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What Happens if a Seawall Fails? (Benefits of Seawall Repair)

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When you own a waterfront property, you want to protect what you have at all costs. The property is one of your top investments that overlooks the beautiful scenery of the water it resides next to. That’s why your seawall is there, maintaining the success of your property.

Your seawall failing affects the value and integrity of your property. You want to do the proper repairs when you see seawall failure. That way you won’t have to replace what you have, the seawall will last longer, and your repair cost will be cheaper early on compared to when the damage becomes worse.

I’m Tom Bartholomew, a Project Design Specialist for Dalinghaus Construction. I’m the guy who goes to homes and does inspections for all your foundation and seawall needs. I’ll design repair plans for your seawall. I’ll also give it to you straight if your seawall is fine.

I’ve been in the construction industry for over 25 years, having started at 18 years old in various trades. One of those is understanding seawalls, what happens if they fail, and how they can be repaired.

I want you to understand what happens if your seawall fails. But don’t stress out over it. I also want you to know how you benefit from seawall repair.

What causes seawall failure?

Hydrostatic pressure

Seawalls are an important structure that protects coastal properties from the damaging effects of waves and storms. This article will provide an overview of the common causes of seawall failure and offer practical tips on how to prevent it.

Have you ever held in anger for a long time where it finally breaks you down and you break the wall you put up? This isn’t a perfect analogy, but you’ll be able to see the correlation.

The waves like to irritate your seawall, crashing over and over as little bits of the water jump over and soak into the soil. The soil expands and carries more weight, pushing your wall from the other side. It’s only a matter of time before your wall gets exhausted, starts to lean, and eventually breaks down.

Salt from the ocean

Not sure about you, but I’m more of a savory man. I enjoy the finer things that need salt, whether it’s a good chili or a fish from the sea. But isn’t it weird to think that salt likes to eat solids like concrete?

(Not when you understand the chemistry behind salt breaking things down, but that’s not the point.)

Salt working in conjunction with the waves will slowly break down the concrete holding your seawall together. You’ll see concrete spalling as the salt eats away at the wall.

Improper construction of a seawall

Think of construction like cooking. There are various cuisines you can make with different recipes and spices. Foods will come in multiple styles, shapes, and sizes, doing the same job of tasting decent and filling your belly.

But we know when food doesn’t taste good. Not everyone is a strong chef.

The same goes for construction. Not all seawalls are built equally. Seawalls come in many makes, shapes, and sizes. However, not all of them go with the recipe. Some of them are made with improper concrete mixes. Others are made with too much rebar. Some don’t have enough rebar.

Either way, you’ll notice a poorly constructed seawall when it starts to fail.

Depth of the seawall

Sometimes when you put up barriers, they go deep to protect you from more problems. However, having those more profound barriers means you’re experiencing more pressure. You feel different weights on your shoulders from the highs and lows of life.

The same goes for your seawall. Some of them are constructed with the footing deep into the ground. As the tides rise and fall, your seawall experiences more pressure.

Seismic activity

We try to put up barriers, organize everything, put our finances in check, and let our loved ones know we love them daily.

There are things we don’t have control over. We try to put up barriers, organize everything, put our finances in check, and let our loved ones know we love them daily.

Something always happens. A bill is higher than usual, your car broke down, the mac and cheese in the stove cooks for too long and starts to burn, etc.

And if there’s one thing we wish we could mitigate, it would be when the Earth rumbles furiously.

Buildings and seawalls in areas prone to seismic activity are constructed to withstand earthquakes. However, they’re not perfect. The greatest seawall with the defense of a spartan phalanx is still prone to earthquakes.


Do you have a car that you have trouble letting go of? As it’s aging, the miles are stacking up, your transmission might fail, you’re having engine troubles, and the battery needs replacing.

Your car is getting old. Age is getting the best of it.

The same goes for your seawall. As it ages, the concrete might be spalling, cracks are showing, and your rebar is expanding. Your classic seawall isn’t looking like a classic car.

Age will get everything as time goes on.

This all said you, can make a classic seawall look like a clean classic car if you’re dedicated enough to it.

Read this article that has a more comprehensive look at the causes of seawall failure.

What happens if a seawall fails?

A failing seawall opens a whole new can of worms you don’t want to make yourself susceptible to.

Seawall failure from erosion

There’s a mutual agreement with the land and water. Soil is taken toward the sea as the waves crash on the shore. In return, we get the pleasant sound of the water crashing onto the shore.

The seawall gets in between that. The point of your seawall is to protect your property doesn’t become a new home for sea life. It lets you have a seafront property; not a part-of-the-sea property.

If the erosion gets bad enough, your property could be red-tagged. This is the worst-case scenario. You’ll notice issues long before it can get to that point.

Rebuilding a seawall could cost double or triple the cost to repair it. The backyard would have to be restabilized, the wall needs to be constructed, the coastal commission would and other entities would be involved, etc. Not only can you expect the cost to double or triple, but you can expect the length of time for a replacement to take a long time compared to a standard seawall repair.

Constructing a new seawall is very invasive. There will be tons (quite literally) of equipment needed for seawall construction. You’ll have larger vehicles by your property for a longer period having to use up a bunch of supplies.

Your failing seawall can affect your neighbors

If your seawall fails, it can absolutely affect your neighbor since you have property lines. It depends on your circumstance such as if you’re part of an HOA or have a dividing wall vs. a common wall, etc. If your wall is only part of your property and it fails, what is to make it stop your neighbor’s property from caving in and affecting their seawall? It’s a potential legal hazard you want to avoid on its own.

Overall, your seawall failing won’t be a fun time for you, whether it’s for your finances or privacy.

Benefits of seawall repair

The property is one of your top investments that overlooks the beautiful scenery of the water it resides next to.

Repairing your seawall is significantly cheaper compared to replacing the entire thing.

Injecting polyurethane into the soil, putting carbon fiber patches on cracks, and cleaning out weep holes will be significantly cheaper compared to deconstructing a failing seawall and constructing a new one.

And it’s significantly less invasive. Fewer supplies and you (usually) don’t need massive vehicles to do seawall repair.

Don’t let your seawall fail. Consider seawall repair

You’ve learned about what causes seawall failure, what happens if your seawall fails, and the benefits of seawall repair. If you’re not sure if your seawall is failing, have someone inspect it. Dalinghaus Construction will do a free seawall evaluation for your peace of mind.

You want to ensure your seawall won’t fail for the sake of your property and your neighbor’s well-being. We can schedule your free evaluation, have your seawall looked at to see if there are any issues, and create a repair plan if you need it.

Here are the Signs and Symptoms of Seawall Failure.

Learn the best tips and tricks to prevent seawall failure.

For additional questions or to schedule an evaluation, call Dalinghaus Construction at (877)360-9277.


Tom Bartholomew

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One Response

  1. I like that you talked about how your seawall failing affects the value and integrity of your property. My friend is planning to buy a seaside property and it seems he needs to have it inspected first. So, I think it is important for him to ask for a seawall inspection.

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