Floating Docks: When Are They The Right Choice?

Floating Docks

Although they are not as easy to build or keep up as stationary docks, and usually carry a heftier price tag, there are applications where a floating dock* is the best or only solution for your docking needs.

Because they are held up by the water, the distance between the top of a floating dock’s deck and the surface of the water (known as freeboard) remains constant; the only variation should be for dock-load and wave action. Also, since floating docks are not dependent on the lake bottom to hold them up, there is no maximum depth limit to their use.

Floating Dock Applications

The following specific situations work well for floating docks:

Large Scale Dock Systems: Floating docks are easy to assemble over the water. This is especially important for systems that need many sections of dock, such as swim docks for youth camps and tie-up docks for marinas.

Fluctuating Water Levels: Floating docks are ideal for water with fluctuating levels. This is important because a constant height can be maintained off the water.

Deep Water: Stationary docks are challenging to install in deep water (over 6 feet). Floating docks are simple.

Mucky Silt Bottoms: Floating docks should be used in areas that have mud bottoms. It can be extremely difficult, if not impossible to install or remove docks on legs or wheels in deep muck.

Floating docks should not be used in these applications:

Shallow Water: Floating docks will take a beating in shallow water situations if there is any type of wind, current or tidal action, especially over a rocky bottom.

Wind Exposure: In many lakes large pilings are restricted, in these cases floating docks cases and any attached boats are often attached by chains to weights under the end of the dock. Because of this and the added motion with floating docks, they should not be used in areas that are unprotected from prolonged high winds. The continuous chop combined with sustained wind forces against the boat and dock will make anchoring difficult, if not impossible.

Pros and Cons of Floating Docks



  • Floating DocksEnvironmentally, floating docks cause less damage to the substrate (lake bottom). Any disruption is usually limited to anchors, moorings or pilings that hold the dock in place. Some are attached only to shore, causing no damage to the substrate.
  • Water depth is not an issue, so long as it is at least three feet. Floating docks are ideal for deep-water situations.
  • Floating docks support a consistent freeboard in fluctuating depth conditions.


  • Environmentally, floating docks can block sunlight to aquatic plants, causing damage to fish habitat. They may also contribute somewhat to shoreline erosion.
  • Floating docks do not give the stability that a stationary dock does. The longer, wider, lower and heavier that a floating dock is, the more stable it will be. Unfortunately, these factors further decrease the amount of sunlight able to reach the water.
  • Typically for a floating dock not to cause damage to the substrate or itself, it will need about a minimum water depth of three feet. there is no maximum depth to worry about.
  • Floating docks are more expensive to build and install (and remove) because of their increased size.

Docking & Mooring Supplies features equipment and supplies to build, repair and keep up your dock – including dock floats.



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