There’s an inherent cost to living near the ocean or other large bodies of water, you have to keep your property safe while still being able to access the very resource that makes living there so attractive, the water. This creates a unique challenge when it comes to building, repairing, and maintaining a seawall as nature is always moving and with it, the threat of seawall failure is a very real one.
So, what causes the degradation of a seawall in the first place? To answer that, we must first understand what a seawall is meant to do from the land side of the construction. Typically, small weep holes in the geotextile fabric allow water from the land side to permeate the seawall layer and empty into the water thus reducing damaging back pressure, especially in very wet areas with consistent precipitation.
Over time, soil shifting creates small voids where the structure is weakened as it fills with water from the natural draining process and hydrostatic pressure causes the seawall structure to fail near each panel. Eventually, there can be damage to the cap, which is responsible for holding the entire structure together, and when this occurs overall failure follows. This process can be exacerbated by weather patterns from storm surges and tidal activity as well.
The challenge with these issues is that they are hard to diagnose and usually aren’t considered a problem until much larger signs of deterioration occur such as the appearance of large holes behind an existing seawall. By the time this occurs, major damage is already done and the threat of losing the entire seawall is exponentially higher, and a qualified professional should be contacted to mitigate the damage. This type of damage isn’t only relegated to ocean seawalls, but those on lakes as well where soil settling and obvious signs of rust and cracking along the seawall indicate that soil erosion and water damage has occurred.
Once the damage is determined to warrant repair, the process of repairing a seawall isn’t quite as straightforward as pouring new concrete and getting back to normal. If the water being retained is subject to NSF drinking water standards, then special care must be taken in selecting a contractor that meets these specifications in their repair materials. These solutions are SW-RP1 for water cutoff and void fill as well as SW-RP6 for soil stabilization. For concrete repairs, some of the most common disadvantages are the unnecessary stresses caused by pouring concrete directly into a void where it is pushed laterally against the seawall causing further cracks and soil destabilization over time. Another marked disadvantage of pouring concrete is the threat of further soil displacement as concrete once cured will break apart once the underlying soil has eroded away causing further damage and resulting in an incomplete repair. Finally, concrete poured directly into the soil causes further issues with successful water drainage over time as it mixes with the soil and can result in more costly repairs over time versus the convenience of a quick solution.
For long-term seawall repair solutions, the concrete itself must be treated to repel water while remaining porous enough to allow for water displacement as well as UV and mold resistance. The placement of rebar or other support structures should also be accounted for as these internal supports can cause added concrete wear through rust. Using these treatments allows the concrete to function as a permeable, yet rigid structure that is able to provide years of reliable and maintenance-free service in highly volatile conditions with changing weather patterns and environmental stressors.
Wooden Seawalls, while not as hearty as their concrete counterparts are a staple of lakefront homes and even some oceanfront properties as well. While the same outside factors apply to wooden structures, the necessity for wood treatment to repel UV and excess moisture is paramount to the longevity of these seawalls. This is done by sealing the natural cracks and holes found naturally in wood and allows the overall seawall structure to function with almost the same strength as concrete without the added cost or need for rebar or other structures. As a result, wooden seawalls are more common and much faster to install than traditional concrete and are generally more visually appealing for homeowners and prospective homeowners when properties go up for sale.
Repairing, replacement, or new construction of a seawall isn’t solely just on material selection, the need for a safe, dry worksite is critical to allow for proper concrete curing times as well as coating applications for wooden seawalls. Traditional damming methods can take weeks in addition to securing the proper permits and scheduling construction, which can lead to exorbitant and sometimes cost-prohibitive expenses. The very nature of these projects cause them to be dangerous due to the very real threat of traditional berm collapse or failure which can add weeks or even months to the overall construction time.
Aqua-Barrier® has been a critical piece of equipment for seawall construction and repair for over 25 years by providing dewatered worksites in no time. Aqua-Barriers can be customized and delivered anywhere in the world! Lengths offered are anywhere between 25ft-105ft and can be as high as 8ft tall. With the extremely simple overlap method, you’re able to install the Aqua-Barriers in any configuration needed to dewater your job site. Our dewatering methods have been used from coast to coast and across the globe to ensure that construction uptimes are maintained and in the case of seawall inspections, speed and convenience are ensured. So, no matter if you’re considering the construction of a wooden or concrete seawall, or simply repairing or inspecting an existing structure, the dewatering solutions from Aqua-Barrier® should be your first choice for a safe and dry work site. For more information on our solutions, sizing, and delivery, please view our installations page. If you need a custom quote or have further questions, please send us your information and one of our sales staff will be happy to answer any of your questions.