Seawall Construction Overview
What is Seawall Construction?
A seawall provides a barrier between the coast and the sea, protecting the coast from erosion. Man-made seawalls are typically made of concrete and provide protection from moderate to high waves. They mimic the function of natural seawalls such as coral reefs and underwater vegetation.
What Problems It Solves:
Seawalls are just one tool in the fight against coastal erosion, a problem that costs about $500 million a year in property loss in the United States, according to the U.S. Climate Resilience Toolkit. These man-made barriers lessen the effects of strong waves that erode the coastline, dispersing their energy.
Strong waves, combined with sea level rise and flooding, pose a threat to structures built along the coast. Beyond the average picnic shelter on the beach, coastal erosion risks the integrity of coastal homes and places of business.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Seawall Construction
Seawalls offer many great benefits, including:
- Coastal protection from erosion
- A stronger, more permanent form of protection against high-energy waves
- Flood protection
- The opportunity to create an elevated pathway for beachgoers
Seawalls may not always be the right solution for your erosion problem. Disadvantages of seawalls include:
- Frequent maintenance and inevitable replacement to remain effective
- Sediment disruption resulting in increased erosion
- Diminishing effectiveness with sea level rise
- Interruption of natural coastal ecosystem
- Expensive construction costs
Seawall Construction Process
- Consultation: A team of seawall construction experts will need to evaluate your specific property to determine the best course of action.
- Proposal: You’ll receive a project proposal including the scope of the construction project, recommended materials, estimated timeline, and more.
- Paperwork: Your contractors will need to obtain the necessary permits before construction begins.
- Construction: Your team of contractors will build your seawall.
Seawalls can be made of many different materials, including:
- Concrete: Strongest, most common option
- Metal: Strong, but susceptible to rust
- Vinyl: Good for smaller projects
- Wood: Historic option, but not typically recommended for new construction
- Combinations of multiple materials
The permit process varies by state. Before selecting a seawall construction contractor, ask them what you can expect regarding a permit timeline.
Different Types of Seawall Construction
There are three different types of seawalls:
- Vertical: This form protects against high-energy waves. However, because of the way it disperses the energy, its base may erode more quickly and weaken the structure overall. A vertical seawall may need to be supplemented with additional protection at its base.
- Curved/Stepped: This form is particularly effective at preventing waves from crashing over it. However, it is still susceptible to the same base erosion as vertical seawalls.
- Mound: This form uses revetments or riprap to protect against low-energy waves. These are most effective in low-impact areas.
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