Know Your Residential Seawall Options

Repairing or replacing your residential seawall is a must if you notice damage, since this wall is the main defense against erosion on your property. Seawall construction is an ever-evolving field, so make sure you are aware of the benefits and drawbacks of each of the common material options before making a final choice.


Wood used to be the most common material used for seawalls. It does eventually rot, though, so repairs to wooden walls are quite common. Pressure-treated and chemically treated wood is also commonly used to slow down rot and damage. While this can help, there may also be concerns about the chemicals leaching out and harming the ecosystem in the water.

If you currently have a wood seawall that is in overall good condition or simply needs a few minor repairs, having the seawall fixed can be worthwhile. If the seawall needs extensive repairs, though, it may be better to upgrade to one of the newer material options.


Steel can be one of the more expensive options, but it is also by far the best option in some cases. Opt for a steel seawals if you have a lot of ice pressure on the water, such as at a property on a lake that freezes solid every winter. Steel can handle the ice pressure with no damage. Steel is also good for taller walls that require backfilling on the land side of the wall due to extreme slopes. This is because steel won't warp or become damaged from the pressure put upon it with the fill.

Keep in mind that steel can eventually corrode at the high water line. Periodic cleaning with a wire brush can minimize this, or you can even paint the exposed steel using a rust-preventing paint product when the water level is low. Beyond corrosion, steel is the most durable option, and a steel wall is the least likely to need ongoing repairs.


Another good option is a vinyl seawall. These are relatively durable, and with one you don't need to worry about painting or rust. Vinyl can't withstand heavy ice pressure, but some freezing is fine. Cracks and leaks can occur in vinyl, although they are not common. Fortunately, the wall can be easily repaired by replacing only the damaged segment or by applying a vinyl patch.

Some vinyl walls are capped with wood, and these wood sections have all the high-maintenance needs of wood seawalls. These needs include regular painting and guarding against rot. You can replace the cap with aluminum, though. This costs extra up front but can help you save on repairs later.

Talk to a seawall contractor such as Abbott's Construction Services Inc. for more help.