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What is a Seawall and Why Do You Need It?

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If you’ve ever strolled alongside a beach or waterfront, you more than likely have noticed a long stretch of piled rocks, or a vertical, curved, or similar structure that divides the land and water that appears to be functioning as a defense against the rough waves.

This is what is known as a seawall.

What is a Seawall?

The key purpose of a seawall is to provide a defense and serve as a protective barrier against shore erosion from the waves. A seawall is typically constructed to align parallel to the shoreline, acting as a continual shield against harsh waves, protecting the environment along the coastline from significant damage, especially from strong winds and large waves.

While humans have been utilizing seawalls for millennia, modern seawalls have evolved significantly in recent decades, incorporating designs to reflect wave energy back into the ocean, thereby more effectively preventing it from wreaking havoc on the land.

There are several types of seawalls:

Vertical Seawalls

Vertical seawalls, as their name suggests, are upright barriers that are usually built from durable vinyl. This type of seawall provides enduring protection against erosion by buffering the impact of incoming waves and currents.

Riprap Seawalls

The other type of seawall you’ve likely seen on public beaches are riprap embankments. These are made from piled rubble, which serves as a protective layer of porous stones or sandbags on the sea-facing side. Often, marine contractors will construct these in front of vertical walls to further lessen the force exerted by intense waves.

In addition to public beaches or commercial waterfronts, riprap is also often chosen by lakeside homeowners to maintain a natural appearance and erosion resistance. To help educate you more on which seawall to choose, read more here about the different types of seawalls.

Why are Seawalls Important?

Seawalls play a critical role in preserving coastal ecology by limiting the damage done by waves.

Flood Protection

One of the most significant roles of seawalls is their contribution to flood protection. Coastal erosion can destabilize structures located near the water, making them vulnerable to collapse in case of flooding. By curbing erosion, seawalls help to limit this risk.


In addition to combating erosion and flooding, seawalls also prevent landslides by holding back land masses from sliding toward the water body. Seawalls act as a protective shield for buildings and other valuable structures in high-risk coastal areas by maintaining the stability of the underlying terrain.

Storm Damage Prevention

Another reason why investing in seawalls is a good idea is because they are extremely helpful to defend against storms and hurricane damage. In some areas and countries in the world, if built at a high enough height, they can provide defense against tsunamis.

Different Seawall Materials

Seawalls can be constructed from a variety of materials such as vinyl, concrete, and wood. The type of material will depend on the wave frequency and power of the waves. It also varies depending on whether you’re constructing the seawall at the shoreline of a lake, river, or ocean as different heights or materials are better than others.


Vinyl sheet piling is a preferred choice, thanks to its aesthetic appeal, cost-effectiveness, and low maintenance requirements. Unlike concrete or wood, vinyl does not rust, rot, or crack upon exposure to salty water, making it an excellent material for seawalls.


Concrete seawalls, reinforced with steel bars, are a popular choice in industrial settings due to their superior strength and lifespan of over 30 years, with proper maintenance as necessary. However, to ensure longevity, these structures must be routinely inspected and any cracks or separations in joints promptly repaired to prevent structural failure.


Wood, a more cost-effective option, is used less frequently for seawalls due to its susceptibility to rot and damage but may be suitable for areas with low wave activity and can (sometimes) be a good choice for residential properties.

Seawalls are Durable

You may assume that with all the force from lake or ocean waves that seawalls require maintenance. The truth is that seawalls are surprisingly low-maintenance structures and usually only require occasional repair – almost always due to exceptionally strong storm damage.

So, Do You Need a Seawall?

Is your home or property located along a shoreline? You more than likely have been considering whether you need a seawall.

The answer ultimately depends on several factors. For example, does your property suffer from:

  • Moderate to significant erosion?

  • Flooding or heavy rain?

  • Rising sea levels?

If so, a seawall construction will definitely be a valuable investment into your property and serve as a much-needed safeguard. At Radtke, we can provide seawall constructions to prevent flooding and limit erosion. Schedule a consultation with one of our seawall builders today!

To start, contact us here, or give our team a call at (920) 582-4114. Learn more here about the process of seawall construction.

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