How to Build Floating Docks with Barrels

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Items you will need

  • 2 large plastic barrels

  • Tape measure

  • Pencil

  • Carpenter's square

  • Circular saw

  • 4 2x6 treated lumber

  • 7 5/4x6 treated deck boards

  • 3-inch-long decking screws

  • 2-inch-long decking screws

  • Powered screwdriver with Philips head

  • Someone to help you

  • Polyethylene rope

  • Metal posts (optional)

  • 2 – 6- inch strap hinges


  • If the barrels do not fit snugly, you can hold them in place with a section of the poly rope. Cut the rope to length and screw the ends to the two support boards holding the barrel perpendicular to the dock.

    If you go beyond 24 feet or three sections, you may want to anchor the last section in place with two anchors and ropes at a 45-degree angle. This will help stabilize the floating dock in strong winds.


  • Check with all governing bodies before you install any docks, as some localities may ban the use of floating docks on certain lake shores.

Building a floating dock with barrels is an economical way to gain access from that small pond or lake shore property. Using either plastic or metal barrels will depend on how much preparation and maintenance you want to perform. Plastic barrels take little to no maintenance, while metal barrels may have to be cleaned and painted on a yearly basis. Building a floating dock with barrels can be a fast weekend project by following a basic procedure.

    Use the tape measure and quantify the overall length and width of the plastic barrel. The barrels may vary slightly in their measurements, depending on the manufacturer. The floating dock will be built as an 8-foot section piece. You can construct more sections for a longer dock.

    Measure, square and cut two of the 8-foot-long treated 2x6s to exactly 8 feet long. Make a mark at 8 feet, use the carpenter's square to draw a perpendicular line and use the circular saw to trim to length. All boards are slightly longer than the measurement you purchase. These two boards will be used as the outside runners for the length of the dock.

    Use one of the two remaining 2x6 boards for the cross supports of the dock. Add 3 inches to the overall length of the barrel and cut two boards to this measurement. These two cut boards will be used at the end of the dock and attach the two runners together.

    Cut the last 2x6 to the exact length of the barrel. These two boards will fit in between the two outside runners and help to hold the barrels at each end of the 8-foot dock section.

    Attach the ends boards to the side runners with the 3-inch long deck screws using the powered screwdriver. The end boards will be screwed to the ends of the outside running boards.

    Measure the width of the barrel and make a mark at this measurement from the inside of the end boards you just attached.

    Attach the two shorter boards to this mark, leave the mark showing, with the 3-inch long deck screws. Screw through the outside running boards into these shorter barrel supports. The barrel should fit snugly between the end boards and this board you just attached.

    Measure, square and cut the 5/4x6 treated deck boards to 48 inches long.

    Attach the 5/4-inch deck boards to the barrel support frame using the 2-inch deck screws. Begin at one end and screw the first board to the frame. Leave an equal amount of overhang for each side edge of the deck board.

    Screw the next deck board into place leaving a 2-inch gap between each board. This will allow good air circulation around the boards. Continue to attach the remaining deck boards until you have reached the other end.

    Install the barrels under the floating dock. Have a helper lift one end of the dock and roll the plastic barrel under the frame. The barrel should fit snugly into the framed cavity. Install the other barrel in the other end of the frame.

    Slide the dock section onto the water.

    Tie each corner of the dock from the shore end with the rope to a ground support on the shore. Two trees are the best tie point. You also can drive two metal stakes or posts in the ground for the tie point. Run the ropes at a 45-degree angle back from the dock section.

    Attach the 6-inch strap hinges to the end of the dock section. These will be used to tie the next section of dock that you build. You can construct as many sections as you need by following this method.

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