How Much Does It Cost to Build a Boat Dock?

D.P. Taylor
Written by D.P. Taylor
Updated November 24, 2021
backyard view of home with dock
Iriana Shiyan – stock.adobe.com

Highlights

  • A boat dock costs an average of $14,700, with a typical range between $3,700 and $27,200

  • It costs between $15 and $40 per square foot to build a boat dock

  • You could build a small floating dock or prefabricated pipe dock for as low as $1,000

  • A large permanent crib dock could cost $50,000 or more

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Interested in building a boat dock? It will cost you an average of $14,700, but the typical range is between $3,700 and $27,200. However, there are a lot of factors that can affect the cost. 

If you're fortunate enough to own a home on a lake or beach, why wouldn't you want a boat dock? It's the perfect place to go fishing, enjoy a morning coffee, or—of course—launch a boat for a day out on the water.

This guide will break down the costs associated with this project and what your final bill is likely to be.

How Much Does It Cost to Install a Boat Dock per Square Foot?

It will cost between $15 and $40 per square foot to build a boat dock. Since many docks are about the same width, you may pay based on linear foot, or how far out the dock extends. In that case, the average pier would cost $100 per linear foot.

What Kind of Boat Dock Can I Get on My Budget?

If you have a budget for your dock and just want to know what you’ll get for it, this quick breakdown might help. 

$1,000

This is the super low end of what you're likely to pay for a boat dock. For this amount, you could build a small floating dock, or buy a prefabricated aluminum pipe dock.

$4,000

This is closer to the more typical range of boat docks, although still on the low end. For this, you should be able to get a relatively small permanent piling dock.

$15,000

This is the average price of building a dock. This most likely applies to a permanent dock, as it's higher than you'd likely pay even for the most expensive pipe dock. This would pay for about 500 square feet of a piling dock, so you would get a pretty substantial dock for this price.

$30,000

This is the higher end of the typical price range. In this case, you could afford a very large piling dock with premium wood, or even a mid-range crib dock.

$75,000

This is the most you'll probably pay for a dock, and that's if you get a large crib dock with high-end materials. However, suspension docks are a wild card because they require extensive engineering, which may exceed even this price tag.

Building a Boat Dock Cost Breakdown

Building a boat dock is not as simple as buying some nails and wood. There’s also pilings (in the case of permanent docks), stone in many cases, and extras such as ladders and ramps. 

This cost breakdown, according to HomeAdvisor, will give you a sense of what materials may be needed and what you’ll pay:

  • Piling: $10–$15 per foot

  • Drums or floats: $75–$400 each

  • Ladder: $100–$600 each

  • Bumper: $50–$100 each

  • Ramp: $500–$1,000 plus

  • Mooring whips: $300–$500 each

  • Decking: $4–$40 per sq. ft.

  • Boat lift: $1,000–$15,000 each

  • Boathouse: $10,000–$50,000 plus

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Boat Dock by Type?

house with large dock area
Iriana Shiyan – stock.adobe.com

There are five main types of boat docks: floating docks, piling docks, pipe docks, crib docks, and suspended docks. Each dock type has its own price tag and benefits.

Floating

A floating dock isn't supported by pier pilings; it simply floats on the surface of the water. Therefore, installation costs will be much lower. This type of dock costs between $15 and $35 per square foot, which doesn't seem much lower than other docks, but keep in mind floating docks tend to be much smaller overall.

Piling

A dock that is built on pilings, or large wooden pillars driven into the ground, is sturdy and long-lasting. It’ll cost you between $20 to $40 per square foot to build.

Crib

These docks are similar to piling docks in that they are permanent, but a contractor builds them in a different way: They pour rock into a “crib” made of wood to create small islands to support the dock. These will cost you between $10,000 and $50,000.

Pipe

Pipe docks are generally prefabricated and constructed with aluminum pipes. These docks are easy to assemble and move to a different location (although they aren't as durable), and will cost you between $1,000 and $10,000.

Suspended

A suspension dock is essentially a dock that can be raised and lowered like a drawbridge. This makes them pretty expensive to produce as you'll need to hire an engineer to get one installed. In terms of cost, it's a case-to-case basis and there isn't really a range.

Boat Dock Construction Labor Cost

Generally, you should expect that half of your costs will go toward labor. So if you received a quote for $10,000 from a dock construction company, about $5,000 of that will be labor costs, and the rest will go toward materials.

What Factors Influence the Cost to Build a Boat Dock?

A lot of factors impact the final price tag of a boat dock. Generally, they fall into four main categories: materials, size, type, and location.

Materials

There are many different types of wood to choose from for a boat dock. Some types of wood, like cedar, will cost you as little as $4 per square foot, while exotic hardwoods will run you up to $25 per square foot. Composites can go even higher at $30 to $40 per square foot.

Size

Docks can range widely in terms of size. If you just want a simple platform in some shallow water, it will be much less expensive than a large, sturdy dock that extends dozens of feet out from shore. The cost of docks is often expressed in square feet, so the bigger it is, the exponentially more expensive it gets.

Type

You may pay just $15 per square foot for a floating dock, meaning a 10-by-10-foot dock would cost just $1,500. Meanwhile, a large crib dock could run you up to $50,000.

Location

If you're building a permanent dock, the location matters. Are you building into relatively shallow water, and is the ground easy to dig? That's one thing. But if you're building into deep, rocky terrain, it gets a lot more challenging (and expensive).

How Much Does It Cost to Build a Boat Dock Yourself?

Considering the fact that labor takes up about half the cost of any boat dock project, you can determine the cost to build one yourself by taking the price tags quoted above and halving it. That means all you'd be on the hook for is materials.

However, before you start watching YouTube videos on how to build a dock, consider the risks. For one thing, a poorly constructed dock can be dangerous. Also, if you don't do the job right, the dock may collapse under its own weight, or just give in to wear and tear years earlier than a professionally built dock. This could cost you big money.

Instead, contact a dock builder in your area for a consultation. They can take a look at the area where you want to put the dock and identify any potential complications. Then, they can provide you with a quote, which may be less than you were expecting. At the very least, it will give you peace of mind that you considered all options.

FAQs About Building a Boat Dock

Can you build your own boat dock?

It's possible to build your own boat dock or repair an existing boat dock, but only if you're an experienced DIYer and it's relatively simple, like a small floating dock. For larger and more complex projects that involve installing pilings or engineering a suspension structure, you're better off hiring a professional.

Do you need permission to build a dock?

If you're building a permanent dock, it's very likely you will need to get a permit to do the project. Check with your local government to determine what kind of paperwork you must fill out before you can start. 

Additionally, if you are a member of a homeowner association (HOA), they may have their own rules about docks, such as a minimum distance between your dock and a neighboring dock. You may need to check with all authorities to be sure you're in the clear: county, city, HOA, and anyone other organization with jurisdiction.

How far out can I build my dock?

The length your dock can be will differ greatly depending on your location. Some localities will have rules; for example, some areas won't allow you to build a dock that is more than one-fourth of the width of a body of water. Other areas won't have any rules on length at all.

What other things should I consider before building a dock?

Here are a few other considerations before you build, even if you're convinced you're in compliance with the law:

  • Are you damaging the environment? Bodies of water are often delicate ecosystems, and building a dock can be destructive and disruptive to the wildlife.

  • Am I blocking access? Lots of people like to use a lake, so you need to make sure your dock doesn't block public access to the water.

  • Can I enclose the dock? Just because you can build a dock doesn't mean you can build any dock you want. Some areas don't allow enclosed docks, for example.

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