Floating Vs. Stationary Dock: Which One Is Right For You?

5 February 2015
 Categories: Construction & Contractors, Articles


If you're looking at building a new dock at your waterfront home, you'll have a plethora of options in the way of style and esthetics. But before you get started, you'll need to decide whether or not to build a stationary or floating dock. There are distinct differences between the two, and which one you choose could affect many things, from how often you need to replace it all the way to how you use your new dock.

The Basic Differences

As the name suggests, a floating dock rests on the surface of the water with the use of pontoons. They are buoyant and move with the surface of the water. Stationary docks, on the other hand, are built above the surface of the water and rest on pilings that are buried deep into the lake bed.

First Things First

Before you get carried away with making any big decisions, if you belong to a homeowner's association, you'll want to check the rules there. While they don't always place restrictions on dock building, it is possible that they only allow stationary docks or the use of certain materials when constructing. They may also have a size limit. This is usually done in an effort to maintain a uniform look among the community.

You'll also need to check with local ordinances, though if you're hiring a contractor to do the job, they should be able to take care of that for you.

Be sure you know exactly where your property line ends and the depth of the water where you plan to build the dock.


Believe it or not, floating docks and stationary docks generally run about the same price. However, this will vary depending on materials used. Wood is the most common choice because it's easy to install and it's cheap. 

In the long run, you may see that a stationary dock is a wiser investment for the simple fact that they tend to last a little longer than floating docks. This is because a floating dock is in constant contact with the water and will deteriorate more rapidly, especially in salt water. According to Gil Dissen, as long as it is properly maintained, a stationary dock can be expected to last anywhere from 25-35 years, and a floating dock 20-30 years. 


The amount of maintenance between a floating and stationary dock will actually be about the same. The type and frequency of the maintenance depends more on the material your dock is made of.

Wooden docks should be pressure washed annually and have a sealant applied. For both floating and stationary docks, keep the surfaces that are in the water free and clear of barnacles and other marine life as many species can not only cause damage but also make it difficult to inspect for problems. Any metal parts of the dock should also be lubricated regularly to prevent rusting. 

Lake Properties

If you live in a high-traffic area, one in which there are a large number of passersby or ones that bring on a lot of waves, floating docks may not be the best choice. Although they are meant to move with the water, they still don't have a lot of stability on water that moves too much. Therefore, stationary docks are better for rapid or strong-moving water.

The depth of the water where the dock is constructed is also important for several reasons. First of all, a floating dock will rise and fall with the water, so you don't want a dock that will hit the lake bed when the water is low. Also, it's difficult and costly to build a stationary dock in deep waters. For this reason, Dissen claims that stationary docks are better suited for shallow waters, leaving the floating docks to water depths of 30 feet or more.


When you live on the water, you probably get used to a lot of different sounds. But floating docks tend to be much noisier than stationary. If you want to spend the day sunbathing on your dock, you might be put off by the splashing, banging, and squeaking noises that are common with floating docks.

Other Uses

Think about what you will want to use your dock for, other than tethering your boat. Do you enjoy entertaining? Are you one to have frequent visitors from across the lake?

A stationary dock is a great setting for parties. They can be used to set up tables for eating, and many people even throw in a wet bar for special occasions. You certainly don't want you and your guests to be jostled about on a floating dock every time a wave rolls in.

If you need a large dock, whether you want the extra space or the ability to tether multiple boats, stationary marine construction is the way to go. Large floating docks tend to be unstable and damage more quickly.