If you're a first-time water-front property owner, you may have no idea what a seawall is or why it's important to maintain, but you should educate yourself right away on this vital element of your new purchase. Your seawall was put in place by a land developer or former owner of your property, and it serves several important purposes:
- A seawall prevents the body of water adjacent to your property from washing away your land through wave erosion.
- A seawall often delineates the width of a body of water, such as a canal.
- A seawall helps stabilize neighboring lots.
- A seawall forms the boundary between your property and publicly owned property (the water).
If you don't maintain your seawall properly, it can affect those around you and those who use the waterways. For these reasons, it's important to arm yourself with a basic knowledge of seawalls -- how they're constructed and how best to maintain them.
Depending on the age of your seawall, it may be constructed of several materials. Most newer constructions utilize concrete or composite materials, but a seawall may be made of coral rock, steel, wood, fiberglass, or even boulders. Typically, a seawall is built by constructing a wall made of one of these materials, capping the full length, and reinforcing the wall by attaching it to a poured concrete block that's anchored about 10 feet behind through the use of steel tie-back rods. Your seawall will have weep holes that allow collected water to seep back through to relieve pressure against the wall. For your seawall to work properly, the concrete block, the wall, the tie back rods, and the weep holes must all be in good, solid condition.
Signs of Seawall Failure
Your seawall can fail due to age and neglect. As a new property owner, it's your responsibility to inspect the length of your seawall to ensure its stability. Look for the following signs of seawall failure:
- Your seawall leans forward near the top -- This is an indication that your tie-back rods may have corroded and broken. To fix broken tie-back rods, you should contact a professional in marine construction. This job requires excavating down to the sunken concrete slab and installing new rods that connect to the seawall.
- You find large sinkholes behind your seawall -- This means that your wall has been breached by the water, and the soil behind it is slowly eroding away. To fix this issue, you may need to clean existing weep holes or install additional weep holes with filters to prevent the soil from washing back through the wall along with the water.
- Your seawall leans backward near the top, and the cap is damaged -- This means your seawall is failing at the toe, or at the bottom of the wall below the water. Again, this is a job for an expert marine contractor who may be able to add weight, called berm, near the bottom of the wall.
Keeping a seawall functioning properly or repairing a seawall that's already damaged can be challenging, especially for homeowners who are unfamiliar with the power of water and wave action. But it's a responsibility that you have to fulfill, or your property, your neighbor's property, and the waterway could become negatively impacted. You could also incur hefty fines if you allow your seawall to deteriorate to this condition. Play it safe and contact a reputable marine contractor to help answer any questions you have regarding your new seawall. This is the person who can walk the length of your seawall and point out to you any problems you have. He's also the one who's best qualified to repair it. Contact a marine construction professional today.