Seawalls are a common feature in many waterfront residential and commercial properties. Seawalls come in many varieties and styles, but they all serve two primary functions:
The seawall on your property may also serve other secondary purposes, such as providing an aesthetic separation between the land and sea or acting as a foundation for walkways, promenades, or boat launch facilities.
Because they serve so many critical functions and failures can sometimes result in catastrophic damage, it's crucial to examine your seawall periodically. When possible, you should hire a qualified professional to provide this inspection. Although they will look at many aspects of your seawall, here are three of the most crucial things they'll check during an inspection.
Like any other retaining wall structure, seawalls require adequate drainage to prevent problems and premature failure. Seawalls are vulnerable to hydrostatic pressure from their land side as water collects in the backfill area and presses against the wall. Without adequate drainage, this pressure can exceed the wall's design specifications and lead to failures.
An inspector will always check the condition of drainage, including any drainage material (such as gravel) placed behind the wall. This material allows water that comes over the top of the wall to quickly drain out, preventing the soil from becoming saturated and applying too much pressure. Your inspector will check for signs of collapse, wear, or other symptoms that may indicate a drainage issue.
Riprap refers to natural materials (such as boulders) placed in front of a seawall to provide support, drainage, and aesthetics. Some sea walls may consist entirely of riprap, while others may not use this material at all. If the wall on your property utilizes riprap, your inspector will need to check its condition and determine its role in supporting your wall and protecting the shore from erosion.
Although riprap may look like a pile of rocks, it's an engineered portion of your seawall structure. Any inspection must confirm that it's functioning well. Problems with the riprap near a seawall can, for example, place additional stress on the wall as waves or boat wakes reflect against it. This situation can reduce the lifespan of the wall and lead to future problems.
Piling is the foundation of your seawall. Most seawalls consist of foundational piling beneath the wall and sheet piling facing the water. Although an inspector can't reach the foundation piles, they can look for evidence of problems by examining the condition of the wall, drainage, and so on. A thorough inspection also typically includes entering the water to examine the sheet piling closely.
Remember that a sea wall doesn't just beautify your property — it protects it. Routine inspections will allow you to take appropriate maintenance and repair steps to keep your sea wall looking good and functioning well.
For more information about seawall inspections, contact a local service.