6 Step Seawall Maintenance Guide (2023)
As much luxury and tranquility as seafront homes offer, they’re also vulnerable to the harsh conditions that seawater and coastal weather can bring.
In fact, the only thing that makes these homes stand strong on a coastline with unpredictable sea patterns is the seawall.
You see, seawalls are engineered to withstand waves and storm surges, making coastal homes as stable as they’d be on solid ground.
Nevertheless, seawalls have their limits too, not the least of which is constantly tested by the extreme force of the sea. And this makes seawall maintenance extremely important for coastal property owners.
After all, a solid and resilient seawall is the only protection you’ve got between your home and the sea.
Now, when it comes to maintaining a seawall, you’re sure to have a ton of questions. And that’s exactly why we’ve compiled this thorough guide, detailing all things seawall upkeep along with our pro tips and tricks.
So, let’s dive right in and have a look.
Seawall maintenance: Why is it so important?
Before we get into the nitty gritty of maintaining and upkeeping the seawall, it’s essential for you to understand its importance.
For starters, your seawall takes a heavy toll on a regular basis resulting from high tidal waves and storms, among others.
And although seawalls are designed for endurance, there’s always a limit. So much so that a lack of maintenance, and you can have an eroding seawall on your property.
Moreover, seawalls are highly critical for waterfront properties, and unlike other structural components, timely maintenance is of the essence. That’s because negligence can result in a major structural failure in your home as the seawall protection becomes ineffective.
Also, a failing seawall can cause soil erosion around the property, making your home prone to frequent flooding.
In short, any neglect to maintain your seawall can lead to anywhere from costly repairs to inhabitable conditions to an unsafe home, and more.
What does seawall maintenance involve?
Complicated as it might sound, maintaining your seawall is quite straightforward.
In fact, seawalls are easier to maintain than a lot of structural elements; all you’ve got to do is pay close attention to some areas of concern.
It all starts with a detailed seawall inspection wherein a licensed inspector analyzes the seawall and detects problem areas. And this is followed by remedies such as waterproofing and crack sealing, among others.
The best thing is that with some experience and expertise, you can even carry out the maintenance by yourself.
Interesting, isn’t it?
Now, if you’re wondering how exactly you can maintain a seawall, here are five simple steps that you can follow:
Step 1. Inspecting the seawall
The first step in maintaining a seawall involves a comprehensive inspection, which should ideally be carried out by a seasoned seawall inspector.
Herein, the inspector will visually analyze the seawall, examining its condition and determining whether or not it is structurally sound. As such, you can expect a clear identification of the problem areas and essential remedies to fix them.
For instance, if you’ve got a concrete or vinyl seawall, the inspection will check for cracks and suggest reliable methods to repair them.
Similarly, for seawalls made of timber, the inspectors will look for signs of rot, termite infestation, splitting, etc.
Now, depending on the extent of maintenance you’re looking to undertake, you can choose between three types of inspections, namely:
- Visual Inspection
- Structural Inspection
- Elevation Inspection
You see, the whole idea of having seawalls inspected before maintenance is to have a clear understanding of what exactly needs to be fixed. Not to mention, a routine inspection also brings potential problems to your notice before they become expensive repairs.
You can go through our blog – The Ultimate Seawall Inspections Guide.
Curious about what else a seawall inspection involves?
Step 2. Unclogging the weep holes
As we discussed earlier, seawalls have to withstand a lot of pressure. And it’s not just seawater that exerts pressure as a seawall has to stand the stress from the other side.
This is precisely why weep holes are built into seawalls, serving as crucial pressure relief points that allow seawater to move and ensure proper drainage.
Nevertheless, it’s commonplace for weep holes to get clogged from things such as sand or soil, trash brought in by seawater, loose construction mortar, etc. And without water flowing through these holes, the pressure on the seawall can be tremendous, potentially leading to structural damage.
Also, leaves, twigs, and limbs from the surrounding plants and trees can partially clog weep holes, reducing the flow of water.
So, unclogging the weep holes to relieve pressure is an important step in maintaining seawalls.
Thankfully, it doesn’t take much to unclog a weep hole, as clearing the debris and ensuring that water flow is normal is all it needs.
It goes without saying you can regularly inspect the weep holes and check if the movement of water is optimal. In fact, this will allow you to detect a clogged hole and clear it before it entirely chokes the water flow.
Step 3. Relocating your landscape away from the seawall
Believe it or not, the trees and shrubs in your backyard can be the worst enemy of the seawall. Moreover, the damage from your plantation can be imminent if they’re close enough to the seawall.
You see, the problem lies with the roots, which naturally grow towards the water and end up growing against the seawall. This exerts tremendous pressure on the seawall, more than what it is designed to withstand, thus forming cracks.
Not to mention, the roots of some trees can even make their way through the seawall, leaving them wide open and exposing the soil to seawater.
We’re not suggesting that you shouldn’t be planting trees on your property. However, for the safety of the seawall, it’s best to have the area around it clear of landscaping.
Also, if you already have trees and shrubs in the vicinity of the seawall, we suggest you relocate them at least 20-30 feet away.
Simply put, the larger the trees are, the farther away they should be from the seawall.
Step 4. Removing vegetation from the seawall
The tropical Florida weather is perfect for natural vegetation to grow around your property. And that’s especially true for seafront homes.
