One Tool Floating Dock




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A floating dock can be useful year round, but is especially fun place in summer to hang out, swim, or launch boats. I tried to keep this instructable simple using mostly just a drill and no cutting. Okay, technically more than one tool since you will need to check square using a tape measure, but really just one power tool (the drill) and you can do it all!

Special shout out to Pilx who inspired this build with his awesome floating dock. Our variation of this uses 2x6's rather than 2x8's and 2x4's and has a different cross bracing method. We also used different decking, but that is entirely optional. Plix also used eye screws to attach the ropes while we simply drilled holes through our 2x6's and attached that way.

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Step 1: Find the Parts

The materials you will need

4ea food safe, water tight poly barrels, these are often left over from various food manufacturing and can often be found cheaply on Craigslist

7ea 8' Pressure treated or cedar 2x6's

2ea 8' pressure treated or cedar 2x4's

Suitable decking material, could be cedar or in this case 18ea 8' composite decking boards AND appropriate exterior grade fastening screws

50' of rope suitable for water contact

4ea corner brackets (we used galvanized L brackets but this step is optional)

exterior grade screws for attaching boards, I used approx 75ea 3" #8 screws

A small amount of caulk to seal barrels

Step 2: Layout

Layout 4 ea of the pressure treated 2x6's, measure from corner to corner to make sure they are square and screw these together through the ends with about an inch of overlap on the inside corner. I also added some small corner brackets on the inside of these joints but I have a tendency to over build projects and I'm not sure this was necessary.

Step 3: Barrel Placement

Place your second row of 2x6 using a barrel as a marker. Barrels come on many different sizes so I can't give you an exact measurement for this, but the barrel should fit snug with a small space between the barrel and the ground. For my dock this meant about 17 1/2" on center. Screw boards into place using 2 screws through the end of each board.

I also took a moment to add some caulk around the barrel openings. This is probably not necessary, but I wanted to make double sure that no water leaked in.

Step 4: Continue Placement

Place the rest of the barrels appropriately in each corner and screw the cross sections in place using the same method. There should be enough space remaining at this point to attach the last 3 remaining 2x6's approx 16" on center across the remainder of the opening. Attach each end using 2 exterior grade screws.

Step 5: Securing With Rope and Turning Over

At this point I cut my 50' rope into 4 pieces and drilled pilot holes approx in the middle of the boards where they meet the barrels and tied on the barrels using a truckers hitch. This will keep the barrels in place in rough water. You will probably want a friend to help you flip it over at this time since its kind of heavy.

Step 6: Cross Bracing

I actually cut some cedar 2x4's at this point to add some additional bracing to the barrels. But in hind sight I realized that these were the only cuts I made for the project and it would have been better to just use uncut 2x4 going all the way across the bottoms of the deck as shown in the black and white drawing. My method here worked fine but adding whole boards would have given better cross bracing AND this would have truly been a one power tool project. We use a lot of recycled materials so sometimes we have to stretch our usage.

Pro Tip: Notice how close I am to the water? That will make launching this thing later a lot easier.

Step 7: Decking

Secure your decking material across the tops of your supports. You want to make sure you are located close to the edge of your body of water since its going to start getting pretty heavy at this point. I chose composite decking because it not only lasts long and is low maintenance, but it was on sale! You could also use 5/8" or 2 by cedar decking and that would work great.

Step 8: Enjoy!

There are various ways to use a floating dock, in our case we made a hinged section which sits on top of our floating dock and is also attached to our stationary dock. We also mounted various cleats for boating and might possibly add a swim ladder at some point in the future.

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20 Discussions


1 year ago

this looks great. I am wondering, now that it its some 3 years later, how is it holding up?

2 replies
Two Paddles Designjleslie48

Reply 1 year ago

It is awesome! It has weathered many storms, lots of kids jumping and lake freezing and Otter poop and still looks and operates great. If anything I may reinforce the corners a little at some point but otherwise has stood up to the test of time.


3 years ago

I want to build a tiny house on the dock. Good or bad idea?

1 reply

I think that this would be awesome! We are in Seattle and many of the houseboats here are tiny and 100ish years old and doing great although building is a challenge. We have seen them use the same barrels we used here for floats. Check out this video for inspiration


3 years ago

Can you please tell me how you tied the barrels on where they would not come loose, that is the only part of yhe tutorial i didn't quite get.

1 reply
Two Paddles DesignShannonS63

Reply 3 years ago

The barrels sit snug between the cross supports so you really just need to tie them in so they don't pop out the bottom in a storm. We tried a few different layouts and the one that worked best was just to drill a few 1/2" holes and zig zag some rope between the holes and tie it off. I will try to get a better photo posted when i get a chance.

Actually, now that i look at old photos it looks like I just tied the rope between two points. Whatever I did it has ridden out a bunch of storms so I know it works, I will look at it and get back to you.

Two Paddles Design

4 years ago

We ended up adding a swim ladder to the side of the stationary dock. it's a repurposed stainless steel ships ladder. The dock has held up great over many hours of swimming.


4 years ago on Introduction

This was really great and I made it this weekend. One thing to note about it. You mention 18ea 8' composite decking boards, but you might want to mention the size of the deck boards you used. Because for mine where it was wood, it needed 25 boards.

1 reply
Two Paddles Designduffer01

Reply 4 years ago

I'm glad you made it and that is a good point about the decking. I will measure when I get a chance and post an update.


4 years ago on Step 4

I made one that was very similar, but instead of round barrels I found some square flat sided food barrels, also on craigslist. They sit flatter in the structure and do not have a tendency to roll out even without strapping. I will say it is a fast and easy design and has held up well even in frozen lake.

1 reply

thanks, that is good to hear. I have to admit I had not thought of the freeze factor, it rarely gets cold enough in my climate to actually freeze the lake.

That's interesting, I think this must be a regional thing. I will add 'pontoon' to the description somewhere so everyone can find it.