If you have access boat dock (or a pier that gives you the ability to tie up your boat), one of the best ways to protect your investment is by installing some DIY dock bumpers.
DIY in the sense that you can install them easily, but many of these are DIY in nature as well (like pool noodles).
Even if you have a boat lift (or are thinking about installing one), bumpers are critical to have in place whenever you have friends they may need to tie up.
While it will depend on your budget and how much dock you are looking to protect, there are a couple of good options for installing DIY dock bumpers I will outline below.
Methods for attaching bumpers
In case you’re unfamiliar, a fender is actually the large cylinders that hang over the side of the boat and not padding for the dock itself. Those you can handmake as well, but in this post, I’ll be covering the DIY options you have for adding protection to the dock itself.
If you have a pier with posts, you may want to install bumpers to the posts rather than a complete end to end dock protector that spans multiple posts. Just from a cosmetic perspective, this is a method I’ve used for taller piers, where the water line is a few feet below the surface of the deck. It definitely makes sense to have these bumpers on the posts, rather than the edge of the dock which may be well above the body of the boat.
With pool noodles, you’ve basically got two main options: replicating bumpers you can tie on to each post, or using an entire pool noodle to pad an edge of your dock from end to end.
Either method is effective, depending on the look you want to achieve.
If you have a wooden dock this is pretty close the surface of the water, one option is to purchase several 3 ½’’ pool noodles and cut them in half so they lay flush to the side of your dock. You may even have to cut these to fit.
I like using a product like Iron Grip for this type of application, since it requires no nailing, but is extremely durable. Many smaller pool noodles may break apart over time, but many boaters have had luck using the larger ones.
Probably my favorite DIY dock bumpers I’ve seen made of pool noodles are actually bundles of 3 regular sized noodles wrapped in indoor/outdoor carpet.
Once the carpet is wrapped around the 3 pool noodles (forming a triangular cylinder shape), you can then fasten these together using zip ties. If worried about the carpet abrading your boat, you can also line these pool noodles in a polyethylene sheet.
Tires are another low-budget option that can do the trick as long as you’re not violating any regulations at your marina or body of water.
The key to securing tires to your dock is to use galvanized bolts and to make sure that you secure them properly. While it may not be the most eye-pleasing bumper option, it’s great for ponds and smaller bodies of water if you’re going for pure function over aesthetics.
What to keep in mind
Keep in mind that instead of creating bumpers to attach to your boat, it’s much safer to create dock bumpers.
The main reason for this is that water levels can fluctuate, sometimes causing the edge of a dock to make contact below your boat’s bumpers. You also have to worry about these staying in place when docking, which isn’t always the easiest thing to do.
For wooden docks, one of my favorite DIY methods I’ve seen for protecting a boat against bumping against a panel of wood is to use a dock edge.
These are basically two vertical posts (with rubberized or protective material) that are drilled into the dock structure itself where a boat normally ties up.
The video below by Cottage Lift explains this concept in greater detail, and I think is one of the more effective methods of protecting your boat’s hull without using bumpers that can slide around.
This concept is similar to the previous solution, with the exception being that this method assumes you have a piling that is the first thing your boat will make contact with when docking.
This is not always the case, since many docks are built with posts on the inside (instead of the outside) of the actual flat surface.
These rub rails you can fashion out of pool noodles if your dock has posts jutting out, or simply purchase them on Amazon. I found this set for around X dollars, and you simply drill these into place and you’re good to go.
Depending on what type of dock you have, there are a few DIY options for creating bumpers. Some work better than others, but my recommendation is to price a few professional bumper options before creating a homemade solution.
You may find that the cost of purchasing dock bumpers is actually cheaper than purchasing pool noodles, carpet, used tires, and other accessories you may need for this type of project.
For added protection, another option is to install a boat rub rail, which will add extra protection to your boat.
If it’s time to consider looking into a boat lift and do away with bumpers for good, check out my post Boat Lifts 101: How Much They Cost, and Types to Consider for a breakdown of which one may be best for your boat.