How Much Does a Bulkhead or Seawall Cost to Install?

Typical Range:

$10,000 - $100,000

Find out how much your project will cost.

Cost data is based on research by HomeAdvisor.

Updated August 15, 2022

Written by HomeAdvisor.

Seawalls cost $25,000 on average but range from $10,000 to $100,000, depending on the project's materials, length, and difficulty. On average, you’ll spend from $100 to $800 per linear foot, with some areas with construction fees over $1,000 per linear foot. Complex or commercial projects run anywhere from $650 to $2,000 per linear foot.

Seawalls and bulkheads line the shoreline of lakes, rivers, and oceanfront property to stop erosion of the land by the water. They can be anywhere from a couple of feet tall to dozens of feet, depending on the height and stability of the land bordering the water. Places where erosion would otherwise put the home in danger often require seawalls or bulkheads.

Average Seawall Costs

Low Cost Average Cost High Cost
$10,000 $25,000 $100,000

Seawall Cost Per Foot

Seawalls cost $150 to $800 per linear foot for the average residential project. It’s the most common way to price them out, but depends heavily on the material type, height, and ease of installation. But you might pay more in some cases:

  • Some homeowners report costs upwards of $1,200 per linear foot—over 10 times what most retaining walls cost

  • Commercial and complex residential projects tend to run in the $650 to $2,000 per linear foot range

  • Dock installation costs push the per linear foot price to the higher end of the range.

Type Cost Per Linear Foot
Vinyl$150 – $200
Steel$250 – $500
Wood$150 – $500
Concrete$200 – $800
Riprap (Rock)$70 – $200

Vinyl

Vinyl seawalls cost $200 to $600 per linear foot for a five-foot-tall wall. Some coastal areas call for eight- to 10-foot walls, nearly doubling the cost. Vinyl doesn’t corrode and can last 50 to 80 years with little maintenance. Builders often use concrete across the top for both aesthetic and structural reasons.

Steel 

Steel seawalls cost $250 to $700 per linear foot. Because of the competitive price and durability of vinyl, most contractors recommend vinyl capped with concrete versus a steel wall. Plus, steel lasts about half as long because it corrodes and eventually fails.

Wood

Wooden seawalls cost $150 to $500 per linear foot. Cost differences usually come from the height. They’re recommended more for freshwater areas, but treated lumber can withstand coastal areas’ saltwater waves. 

Concrete

Concrete seawalls cost $200 to $800 per linear foot. Like other seawalls, height plays the largest cost factor. They’re created one of two ways: on-site with wet concrete poured into forms or in precast panels or blocks. They’re almost always reinforced with steel rebar.

Riprap

Riprap seawalls cost $70 to $200 per linear foot. It’s a pile of small boulders and large rocks laid against the shore, usually at a grade of 30 to 45 degrees, and used in front of other seawalls. You’ll often find it used with a living seawall, where marine grasses and other growth are planted near the shoreline to curb erosion.

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Lake Bulkhead Cost

A lake retaining wall costs anywhere from $50 to $250 per linear foot. You find lake wall bulkhead prices are less expensive and an easier project than their coastal cousins. They aren’t as tall and don’t need to contend with tidal fluctuations. They also fare better with steel and aluminum since metal doesn’t corrode as quickly in freshwater.

Seawall Construction Cost Factors

Seawall construction fees vary from place to place and state to state. Some of the main cost factors include:

  • Permitting costs

  • Saltwater costing up to twice as much

  • Easily accessible areas costing less

  • Taller walls requiring more materials

  • Rocky shoreline costing more

Local Permits

Permit fees and regulatory processes for seawalls vary from place to place, but often fall in the $400 to $1,500 range; expect higher costs in areas of Florida and Texas. Coastal prices vary by state, usually due to locally regulated building requirements. You will almost always need a permit for construction on a waterway. 

Fresh vs. Saltwater

Typically, you’ll pay about twice as much for saltwater seawalls as you would freshwater bulkheads. But size and material determine cost more than the type of water. Not only will saltwater corrode many types of seawalls, but you also need to build high enough to account for the tidal variations in sea level—two issues not present at inland lakes.

Freshwater lake walls often cost far less than coastal projects for various reasons, including:

  • Lack of tidal change

  • No saltwater corrosion

  • Lower permit requirements

  • Larger selection of materials since corrosion isn’t a factor

Accessibility

Heavy machinery drives seawalls into the ground in sheets. Without easy access to the shoreline, crews have to create access first, which can increase the price. 

Height

Taller seawalls require more materials, larger sheets, and higher delivery fees. Actual costs will vary depending on many factors, but expect to pay more for taller walls. 

Soil Type

Prices vary between sandy and rocky coastlines and inland lakeshores. Coastal areas tend to cost more when rocky soil is involved. Variations in the earthwork needed from location to location, along with regional building codes, might mean your project costs twice as much as your neighbor half a mile away.

Build a Seawall Yourself vs. Hire a Pro

Some locations don’t allow this as a DIY project, so check with your local code enforcement office or a local boat and water dock contractor. Marine contractors specialize in seawalls, docks, and other structures that need to stand up to the specific challenges of a marine environment. If you do decide to DIY, always hire an engineer to help design it since these structures bear loads and protect the land from wave action.

In some places, you can install a seawall yourself, but you’ll end up spending almost as much to DIY the job as you would to hire a contractor since you have to purchase the materials, rent the equipment, and get the permits, not to mention the time involved. Done incorrectly, you’ll need to have the project repaired or replaced, costing more than hiring a pro to begin with.

FAQs

How long does a seawall last?

Seawalls last anywhere from 10 to 70 years or more, depending on the material and conditions. With proper maintenance, you can generally extend the lifespan of most types. 

  • Vinyl with concrete caps: 50–70 years

  • Poured concrete: 50–60 years

  • Steel and Aluminum: 30–40 years

  • Wood: 10–25 years

What's the difference between a bulkhead and a seawall?

Both a bulkhead and seawall hold back the soil behind them from water erosion. However, only seawalls protect the shore from wave action you find along the coast or vast lakes. You’ll generally find bulkheads in inland areas or along a protected shoreline that sees no waves.

How deep should a seawall be?

A seawall’s depth varies from four to 10 feet or more, depending on various factors. You don’t need to drive inland walls as far into the ground, but keep in mind that different materials require different depths for stability. Local building codes vary from location to location and dictate depth.

How do you maintain a seawall?

Seawalls don’t need a lot of maintenance. Still, since they’re constantllt under tremendous water pressure, you should consider:

  • Cleaning out the weep holes

  • Completing a visual inspection at least once a year

  • Keeping plant growth away from the wall

How long does it take to build a seawall?

It’ll take one to three weeks to install most residential seawalls. Commercial properties may take longer, but the process is the same. For steel or vinyl, installer drive sheets into the ground, but prep time, measurements, delivery, and cleanup all extend installation time.

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