Image of a stainless steel cleat mounted on the edge of a boat wrapped with a white nylon rope

On every boat out at sea or docked to a pier, you will notice numerous fixtures mounted all around the edges of the vessel. These fixtures are boat cleats, which are essential equipment needed to safely secure vessels to docks. There are many types of boat cleats including a Horn Cleat, S-Style Cleat, Flip-Up Cleats, and Solar Dock Cleats. An important aspect of cleats is knowing how to properly install or replace them and no matter which type you end up choosing for your vessel, they should be mounted and installed correctly. Let's discuss the process of mounting cleats on a boat, installing cleats on a dock, along with important tips and tricks to consider for boat and dock cleat installation.

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Tools & Materials Needed for Installing Cleats on Boats or Docks

When installing cleats on boats or docks, make sure you have this list of tools so you can successfully mount and install cleats on your boat or dock.

  • Cleats
  • Screws, nuts, and bolts
  • A drill with metal or wood drill bits
  • Socket sets
  • Wrench or pliers
  • Hammer drill for concrete seawalls
  • Tapcon masonry screws for concrete seawalls

Once you have all the tools you need, you can begin the process for mounting the cleats onto the boat or dock.


How to Mount Cleats on a Boat

A cleat mounted on the bow of a boat wrapped in a black nylon rope docked at a pier

Mounting cleats yourself is a simple and easy process if you follow each step properly. If you have old cleats on your boat, make sure to remove them to provide room for the new cleats. Sometimes you can find a direct replacement for the older cleats; most of the time, it isn’t the case due to outdated cleat designs. If you find yourself in this situation, fill the holes with gel coat and let it harden before continuing.

Next, choose the location of the new holes, mark them, and drill. It is equally important to make sure your new cleats have a backing plate so they can easily disperse the load. If your older cleats do not have backing plates, use cardboard as a template for the new cleats. Hold the backing plate and mark the location of the holes. Drill the holes into the backing plates and make them a quarter of an inch larger to make room for the epoxy or polyester resin to prevent rotting. Paint the entire backing plate to make sure engrains are saturated. After the epoxy is cured, make sure to cover the base of the cleat with 3M 4000 UV to seal out moisture. Then, tighten the hardware and wipe off access sealing. Once the cleat is secured, the process is complete, and you can continue this process for any remaining cleats.


How to Install Cleats on a Dock

Stainless steel bollard mounted to a concrete dock wrapped with a black nylon rope securing a boat to the dock

You will often see both cleats and bollards on docks, but they both serve the same purpose and installing either is quite similar. First, measure out and decide where to install the dock cleats, similar to deciding where to put the cleats on your boat. Make sure you have masonry screws on hand, because these utilize unique threads that can be inserted into concrete or brick. If you are installing on a wooden dock, decide on your dock cleat placement before drilling by marking the area. Use lag bolts to measure the thickness of the wood on your dock. If you are installing cleats on a metal dock, make sure to use carriage bolts.


Important Things to Know When Mounting or Installing Cleats

Installing cleats onto a dock is a fairly simple process once you have all the necessary tools and follow simple step-by-step instructions. Some things to keep in mind when installing cleats onto a dock:

  • The size of the cleat should be equal to the size of the boat.
  • The number of dock cleats should correspond to the size of the boat.
  • Consider cleats with recessed mounting holes to prevent rubbing.


Main Types & Materials of Boat Dock Cleats

Vector images of multiple types and shapes of boat cleats including horn cleats, flip-up cleats, and "S" cleats

Boat cleats are made from various materials, including:

  • Stainless steel (recommended)
  • Galvanized steel
  • Aluminum
  • Nylon
  • Wood

Boat Dock Cleats are offered across various types, including, but not limited to:

  • Dock Cleat: these are used for securing a boat to a dock.
  • Flip-up Cleat: these are used just like a normal two-horned cleat, but can be hidden away when not in use by laying flat on the boat.
  • Pop-up Cleat: these are used in a similar situation like the flip-up cleat, but pop-up and down rather than laying flat.
  • Pull-up Cleat: these are used by pulling the cleat up above deck when ready to tie up.
  • Solar Light Cleat: these are used for the same purpose as a two-horned cleat, but collect the sun’s energy to maintain power throughout the night and offer more visibility for nighttime boaters.

Read more about cleat types and materials here.


Do Different Types of Cleats Change How You Mount or Install Them?

Although there are varying types of cleats to choose from for your boat or dock, each one does have a specific process for installing due to their unique shapes or features. Before installing boat dock cleats, research the different types and decide which one you want to move forward with so you install them properly.


Marine-Grade, Corrosion-Resistant Stainless-Steel Cleats for Sale

Stainless steel boat dock cleats for sale in multiple sizes at Sardine Marine

Sardine Marine has been acknowledged for being an expert and a trusted source of boating knowledge, especially when it comes to knowing how to properly mount your cleats to your boat and dock. As a leading supplier of boat and dock cleats, Sardine Marine’s material includes marine-grade, corrosion-resistant, 316 stainless steel boat cleats that will secure your boat properly without getting in the way of a fun day out on the lake or sea. Shop our selection of stainless steel boat cleats for sale at:

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By Jim Radack


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