Docks are Re-surfacing as a Place to Be

Filed in Lakeside Living, On The Lake by on April 2, 2015

Aluma Grain surface from Floe

by David Peterson


If your dock has entered its sunset years and it’s time to consider replacement, we’ve got a few tips from the experts.


There is no “one dock that fits all” on the market anymore. However, the choices are constantly multiplying as technology and design has enhanced the frame strength, non-skid surface comfort and eye appeal.


There are plenty of people spending valuable relaxing lake home time on scraping, sanding, sealing and replacing lower cost wood dock boards. Cedar wood docks are still being maintained and manufactured, but not sold as much as lighter docks with maintenance free wood grain finish at the top end of the market.


Donavan Rasmusson started working for ShoreMaster, a company based in Fergus Falls, 30 years ago. He started as a welder, was promoted to plant manager and became a regional sales manager. In other words, he knows his docks and has seen the evolution.


“I tell customers who come to my store to buy what you like to look at,” said Rasmusson, who is now an owner of Lakes Area Docks and Lifts with stores in Pelican Rapids, Brainerd, Battle Lake and Cross Lake, all in Minnesota. “You may never buy another dock. Whatever you do, don’t let $1,000 come between you and what you really like. You will walk on it for the next 30 years.”


Find dealer in the know


Rasmussen says there is no deck product on the market that does not do what it needs to do. He advises you look at the job the local dealer does educating you regarding product knowledge and installation.


Along those lines, FLOE International based in Minnesota, has launched FLOE University as a dealer training and certification program. President Dan VanderMey says it helps dealers ensure they provide the proper dock for a customer’s unique situation.


Voyager“There are different quality of docks depending on construction parts and stability,” says Rasmusson. “Typically, from the top to bottom end, there is not as big a cost difference as people think, maybe 10 percent.”


Once upon a time there were more dock dealers in Minnesota, including at gas stations, bait shops and marinas. As docks got more “high tech” and costly, sellers of docks became more specialized, handling more variety in product line.


“One of the best lakes in Minnesota for development is Ottertail Lake,” said Rasmusson. “When you look at the shore in the winter time you will see 50 to 60 percent of the docks are made of old steel or wood. You can see there is so much old stuff to replace, and we have been saying it for 30 years.”


Rasmusson left ShoreMaster in 1998 to focus full-time at Lake Area Docks and Lifts and to help grow the business. He continues to make specialty docks for customers and market ShoreMaster products.


Three main surface lines


“When I started out, we had cedar wood. Now there is wood-look aluminum decking,” said Rasmusson about the evolution of the industry. “We went from having plain aluminum to different colors of paint. They added crushed walnut shells to the paint for a better grip. Now most dock dealers supply all three lines, including wood, composite/vinyl and aluminum.”


There will be mixed opinions about which line is the best, depending on who is making it. However, there are some obvious differences. When looking to purchase a new dock, there are some areas to consider such as slippage, the feel of the surface on bare feet, reflection, maintenance, color and durability.


Floe carpet deck

Floe Carpet Deck

There is a misconception that aluminum is a hot surface. The hottest material is carpet; and then wood because they both absorb heat, whereas composite and aluminum do not. Since aluminum is an excellent conductor, it naturally will dissipate heat outward staying close to ambient air temperatures.


Aluminum is lighter, vinyl is heavier, but both are durable and long lasting. Bolted docks can come loose as compared to welded products, but are easier stored. You will only have wind damage if the deck is too close to the water and waves can knock boards off. Docks with removable panels will help. Yet, docks with welded panels will stay put. FLOE roll-in docks have a bridge-truss design so that extreme waves can pass through the side panel of the dock.


A wood surface is the slipperiest. The vinyl and aluminum decks have textured surfaces. FLOE’s custom extruded aluminum decking is designed with about 25 serrated lines per inch. These are small serrations that together create a textured surface.


Floe Cedar Deck

Floe Cedar Deck

All FLOE aluminum decking is then painted using a powder-coat process. The grey aluminum color has a special grit added to the paint to maximize traction while maintaining comfort.


As for color, dock manufactures report the most popular are cedar and earthen-like in tan or mushroom.


In 2004, Voyager Industries based in Brandon, Minnesota recognized the need for an alternative to aluminum and wood dock decking. Voyager created a deck board that is strong, durable, has UV protection and stylish.


It is called Titan Deck, available in four styles and made out of 100 percent polypropylene, a sturdy plastic “that will take everything you and Mother Nature can throw at it.”


Floe Alumagrain Surface

Floe Alumagrain Surface

Kevin Van Orsdel, National Sales Manager from Voyager, notes that Titan Deck has a non skid texture, air flows keeps it cool on even the hottest days, and it does not reflect sunlight.


Voyager also has aluminum decking in a variety of colors, including wood-grain. That means you can have the best of both worlds when combining the benefits of a maintenance-free surface with the traditional rustic look of a wood grain finish.


Budgets aside, finding the right fit aesthetically and functionally will ensure that you and your guests enjoy your dock for decades.



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