Many bulkheads can be temporarily repaired rather than replaced. While
this may not be a permanent solution an inexpensive repair and add years
of life to an existing bulkhead. Lets look at the design elements of
most wood bulkheads. 2” tongue and grove planks are used for the actual
bulkhead planking. These planks are placed vertical and form a wall to
retain soil. Pilings are jetted deep into the soil and are held in place
by tie rods which angle back to anchors which are buried on the land
side of the bulkhead. Whalers, which are shaped like railroad ties are
run horizontal between the pilings and the planks. basically the Pilings
with supporting anchors provide all the strength to the system. The
whalers which are supported by the pilings hold all of the tongue and
groove planks in place and the planks hold the soil back.
The wood bulkhead
above has been capped with tongue and grove pressure treated planks.
These planks are held in place with pressure treated 2x4's which are
spiked into the bulkheads whalers.
When decay causes any holes in the planks of a bulkhead soil can wash
out with each tide or rainfall. Repairing a few small holes is
relatively easy. Just did down till the hole is exposed and screw a
pressure treated board in place to cover the hole. Capping can be done
to repair a bulkhead which is loaded with holes. Capping is very
effective as long as the whalers and pilings are still in good shape.
Capping is basically placing new 2” tongue and grove pressure treated
planks over the old. This is done on the exterior of water side of the
bulkheading. The capping planks are held in place with pressure treated
2x4’s which can be spiked into the existing whalers. I capped the
bulkhead on my existing home and was able to gain an additional 18 years
of life from the bulkhead.
Look close at the
above images. The bulkhead pilings have pulled free from their anchors.
A temporary repair was made using chain, cable and new anchors described
below. This type of repair will not pull the bulkhead back into
alignment but will prevent further damage for a season or so.
The third type of repair is much harder and
unfortunately not as successful. This repair should only be attempted by
those who are familiar with rigging, cable, and come-a-longs. When one
or even a few pilings have decayed the tie rods holding them in place
can rip through the wood. This usually means its time for new bulkheading. The homeowner may delay the expenses by one or two seasons
by creating a new anchor to hold the decaying piling upright. Start by
digging a pit about nine feet long thee feet wide and at least eight
feet deep. Then did a trench slopping upward from the hole to the rotted
out piling. Then get four pressure treated 4x4x8’ posts. Drill holes
through each and hammer tie rods through creating one solid 8x8x8’ post.
Do not cut off any extra length of tie rod. Wrap and secure a cable
around the post and drop it into the eight foot hole. the cable should
run up the slopping trench towards the piling. Concrete can be poured on
top of the post and the hole filled in. Wrap a separate cable around the
piling and use a come-a-long to apply tension. You will not be able to
pull the bulkheading back into place only support the piling in its
present position. Once pressure is applied attach both cables with
proper hardware and bury the exposed cable. The new anchor will not last
for long but should hold the piling in place for a season or two.
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