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Cleaning Tips to Preserve the Structural Integrity of Your Seawall

by Scott Myers

Residents of the Southwest Florida Gulf Coast enjoy plenty of unique perks, from gorgeous, white, sandy beaches to awe-inspiring ocean scenery. If you own a waterfront property here, you want to hold on to it for as long as it takes. However, a neglected seawall just a couple of yards away may compromise the value of your high-end real estate. You can do something about it, and that's cleaning and maintaining the seawall!

 Related Blog: A Guide to Seawall Repairs

A Guide to Seawall Repairs

A seawall serves as a physical barrier between a property (land mass) and a water body. Several components make up the structure, including reinforced concrete panels or gabions. Weep holes that drain water from the land side are also part of the construction. Scheduled cleanups and maintenance ensure that various seawall components function optimally for the barrier to serve its purpose for longer.

You should clean and maintain your seawall to help:

  • Prevent shoreline recession due to erosion, rising water levels with changing tides, or improper drainage. If you don't take good care of your seawall, you could eventually lose a substantial chunk of your exterior living space to the adjacent ocean.
  • Regulate the water depth in a waterway next to your property.
  • Preserve the curb appeal of your luxury waterfront property.
  • Prevent wall failure and avoid replacement costs: Regular seawall cleanups and maintenance activities are way cheaper than replacing the entire structure after sustained neglect. In some cases, building a seawall from scratch may cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Do the following to safeguard the integrity of your seawall:

Get Rid of Destructive Growth

Plants that enhance the aesthetics of your waterfront property are okay to keep. However, keep an eye out for vegetation that may hurt the structural integrity of your seawall. Specifically, get rid of plants with deep roots that could grow into every nook and cranny of the structure.

Assess the damage that weeds intertwined with rocks may cause. Such growth may seem small, but it can cause cracks in critical components of the structure. As the cracking continues with time, the seawall loses its ability to shield the shoreline against aggressive tides.

To be on the safe side, remove any plant but grass that grows within 6 inches of the cap (the reinforced concrete that secures the seawall at the top).  Get rid of any large trees near the barrier.

Clear Weep Holes

Seawall weep holes are created just above the waterline to release the water that accumulates behind the structure. By allowing the passage of excess water, the holes prevent hydrostatic pressure from building up on the landside of the seawall. When debris blocks these openings for a long time, seawall damage may occur eventually.

If landward backfill or soil has entered the weep holes, remove it to clear the way for water. It's also possible for sand, particles, and other debris to go into the seawall holes from the seaside when water levels rise. After cleanup, you may want to install weep-hole filters that allow water drainage but stop fill from escaping.

Carry Out Regular Visual Inspections

As a waterfront property owner, consider inspecting your seawall and cap from time to time. Stay on the lookout for signs that your wall requires cleaning or repair. Indicators of seawall trouble include:

  • Disintegration of the cap, with some pieces falling into the water
  • New cracks on concrete parts of the wall
  • Gaps between adjacent wall slabs
  • Signs of termite damage in case of wood seawalls

A single seawall maintenance oversight, such as not clearing clogged weep holes in time, may lead to a bigger problem when the structure loses its ability to bear up the gradual buildup of hydrostatic pressure. By keeping their seawall in great shape all the time, however, a waterfront property owner can avoid the high cost of building the structure from the ground up.

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