Seawall Choices: Aluminum vs. Vinyl

When choosing to protect your property, Gibson Marine confidently recommends the highest quality vinyl bulkhead materials to build or reconstruct your seawall. However, some commercial marinas or waterfront residences may require a seawall made of stone (riprap), concrete, or specialty treated wood. We can accommodate according to your specific needs.

Many contractors still prefer to use aluminum to construct seawalls and it may be confusing as to which is the better choice. We hope this helps:

Metallic components have been used in waterfront construction for centuries. Aluminum sheeting is prone to degradation from both natural and human induced sources. Natural corrosion is the degradation that occurs when a material is left on its own without the interference from a man-made system or scenario. Human induced corrosion can cause incredibly quick material loss and structural damage: galvanic reaction, stray current corrosion and interaction with high pH/organic soils.

Breakthroughs in the polymer industry allow for structural products made from strong, weatherable products to make it to the market. Vinyl sheeting has become a major construction component in the marine industry because of its ability to do what aluminum cannot: provide a strong wall with no degradation. The vinyl sheeting is resistant to changing soil conditions/pH and has no natural oxidation. Vinyl is also a material with low conductivity, so it will not act as a grounding element causing a galvanic reaction.

Our viewpoint: Aluminum is a strong material but has many issues being used in an environment as harsh as a marine setting. The sheeting is under attack from several possible areas, both natural and man-made. The nature of aluminum causes it to be a sacrificial material in many settings, with drastic material loss very visible. Possible protection of an aluminum system requires expensive upfront cost and a regular maintenance routine. Vinyl sheeting has become popular because it is both a structural product and can resist both natural and man-made attacks that would begin a corrosive situation in metallic sheets.

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