Docks 101

a micro-course on floating docks

Knowledge is Power

floating docks facts you need for a smart dock purchase

At Wahoo, we know floating boat docks can be a big investment. That’s why it’s vital you arm yourself with the knowledge you need to make educated decisions about how & where you’ll use your boat dock fund!

Throughout your dock building process, there are several choices you will need – and get – to make. Deciding who will build your dock is only the first one… Each year, Wahoo Docks manufactures more unique aluminum docks than any other boat dock builder in North America. In the last decade alone, Wahoo Docks has grown 20-fold. Why? One reason is our aluminum floating docks deliver what we promise—the highest value aluminum boat dock to our clients. Our dedicated, skilled, and experienced dock dealers are true dock craftsmen. With a Wahoo dock dealer, you are never just a number. Each Wahoo Docks dealer works closely with you to design – and deliver – the PERFECT DOCK for your needs and desires.

learn why a Wahoo aluminum dock is your best choice

Our approach is to deliver the benefits of the best dock on the market – designed by experienced engineers and built in a controlled environment with proprietary patented dock components – with world-class service. Years of proven success have taught us that floating docks that meet this criteria are best delivered by a dealer network carefully selected for their boat dock knowledge and artistry, as well as their in-depth regional knowledge.

Surprises aren’t fun when it comes to making a big investment, and we pledge to never keep you guessing when it comes to the design and installation of your Wahoo dock. So, sit back and relax while you take a moment to review all of our Dock Essentials information, starting with Docks 101. Docks 101 and the included “lessons” will get you ready to build a beautiful, top-quality dock that will keep you happy and satisfied for decades to come!

In Docks 101 you’ll learn about:

Dock Components

These are all the parts of our aluminum floating docks, including the dock mainframe, floatation, bumpers, decking, railing, roof, slips, fingers, and moorings.

Why Aluminum for Docks?

Discover why you should choose an aluminum dock as opposed to other materials like wood or steel.

Why Our Docks Are Better for the Environment

As a leader in the dock industry, Wahoo Docks has committed to a clean environmental record. Our dock engineers continually review the latest trends in technology to improve efficiency & reduce our environmental impact.

Team Wahoo

We know our team is integral to our success—and your satisfaction with your new dock. We do everything we can to foster a positive and stimulating team environment.

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Lesson 1

Click on any area below to learn more about that dock component.


This is the frame, or backbone, of the dock. Wahoo Docks uses marine-grade aluminum for our dock mainframes.


Boat slips are the places where you park your watercraft. In most cases, there are two parallel fingers on either side of the boat and in the front of the boat is the ‘header’ of the dock. Typically, the boat slip has bumpers throughout to prevent damage to the boat or dock should there be a collision or aggressive contact. When a boat lift is used, the lift attaches to the inside of the slip.


A dock roof performs three possible functions:

  1. It protects things underneath
  2. It provides shade
  3. An upper deck can offer additional usable space on top of the main dock area.

The dock roof choice has perhaps the most significant impact on the appearance of a dock and a similarly large impact on cost. In addition to the choice of dock roof style, the color of the roof – and exactly how much of the dock the roof should cover – is important.

Gable Roofs – A gable roof has two sloping sides that meet in the center, generally with the front and back left open. This is a cost-efficient roof and has an additional advantage over a hip roof—it’s a dock roofing style for taller boats that need additional clearance.

Hip Roofs – The hip roof style is similar to a gable roof except the open ends are also sloped toward the center and the roof is 4-sided. It provides a compact, solid appearance and is a more popular choice than a dock gable roof even though it is more expensive. A benefit of this design is that it provides better protection because the front and back of the roof are closed.

Gable-and-a-Half / Hip-and-a-Half Roofs – These designs have become very popular because they offer an attractive style and provide even greater additional dock protection. The style looks like two perpendicular roofs combined. It is a useful way to protect a full-size boat and a PWC while allowing sunshine on the platform.

Upper DeckUpper decks are an ideal way to achieve more usable space on a dock—especially when a limited footprint is necessary. Often, roofing is used in conjunction to an upper deck to create a certain look and reduce the overall cost. This can be in the form of gables running along two, three, or all four sides of an upper deck. Upper decks often include a dock jump gate for the adventurous and shade roofs over the deck where allowed.


