Aluminum Framed Dock Benefits and Considerations

Aluminum Framed Docks offer a Number of Advantages over Traditional Wood Docks

By Mark J. Donovan

Aluminum framed docks are the way to go if you need to install a new dock. They offer a variety of benefits over a standard pressure treated wood dock. For example, aluminum framed dock sections are much lighter than same size pressure treated wood dock frames. This makes them much easier to install in the spring and to remove in the fall.

Aluminum framed docks also don’t decay, rot and weather, like wood dock frames. Even with pressure treated wood docks the ultraviolet light from the sun, as well as the constant contact with water, wreak havoc on them.

With aluminum framed docs the sun and water do not damage them. This said, if you choose to use cedar decking panels on top of the aluminum deck frames, which many people do, the cedar deck boards will bleach out by the sun. However, cedar holds up extremely well in the sun and is water resistant. So replacement of the cedar deck panels is a rare occurrence, possibly once every 10-15 years. You can also apply a water sealer or stain to the cedar deck panels to lengthen their life.

Aluminum frame docks are also stronger. Instead of joint sections being screwed or nailed to together with wood framed docks, aluminum framed docks are welded together at the seams.

If you’re considering having an aluminum framed dock installed make sure that 2×4 frames are used around the perimeter of the frame, and preferably as the center stringer. Also, if the deck width is to be 6 feet wide, versus the more common 4 foot width, then ask for at least two stringers to be installed in between the aluminum deck frame. This will prevent sagging of the deck frame and the deck panels when you walk on them.

 Here is a pipe dock I built on the shores of Lake Winnipesaukee.

Aluminum decks typically are attached to aluminum or galvanized steel pipe legs. If your dock is to be installed in an area of water that has high boat traffic or large waves use galvanized steel pipe legs for mounting the aluminum dock frame to. Galvanized steel pipe legs will hold up better and longer than the aluminum legs. Also, make sure the deck installer uses foot pads for resting the pipe legs on, versus pounding the pipes into the bottom of the lake, pond or river. With the foot pads, the silt and sand quickly wash over the foot pads and as they do the foot pads create a firm and solid base for the dock to rest on.

Also make sure that cross members are installed at least at the outer end of the dock. This will prevent the dock from racking sideways under rough water conditions. In many cases cross members may be needed at the end of each section of aluminum dock frame installed. The last thing you want to have happen is to come up to your lake home on a Friday evening and find your boat tied up to a collapsed dock.

There are a plethora of aluminum framed dock accessories such as ladders, jet-ski ramps, and various bumper and padding items that can easily be attached to them. In addition, there are typically several aluminum dock frame fabricators around each large lake. So make sure you get quotes from each one before selecting a deck fabricator and installer. You’d be surprised at the variation in price quotes. I’ve seen price quotes differ by as much as 100% for the same exact dock construction project, using exactly the same materials.

Deck Installation Bid Sheet

So if you have plans for installing a new dock consider investing in an aluminum framed dock. Yes, they cost about twice as much as a wood framed dock but they’ll hold up much longer and are much easier to install and take out of the water each year.

For help on building a deck, see’s Deck Installation Bid Sheet. The Deck Installation Bid Sheet will teach your how to hire the right deck contractor, and help to ensure that your deck project is completed on time and budget.

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