Dock Movement & How to Minimize it.

Why does my Dock Move?

Movement or ” dock sway” is the result of deeper water. Due to the deep water and stronger storms, it is necessary to raise your dock to protect your equipment. And it’s even higher than last year.


Before we can answer that question, there’s an important question you must answer. HOW is the dock moving? 

The question seems simple enough. But, we need to distinguish between vertical movement and horizontal movement. These have different symptoms, and both have different solutions.

Vertical movement gives you a “spongy” bounce as you walk on the deck. As you may have noticed, the sensation is more noticeable when you walk near a dock leg.


1. A leg is no longer in contact with the lake bottom; or

2. Loose bolts on the dock frame in the leg pockets.

Usually, you will sense the bounce in one area along the dock length. The problem should affect only one side of the dock.

How does this happen, and what can I do?

The simplest way to check for the cause is to check the bolts that lock the legs. Are the bolts loose in the affected area? 

If the bolts are tight on the dock legs, the problem is at the bottom of the legs. It’s rare, but occasionally one of them is not touching the bottom. 

On a sandy bottom?

If you are in a sandy area, the water may have washed the sand out from under the footpads. If this is the case, the legs need adjustment. 

While standing in the water, loosen both bolts on only the affected leg. Move the dock frame-up. When you loosen the bolts, the legs will fall until the footpads hit bottom. Now, push up on the dock frame and tighten one bolt and then the second bolt. 

Try to “wiggle” the legs around and re-tighten the bolts, if needed. 

It is not uncommon for storms to “wash out” the sand from under the footpads. Even with a properly installed dock, a storm can move the sand at any time.

There is no way to prevent this from happening. It’s a natural phenomenon. The next storm could leave the same leg pad buried under 6″ of sand.

What if I have a rocky bottom?

Like the sand beach, a storm may “wash out” smaller rocks under the footpads. Once the stones move away from the leg, the leg has nothing supporting it. 

Why does the dock move up?

If a wave makes contact with the bottom of any solid decking, it will push the dock up – momentarily. When the dock frame goes up, it takes the legs with it, allowing the wave to move the rocks around under it.

We recommend the open style of decking to minimize vertical dock movement. See This Article.

What if the movement is side-to-side (sway)?

Dock “sway” results when a dock is raised high out of the water. The height determines how much sway you experience.

By raising the dock, the center of gravity is elevated. When you experience high water, we must raise the dock to minimize damage during storms. 

 At the same time, increasing the dock height brings a problem with it. The pier is now less stable because the center of gravity is higher.

Think of it this way – If you are on a 6 – step ladder, the first few rungs are stable. The higher you go – not so much. Place your feet on the top of the ladder, and it’s precarious. 

What can we do to minimize sway?

The only thing that we can do is to add cross-braces. Cross braces will eliminate, or at the very least, cut down on the swaying. 

What are cross braces? They are pipe(s) attached at an angle to the legs of the dock. One end is near the bottom and the other end is under the frames and near the top of another leg. For the structure to move sideways, it must also move the opposite leg at the base where it is firm. 

What does PWS do on the new 3-Season Pier?

The new pier uses 2″ schedule 40, steel pipe, which is approximately 2 3/8″ O.D. (Compare that with the legs used by some competitors – 1 1/4 pipes or 1 1/2″ tubing. Both of these have virtually no strength and should never be used on a dock.)

One final suggestion

We recommend the open style of decking to minimize vertical dock movement. The “Flow-Through” decking, which is standard on the 3-Season Pier, reduces the effect of the waves on the dock. With 42% less deck surface, they allow the wave to pass through the decking and minimizes the pressure from the waves. Less chance of the dock being “lifted” or rolled over.

What to look forward to in 2021

2017-2020 saw high water after years of decline in water depth. As a result, many people decided not to install all the sections. They had plenty of water even with a shorter dock.

It’s too soon to tell what 2021 will mean for water levels. Early indications are it will be close to 2020 or even higher as the year progresses. To get the latest information on lake levels, follow this link:

Look for the Lake Michigan-Huron charts.

For more information on sway bars or Flow-through decking, contact Jerry @ (920) 493-4404 TODAY – or – fill out this simple quote request FORM.


Located at 7325 St. Hwy 57, it’s 3 miles south of Sturgeon Bay, and 1 mile past the intersection of Cty MM (heading north). Look on the right side at the intersection of Idlewild Road and Hwy 57.


Pier & Waterfront Solutions has remained “open.” We have implemented measures to ensure the safety of our employees and visitors. At the same time, we are working to maintain the trusted service you expect.

We are conducting as much business as possible by email, text, or phone. Site visits will continue as usual. When in-person contacts are necessary, we follow “social distancing” guidelines as closely as possible.


Our display yard is always open for you to examine at your leisure. All displays that are available for purchases have a numbered, red tag on them. If you want more information or pricing, please reference that number.

We provide estimates and invoices by email to make the process faster. With these measures, we hope everyone will stay safe, and we will be back to normal operations soon. 

Call, message, or email us with any questions.

Thank you for allowing us to work with you safely.

Let’s all stay safe!