Boat Docks Matter (in lake home values)

It’s somewhat surprising how many million-dollar lake homes have deteriorating or unsafe old docks!
The boat dock is one of the most often-overlooked amenities of a lake home’s value. And while the quality of the dock might not sell the house, it is quite often the tie-breaker between two homes of similar value.

The higher the value of the home, the more important it is for proper dock maintenance.

Dock Flotation

Lake Lanier is a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers lake – so Lake Lanier boat docks must meet the guidelines they have set. The dock floats under your boat dock must be encapsulated – not just naked Styrofoam. The Corp evaluates your dock when ownership is transferred. If the boat dock has the old dock flotation, the buyer will be required to install the encapsulated type of dock flotation before the permit will be transferred. If an inspection is performed for your renewal, the same rules apply.

Replacing the dock flotation is fairly expensive. However, it will be required eventually if you wish to keep/renew your dock permit. A good real estate agent is aware of the associated cost, and will deduct this (and probably more) from their offers.

There are several companies that will perform this type of work, but its best to find a reputable, experienced dock construction company such as Marine Specialties, that knows, and understands, the Corps’ rules. Some will simply push the old flotation out into the cover and let it float away. While others will haul it to an island for disposal. Either creates an eyesore, and groups like Lake Lanier Association will be required to arrange cleanup days to remove the debris.

Instead, find a company following the Corps’ guidelines for dock flotation disposal. Remember – we all share this lake, so we should all do our best to be responsible stewards of its beauty and cleanliness.

Dock Safety

Keep your dock safe, well-maintained and in good working condition to ensure the safety and well-being of anyone who might use it. Be aware of jagged edges or loose dock boards that could become tripping hazards. Don’t let any part of the dock break off and become an obstacle for boaters and other lake users.

To ensure the dock frame remains strong and durable, control rust on all metal parts. Walking your dock will definitely be on the agenda of all potential buyers, so make sure all boards on your dock are solid and adequate for the intended purpose. Maintaining your dock is the right thing to do and you do not want the liability of someone getting injured on a faulty dock. Replace any rotting boards and be sure they are secured with screws – not nails.

Making Sure Your Dock Stays Afloat

You definitely want to keep your dock in the water as lake levels rise and fall. This is crucial as it has enormous impact on the salability of the property as a whole, and it keeps your dock flotation from deteriorating, as sometimes flotation will crack when it dries out.

If moving your dock is a physical challenge for you, there are many companies who, for a fairly reasonable fee, will make sure your dock keeps its “feet wet” by repositioning the dock as water levels change. This is called “chasing water levels.” No need to even call to get this done! For instance, once you enroll in such a service like the one we offer here at Marine Specialties, we will keep track of the lake levels and handle it for you. If you’re not sure who else you can call, ask a lake real estate agent or Google “Lake Lanier dock service“.

Dock Appearance

It should come as no surprise – docks age quickly. Constant exposure to sun, weather, waves and wildlife takes its toll. Even soundly-structured docks can often look old and tired.

For wood docks, an inexpensive trick is to pressure wash the dock boards to make them look newer. You can purchase a cheap pump and even user the lake as your water source. In some cases you may be able to just flip the dock boards, to put the fresher side up, and make it appear newer.  After the dock boards are clean, applying a sealant will help preserve your refreshed dock.

Additionally, don’t leave ropes, paddles, floats and other junk on your dock. The clutter becomes a home for spiders and makes the dock appear smaller. Put all lake items in a dock box or secure them in a way that looks organized, not cluttered.

Double Slip Dock Permit

The largest dock currently allowed on Lanier is 32’x32‘. On the other hand, this doesn’t include older docks that were grandfathered-in. In most cases, a dock this size will be a double slip dock.

If you wish to maximize the resale value, consider applying for a Lake Lanier double slip dock permit. Having the permit doesn’t mean you have to put a dock that size in place before the sale. However, having a permit for the top size dock is a nice incentive for a buyer wanting a big dock. If you decide not to sell the house, you may need to upgrade your dock or risk losing that designation on your permit at some point.

Like everything, the Corps has specific rules about dock size upgrades. At full pool, the end of your dock (lake side, not shore side) will have be be at least 50′ from the next dock. You can’t impede other docks from accessing the path out of the cover. Consult the Corps’ site for more information. Realize that, because they prefer to take these measurements at full pond, you may need to wait for the lake to rise before they will let you upgrade.

Dock Stairs

As will all other aspects of lake living, the Corps has guidelines for the installation of dock stairs. These dock stair regulations exist to make sure your stairs are safe and long-lasting. Requesting permission for dock stairs must be on the dock permit. Furthermore, there are very specific rules for building dock stairs on Lake Lanier. Verify your contractor knows these guidelines, or go to the Corps’ web site and read them yourself (Google U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Lanier). It’s prudent to visit the guidelines section of their web site periodically to ensure you are in compliance. For example,

  • The Corp does not generally allow ceiling fans under the roof of a dock
  • If your boathouse was grandfathered-in, you can’t use a different type of material to rebuild it. You can rehab it, but only with the type of material originally used in construction
  • If you have a dock with a party deck, you can’t have a gate on the lake-side. This is because they don’t want people jumping off the roof.

These are some of the issues that come up on a dock permit transfer or a dock permit renewal if there is an inspection.

The lake, dock, and view add considerable value to your home, sometimes as much as $250,000.

Taking care of the dock, as you care for the home and yard, just makes sense. It’s all part of living on the lake; and in the end, you will be the one benefiting the most from it.