Thursday October 18, 2018
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Small Dock Project

How We Built Our Small Dock

It had been 3 or 4 years since the last time the water level in our pond was really low. I had removed the old dock due to its deteriorating condition, but before I could build a replacement the rains came and the water level in the pond returned to normal. Now (at the time of this writing) we are presently about 8 inches behind in rainfall this year and the water is low but nowhere near where it was when I removed the old dock. I ordered new hardware for the leg system and by the time it got here, well, you guessed it... it rained! But, due to the ground being so dry and no continuous flow into the pond, the water level has once again dropped enough to work on the dock.

UPDATE: After several years of using the metal hardware for the dock, I decided to utilize treated wood posts instead. Click HERE to read about our decision to make this change.

This is the hardware I ordered to build the legs for the new dock. Very nice looking pieces. The parts are aluminum with set screws used to tighten against the galvanized tubing that forms the legs. The plates are supposed to support the dock on the pond bottom without sinking. In my case, the two legs closest to the shore line are on rock. The two outer posts will be a test for how well this concept works.

Left: This is the lumber for (2) 10' x 4' sections, less the decking. The two metal tubes are for the legs.
Right: I have nailed the sides and center joist to the end pieces. The tape measure is to square the frame. Dimensions to each opposite corner should be the same. If not, now is the time to bump the long side up enough to match the shorter side. Measure both sides and half the difference should be the amount to move one side. This will ensure a square frame.

Left: I have attached a couple of diagonal pieces with drywall screws to hold the frame square.  These will be removed after the frames are in place.
Right: I have nailed in the bridging between the joists. This will strengthen the framing and prevent the joists from twisting.

Left: Here we see the bridging as viewed from above. I staggered the pieces to allow end nailing each piece and avoid toe-nailing the inner edges in place.
Right: This is one of the leg brackets after drilling the outer joist and mounting with the 3/8" carriage bolts provided with the leg brackets. Notice the set screws on the side to hold the tubing in place. This method makes it easy to level the dock after assembly if any settling does take place.

Both 4' by 10' sections are in place as they will be assembled at the pond. This alignment allows drilling the holes for the bolts to join the two sections ahead of time. This is much easier to do now with both sections on a smooth concrete floor.

Left: This is the center point where the two sections join. Note the threaded rod extending through the two end 2x6's of each section. The sun was casting a shadow right at the point where the two sections join and the end of the rod is almost invisible in the shaded area.
Right: Here is a better angle showing the end of one of the 1/2" threaded rods used to attach the two sections.

Left: Okay, enough for today. The two dock sections are complete and loaded on my trailer along with the decking and ready to haul down to the pond tomorrow morning.
Right: I dug the post holes a few days ago and concreted the 4x4 anchor posts for the dock into the ground. The water is normally at the grass line. Note the rock on the right side of the picture. This rock (partly covered with water) is large enough that the two feet of the first dock section will be on this rock in the shallow water at the edge. These posts were set just behind the back edge of the rock which is buried under the soil. The camera angle is slightly distorting this picture... the posts are perfectly straight and aligned with each other.
The post are 45 inches apart outside edge to outside edge. The dock is 48 inches wide, so given the 1-1/2 inch thickness of the two outer joists, the dock should slide down over the posts perfectly.

Left: Section number 1, unloaded, and ready to be lifted over the waters edge and lowered onto the 4x4 posts.
Right: Here we go with the first section. In case you haven't figured it out yet, I'm working alone. My tractor and boom pole do a great job when it comes to handling things like this. Note the 4-foot level on the left side of the dock. After lowering the framework to the proper height, I nailed the corners to the 4x4 posts, made sure everything was level, and installed the first two legs.
You can't really see it in the second photo, but I have attached a 1x2 furring strip to the front side of the 4x4 posts with screws, at the proper height and level. This allowed the end of the dock to slide down and rest on the furring strip. This made it much easier to keep everything in place while I leveled the other end.

Left: This photo is another view of the same phase of our project as the previous photo. 
Right: Section 2 is now being moved into place. Please look at the next photo very closely and try to guess what the problem is before you read the text.

Left: Did you spot the problem? No, it's not that one side is lower. That is just because I haven't raised it into place. Notice the leg brackets? They are both in the center! I realized I had the second dock section turned around when I tried to put the first threaded rod through the ends of the docks and bolt them together. There were no holes in the second section! Easy mistake to fix. Just set the section back down on the grass, turn it around, and maneuver it back into place.
Right: Now we are back in business. Looks better this time.

Left: Same as previous photo, different view. The two sections are bolted together and ready to receive the legs.
Right: Finally, the two sections are in place and standing on their own, ready for the decking.

Left: We are a little over half way installing the decking. I had cut all the boards to length yesterday and I'm using a pneumatic nail gun, so this is going fast. Notice the reflection of the dock in the water. It's really calm today and the ducks decided to watch from the other side (you can see some of them on the grass and their reflections in the water).
Right: All done... well, almost, I still need a step. I plan to add a couple of "x" braces on the two longer legs, although they aren't necessary.
In case you are wondering about the height of the outer legs, there is a reason I left them long. A winch is available to level the dock. It is simply a boat winch with a tube mounted to it that will slip over the top end of the post. By attaching the winch cable to the dock and cranking the winch it is possible to raise the dock if any adjustment is ever necessary due to settling. The two center legs are on rock and cannot settle so this is not necessary for them.

Materials List For Our 4'x20' Dock
(built in two 4'x10' sections)

Qty Description Used For
6 2x6x10' sides and center joist; sides are 10' (4 required), center is cut to 9'9" to fit inside end pieces (2 required)
6 2x6x8' ends and bracing; ends are cut to 45" (4 required), bracing is cut to 21-3/4" (16 pieces required)
22 5/4x6x8' decking; cut to 48" (44 pieces required with the last piece ripped lengthwise to fit)
1 4x4x8' dock attachment point on land (due to my length requirement, 1 4x4 was sufficient for 2 posts)
2 1-1/2"x10' schedule 40 EMT dock legs; 4 legs required (10' sections cut to length for 1 short + 1 long leg per section)
4 dock post bracket purchased from D.H. Docks
4 dock post base purchased from D.H. Docks

Note: All lumber used is this project is pressure treated and suitable for outdoor use