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Which Type of Seawall Design is Right for You?

Which Type of Seawall Design is Right for You?

How Do You Choose a Seawall Design?

There are many types of seawall design out there. But choosing the one right for your shoreline can be challenging. After all, do you go for a simple and practical steel seawall? Or perhaps some eco-friendly rip rap?
Each seawall design has its own set of benefits and drawbacks. But there are many factors you must consider before making your decision. These include cost, aesthetics, shoreline conditions, and more. But if you’re new to the world of seawalls, then you might not know how to navigate this unfamiliar market.

Luckily, Seawalls Unlimited is here to help!

If you’re looking for a seawall but aren’t sure how to choose a design, don’t worry!  Here’s a list of questions to help you decide.

A photograph of outcropping, on of the many types of seawall design.

Your seawall design depends on a variety of factors.

What Type of Water Will Your Seawall Surround?

When choosing a seawall design, you must first consider the body of water it will border. Factors like size, depth, salinity, and currents all play a major role in seawall construction.

For example, the calmer the water, the less stress on the seawall. So, if your property borders a small pond or a quiet stretch of lake, you can use rip rap with stones as small as 3” to 6.” But if you border a river or an inland lake, you might want larger 6” to 12” stones. Likewise, sturdier structures like outcropping or steel lend themselves to rougher waters.

Also, you should consider salinity. For example, if your property borders saltwater, you might avoid a steel seawall, since these are best-suited to freshwater.

What Conditions Face the Shoreline?

Next, consider the conditions of the shoreline. Think about the slope of the shore and how much human activity it withstands.

For example, does the water see a lot of boat wake? If many crafts pass at high speeds, they create large wakes that might cause erosion to your shoreline over time. No-wake zones are safe for using small-stone rip rap. But areas with excessive wake might require a sturdier seawall design. In these cases, consider outcropping or a steel seawall—which are the strongest.

Also, think about the shoreline itself. Is the soil sandy, or does it contain mostly silt and clay? Perhaps it inclines steeply, or maybe more gradually? Learn about the installation processes for each seawall design to decide which would work for your shoreline. Steel seawalls can penetrate any soil. So, if you’re unsure about the stability of your shoreline, steel might be the safest choice.

But that’s not to say you can’t use other designs for shorelines with rough conditions.

In fact, for areas with currents strong enough to be dangerous, rip rap creates a barrier between land and water. This safeguard discourages people from wandering too close to the river. Also, rip rap prevents soil erosion and can even restore banks in problem areas.  So, it’s still worth looking into if you think the conditions are suitable.

A photograph of a steel seawall, one of the strongest types of seawall design.

Steel is the strongest type of seawall.

Do You Want Your Seawall to Be Eco-friendly?

Next, consider how important it is that your seawall design is environmentally-friendly.

By far, rip rap is the “greenest” seawall design. Unlike other types of seawall design, rip rap doesn’t block organisms from moving in and out of the water. So, it causes the least harm to animals in your area. Native plant species and some insect species can even colonize on rip rap.

Additionally, rip rap provides the most organic aesthetic because native plants and other vegetation can partially hide it. The stones also appear natural and rough-hewn.  So, it’s the best option for blending into the shoreline.

On the other hand. outcropping offers a more stylized look. But it can be just as beautiful. The irregular shapes and sizes of the stone leave many design possibilities depending on the vibe you’re going for.

A photograph of rip rap, the most environmentally friendly seawall design.

Rip rap is the most environmentally-friendly seawall design.

Which Seawall Design Best Fits Your Budget?

Finally, you must consider the pricing of the different types of seawall design.

First, ask whether you care more about the costs of installation or long-term ownership. In the short-term, rip rap is typically the cheapest because of its simplicity. But steel seawalls have the most extended lifespan of any seawall design. So, choosing steel might save you money if you plan on holding onto the property for a long time.

However, the cost of each seawall type depends on your shoreline as well. Different shoreline conditions such as soil type, incline, and currents affect the kind of seawall you can install.

Hopefully, you now have a better idea of how to choose a seawall design. If you still have any questions, we’d be happy to hear from you! We have 40 years of experience installing, maintaining, and repairing all types of seawalls in McHenry, IL. With our expertise, we can help you choose a seawall design appropriate for your shoreline.

 Request a free quote, or give us a call at (815) 331-8830 and schedule a visit today!


Use our form to estimate the initial cost of renovation or installation.

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