Docks and Ice – Can I Leave My Docks in?

Docks and Ice – Can I leave my docks in? by Joe McHale – Bestmade Products Inc

Probably not.  But don’t leave yet!  There’s still some important things to talk about!  Yes, it’s true, up here in the north we have this little thing we have to deal with every year called ice.  But you know what we don’t have?  Crocodiles and snakes.  I’ll take the ice.

If you’re finishing up your first summer at your new lake house and just now realizing all of your neighbors have removed their docks from the water and stacked them neatly on shore, you should be probably grab yourself a pair of waders or call the local dock guy and do the same thing.  While ice may look beautiful and harmless, the crushing power of this frozen water is significant and has potential to be extremely damaging.  The funny thing is, if you were to leave your docks in you may make it through most of the winter with little or no damage at all.  You may even start bragging to your neighbors or your wife how smart you are.  Then ice out happens and it all comes crashing down.

You see, it’s not the act of water freezing around a dock that’s the big problem.  It’s moving ice.  For example, let’s suppose it’s early March and the ice has receded away from your dock and life is well.  This is the dangerous spot.  All it takes is a change in the wind direction and those huge chunks of ice are now steaming towards your dock with the power of a Caterpillar D10 bulldozer and they’ll mangle your docks right into shore.  Catch the conditions just right and that ice may grab your docks and drag them out into the water and send them down to Davy Jone’s Locker.  “Well I never have ice moving in the lake so I’m OK.”  Maybe.  But you need to also be concerned about ice heave – when in shallow water the ice freezes to the lake bottom and runs out of space and starts pushing up out onto shore.  I know this happens to my lakefront every year before the spring high water and waves wash all the rocks back to their normal place.

Yep, I’ve seen it all.  I’ve seen ice sheets literally blow onto shore and slowly cross the road where the town plow truck had to come clear the mess.  I’ve seen hoists picked up and dragged 200 yards offshore and encased in ice (better go tie a barrel to it before it sinks).  I even had a customer who swore he didn’t need to take his docks out because he uses a bubbler and made it through 3 seasons before he caught the wrong wind at the wrong time from the wrong direction and his stuff got wrecked.  It’s just not worth it.

That bubbler I mentioned?  Yes, it will keep water from freezing around your docks, but it won’t stop the half-thawed ice freight train that’s for sure.  To sum things up, all docks except for those pile driven to bedrock by a barge or in big water that never freezes should come out.  Really only the smallest ponds are safe from moving ice – maybe a few acres in size or less.

So I’ve made the case that the docks have to come out every winter, now what?  I mean those suckers are heavy!  The key there is to make sure you have docks that make it easy on you.  You definitely want aluminum docks like these from me or someone else.  Make sure the deck panels come out so you can carry the dock out in parts and the sections are short to keep the weight down.  The key to remember is that when the lake house is new it’s not hard to get plenty of help to put the docks in and out.  However, as the years wear on you’ll find that Cousin Bob knows to not answer his phone in October.  Of course your kids are grown up and busy with their own kids so they can’t help.  Yep, it’ll be just you and the docks, so choose wisely!  Like I said though, it could be worse.  Snakes and crocodiles…

Posted by Scott Freerksen “The Lake Guy”

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