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Inspecting Waterfront Properties

Waterfront home inspections are more involved than a typical four-point home inspection.  If you’re purchasing a waterfront property it’s important to find a meticulous inspector. Waterfront homes are more susceptible to early deterioration and water intrusion.  Environmental damage and erosion can pose major risks, so make sure you do ample research before committing to purchase.  If applicable, you may need additional inspections to assess your seawall or bulkhead, dock, and boatlift.

alt="The need for a seawall inspection when purchasing waterfront property depicted by a cracked ocean seawall with a sign posted that says Unsage Structure Keep Off"

 

Seawall/Bulkhead Inspection

Insurance rarely covers seawalls or bulkheads and they are very costly to replace. A thorough inspection by a certified seawall/bulkhead specialist or marine engineer will be required.  A seawall inspection will assess the physical condition while giving a projection of the life expectancy and needed repairs. Inspectors should identify hydrostatic balance, underwater berm penetration, cracks, rust stains, soil loss, erosion, corroded tie rods, or deteriorating rebar that can affect the integrity of the seawall.   The inspection report should include photos, both in and out of the water, and should cover:

  • Identification of the seawall type: T-Pile, King Pile, Coral Rock, Aluminium or Wood
  • Seawall Cap
  • Bulkhead
  • Panels
  • Pilings
  • Footings

alt="A canal in Florida lined with homes that have private docks with boat lifts during sunset"

 

Dock & Boat Lift Inspection

First, make sure that the dock and boatlift were permitted. If the previous owner failed to pull a permit, the structure could be deemed unsafe and you could be required to remove and rebuild which can get expensive.  Second, order a dock inspection from a certified inspector.  The inspection report should include an assessment of:

  • Anchorage
  • Walkway
  • Handrails
  • Deck
  • Hardware
  • Flotation
  • Concrete or Wood Pile Condition
  • Piling Caps
  • Structural Integrity
  • Electrical: Boxes, Breakers, GFCI Protection, Conduit, Grounding Jumpers
  • Plumbing
  • Boat Lifts: Motors, Cables, Guideposts, & Hardware

 

Conclusion

While owning a waterfront property can provide great lifestyle perks, it’s important that you research environmental factors to protect your investment.  Waterfront home inspections require a very thorough inspector to assess early deterioration from exposure to the elements.  Repairing or replacing seawalls, boat docks, and boat lifts can be very expensive.  Review your inspection reports carefully to avoid drowning in future debt.

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