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Thoughts on Dock building

Thoughts on Dock building

As a cottage owner in Muskoka, there is a good chance you have had to have your dock repaired or replaced. If a new dock, or repairs to your current dock are in your plans for the future, there are a number of aspects to the project we would suggest you research and consider before committing to this expensive undertaking.

  • There are no Ontario Building Code (OBC) specifications for docks. Buyer beware!


  • Plans for a new dock or major repairs to an existing dock must be approved by the local Building Department. Most likely, a building permit will have to be obtained.


  • Before deciding on where to put your new dock, you will need to check with the local municipal Building Department regarding setbacks, permitted size, etc. You will also need to check on how your shoreline is designated by the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans regarding fish habitat. Your shoreline may need a special study to be undertaken by a specialist to determine what can and cannot be built.


  • If your proposed dock is intended to support a boathouse, single-storey or two-storey, you will need to have technical design and construction drawings, stamped by a Professional Engineer. The same Engineer that stamped the drawings is also required to physically inspect the finished constructed dock and certify that it was built according to the plans. This is required before the Building Department will issue a building permit for a boathouse. Use a Professional Engineer who has experience with designing docks in Muskoka.


  • Specifications for a dock can vary widely, as there are no OBC specifications. Some design elements (type of piling, grade and thickness of steel for pilings, cross-bracing, method of fastening dock decking to the underlying steel structure, etc.) are inherently stronger, and longer-lasting, than others. The stronger, the better, in order to withstand ice pressure and floatation effects during flooding.


  • The cost of a dock can vary widely, depending on the dock builder and the design specifications. Cheaper is usually not better. Obtain a few quotes, based on the same technical specifications. Check references.


  • Unless you are using stainless steel dock piles (or wood cribs), the steel piles will rust over time. The thicker the steel and the higher quality of steel, the longer the dock piles will last before requiring repair or replacement.


  • Floating docks are always an option, even with a two-storey boathouse on top of them. A floating dock will go a long way towards solving the potential damage issues associated with spring flooding. Note that floating docks also require a building permit from the Building Department.


  • If you are going to finish the inside of the lower level of your boathouse, you will want to consider installing air vents in the interior perimeter walls to allow the walls to more quickly dry out in the event they are submerged during flooding. This reduces the risk of mould and rot developing inside the wall cavity.


  • We strongly suggest using ceramic coated deck screws to fasten the dock deck boards (wood or composite) so that individual boards can more easily be lifted up for repair or inspection, without damaging the surrounding boards.


This entry was posted on April 7, 2020 by Jim and Iris

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