Dock Bumpers: Why Material Matters

boat dock bumpersBoat dock bumpers are shock-absorbing devices used in fendering systems on dockage at marinas and ports. The proper use of dock bumpers (also referred to as a dock fender) helps protect boats, as well as the dock, from damage caused by incidental or unintentional impacts by the boat or boaters, or from the bumping and jostling that is often experienced when a boat is moored in severe or inclement weather conditions.

Do Boat Dock Bumper Materials Matter?

Yes, materials matter. The type selected for the system can make a substantial difference in protection, safety, and longevity for all types of watercraft and the respective docks, piers, wharves, and the like where they are berthed. Whether a means of commerce or a source of recreation, a boat or vessel out of service due to berthing damage caused by improper fendering can be exceptionally costly. The dock bumper then must match the size and scale of the vessel as much as the activity of the marina or port.

Placement of Dock Bumpers

There are several considerations to factor in to ensure the dock bumper you choose is the right one for the job. The first is placement. Impact points between boat and dock need to be determined. For instance, a boat slip may have three points of contact to contend with compared to simply easing up alongside a dock. The head of the slip should have extra cushioning as well, for collisions. The size of your boat and any potential impact on the dock is another consideration. Dock siding and corner bumpers are suitable for a small motorboat. In a busy marina, more heavy-duty dock siding bumpers would be advised for larger vessels to absorb the impact of docking throughout the day. Finally, the use of corner bumpers can ensure a safe docking experience. If the dock size requires pilings, then dock bumpers can be mounted vertically on the pilings to protect them.

Material selection for the dock bumper should be able to withstand the seasonal conditions of the marine environment, plus the constant jolts and forcible contact of boats and vessels. The appropriate materials will create quality dock bumpers and serve their purpose over time. Boat dock bumpers should be compatible with the water, weather conditions, and climate. The bumpers should also be the correct size in relation to the vessels docking in the marina or port. In other words, bumpers should be capable of handling the size and weight of the boats and vessels that are docking. For long-term durability and lasting service that can function throughout the seasons as necessary, look to Natural and Reclaimed Rubber available in EPDM and SBR.

High Tensile, Abrasion-Resistant Rubber: EPDM and SBR

Dock bumpers of EPDM and SBR are high tensile, abrasion-resistant rubber compounds molded and extruded into shapes and styles to help prevent impact damage to your boat, watercraft, and dock.


EPDM is a durable water-resistant thermoset material of ethylene and propylene with an average service life of approximately 25-30 years. It is an excellent material for marine applications. Because dock bumpers will be constantly exposed to the elements, EPDM dock fenders resist weathering, prevent UV damage, and offer thermal shock and protection from extreme temperatures.


Styrene-butadiene rubber, or SBR as it is commonly referred to, is a general-purpose water-resistant rubber known for its many mechanical properties. SBR is a quality, resilient marine rubber compound that offers high tensile strength can absorb impacts, and has wear and abrasion resistance. It remains flexible in low temperatures with decent heat resistance, too. SBR also ages well and is crack resistant.

Using Boat Dock Bumpers to Prevent Damage and for Safety

Dock bumpers are important and necessary devices to prevent damage to the hull of a boat or vessel while docking and when docked. The material of dock bumpers must be durable and be able to absorb immense impacts upon approach or sustain the pounding and constant friction against the dock during a storm or high winds. For more information on what bumper material is best for your docking needs, the experts at Manufacturer’s Rubber & Supply are a phone call away.

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