Risks Associated with Improper Dock Maintenance

Proper upkeep of your possessions and properties can help them thrive over time. But if you fail to maintain them properly, you may face risks and damages beyond the item’s financial loss.

If you own a dock, you may be aware of a few of the risks you face with improper maintenance, but there may be other factors you haven’t yet considered. Let’s take a closer look at the two main styles of dock you may own before diving into the many risks associated with owning one.

Floating Docks vs Fixed Docks

The two most popular dock types an owner might have are floating and fixed docks.

Floating Docks

Floating docks, as their name suggests, are docks that rise and fall with the current water levels. They aren’t secured with piling or structures beneath the water. Instead, they are often anchored with galvanized chains and concrete slabs or attached to land via a walkway. This makes the processes of installing, repositioning or removing them hassle-free.

Floating docks are more resistant to storm and water damage because they are not easily wind-battered or submerged in storms thanks to their ability to move with the water. They can also be made rather cost-effectively out of aluminum, wood, or synthetic composites that allow the dock to be sturdy enough to hold weight and light enough to float on the water.

These docks work best in areas of minimal boat traffic where water levels fluctuate.

Fixed Docks

Fixed docks serve as the classic, traditional dock most people picture. They are generally made of wood and are secured to the ocean, river, or lake floor with piling and other structures to secure them in place. This makes them very difficult to relocate or remove.

Fixed docks are sturdier than floating docks thanks to their structure, but this also makes them vulnerable because they can’t move with the water in a storm. Instead, they are battered by both wind and waves, which can cause the structure to weaken faster than a floating dock might. They may also be at a disadvantage in winter if you live in an area where water drastically falls and freezes over.

These docks work best in areas where water levels generally remain the same and where cargo loading and unloading occurs.

Improper Maintenance Risks for Your Dock

Improper maintenance can cause your dock to run down much faster than if properly maintained. Let’s look at a few of the problems and risks you may face if your dock is improperly maintained.

Fire Damage

The risk of fire damage can be significant in marinas and other docking areas–even at private docks. The oil, gas, and electricity you may use to run your boats can provide different potential sources for fire, and they can easily ignite your boats or dock if you don’t take care to ensure proper equipment and fuel maintenance. 

Also, ensure you always have fire extinguishers on hand in case a fire occurs.

Slip-and-Fall Accidents

Slip-and-fall accidents are almost guaranteed on docks. Even if your dock is built out of a more textured surface instead of aluminum or something slick, the presence of water on its surface can result in accidents. 

If your dock is open to the public, reduce your potential liability by putting up signs to warn visitors about the possibility of a slip-and-fall accident. You can also reduce risk by encouraging people to wear non-slip shoes or putting up railings that may prevent falls.

Wood Rot

Water is, perhaps, the most common source of damage to docks. Wood rot, for example, can affect both floating and fixed docks. It occurs when water soaks through the surface of the wood which will weaken the dock’s structure and may cause it to collapse. 

This problem can be avoided–or at the very least postponed–if you coat your dock in waterproof paint. Otherwise, you will likely have to replace the entire structure.

Saltwater Corrosion

We know water on its own is already bad for docks, but saltwater can be even worse. Saltwater can affect wood the same way fresh water can–by causing wood rot that inevitably destroys your structure–but it can also cause significant damage to metallic structures. 

Many individuals prefer to build their docks out of metal because it’s immune to water rot. Unfortunately, metallic docks are still very vulnerable if they’re placed in saltwater because the water’s salt content can cause the metals to corrode over time. This can lead to rust or other problems that will need to be resolved quickly before you have to replace the entire dock.

Liability Claims

If your dock is open to the public, or even if you permit a few close friends to use it, you may be at risk of a liability claim. Accidents can occur anywhere–especially on slippery surfaces where people are more concerned with having a good time than safety. 

So if someone overestimates the dock’s position and steers a boat directly into it, or if someone trips over ropes laying on the dock, or if a visitor scratches their hand on a protruding nail and develops an infection, you may be held liable for damages. Do your best to make sure situations like these don’t occur and have appropriate insurance protections in place to protect yourself if they do.

Key Takeaways

Docks are incredibly useful for boat owners, but they are not without risk. Make sure you perform regular maintenance and inspections on your dock to keep it from becoming a hazard to your or someone you love. 

If you want to learn more about the risks associated with improper dock maintenance or talk to one of our top-tier agents about a dock insurance policy, contact us today!