If your South Florida property is on the waterfront, one of the privileges you enjoy is the ability to build a dock on the water. That is one of your rights under Riparian laws; if your land adjoins a body of water, you are granted reasonable use of the water. But this right is subject to the rights of other users, such as people who also have waterfront properties, the general public who use the water for fishing and transport, and of course, government agencies.
If you are interested in building a dock on your South Florida waterfront property, you may. But as Florida PM, a property management company in Broward County, warns, there are few things you should know. Even though you are technically allowed to “wharf out to navigable waters” by creating a dock or pier, it is not always that simple. For example, if your waterfront is in an area with protected seagrass, you may not be able to build a dock. There are also guidelines on how long the dock can be and how to use it.
For these and other reasons that we explain below, dock construction does not lend itself well to DIY. Even if you could build the actual structures yourself, you should consider other issues when building a dock on the South Florida waterfront. Thus, it is a good idea to consult and hire a professional dock contractor for such projects. Building a dock that meets existing regulations requires professional knowledge and expertise.
Here is what an experienced dock contractor can do for you.
Reasons to hire a professional dock contractor
1. Accurate documentation
Although in most cases, you automatically gain the right to build a dock, if you have a waterfront property, the state still regulates that right. Some types of docks do not require a permit, but most will need, at the minimum, a letter of consent from the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Any structure built in the water must also take the safety of people, boats, and wildlife into account.
Along with protected seagrass, there are areas designated as Manatee sanctuaries or aquatic reserves. Before a project can meet approval, the site plan must show it does not violate any relevant law. That is true even for waters that are not protected. An experienced dock contractor knows how to prepare the needed documents and obtain required permits. They can save your time by helping you navigate the red tape.
2. Proper site preparation
Waterways are highly sensitive to the introduction of any artificial structures. Minor actions taken during construction can significantly alter the behavior of the water and cause prominent disruptions downstream. For instance, the building could impact the area’s natural drainage and water flow. It could also disturb the bottom of the waterway and lead to a buildup of silt and debris in the area.
Other problems of poor site-preparation include shoreline erosion and accumulation of trash or branches in the water around the dock area. When building a dock, the whole area – far beyond the construction site – must be understood as a system with interconnected parts. Any actions in one area will compensate for a reaction in another region. That reaction may be adverse, and this is why you need a competent dock contractor for proper site preparation.
3. Dock design-considerations
All docks are not equal; the specific uses of each dock will determine its design. Some homeowners and amateur builders assume there is a one-size-fits-all design for building docks. But this is not correct, as there is a range of ways to use a dock and the unique designs that go with each of those uses. For instance, a dock that will serve as a platform for dining and sunbathing does not need to be close to the water’s surface. However, it needs to have steps leading down to the water (for swimming).
On the other hand, if a dock is going to be used by large boats, the structure will be subject to the constant tug of ropes, chains, and other moorings. That means the dock must be sturdy enough to withstand these unremitting strain and also high to allow easy access to the boat deck. These are some of the factors an experienced dock contractor will think about before designing your dock.
Every dock is going to be subject to the violence of storms. The vital questions a competent dock contractor wants to answer are:
- What is the anticipated speed of the prevailing winds?
- How high will the storm surges be?
- And will there be boats moored to the dock during a storm?
The idea behind these calculations is to ensure strong winds don’t act on the dock and flip or move it. The dock must absorb the shock of a storm and adjust its position relative to the water’s height. Furthermore, a professional dock contractor will ensure minimal impact on both if the storm knocks your boat into the dock.
Building a dock takes more than being able to use power tools. There is a lot more that goes into it. That is why you need a reliable dock contractor.