A seawall is the very image of stability and endurance. Nevertheless, for all its sturdiness, it can only withstand so much before requiring seawall maintenance.
Neglecting to properly inspect and maintain your seawall can result in structural failure and expensive repairs. And we don’t want you to have to deal with that headache!
That’s why we’ve put together this helpful guide to seawall maintenance. In it, you will learn how long you should expect your seawall to last, problems to watch out for, and tasks you can perform to keep your wall in good shape.
So, without further ado, let’s begin!
How Long Should My Seawall Last?
It is important to know the life expectancy of a seawall. After all, it is a significant investment, and you want to know that the money you put into it will yield long-term benefits.
Generally, three main factors determine a seawall’s longevity: 1) the type of wall, 2) the quality of installation, and 3) the amount of seawall maintenance. We will discuss each of these factors below.
The Life Expectancies of Different Types of Seawalls
First, let’s take a look at the life expectancy of the three main types of seawalls: steel seawalls, outcropping, and rip rap.
Steel seawalls will typically last an average of 35 years. However, if galvanized, they will usually last a few years longer.
As for outcropping and rip rap, since they consist of rock and stones, they usually outlast their steel counterparts. Given the proper attention and maintenance, these seawalls should last a lifetime.
However, a seawall’s makeup isn’t the only factor determining its longevity.
How the Quality of Installation Impacts a Seawall’s Lifespan
Whether you’re getting a new seawall or inheriting an existing one, quality installation is crucial. A poorly installed seawall will need repairs 10-15 years sooner than it would have if the builders did the job right initially. And seawall repairs aren’t cheap!
So make sure you hire the right people to do your seawall installation. And, if you’re considering buying a home with a preinstalled seawall, be sure to have that seawall inspected before making your purchase. We can’t tell you how many homeowners we’ve come across who bought a home with a lousy seawall. Sadly, they wound up paying a whole lot more than they expected for their new humble abode.
The unfortunate truth is scammers are out there. Companies will install seawalls with low-quality materials or sloppy techniques. One of the most sinister tricks to watch out for is some contractors will intentionally install seawalls too shallow to save money on materials. These walls inevitably fail because they aren’t rooted deeply enough in the earth. For this reason, a good rule of thumb is a seawall should be as high above the ground as it is below the ground. A trustworthy inspector will have no trouble making sure this is the case.
Maintaining Your Seawall is Vital
Once you have a correctly installed a sturdy seawall, keeping it healthy is up to you. Experts recommend getting your seawall inspected by qualified professionals once every 5-6 years to ensure proper maintenance. However, there are also things you can do in the meantime to keep your wall in good shape.
What Seawall Maintenance Can I Perform?
You should perform a few basic tasks to keep your seawall healthy.
First, keep a close eye on all plant growth around your seawall. While some seawalls incorporate plant life into their natural aesthetic, not all growth is good growth. Weeds can bore deep into the ground and cause cracks in the liner of your seawall. So be sure to kill them with weed killer before they do any damage.
You should also check for clogs in weep holes. Weep holes are openings that allow water from behind the seawall to filter through it. If weep holes get clogged with debris, then water pressure can build up and cause the wall to crack and crumble. To prevent this damage, you should inspect the weep holes often and clear them of any blockages.
Many owners also apply spray-on waterproofing solution to their seawalls to provide an extra layer of protection against water erosion. Depending on the type of seawall you have, that may be an option for you as well.
What Red Flags Should I Watch Out For?
Beyond basic seawall maintenance tasks, you should also perform regular inspections for damage on your seawall. Inspections are especially crucial after significant runoff events, such as big storms or flooding.
Some signs of trouble are obvious and easily fixable. For instance, you can seal minor cracks and holes in the seawall with marine grout. These repairs will keep water from flowing through and eroding away the soil and sand from behind and under the seawall.
Signs of Damage in Different Types of Seawalls
The types of things you should be looking for differ greatly depending on the type of seawall you have, of course.
- With a steel seawall, watch out for leaks, cracks, and corrosion.
- With rip rap, look out for dislodged stones that you need to replace.
- And with outcropping, you’ll want to look for separation in the joints between the slabs.
What sort of attention these types of damage require can vary, and should be based on a professional inspection. If the damage is minor, it can be fixed fairly easily with basic tools. However, more extreme cases may require excavation.
When Does My Seawall Require Immediate Care?
Some issues are more serious and require more than just routine maintenance.
For example, if your steel seawall is sagging, dipping, or bowing outwards, then there’s a good chance you need serious repair work, if not replacement altogether.
And if you see indentations, pits, or holes forming near the seawall, then a breach in the wall may be allowing the soil to drain through into the water. In such a case, the wall would require significant repairs.
To prevent problems from escalating, we urge you to schedule regular seawall maintenance visits with a professional. Seawalls Unlimited in McHenry is the premier contractor for seawall installation, maintenance, and replacement services in the area. Give us a call at (815) 331-8830 to schedule a maintenance inspection.
2350 W. Rte. 120
McHenry, IL 60051