Gangways are the passageway to and from a dock and are used so the dock can be located in deeper water. This is because some boats require greater water depth for mooring. Typical residential gangways are 60′ or shorter but can extend 100′ to 120′ in a single span if required. Most gangways use a truss design for the handrails, providing the strength needed to free-span long distances. The gangway handrails can also be supplemented with other railing for a specific aesthetic desire, safety requirements, or ADA regulations.


Anchoring” refers to the method of securing a floating dock to ensure it doesn’t float away! Anchoring is not generally a large part of the dock’s total price but is the most common area of failure. It’s also the only part of a well-built dock that needs adjustment as water levels charge. This means identifying the most useful anchoring method for your particular dock and water situation is vital. For this reason, the assistance of a qualified dock builder is crucially important. The knowledge and expertise an experienced dock builder brings to the table can save you time, money, and headaches in the future. There are four main ways to anchor a floating dock and a wide range of variations on these…

Cable Anchoring – The most common variation of this dock anchoring method consists of two cables connecting an anchor point on the shore to a winch on the dock. The winches can be adjusted to move the dock out during periods of low water and reel it in during periods of higher water levels. When this setup is used the gangway acts to keep the dock away from the shore, while the cables pull the dock back to the shore. Variations on this include cables that go from the dock to weights (often concrete) in the water—or a combination of shore and water anchor points.

Pile AnchoringPile anchoring is a useful dock anchoring method when a dock will not need to be moved because it’s in an area of relatively constant water level—usually an ocean. The piles must be driven and the dock attaches to the piles with pile hoops, pile slides, or piles rollers. This is a very secure method of dock anchoring.

Stiff Arm – This method of dock anchoring uses heavy-duty, articulating arms, attached to a point on shore and a point on the dock. It requires at least two arms but in certain situations, the gangway can act as one of the arms. The other component to this method includes cables that run diagonally between the arms. The drawback of stiff arm anchoring is that the dock cannot be moved to chase deeper water should the water level change.


Aluminum – Aluminum decking stays cool even on the hottest summer days. It is extremely durable and provides a slip-resistant deck surfaceWahoo Docks created their very own line of aluminum decking called AridDek™AridDek is powder-coated aluminum decking in your choice of the following colors: SandstoneGranite, or Artisan Clay. It is water-tight aluminum decking, maintenance-free, and will never require sealing, painting, or waterproofing.

Ipe hardwood – Also called Brazilian Walnut, this wood is quickly becoming the most popular choice for wood decking. That is because it is one of the densest hardwoods available and can easily last for 25 years or more. Ipe is as fire-resistant as steel and is bug and mildew-resistant, which makes it the ideal wood choice for marine environments.

Wood Composites – When you want the look of wood for your deck without the expense or maintenancewood composites can be the perfect solution. Composites are durable and low-maintenance. Wahoo Docks offers TimberTech PVC decking materials for those interested in a high-quality composite decking.

Concrete Decking – Concrete decking is best used in commercial decking applications with heavy wave action.


Dock floats are generally located underneath the dock mainframe structure. Wahoo Docks uses PermaFloat dock floats, which are extremely durable and offer a 15 year warranty. PermaFloat float drums meet Corps of Engineers regulations and are completely foam-filled for optimal dock buoyancy.


Bumpers offer dock protection and protect boats from damage as the motion of the water causes them to come into contact with each other. All our bumpers are made of black rubber or blow-molded polyethylene.

P-bumper – This bumper is tacked onto the edge of the dock and provides dock surface protection against scratches and damage if the boat and dock come into contact with each other.

Pole Bumpers – These bumpers attach to the dock poles and face outward so that boats and other watercraft will not make contact with the metal on the dock poles.


Dock railing is usually found around the upper deck and has a significant impact on the overall appearance of the dock. Historically, picket railing is the most popular option and where permitted, 2-line railing is used by budget-conscious owners. Wahoo offers a wide array of railing styles, allowing you to strike whatever style you desire. These options include picket railing in three colors, clear and tinted glass railing, wood railing for a more natural look, stainless steel cable railing, and a 2-line railing.


Dock Cleat – Dock cleats are the aluminum fixtures used for mooring a boat. They are typically mounted near the edge of the slip—on the deck or on a roof pole.


For a floating dock, a floating boat lift is the norm. Lifts are composed of a hollow plastic tank into which air is pumped or relieved in order to create buoyancy, lifting the boat. The tanks are mounted to a metal frame that includes articulating arms attached to the dock either along the fingers (side mount lift) or the header (front mount lift).


