What Seawall Maintenance Might I Need to Do?

A Little Seawall Maintenance Goes a Long Way to Protect Your Shoreline

A seawall is the very image of stability and endurance. Nevertheless, for all its sturdiness, it can only withstand so much before requiring seawall maintenance.

Neglecting to inspect and maintain your seawall properly can result in structural failure and expensive repairs. And we don’t want you to have to deal with that headache!

That’s why we’ve put together this helpful guide to seawall maintenance. In it, you will learn how long you should expect your seawall to last, problems to watch out for, and tasks you can perform to keep your wall in good shape.

So, without further ado, let’s get started!

How Long Can I Expect My Seawall to Last?

It is important to know the life expectancy of a seawall. After all, it is a significant investment, and you want to know that the money you put into it will yield long-term benefits.

Generally, three main factors determine a seawall’s longevity:
1. Type of wall
2. Quality of installation
3. The extent of seawall maintenance

We will discuss each of these factors below.

How Long Do Different Kinds of Seawalls Last?

First, let’s take a look at the life expectancy of the three main types of seawalls: steel seawalls, outcropping, and rip rap.

Steel seawalls will typically last an average of 35 years. However, if galvanized, they will usually last a few years longer.

Outcropping and rip rap, since they consist of rock and stones, usually outlast their steel counterparts. Given the proper attention and maintenance, these seawalls should last a lifetime.

However, a seawall’s makeup isn’t the only factor determining its longevity.


Seawalls Are Compact and Cost-Effective

Seawall construction takes up much less space than other shoreline defenses. Dikes, for instance, use more of your property. The compact nature of a seawall leaves you more land to enjoy.

Another major benefit? Seawalls are cheaper than many other land-protection projects. You can put the money you save toward recreation on the land you’ve protected.

How Does the Quality of Installation Affect a Seawall’s Lifespan?

Whether you’re getting a new seawall or inheriting an existing one, quality installation is crucial. A poorly installed seawall will need repairs 10-15 years sooner than it would have if the builders did the job right initially. And seawall repairs aren’t cheap!

So, make sure you hire the right people to do your seawall installation. And, if you’re considering buying a home with a preinstalled seawall, be sure to have that seawall inspected before making your purchase.

We can’t tell you how many homeowners we’ve come across who bought a home with a lousy seawall. Sadly, they wound up paying a whole lot more than they expected for their new humble abode.

The unfortunate truth is scammers are out there. Companies will install seawalls with low-quality materials or sloppy techniques. One of the most damaging tricks to watch out for is some contractors will intentionally install seawalls that do not go deep enough. This shortcut is done to save money on materials.

These seawalls inevitably fail because they aren’t rooted deeply enough in the earth. A good rule of thumb is that a seawall should be as high above the ground as it is below the ground. A trustworthy inspector will have no trouble making sure this is the case.

What Kinds of Seawall Maintenance Can I Do Myself?

Once you have a correctly installed a sturdy seawall, keeping it in good working order is up to you. Experts recommend getting your seawall inspected by qualified professionals once every 5 to 6 years to ensure proper maintenance.

There are a few basic tasks you can do in the meantime to keep your wall in good shape, however. Some signs of trouble are obvious and easily fixable. For instance, you can seal minor cracks and holes in the seawall with marine grout.

These repairs will keep water from flowing through and eroding away the soil and sand from behind and under the seawall.

When Plants Are the Problem

Keep a close eye on all plant growth around your seawall. While some seawalls incorporate plant life into their natural aesthetic, not all growth is good growth.

Weeds can bore deep into the ground and cause cracks in the liner of your seawall. So be sure to kill them with weed killer before they do any damage.

Watching Weep Holes

Weep holes are openings that allow water from behind the seawall to filter through it. If weep holes get clogged with debris, then water pressure can build up and cause the wall to crack and crumble. To prevent this damage, inspect the weep holes often and clear them of any blockages.


Many owners also apply spray-on waterproofing solution to their seawalls to provide an extra layer of protection against water erosion. Depending on the type of seawall you have, that may be an option for you as well.


What Are the Major Signs of Trouble?

Beyond basic seawall maintenance tasks, you should also perform regular inspections for damage on your seawall. Inspections are especially crucial after significant runoff events, such as big storms or flooding.

The types of things you should look for depend on the type of seawall you have, of course.

  • Steel seawall Watch out for leaks, cracks, and corrosion.
  • Rip rap Look out for dislodged stones that you need to replace.
  • Outcropping Check for separation in the joints between the slabs.

The attention these types of damage require can vary and should be based on a professional inspection.

How Do I Know if It’s an Urgent Problem?

If the damage is minor, it can be fixed fairly easily with basic tools. Some issues are more serious and require more than just routine maintenance, however. More extreme cases may require excavation.

For example, if your steel seawall is sagging, dipping, or bowing outward, then there’s a good chance you need serious repair work, if not replacement.

And if you see indentations, pits, or holes forming near the seawall, then a breach in the wall may be allowing the soil to drain through into the water. In this case, the wall would require significant repairs.

Let Us Keep Track of Your Seawall

To keep a minor problem from becoming major, consider scheduling regular seawall maintenance visits with an expert. Seawalls Unlimited in McHenry is the premier contractor for seawall installation, maintenance, and replacement services in the area. Give us a call at (815) 331-8830 to set up a maintenance inspection.

Editor’s note: This blog was originally published on August 1, 2018, and was updated on June 20, 2019.