Recently, a customer called requesting samples of our wall and corner guards to undergo testing. Our sales team was curious, and the client explained: he wanted the guards to act as dock bumpers at his resort on a fresh-water lake. Normally, these product lines provide traffic safety solutions on dry land, so the use of corner and wall guards in a marine environment piqued our interest.
Rubber in a marine environment
In cottage country, it is common to spy a row of used tires hanging from the side of a wooden dock. A tire is built for shock absorption, which recommends it to a second life as a marine bumper after its tread is worn. Large freighters and tugboats rely on tires because they are rubber bonded to thin textile fiber cables that provide shape and form; the rubber provides the bounce, and the substrate helps divert a lot of incoming force.
However, for most docks serving pleasure vehicles and smaller craft, a rubber tire is more bumper than is needed, and vehicle tires are unwieldy. Rubber tires create a gap between hull and dock that can be a scramble for people getting out of low-slung or smaller boats. On multi-use docks where swimmers, fishers, water-skiers or paddleboarders are also launching, they can become frustrating or dangerous.
Wall and corner guards, by contrast, have a sleek profile while still providing the elasticity found in rubber tires. They can protect a dock without substantially changing its dimensions and won’t create finger-pinch or tripping points.
The material properties of rubber in a marine environment are well studied. Even in salt water, rubber holds up well over time. Some rubber mixes sustain surface damage by bacterial bloom or other sea life when submerged, but in general, rubber—including the recycled rubber composite of our wall guards—maintain good mechanical support for 15-20 years. Rubber wall and corner guards are designed to be impact hardy for years in traditional installations that are exposed to the enviropnment: the addition of salt or fresh water will not radically change their longevity.
Hull protection on corners
Marinas often install rounded dock fenders or wheels to protect a hull incoming at any angle. Our corner guards, originally intended for vehicle traffic, come in two designs. The flat design is often enough to protect the walls of a parking garage or loading bay, as they wrap the structure and keep a low profile. The second design is more protective of vehicles that bump it: its higher profile circular center redirects the vehicle and protects its finish. In the case of marine application, the rounded corner is useful to nudge a boat along.
These corner guards extend four inches from the corner in each direction and are 31 3/8in long—perfect for longer dock posts that have many possible points of contact.
High visibility at night
Our wall and corner guards are reflective for high visibility.
If a boat is out after sunset, inexperienced sailors can find it challenging to dock. Distance can be tricky to judge on the water, where buoys and floats provide the only immediate “landmarks,” and the moving reflection of the moon, shore lights, and stars can make it tricky to find edges. Docking spotlights should not be used while the vessel is out of port because they can cause dangerous night blindness to anyone on the water, but with nav lights it can be easy to misjudge distance and speed. For safety’s sake in low light conditions, high visibility reflective tape make the dock edge very clear, even if nav lights—or flashlights!—are the only source of illumination.
One worry for boat owners is the possibility that rubbing against a rubber bumper will scuff the fiberglass. The density of the rubber in this case makes that unlikely, with no observed problems during our customer’s testing.
Sales Manager Len Cranmore has longer term experience with the issue, having installed a wall guard to protect his truck doors in his home garage. The tight squeeze in the garage was a constant threat to both his vehicle and his wall until he installed a bumper. He estimates that he’s banged the wall guard hundreds of times with no transfer of rubber to his vehicle.
Good value and easy installation
Volume discounts make buying wall and corner guards good value for the high-impact performance and longevity of the product.
To install these wall guards and corner protectors into wooden docks, it is wise to use stainless steel screws which are more resistant to rusting when exposed to water. If in salt water environments, 316 stainless screws are preferred. Stainless steel screws are slightly more prone to stripping, so it is wise to have well-fitting tools and work with care. Simple button head bolts, 3/8” by 1”, are all that are necessary. In concrete, a 3/8” drop in concrete insert is recommended, which requires a 1/2” x 1 1/2” hole (diameter x depth). The screw heads should be tightened until they recess into the bumper where they will not protrude to scratch hulls.
Although stainless screws are water resistant, wood docks can be prone to rot. For extra peace of mind, a silicone sealant can be used over the holes.
Although our wall and corner guards were not originally created with boats in mind, they are flexible and adaptive to the marine environment. They’re working well as inexpensive and durable marine accessories.