PWC lifts are generally a rotomolded plastic shell filled with polystyrene. PWCs drive onto the lift to keep the PWC out of the water. Often times, rollers and other features are found on a PWC lift to enhance their usability. Like a boat lift, a PWC lift is useful when you want to keep the hull of a PWC clean and protected when not in use.

Lesson 2


Why Aluminum for Docks

Why should you choose an aluminum dock as opposed to other materials like wood or steel?


Well, aluminum doesn’t actually “rust”—that’s what steel does. But aluminum does oxidize, just in the best way possible. When other metals are exposed to moisture and the open air, they oxidize in a much different manner. What we commonly call “rust” is the result of iron going through this process of oxidation. Rust is structurally fragile, corrosive, and exposes the inner iron to even more air, resulting in further corrosion. On the other hand, when aluminum oxidizes, it creates a very hard aluminum oxide shell on the outer surfaces that is one of the hardest substances on earth. It also resists further corrosion—making an aluminum dock more durable as time passes.


We use only 6061-T6 Marine Grade Aluminum for all of the structural components of a Wahoo dock because it offers nearly the same tensile strength as steel with up to 60% less weight. It also produces welds that are 20% stronger than the lower-grade aluminum many of our competitors use!


Wahoo Docks maintains an inventory of parts specifically designed for our purposes. We use over 35 extrusions that are made with our own specific dies and have a similar number of proprietary casting molds. By using aluminum, we can work directly with the mills to craft our very own designs that are purpose-built and engineered specifically for our needs. This saves us money, saves you money, and allows us to design our docks so that every component has the strength necessary to not only look superior, but to also be the most superior dock on the market.

Lesson 3

Wahoo Docks - Going Green - Environmentally Friendly

Going GREEN!

As the manufacturer of the premier boat docks and gangways in North America, we believe we carry a responsibility to preserve the aesthetic of the environment by meeting AND exceeding all environmental regulations.

Aluminum is a particularly green building material because it is so easily recycled and has zero degradation when the recycling process takes place. Also, remember from item 1 in the preceding section, aluminum is extremely slow to degrade and doesn’t require retreating with harmful chemicals. Because of this, our aluminum boat docks are generally inert in a marine environment and can be used in any body of water—even those specifically designed to supply drinking water! Compared to a steel dock that is either galvanized (a nasty, chemical process applied to the surface) or painted (a step that will require the paint to be stripped and re-applied several times over the life of a dock), an aluminum dock has a tremendously less harmful environmental impact than the alternatives.

But it’s not just the aluminum we use that makes a Wahoo dock environmentally-friendly. As a leader in the dock industry, we have committed to a clean environmental record and this extends to all of our components—from our responsible decking to our fasteners and accessories. Our dock engineers continually review the latest trends in technology to improve our efficiency and reduce our environmental impact. This means no chemicals are expelled into the surrounding water or group, no yearly treatment is necessary, and it’s safe to use in any body of water, anywhere.

Furthermore, a floating dock is a more environmentally-friendly option than a fixed pile dock by nature as it has a minimal impact on the natural buffer zone—the shoreline. A floating dock also doesn’t need to physically disturb the underlying vegetation and a thoughtful dock design can minimize sunlight blockage too!

Lesson 4


Team Wahoo

A key ingredient in our success as the country’s premier boat dock manufacturer, is the camaraderie that exists among the members of Team Wahoo. We support a positive work environment with clear policies of equality that are practiced by all employees at Wahoo Docks.

Each individual at Wahoo Docks is addressed on a first-name basis and an open door policy exists with all levels of management throughout our departments and the Wahoo dealer network. Using this as a framework, each dealer in our network is able to provide customers with personalized service while also accessing the expertise and resources of the nation’s largest aluminum dock company.

At least once per year, we bring together the dealers within our Wahoo Docks national dealer network to:

  • Present new information and/or continuing education regarding our dock products including manufacturing, construction and marketing
  • Share their own best practices both with the entire assembly and in small breakout groups
  • Enjoy each other’s company in relaxing or sometimes – exciting – settings while participating in shared-experience outings, adventures, and fun-filled socials

We believe all of the above contributes to welding a team of individuals and dealers where Wahoo Docks is not only their “business” but is also their “family”. The benefit of this to you being a combined network of dock professionals who all care about your individual dock project and are dedicated to ensuring your Wahoo experience is second-to-none.

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