So, it isn’t surprising to have a layer of vegetation grow on the seawall.
However, any vegetation on the seawall can be concerning as it damages its structural system, leaving it fragile.
Like the trees and shrubs, it’s the roots that create the problem, as they can create large cracks and leave a deteriorating seawall.
Meaning it is essential to remove all the vegetation from the seawalls and check for signs of potential damage during maintenance.
Step 5. Sealing all the cracks off
Cracks, notwithstanding their size, can be the worst kind of damage to a seawall. That’s because not only can they cause water-induced damage to the seawall itself, but they can also expose your property to the risk of gradual structural damage.
As such, we can’t overstate the importance of looking for cracks and sealing them during maintenance.
Now, if your seawall undergoes regular upkeep, you’ll mostly encounter small cracks. And you need not hire a professional to repair these.
In fact, even if you’re a newbie, you can refer to online tutorials to fix these cracks. For instance, you can buy sealants such as marine grout, liquid concrete, or seawall repair concrete and follow the tutorial to apply them to the cracks.
Nonetheless, larger and more significant cracks are best left to the experts. So, instead of DIY, we suggest you hire an experienced expert to repair such cracks.
Step 6. Waterproofing the seawall
Lastly, as you wrap up the maintenance, it’s essential to apply a coat of top-notch waterproofing material to the seawall.
You see, waterproofing provides an additional layer of protection against erosion and goes a long way in increasing the longevity of the seawall.
And although there’s a wide range of seawalls, including those made from concrete, steel, wood, and stones, waterproofing materials are readily available for all. So, all you need to do is get the right water-resistant coating for your seawall and spray it on.
You might also want to read – The Ultimate Guide To Attic Inspections.
Seawall maintenance: Frequently asked questions
1. Can you DIY your seawall maintenance?
Yes, you can.
In fact, a lot of maintenance tasks are easy and thus ideal for DIY.
For instance, you can unclog the weep holes by yourself more often than not. Similarly, you can seal the smaller cracks and waterproof the seawall without having to hire a professional.
In all, these are the maintenance checklist items that you can do yourself:
A. Clearing vegetation
Getting rid of the natural vegetation on the seawall is simple, and some elementary gardening skills are all it takes. So you don’t need an expert here.
For instance, clearing grass and seaweed is something you can do quickly and without hassle.
However, you might want to hire an expert if the vegetation has grown deep into the seawall and you suspect potential damage.
Another maintenance activity apt for DIY is waterproofing. Herein, you can simply take a waterproof coating and spray it on the seawall.
C. Clearing weep holes
Weep holes that are clogged by leaves and twigs are easy to clean and thus perfect for DIY.
However, if the weep hole is completely clogged, it’s best to call in a professional to unclog it.
Note: You should never DIY the inspection
Seawall inspection is a meticulous exercise and calls for expertise to detect hidden problems. As such, we suggest you always hire a licensed inspector and never settle for DIY inspection.
2. What are the signs that your seawall needs maintenance?
While an inspection is the best way to determine the true extent of maintenance that a seawall needs, here are some signs you should always look for:
- Cracks, leaks, and corrosion in sea walls made of concrete or steel.
- Dislodged stones in sea walls made of stone.
- Rotting, splitting, and termites in sea walls made of wood.
3. How do you know if repairing a seawall is needed?
Inspecting your seawall on a regular basis is the best way to detect underlying problems. Also, you should be on the lookout for signs of damage, such as sagging, bowing, or dipping of the seawall.
Further, if you notice holes or pits forming near the seawall, it’s a sign that the seawall has been breached and the soil has started to erode.
Remember, these are signs of significant damage and are a serious concern. That’s because not only do they endanger the safety of the seawall, but they also impact your overall property.
As such, it’s best to call in seawall experts and get a comprehensive repair at the earliest.
4. How much does sea wall maintenance cost?
As per estimates from HomeGuide, maintaining a seawall can cost you anywhere between $100 and $600.
Here’s a complete cost breakdown for a better understanding:
Seawall inspection – $200 – $600
Seawall repairs – $100 – $250 (per linear foot)
Seawall replacement – $150 – $600
5. How long do sea walls last?
Depending on the type of materials and extent of upkeep, a seawall can last you anywhere between 35 and 50 years. In fact, by waterproofing the seawall and maintaining it frequently, you can increase its longevity by years.
Also, a stone seawall usually outlasts all other seawalls. So much so that with the right maintenance, it can even last you for a lifetime
You might also want to read – Everything To Know About 40-year Recertification.
As you can see, maintaining a seawall is easier than it seems. In fact, it is as easy as looking after other areas of your home.
Not to mention, you can maintain the seawall by yourself most of the time, that too on a shoestring budget.
Looking for a thorough inspection before you undertake seawall maintenance?
You can get in touch with us!
At Souffront Construction and Engineering, we are South Florida’s leading inspection company with a team of highly-seasoned inspectors. So, whatever be the type of your seawall, we’ve got all your inspection needs covered.
John Souffront is a seasoned leader in the construction and engineering industry, with over a decade of experience at the helm of Souffront Construction & Engineering. Known for his unwavering commitment to excellence and innovation, John has propelled his firm to the forefront of the field, delivering cutting-edge solutions for complex projects around the country.