There are a number of factors that can affect the ice formation around your dock – temperature, cloud cover, sunlight, snowfall, wind and water level changes. All of these factors play key roles in the strength, direction, and force at which ice can impact your dock. And although none of these factors can be predicted, they can be anticipated. The presence of a dock deicer can reduce the risk that the ice buildup or movement will damage your dock or your boat.
As it freezes, the water will expand and become lighter, sending this water to the surface. At this point, your dock isn’t necessarily in danger as the ice forms around your dock pilings. Unfortunately, any change in the temperature, wind, or other variables can occur – and this is what makes ice dangerous to your dock.
As the surface of the ice comes into contact with the sunlight, it will melt and expand, spreading out horizontally over the surface of the water. With new freezing water continuously being pushed to the surface and replacing this top layer of melting ice, a body of ice can take on the appearance that it is moving – even without the help of wind. When this occurs, significant pressure can be exerted on the dock pilings and can easily uplift the pilings that are more isolated from the rest, such as at the edge of your dock.
Another way moving ice can damage your dock is if it comes into contact with the side of the dock pilings. Depending on the factors in which the ice was formed, it may have taken on abrasive qualities, such as a sheet of ice that has been broken by waves or debris and is then refrozen. Jagged or rough ice can saw through your dock just as effectively as a saw blade. Even ice that does not have these rugged qualities can still put enough pressure on the side of a dock to push it completely over.
Dock deicers work by circulating the water under and around your dock, preventing it from freezing. They aren’t just a method of staving off the harsh effects of winter; they are a means of preserving your investments and assets. Without the protection they can offer, you are leaving it all up to chance. It’s entirely possible that ice formation will not affect you this year, but without a deicer it only takes one bad winter to topple years’ worth of work.