Why (and How) to Perform Pier Removal for Winter

Take it from us—installing a dock is a lot of hard work. So, when you’ve gone through all the effort of getting a pier installed, it might seem strange to you to suggest that you take it back out of the water. After all the time spent getting it put together and getting it secured in its current spot, why would you ever dream of pier removal?

And yet, once winter comes around, you may very well want to consider pier removal for the duration of the season.

Why Pier Removal?

The reason for this is the safety of the pier itself. In the frigid winter months, ice begins to form in the rivers and lakes in which we’ve placed our docks.

As ice forms around the dock and particularly around the dock legs, it contracts and expands repeatedly as it melts and refreezes with daily temperature fluctuations. These push and pull forces can exert enough pressure on the dock that it warps and crumples it, leaving it severely damaged.

And as ice forms atop the surface of the water, it collects into ice floes which, as they float through the water, can crash into the pier with enough force that it may be completely destroyed. It’s not unheard of for whole communities to have their docks destroyed or even washed away by moving sheets of ice.

Some people may try to solve this issue with de-icers, such as ice eaters or bubblers. These devices—which take the form of either an underwater propeller that moves warmer water up to the dock, or perforated underwater tubing that releases bubbles to prevent ice being able to form—can seem attractive as a cheap solution to the problem of ice.

However, de-icers aren’t a perfect solution. Many localities have laws regulating the use of de-icers to maintain the stability of surface ice—for ice skaters, for example. On top of that, de-icers themselves don’t always offer complete protection. Moving ice floes can still collide with the dock, ice can still form around dock legs during a deep freeze, and the de-icer is always susceptible to malfunctions just like any other mechanical device.

Removing your dock before winter, however, is a surefire way to keep it out of harm’s way for the duration of the season.

What Docks are Suitable for Pier Removal?

pier removal

Permanent piers are, of course, unable to be removed from the water at-will. However, these types of docks are typically more heavily reinforced than the other kinds available, and so are better able to withstand ice in the winter. You may still want to place install de-icers to give it optimum protection, if you’re able to, but otherwise these sorts of piers should fare alright where they are.

Aside from that, though, most dock types can and should be removed for the winter.

Standing docks, which rest on the bottom of the water, can be somewhat difficult to remove, just as they’re one of the more difficult types to install. But, just as with installation, hiring a group of professionals who have the experience to get the job done quickly makes removal far less painful.

Roll-in-and-roll-out piers may be a bit heavy to maneuver on your own, but with a few sets of strong arms it should be doable to haul that pier onto shore.

Floating piers are relatively painless as well. Because they are so lightweight, and thus quite portable, there isn’t much trouble involved in moving and repositioning these types of docks, making pier removal a snap.

What is the Pier Removal Process Like?

The details of the pier removal project can get more complicated though depending on the specific design of your particular dock. Different mechanisms for installing and stabilizing the dock require different procedures for dismantling and retrieving the dock, and may even require special equipment.

For example, let’s consider an example of a sectional dock. These designs are convenient in that they allow different sections to be easily fixed together and customized. And in many cases, pier removal can be performed without having to personally enter the water.

There are a few steps to the process of removing such a pier. First, accessories must be removed. This includes ladders, benches, overhangs, and other such optional structures which you may have added to your dock to make it suit your personal needs.

Next, water must be drained from the frame. Many standing docks have tubular frames which you can fill with water to provide additional stability, and which can then be drained prior to pier removal to get rid of excess weight.

After that, the frames need to be removed. A great tool to have on hand for this task is a tripod winch. This will allow you to efficiently pull up the frames and carry them to shore without struggling to lift them by hand—which, if you’re looking to avoid back problems, you may be thankful for. From there, the frames and panels simply need to be brought ashore and stacked for storage.

However, not everyone has a tripod winch on hand, and this is only one specific example of a pier removal procedure for one specific dock design. This is why, if you’re unsure about removing your pier or haven’t done it before, it’s best to consult a professional before you throw yourself into the task.

Other Winter Prep to Consider

Of course, pier removal is only one of the many wintertime considerations that boat and dock owners need to keep in mind as we move into fall.

Boats need to be winterized to preserve them from damage in the cold months. It may even be wise to possibly shrink wrap and/or store them for maximum protection.

If you’re looking to have any of those services performed by an experienced team that’s been doing it for years, we recommend Captain Rod’s Boat Lift and Pier Services. They’ve been providing watercraft winterization, shrink wrap services, wintertime storage and transport, and pier removal in McHenry, Illinois for over 15 years now.

Another point to consider is your seawalls. Ice floes in winter as well as melting ice in spring will repeatedly slam and scrap against your seawall, potentially causing damage. That’s why, depending on the type of seawall you have, there are a variety of potential preventative measures that may be needed, including repairing cracks, reinforcing with vinyl, drilling weep holes, and installing footers.

Which of these measures is necessary though depends on a lot of factors. Before you start drilling and sealing, you should get your seawall inspected by a professional now, before snow has covered everything and made the work difficult. And your search for such a professional couldn’t be any easier: we here at Seawalls Unlimited have risen over the past five years to be the number one seawall repair and installation company in the Midwest. Give us a call at (815) 331-8830, and we think you’ll soon see why—our staff are always ready to offer their expertise, and our commitment to quality service will assure you that you’re ready to take on another Midwest winter.


Seawalls Unlimited
2350 W. Rte. 120
McHenry, IL 60051
(815) 331-8830