do? Consider upgrading your wood decking choice to ShoreMaster’s Wood Grain Aluminum Decking. Because it’s manufactured from aluminum, it will never rot, twist, or warp, and you’ll never have to worry about applying stain or finish to keep it looking great. Powder coated in a natural, highly realistic wood grain pattern, you get all of the benefits of aluminum and none of the work of wood. Our aluminum panels are treaded to provide you with a safe, slip resistant surface that is as comfortable, as it is beautiful.   

Plain Aluminum

ShoreMaster’s plain aluminum decking is a worry free, maintenance free, and paint free way to deck your dock for serious work, or serious enjoyment. Our plain aluminum decking is generally chosen by owners that value function over form, and it is typically placed on dock systems that are used to access the water for work as opposed to recreation. Our aluminum panels are treaded to provide you with a safe, slip resistant surface that is as comfortable, as it is beautiful.


ShoreMaster is Your Best Choice for Dock Decking Choices and Quality

With eight different decking options to choose from you can see that ShoreMaster leads the industry in high-quality decking options for your new dock system, or as way to refresh your existing dock system. We should note that ShoreMaster also offers a concrete style decking option in addition to the decking options listed above, but due to its weight, it is only used on ShoreMaster’s Galvanized Steel KitDock Floating Dock Systems.  

Now that you have more information on the types of decking options available for your dock system, you’re ready to head to your nearest ShoreMaster Dealer and see all of the ShoreMaster decking options for yourself. 


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