The Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula boast nearly two thousand miles of shoreline along the Potomac and Rappahannock Rivers, the Chesapeake Bay and nearly 200 smaller rivers and winding creeks. The tranquil pace, natural beauty and reasonable prices make it an alluring locale for waterfront living. Piers and docks dot the banks of the many watery paths and provide a convenient staging ground for recreation and relaxation. Whether a renovation or a brand new structure, piers can be as simple as a wooden walkway and platform or as elaborate as a party palace, complete with custom lighting, built-in benches and sinks, elaborate handrails, dock boxes, floating platforms and boat and/or jet ski lifts.Choosing a reputable marine contractor is an important consideration. A qualified and knowledgeable professional is a must if the dock is going to stand up to wind, tides and weather. Marine construction is a complex process and a good marine contractor will have extensive experience with local conditions.
Obtaining proper permits is a necessary first step. As with any new structure, you must obtain the proper permits from your local planning commission. With a pier or dock, you must also obtain permits from your local wetlands board and also the Virginia Marine Resource Commission. Applications and guidelines generally can be found on their websites. Some marine contractors will handle this step and walk you through the process.
When hiring a marine contractor, look for the specifics and ask lots of questions. Do they hold a contractor’s license in the state of Virginia? (Refer to the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulations website.) Do they hold a business license within the county in which they work? Do they have both liability and workman’s compensation insurance? Ask for pictures and references. Visit completed jobs and talk to previous customers.
Upgrades and Accessories
Replacing decking boards or refastening loose ones is a cheap fix compared to losing whole sections of a dock. The deck boards should be specified and ordered in even two-foot increments. To avoid “cupping,” the board shouldn’t be more than eight inches wide. Stainless steel screws have superior holding power, but may be substituted with stainless steel or galvanized ring or spiral shank nails. After the decking is installed, sealing the dock with a wood protectant can help prevent decay.
Low maintenance is a consideration for any structure, especially a pier. PVC decking is a synthetic plastic polymer which resists fading and warping under prolonged exposure to sun, wind and weather. It can be purchased in a variety of colors, is formulated to closely resemble real wood decking, and comes with a warranty. Composite decking is another low-maintenance option. Made from a combination of wood fiber and plastic, it will not warp, crack or swell like wood. Composite decking is available in an array of colors and doesn’t need to be stained or treated. It resists decay and insects, as well as sun damage. It also carries a warranty.
Piling caps lend a tidy, finished look to a pier. They also protect costly pilings from internal rot. Piling caps can be flat or cone-shaped, made of PVC or a metal (like copper). The cone-shaped caps are designed to discourage sea birds from landing on them and make it easier to throw mooring lines over them. For perfect pier lighting, caps can be fitted with kits to transform pilings into beautiful light pedestals. Overhead, pathway and even underwater lighting provides not only an elegant nighttime ambience, but also a safety feature for swimmers and boaters. Low-voltage, solar and LED lighting are options.
Most marine contractors are skilled craftsmen and carpenters. Benches, built-in seating, tables, sinks and even showers can be added to enhance the utility of a pier. Secure, built-in dock boxes provide handy storage for a variety of skis, vests and assorted equipment. Rope and cable railings add appeal and safety. Floating swim platforms, also useful for launching kayaks and paddle boards, can be added as well. Boat lifts and jet ski lifts guarantee that water craft investments will be more protected and convenient. More and more owners are choosing to put roofs and canopies over their lifts, to protect their vessels. An open-sided boathouse provides a cozy berth for well-loved water craft. Metal is an attractive roofing option, and copper is an appealing option. Fabric boat lift canopy covers are increasingly popular. Precision engineered and tailor fitted to customer specifications, canopies can be removed and stored along with the boat when weather isn’t suitable for boating.
Options for docks and piers with personality are endless — from the strictly utilitarian to the complete nautical paradise. The possibilities are limited only by the imagination and maybe the budget.