Blog Cabin 2013: Rebuilding the Dock

A reconstructed pier offers an outdoor space for fishing, boat docking and basking in the sun.

If you were to approach Blog Cabin 2013 by boat — and, architecturally speaking, that’s clearly how the beach house is meant to be seen — the dock serves as the house’s parking spot, front walk and welcome mat all rolled into one.

But when this project started, the jetty looked more like the ruins of a bygone era than the stolid transitional space it is today.

Some five to seven years ago, a storm had blown away most of the decking, and in its damaged state, the structure began to shift, pushing piers this way and that like the teeth of an orthodontist’s dream patient. When the DIY Network crew investigated, it discovered that piers were buried only two feet into the ground, not nearly deep enough to withstand coastal weather patterns, or the constant push and pull of the tides.

“We needed to replace all the piers with much longer ones, and sink them a whole lot deeper,” says project designer Dylan Eastman. But how? Traditional pile-driving methods, including hammers and augers, require heavy machinery that could tear up the delicate shore bottom all around the site.

Crew members waded out into the water, and working in eight-foot intervals, held each 12-foot tapered post in position while another crew member gently dislodged sand underneath it with a water jet powered by a four-horsepower pump, set atop a flat-bottomed boat. As the jet displaced sand, each post sank into the ground to a plan-appropriate depth of eight feet. Soil and sand that settled back around each post helped to lock it in the ground.

After sinking all 50 new piers, a process that took 30 minutes per pier, the crew built the deck, using 2x6s for strength and rigidity. KDAT, a pressure-treated, kiln-dried Southern yellow pine, was selected for its rot resistance and ability to take sealant immediately. An ultraviolet light-blocking stain (like sunscreen for wood) was applied shortly after deck construction.

Other than making the water temporarily murky, the water-jet process had essentially zero ecological impact, and the deep piers will enable the dock to withstand high wind and water, and welcome boaters and swimmers for years to come.

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