Marine Construction Structures: Retaining Walls and Bulkheads

Protect Your Waterfront Property by Building a Marine Construction Structure

Most marine construction structures are built to protect or prevent damage to shoreline or waterfront property. The four most common marine construction structures are:

  • Retaining Walls
  • Bulkheads
  • Seawalls
  • Revetments

Although the names of the most common types of marine construction structures are often used interchangeably, they are all actually a little different. Knowing these differences can help you determine which type of marine construction structure would best protect your property.

What is the Difference? Retaining Walls and Bulkheads

This post will focus on the primary difference between retaining walls and bulkheads. To learn more about the difference between seawalls and revetments, please continue on to the next post.

Retaining Walls

Retaining walls are often considered the most basic out of these four common types of marine construction structures. Wikipedia defines a retaining wall as a relatively rigid wall used to support soil mass laterally so that the soil can be retained 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 primary difference between the two comes down to what element is being retained on each side of the wall. A retaining wall has soil (earth) on both sides of the wall, whereas a bulkhead retains earth on one side of the wall and has water on the other side.

Why Build a Retaining Wall or a Bulkhead?

Both retaining walls and bulkheads are a common form of engineered stabilization that prevent 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.

Stabilize Your Property with a Retaining Wall, Bulkhead, or Both

Since every property is unique, the specific factors of your property will determine if you should build a retaining wall, a bulkhead, or a combination of both to provide the best form of stabilization for your needs.

Call Gibson Marine Construction. Their experts can design a beautiful solution to best stabilize your land.

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