Dock Pilings – Wooden and Synthetic
Design and Build of Custom Replacement Docks
Dock pilings are the most important long-term investment you can make related to your waterfront lifestyle. But just like any construction project it’s hard for most people to see the value in the least visible choices you make.
After all, the Pilings are the least sexy part of your dock, right?
You walk on the decking at least every weekend. There are many colors and materials to choose from that impact the look too.
The railings really add an attractive feature to your dock. And they make it more convenient to fish from there, or just hang out with friends.
The same for boatlifts or davits. Benches and dock lights. All things that go into a useful, beautiful new custom dock in the Tampa Bay area.
So most waterfront home owners, condo associations and real-estate developers put money into the pretty, but look for ways to cut costs when it comes to the structure.
Here’s Why Dock Pilings Matter
First, leave it to the professionals to determine how many and what diameter dock piling is needed.
A piling that is too thin, or too thin for the application, can be dangerous.
Take one customer that insisted on using a certain type of piling to support their boat lift – only to find out that the entire rig waves back and forth while the rather BIG boat is being raised and lowered. Not safe!
And we’ve done many dock piling inspections while trying to determine if one can be repaired or not and found massive rot and wood-boring pest intrusion that made the dock unsafe to use.
Pilings are important because they are literally the foundation of your dock. And yours and your family’s safety depends on them being correctly chosen and installed.
Types of Pilings
Once the size and length of the pilings are chosen based on best practices, the question moves to materials.
There are 2 very different kinds of pilings:
- Pressure treated, wooden piles
- Synthetic or manufactured piles
Pressure Treated Poles
By far the most common kind of pilings used, treated wooden piles are probably what you’re most used to seeing.
You can think of these as being like wooden telephone poles that are either pounded into the sea floor or dropped into a drilled hole.
The biggest advantage to wooden pilings is the price. They are least expensive way to build a dock in places where pilings are required.
But there are downsides to using pilings like this.
For example, because there is generally arsenic used in the wood treatment process, these pilings have been outlawed in many environmentally sensitive areas. More than you might think.
In reaction to that, fewer toxic chemicals are now used in that processing. But that causes a shorter lifespan.
Better for the environment, but they must be replaced more often.
Learn more about what shipworms can do to a wooden piling here.
Piling Caps are a must have!
If you choose wooden, pressure treated pilings in spite of the short life span you will definitely want to invest in piling caps.
Those are the “pointy hats” that you see on top of some piles. They can be very decorative, coming in copper and other materials/colors, but the serve a serious purpose.
A flat-topped piling is a favorite spot for waterfowl to stop and rest. Maybe to line up their next meal or recycle whatever they’ve eaten recently… right on top of the post.
Not only is it ugly, but those bird deposits are highly acidic and accelerate the rot and deterioration of the piling.
You can avoid all that by adding a conical piling cap to each.
The diminished lifespan of wooden piles is typically shorter still in the Tampa and St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay area.
Because this area is the perfect environment for underwater pests – shipworms. And because storm surge and even our regular tidal pressures but any weaknesses to the test on a regular basis.
So if you do decide to use wooden pilings to build your new dock, you should also have piling wraps installed.
Piling wraps come in different materials, but you can think of them as ways to seal the bottom half of your piles from pests. These come in simple to sophisticated and should be chosen carefully with help form a licensed dock builder..
Synthetic Pilings | EcoPiles
The best alternative to wooden pilings is the EcoPile.
The Ecopile is 100% free from any leaching pollutants, 100% recyclable, 100% impervious to wood boring organisms and meets all the sustainability standards of exacting environmental requirements.
Also, there’s a 25-year warranty to back that up.
Wooden piles installed today might need replaces in as little as 10 years. But there’s no warranty or guaranteed on those because they’re so susceptible to environmental conditions.
The composite materials that make up Ecopiles – manufactured right here in Florida by the way – do not mold or mildew. Wood boring pests physically cannot possibly do any damage to them, and they’ll never need retreated or maintained.
Basically, you install these and then check back in 20 years or so – at which time it’s very likely they’ll still be perfect.
Plus, these pilings come WITH the piling caps included.
Mixing and Matching Materials
Because they have a big impact on the look and maintenance of your dock, many of our customers choose composite decking.
You can pick from a range of colors, they don’t really require maintenance, and using composites means the boards will last a long time.
In fact, the Wear Deck composite deck boards we usually recommend come with a LIFETIME warranty!
You can learn more about deck and dock synthetic materials in this article too.
Unfortunately, what’s been happening recently is that customers are choosing the maintenance free, lifetime option for their decking, but not for the piles.
That’s mostly because they don’t consider that you can’t really replace the wooden piles in 10 years and just reinstall the everlasting deck boards.
The cost of labor and the fact that even a slight variation in piling placements will make all the boards the wrong size make it so. Meaning that the life of even the best deck boards is completely dependent on the life of the pilings.