Designing Your Seawall

Posted on: 8 December 2020

If your property is on the receiving end of crashing waves that erode soil and make land crumble, a seawall is a necessary investment. These walls take the brunt of the waves' force and protect your land and the structures on it. Designing a seawall requires engineering know-how and serious consideration of the layout of the land and ocean and the size and strength of the waves and potential flooding that could affect the area.

The Wall Will Have a Life Span

First, understand that no seawall is invincible or immortal — they all have life spans, even thick, concrete seawalls. Over the years, the soil around the wall can erode, as can the material itself; the erosion may be microscopic, but over decades it can add up. The wall will need maintenance and eventual replacement, so when you arrange for an engineer to design the wall, try to get a design that will last as long as possible and be as maintenance-free as possible, even if the wall is less aesthetically pleasing.

Look at Adding Habitats

The design of the wall should concentrate on protecting your land and the structures and people on it. But one thing you can also look for as a secondary benefit is adding habitats or conditions and features that could be used as a habitat. The wall will block the waves but also sea life from advancing onto your land; adding little areas of habitats that the shoreline life can use — from areas suitable for aquatic plant growth to shelters for sand-dwelling life — can also help protect that life. Again, these habitats would be for life usually found at the shoreline where the waves would naturally affect that life; you're not creating an aquarium for fish.

You May Be Restricted to Certain Types of Seawalls

The type of seawall you have really relies on the strength and size of the waves, even if they're a concern during storms only, and the propensity of the soil to erode. If very strong waves are a problem, a concrete wall is your best bet, but there are other types, such as boulders cemented together with mortar, that would work in more moderate environments.

Your seawall should be engineered with safety in mind, as well as longevity and sustainability. A seawall design engineer can create sample plans that keep your property in the best shape possible.