[Posted on Jan 14]
Written by Aaron Presley.
The term “bulkhead” has many applications, but it most commonly refers to a partially buried retaining structure which acts as a wall to hold back earth or exclude water. We see them used routinely along roadways and waterways—anywhere they are needed to prevent erosion, to prevent the collapse or slumping of steeply graded areas, or to build in terracing. You can use bulkhead material in very interesting and practical ways around your home or property.
How is a Bulkhead Made?
Let us consider two typical configurations for bulkhead material. In the first, vertical poles or pilings of treated wood are driven to a prescribed depth, in front of a stacked barrier of interlocking tongue-in-groove timber or planking. The resulting wall can be backfilled to create a very stable, long lasting retaining structure which has an attractive, natural appearance and is appealing in a residential setting.
In the second, common bulkhead structure is made from vertical interlocking panels of vinyl sheeting or steel, often driven into the earth plumb and then bolted to horizontal timbers. Commonly used as seawalls, this quickly-constructed bulkhead is very durable. The vinyl panels can last fifty years. In a residential setting they can be screened behind evergreen plantings, or left to stand alone for utility purposes.
Why Use Bulkhead Materials around the Home?
We often see bulkheads built in civil engineering projects like highway construction or waterway maintenance. But bulkhead materials are ideal for many projects around the home and will often out-perform surface structures like stone walls or concrete and block retaining walls. Using bulkhead materials, it is possible to sculpt new landscape areas and control potential erosion problems, preventing ongoing maintenance expenses. The potential uses of bulkhead materials are limited only by the needs and imagination of the homeowner.
Reinforce or Establish Driveways and Parking Areas
A common site of erosion problems around the home is the driveway or parking area. Often driveways are excavated from a steep grade which becomes unstable over time. Backfilled parking areas tend to subside under the weight of vehicles and erode at the perimeter, undermining the parking surface. These common problems, often overlooked during construction, can be effectively addressed or prevented using bulkhead materials.
Create a New Landscape Feature
Using bulkhead materials, the homeowner can create a sunken or raised landscape feature. By removing and backfilling topsoil, even a low bulkhead can create an attractive visual effect of terracing, and increase useable yard space for patio areas, play structures, swimming pools, etc. Plantings on the high side of the bulkhead will quickly enhance privacy.
Create Raised Beds for Gardening and Landscaping
Yards with an excessive grade, infertile soil or poor soil drainage can be converted to lush gardens by incorporating bulkheads and using quality compost for the topsoil layer. Improving the soil’s quality and drainage will dramatically increase the variety of landscape plantings possible, and enable vegetable gardening. And the anchored stability of bulkhead materials will far outlast typical “raised bed” garden structures.
Quickly Build Enclosures for Utility Purposes
Bulkhead materials can quickly solve unique problems for homes situated on farms, or where a home-based business operates, or for any home requiring outdoor storage solutions. Enclosures constructed with bulkhead materials can be used for storage of silage, mulch, sand, or for composting. A canopy or roof structure makes any enclosure suitable for storage of equipment, feed, or for confining domestic animals.