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Warning Signs that Your Seawall is Failing

In Commercial Blog Posts by John Topa

Your Florida seaside residential or marina property requires erosion protection not only from the ebb and flow of tidal water but also from the erosion caused by stormwater. Your seawall provides essential protection from both these sources of disintegration.

A properly built and effective seawall counters tidal forces while ensuring that the tremendous hydrostatic pressures of the soil behind it are also contained. Although a quality seawall, with regular maintenance, should last for several decades, you must be vigilant for telltale signs, such as concrete cracks, that may indicate premature failure of your wall’s structural components.

Symptoms of Possible Seawall Deterioration


Points of failure in your seawall can occur within any part of the structure including the cap, slabs, anchors or berms. You will often discover deterioration of wall components by regular examination and looking for specific visible signs of degradation that you might otherwise easily overlook.

It is normal for concrete structures to develop shallow hairline cracks due to normal temperature and moisture variations, but deep, widening cracks indicate something is wrong. As one purpose of the cap is to tie the slabs together, it is vital that you regularly inspect it to ensure it is in good condition.


Keep an eye out for concrete cracks in slabs that most often occur just below the cap or at the barnacle line. Both types of cracks are indicative of excessive outward hydrostatic pressure from the soil behind the wall. Such cracks may mean that horizontal stress beams, whalers or wall anchors are failing as well.


Slabs may lean outward from the top or the bottom of the seawall. A top lean is most likely due to insufficient drainage of water from the soil behind the seawall. A bottom lean implies some loss of the wall’s front berm below the waterline.


Even if no leaning or cracks are observed in your seawall slabs, they may be weakened over time due to the intense corrosive actions from saltwater, abrasion and sea organisms. It is even possible, depending on your wall’s materials or construction, that cracks or holes develop that allow seawater to penetrate the structure.


If you see rust stains appearing in any part of your seawall, it may mean that steel anchor rods or concrete reinforcing bars are degrading due to excessive exposure to moisture. Corrosion of steel components weakens them while also causing them to expand. Their degradation often leads to additional damage to the surrounding concrete.


Inadequate drainage of water in the soil behind the wall can be very damaging. This condition reveals itself to you by causing one or more of the following symptoms:

•              Pooling of water, especially close to the seawall cap

•              Voids or gaps between the soil and the cap edge

•              Sinkholes, especially in corners or along the cap edge

•              Cavities in any part of the area up to 100 feet from the seawall

•              A drop or unevenness in the soil level

Since hydrostatic pressures from behind the seawall are often greater than those on the seaside of the wall, any signs that suggest to you that water is not draining quickly and evenly should be taken seriously. Otherwise, the excess pressure may cause anchor piles to shift or cracks to appear in slabs.

Keeping an Eye on Your Seawall Saves Money in the Long Run

Living along the edge of the sea is the culmination of a dream for many property owners. However, due to the several sources of erosion, such as tidal action, currents, boat wakes, salt corrosion and rainstorms, you must be attentive to the integrity of the seawall that protects your property from the elements.

If you allow yourself to ignore any of the telltale signs outlined above, you are putting the value of your property at risk. Repair costs are far less if you initiate remedies early. You will also avoid damage to adjacent structures, such as swimming pools, not to mention the possibility of catastrophic failure during a hurricane.

The condition of your seawall is something that is vital to your waterfront property. If you start to notice changes in the seawall on your waterfront property, contact the seawall repair experts at Helicon!