Dock fenders and bumpers can protect your boat from scratches, dents, and dings when docking in tight spots or poor conditions. Technically speaking, fenders are pads or cushions attached to the boat, while boat dock bumpers are attached to fixed structures such as pilings, docks, and dock pipes. In practice, though, the terms are used interchangeably by most boaters. » Read More
Historically, fenders were made of knotted rope. Sailors would make them out of old ropes that were too worn for anything else. The first rubber marine fender was developed by Goodyear in 1933. In the commercial industry, tug boats still use tires as fenders. With time, many new materials have been introduced to the recreational marine industry.
New fender options range in construction from closed-cell low-absorption foam and PVC fabric, to non-marking rubber and other synthetic materials.
Types of Dock Fenders
A dock fender can come in many shapes, sizes, and materials, but the most popular types for recreational boat docks are foam and PVC. These are made of low-absorption foam that is normally covered in cloth — usually either a canvas-like material or a PVC-coated material like marine vinyl — although not always. PVC boat fenders for docks are made of more solid PVC.
Foam is generally softer, providing more cushioning for your boat than PVC. On the other hand, foam tends not to be as durable as PVC. PVC is usually tougher and longer lasting than foam fenders and provides great shock absorption for use with larger, heavier boats. PVC fenders are usually a less expensive option than foam.
Other dock fender types include wave-style, which are basically a strip of heavy canvas or PVC attached to the dock in a corrugated pattern, and inflatable fenders. Some are still made of rubber, which doesn’t hold up to sun exposure as well as other materials and can leave marks on boats.
Dock Fender Mounting Styles
Most PVC options are screwed directly to the dock itself. Some types, like the Slammer Fender System, mount to tracks that are screwed to the dock. Track mounting allows sections of fenders to be moved easily
PVC Dock Fendering Shapes
PVC fenders come in several different profiles. Profile refers to the shape of the fender’s cross-section. The most common shapes are P-profile and D-profile. P-profile wraps over the edge of the dock and onto the top surface, while D-profile attaches only to the vertical edge of the dock.
P-profile options tend to be the best choice for docks that are fairly low to the water since they cover the edge of the dock, not just the side. P-profile must be mounted on the edge, though. If you need to mount your fenders lower on the face of the dock, D-profile will be the better choice. P-profile fender options can also make it harder to add other dock accessories like ladders.
Fenders for Dock Corners & Pilings
The corners of a dock are frequent spots for impact with boats and also tend to do more damage than a collision with the straight edge of a dock. Because of that, the corners of your dock are the most important places to protect. There are several ways to do this.
First, you can simply make mitered corners with regular fenders. You can also purchase special corner fenders made from either PVC or urethane foam that integrate with P-profile or D-profile fenders.
Dock Fender Colors
Foam options come in numerous colors. PVC comes in a more limited range, typically black, gray, or white. As a general rule, the darker the color, the longer the fender will last when exposed to the sun. White, on the other hand, is easier to see, especially at night.
Dock Fender Coils vs “Sticks”
PVC dock fender material is most often sold in rolls or coils of 20’ or more. There are certain advantages to coils, but for most recreational dock owners, the disadvantages outweigh them.
The main disadvantage of rolled fenders is that it needs to be straightened by stretching them flat in the sun. Even after straightening, it will take at least two people to hold the curled fender in place and install the screws.
Sticks or straight sections, on the other hand, are easier to install and can normally be installed by one person. The drawback to sticks is that they are expensive to ship. Anything longer than 8’ must be shipped freight.
Boat Outfitters offers PVC fender options in your choice of 5’ or 10’ lengths. Five-foot lengths are easier and less expensive to ship and work just as well as the longer lengths.
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