How to Build a Dock Ladder

Updated April 17, 2017

A dock ladder can make gaining access to a dock a little easier. Though you may have just completed construction on a beautiful new dock, climbing onto the dock from the water can be a problem. Whether you are swimming or mooring your boat, tide changes can mean the only way you're going to reach the top of the dock is by first wading ashore. A dock ladder alleviates this potential problem. Simple to construct and requiring few tools, a dock ladder can be built in a couple of hours or less.

Measure two pieces of two-by-four lumber into 7-foot sections and mark them using a carpenter's square and pencil. Cut the lumber where you marked it.

Lay the two pieces of lumber together on the ground side by side so the ends are flush. Measure and mark the position of the steps. Mark the lowest step at the bottom of one end of the lumber. Mark each following step one foot above the lower step. Use the carpenter's square and pencil to mark the position of the top of each step.

Attach the steps to the lumber to create the ladder. Use a drill and crosshead drill tip to drive 2-inch galvanised screws through the step eyelets and into the lumber.

Measure the distance between the inside edges of the ladder. Mark this distance on the bulkhead of the dock where you want to attach the ladder. Mark both the top of bulkhead just below the deck and along the bottom of the bulkhead.

Hold a ladder-mounting bracket to one side of the top mark so the inside of the bracket is aligned with the mark. Use a pencil to mark the bracket screw holes. Repeat on the opposite side and again on both ends of the lower mark.

Attach a one-eighth-inch drill bit to the drill and pre-drill each marked hole. Drill to a 1-and-three-fourths-inch depth. Make this part easier by measuring the drill bit and taping it at 1 and three-fourths inches.

Fix the four brackets securely to the bulkhead using a socket wrench and 2-inch hex head screws. Drive just two screw in and then double check the spacing to make sure the ladder will fit snugly into the brackets. Drive in the remaining screws.

Position the ladder inside the brackets to the desired depth. Mark the lumber through the bracket eyelets. Remove the ladder and pre-drill these holes.

Attach the crosshead drill bit to the drill. Set the ladder in position inside the brackets. Connect the ladder to the brackets using 2-inch hex head screws. Drive in the screws with a socket wrench.


If you are mounting the ladder to a floating dock, the depth of the ladder should not reach the bottom during low tide. When choosing lumber, seek a species that holds up well underwater, such as alder wood. Ask a sales representative for suggestions at your local lumber yard.


Pressure-treated lumber is often used for dock construction. Before using any treated lumber, determine exactly what chemicals have been used. Many chemicals, though preserving the life of your ladder, may cause harm to you or the water around your dock.

Things You'll Need

  • 14 feet of two-by-four lumber
  • 4 metal ladder-mounting brackets
  • 5 20-inch metal ladder steps, outside mounting
  • 24 hex head screws, 2 inch
  • 20 galvanised ladder step screws, 2 inch
  • Circular saw
  • Drill
  • 1/8-inch drill bit
  • Crosshead drill tip
  • 1/2-inch socket and wrench
  • Tape measure
  • Carpenter's square
  • Pencil
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About the Author

Mike Biscoe has been writing since 2009. Focusing on travel, sports and entertainment topics, he has credits in various online publications including LIVESTRONG.COM and Trails. He often writes articles covering uncommon travel destinations from firsthand experience. Biscoe holds a Certificate of Completion in acting from the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts.