A property owner whose land touches the water, especially coastal and tide-influenced water, needs to consider having a solid, well-built seawall construction. Seawalls help keep the water and the land separate and each in its place. A well-made seawall, built with good materials, can provide good service for twenty to fifty years. However if you’re in need of seawall repair, it can not only be ugly to look at but can also present a homeowner with some severe and potentially dangerous problems.
For most homeowners and property owners who need to build or repair a seawall, getting professional help is required. Seawalls are not the sort of project most people are able to do on their own. The first step in building or repairing a seawall is to make sure the right contractor is doing the work. Property owners who are building or repairing a seawall must check all contractor’s references and the specific kinds of materials they intend to use. Check warranties of materials.
The contractor must have Workers’ Comp and general liability insurance. Property owners must make sure the contractor is properly covered in all cases. Using a contractor who is not fully licensed and insured can lead to some very expensive outcomes for homeowners. The contractor must know and be able to work with the Corps of Engineers and state authorities before starting a seawall construction project.
Quite often a permit must be issued from either the federal or state authorities when any kind of project on public waterways is proposed.
Seawalls can be made of a wide range or materials, and properly maintained, any of the most common seawall structural materials can give good service.
Vinyl or aluminum sheet panels are the best material for a good bulkhead. Of course, concrete is better than all other materials, but it is very labor intensive and expensive.
Whatever materials for the wall structure are chosen, a crucial point in any seawall construction is the kind and number of tie backs used to secure the wall. Tie backs are long, strong metal rods which anchor into the soil on the land side of the seawall and which provide support to the seawall itself. If insufficient tie backs are used, the wall will not hold up to tide action, flood conditions, or storm surge and massive damage can occur.
What Causes Damage to Seawalls
Seawalls are structures under constant stress and pressure. Tide action, boat wakes, high water from storms all put pressure on seawalls from one side, and high flood water from heavy rains put pressure on the seawall from the other side.
If seawalls are not properly built, and most commonly this means that not enough tie backs were used in the initial construction, damage will occur. If storm water cannot escape from the backside of the seawall, it can suffer damage. Heavy run-offs from tropical storms and hurricanes can cause much damage in a very short period of time.
Erosion from the landside of a seawall can create massive land creep and soil loss which can result in large cavities and voids which can be very dangerous. Backfilling these voids with sand or soil doesn’t work for very long.
What happens if Seawalls are not Repaired?
Like just about all problems in life, damage to seawalls which is not repaired and properly corrected only gets worse. No matter what causes seawall damage, left unrepaired, the damage will only get worse until the seawall is totally collapsed and presents a real danger to the property owner and others.
Erosion from water movement from either the waterway side or land side can cause a seawall to buckle and collapse. High water created voids can collapse and leave a dangerous, ugly hole behind a seawall. Backfilling these erosion-created voids has limited benefit, and the fill material usually doesn’t last long.
Many times these erosion voids can be filled with special closed cell foam material which can be injected into the void. This foam hardens when it contacts water, and it creates a much more solid and long-lasting repair.
Many seawalls suffer collapse and damage because they were not built with adequate tie backs when they were first constructed. More tie backs can be installed to strengthen weak and damaged seawalls. This requires excavation into the shore so that the tie backs can be placed properly and then connected to the seawall.
Neither closed cell foam installation to fill voids nor tie back replacement and installment can be done by most homeowners, and most of these major repairs always require a contractor who is equipped, trained, and experienced in making seawall repairs.
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