Decking Options: Custom Building For Your Project And Budget

October 26, 2019

Decking Options: Custom Building For Your Project And Budget

At Gator, we help our clients with their projects from start to finish, including designing the structure to their project's budget and specific use. Our blog, Gator Tales, is a resource for aluminum lovers, especially those who are in need of a custom-built bridge or dock structure.

So what is the question our team is asked most often? "What is the cost of a pedestrian bridge or dock system?"

With over four decades of expertise, we have the answer to the most asked question: It depends. Seriously though, that is why we call Gator a custom manufacturer – because it depends on you. The answer to this question can be broken down into three main components: Decking, design and size of your structure. The Gator Tales blog will address all three components. Let's start with decking, then we'll post on the other two in the near future.

Dock Decking and Bridge Decking

Cost is an important factor in a project. Helping clients stay within budget is what Gator does best (other than building docks and bridges, of course). However, a cheap bridge or a cheap dock is not going to make our customers happy. The docks and bridges we design need to be long lasting, durable and designed for their purpose. When we help our clients choose a decking surface the most important question is: what type of decking is best for my project? Many factors – such as location, climate, budget, usage, and environmental considerations -- go into the decision.


Sandy Springs pedestrian bridge, with FRP decking, installed in May 2014.

Budget: Consider the total cost of your decking
Every buyer wants a high performance, long lasting structure that fits into their budget. The cost of a project is more than just the cost of the floating dock or trail bridge. The total cost includes the structure cost, delivery and installation. Design choice, especially decking, affects each of these cost components. Installing an inexpensive deck does not always equal the cheapest total solution. For example, bridge or dock with pavers, a typically inexpensive decking material, would be very expensive to ship, leading to a higher total project cost than other deck options.

Another example is the GatorBridge for the city of Sandy Springs, Georgia. Project managers sought a pedestrian bridge alongside a vehicular bridge that crosses a creek. They originally requested a quote for a concrete decked bridge. After learning more about their project the Gator team recommended using synthetic concrete panels for the deck. This design change reduced the cost of the bridge and better fits the projects overall goals.

Maximum traction is the most important characteristic when choosing a deck for safety. One of our most economical options is Gator's non-slip aluminum decking, textured in two planes for maximum traction. Our synthetic concrete decking (made from composite fiberglass reinforced polymer planks) is also slip resistant and comes in several color options. A slip-free surface is important not only for docks, marinas, and boat ramps, but also bridges and walkways in industrial or maintenance settings. Aluminum grating's holey deck provides almost a 360 degree visual of the surrounding environment as well as a safe surface option. For projects where an extra aesthetic touch is desired, composite wood decks can also provide extra traction even when wet. If children and pets will be using your project's aluminum structure, choose a deck with a lower surface heat when exposed to direct sunlight (see "Climate").

Climate: Wet or Dry? Hot or Cold?
For wet environments, the slip-resistant decking options mentioned are often chosen. In dry, arid climates, avoid pressure treated pine decks, which have a tendency to get brittle.  For the look of wood in dry climates, try Ipe hardwood or one of our composite wood options in a variety of colors and types. When temperatures soar, deck surface temperature becomes another important climate consideration. If bare feet are going to be on your project's boat ramp, marina or kayak launch, stay cool with your decking. Of all of the deck materials, aluminum is the coolest to the touch in direct sunlight.

Often we build docks or bridges for an area with environmental restrictions. Wetland reclamation areas and protected waters, for example, want to preserve sea grass and local wildlife by minimizing the footprint of the Gator structure. Grating is a great option for eco-concerned areas. Gator'sThruFlow decking (a synthetic grating) or aluminum grating lets the sunlight shine through. Additionally, Gator aluminum products are made from over 70% recycled aluminum and our structures are 100% recyclable. Because aluminum is naturally corrosion resistant, it is one of the few materials that does not require toxic coatings, washes or paint for maintenance.

Playgrounds and trails have very different needs than industrial settings. By custom building each bridge or dock to our client's project needs, Gator provides a high performance, durable and long-lasting aluminum structure.

Let our team help you. View the projects below to see how we have designed with different decking styles based on a project's specific needs.

To learn more about the bridge or dock pricing, check out the follow up articles:

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