Marine Construction Structures: Retaining Walls And Bulkheads

Marine Construction Structures are put in place to properly secure your waterfront property and keep you as safe as possible. Investing in a Marine construction property is one something that should be a priority. The four most common marine construction structures are Retaining Walls, bulkheads, seawalls, revetments.

Bulkheads are a type of vertical structures used to protect coasts. Bulkheads and seawalls are quite similar though they have different purposes.  Bulkheads are used to retain or prevent the sliding of land, with the protection of the upland area from wave action.  Whereas, the singular goal of seawalls is to intercept waves.  Bulkheads can be cantilevered, anchored, or gravity structures, with their use limited to areas where wave action may be resisted by the types of materials used in these particular designs such as rock-filled timber cribs.  For areas where intense wave action exists, massive concrete seawalls are the more appropriate choice, with either a vertical, concave, or stepped seaward face.

Revetments, bulkheads, and seawalls provide protection for the upland area behind and can each reflect waves and erode the beach that fronts them.  This is mainly an issue for vertical structures such as bulkheads and seawalls that are nearly perfect wave reflectors.  Curved, stepped, and rough inclined structures that absorb or dissipate wave energy may decrease the potential for erosion.

Most times the names of the most common types of marine construction structures are often used interchangeably. However, they possess some subtle differences. Knowledge of this difference is essential for knowing the kind of bulkhead that will suit your property and protect it against wave action. Let’s have a look at the differences between a bulkhead and a retaining wall.

Differences between a bulkhead and a retaining wall

Retaining Walls

Retaining walls are mostly considered as the most basic out of all marine construction structures. Retaining walls are rigid walls used to support soil mass so that the soil can be kept at different levels on the two sides. The primary function of a retaining wall is to prevent land movement, such as sliding.


A bulkhead is very similar to a retaining wall as they have the same functionality. The significant or critical difference between them is dependent on what element is being retained on each side of the wall. A retaining wall has soil on both sides of the wall while a bulkhead keeps earth on one side of the wall and has water on the other hand.

Why Build a Retaining Wall or a Bulkhead?

Retaining walls and bulkheads serve as a common form of engineered stabilization that prevents land movement, and are often used in areas that have undesirable sloped terrain. Building one or both allows sloped land to be shaped in a way that better suits it for specific uses. However, both serve well for stabilization of soil. Understanding the key features of your property will help you determine which of these marine constructions best fits it.

From Wikipedia, a bulkhead is a retaining wall, such as a bulkhead within a ship or a watershed retaining wall. It may also be used in mines to contain flooding. Coastal bulkheads are most often referred to as seawalls, bulkheading, or riprap revetments. These manmade structures are constructed along shorelines with the purpose of controlling beach erosion. Construction materials commonly used include wood pilings, commercially developed vinyl products, large boulders stacked to form a wall, or a seawall built of concrete or another hard substance.

Max Francisco