WOOD DECKING – A Complete Guide to Dock Decking- (Part 1) – Pier & Waterfront Solutions


Written by ShoreMaster Marketing            Updated by Pier & Waterfront Solutions LLC

Wood decking is one of the many ShoreMaster options available for docks.  In fact, they offer so many decking choices that it can be hard to grasp which option best fits your needs.

This first of three articles discusses the types of wood decking available from ShoreMaster – namely Cedar and IPE wood decking.

In Part 2 of the series, the topic will be the types of aluminum decking available.  Finally, in the third part of the series, the topic will be the latest plastic and composite decking types.

How to choose the Right Wood Decking for your dock?

Some dock manufacturers are very limited in their decking options. This is a blessing to a dealer because it limits their on-hand inventory. At the same time, limited decking choices affect your ability to get the best choice for your needs.

With ShoreMaster decking you are not limited to one or two choices. or the few choices the dealer chooses to tell you about.  Remember, Pier Waterfront Solutions LLC has access to the widest range of decking choices anywhere. This is a major positive for you as a dock owner.

Decking represents 25% – 50% of the total cost of a dock system

With this realization in mind, initial decking cost is obviously an important aspect when choosing decking for a dock system.

Plus, no element on any dock system connects closer to the dock user than the decking. The number of deck choices available to you remains the most important factor when purchasing that new dock.

You may be surprised to learn that initial cost is only a small factor in the total cost over the lifespan of the deck.

Considering Wood Decking For Your Dock System?

For traditionalists (or people on a budget), wood decking is the only way to go.  It usually is the least expensive and natural looking product available.

Wood contains natural oils and tannins to resist rot, decay, and insects. As a result, natural wood does not need dangerous or harmful chemicals to prevent rotting.

Many dock owners like the look and feel of natural wood decking on their dock.   At the same time, it’s important to note that wood decking requires more maintenance than aluminum, composite or plastic decking.

How much maintenance does natural wood require?

image of Pressure Washed Wood Decking

Pressure Washing to clean wood decking

In general, the recommendation for maintaining natural. unfinished wood decking is to power wash your decking annually.  With a finish applied to wood, expect to clean and apply a fresh coat of finish every three to four years to keep it looking good.  Now the cost is starting to add up.

Other Considerations

When choosing wood decking, it’s important to remember that wood decking will absorb the sun’s rays and become very warm to the touch on hot days. At times it may actually get uncomfortable to walk on it. On the flip side, wood decking will generally feel nice and warm on cooler days with any amount of sunshine.

Keep in mind that wood decking retains that heat longer than any aluminum or plastic decking.

Deciding between Hardwood Decking and Softwood Decking For Your Dock

Wood is a great natural looking and durable decking material for your dock system. Pier & Waterfront Solutions LLC offers two types of wood decking for your dock – IPE, which is a tropical hardwood, and Red Cedar, a softwood.  

Image of IPE Decking by ShoreMaster

IPE Decking by ShoreMaster

The first thing that you are likely to notice the difference between hardwoods and softwoods is the price.

Hardwoods take longer to grow than softwoods, and as a result, it costs more for the hardwood materials. Another difference – is the density or the hardness of each material. Because hardwoods take longer to grow, the wood is denser.  This makes hardwoods heavier than softwoods.

Softwoods grow quicker than hardwoods, so the wood becomes less dense and lighter.  This makes it easier to cut and drill than hardwoods. Softwoods such as red cedar have varying levels of hardness and resistance to insects and decay.

What does this mean for the durability of the softwoods?

Durability is related to the amount of heartwood on the boards. Heartwood grows near the center of the tree, which makes it harder, and more resistant to insects and decay based on the amount of Sapwood in the section.

Sapwood grows near the outer part of the tree which means it is a bit softer and more susceptible to decay due to its lack of density.  Red Cedar decking from ShoreMaster is carefully selected to contain less sapwood to prolong the life of the wood. This results in your decking becoming less susceptible to early weatherization and insects.

Whether you choose a hardwood or a softwood deck for your dock, you’ll be glad to know that each type of wood contains natural oils and tannins to help protect it from insects and decay.  Both kinds of wood require about the same amount of maintenance each year to keep their natural appearance.

With no stain or finish applied, you still need to power wash your wood decking annually to keep it looking beautiful. Both IPE hardwoods and red cedar softwoods will weather to a silver-gray color with no stain or finish applied to the wood.  Eventually, some areas of the decking will turn darker colors, even a gray-black with no yearly maintenance.  See this article to see why this is true: https://wisconsinpws.com/cleaning-wood-decking/

 Cedar Wood Decking

image of cedar wood decking from ShoreMaster - Door County

Cedar Wood Decking from ShoreMaster


When ShoreMaster sources cedar decking from its suppliers, they search for boards that contain more heartwood than sapwood. This makes your cedar decking less susceptible to insects and decay. This way you can be confident that your cedar decking will resist decay and remain safe. It also looks great on your shoreline.

To most dock owners, nothing feels better on your bare feet than the soft, warm, natural beauty of red cedar decking.

IPE Wood Decking

image of IPE Hardwood Decking from ShoreMaster

IPE Hardwood Decking from ShoreMaster

When it comes to Hardwood decking, nothing beats ShoreMaster’s IPE hardwood decking. ShoreMaster’s IPE hardwood adds a sense of stability to your dock.  It feels incredibly firm underfoot because of its natural hardness and density.  It looks great and provides a gentle, natural wood feel on your bare feet.

IPE, being a hardwood, is denser than and heavier than Cedar decking. It has the added benefit of resistance to being blown out of the dock by wind or waves due to it’s added weight.

All wood decking can be a problem on large bodies of water when waves beat against the bottom of the decking.  With few open areas to relieve the pressure, it becomes prone to being washed out of the frames.

For natural beauty, nothing beats natural wood.


Pier & Waterfront Solutions specializes in ShoreMaster docks, lifts, and accessories both residential and commercial. We service the rest.

PWS is located in the center of Door County at 7325 St Hwy 57. Located 1 mile North of County MM (Hwy 42) and South of Sturgeon Bay at the intersection of Idlewild Road.  Our staff is ready to help you anytime.

Want us to address a dock or boat lift topic for you?  Feel free to give us a call.  

Call Jerry at 920-493-4404 or email him at Jerry@wisconsinpws.com for more information.