The Ultimate Guide to Erosion Protection in Central New York


In this guide, the team at CDP Excavating has condensed our 17+ years of experience installing erosion protection in the Central New York region. We'll be exploring three popular options: Seawalls, retaining walls, and rip-rap revetments.

Learn everything you need to know about:

    The dangers of shoreline and soil erosion

    Available erosion protection solutions and how to choose the right one

    Your key considerations for seawalls, retaining walls, and rip-rap

    Expert guidance on permits, hiring contractors, and ongoing maintenance


Protecting your property from erosion in Central New York is critical for ensuring the structural integrity of buildings and landscapes along our extensive coastlines and waterways.

Erosion is a constant force that can cause dangerous landslides, undermine your foundation, damage shore-front investments like docks and decks, and could even force you to abandon your home. Fortunately, there's a wide variety of effective erosion control solutions available that will reinforce and protect at-risk areas.

In this extensive and in-depth guide we're demystifying the process of protecting your property from the destructive forces of erosion. By the end, you'll be equipped with the knowledge you need to make the right decision for your land.

With proper shoreline protection installed, you'll rest easier knowing your property is defended from erosion damage by a robust barrier. Read on to learn how to secure your shoreline for the long run!

The Dangers of Shoreline Erosion

Shoreline erosion is a serious issue that can have a severe impact on waterfront properties. In fact, Central New York experiences particularly high rates of erosion due to our location along Lake Ontario and other bodies of water. Some studies have found that the shoreline is eroding at average rates of 1-3 feet per year. At this pace, your property could lose substantial amounts of land in relatively short order.


Erosion also makes shore-front structures like houses, decks, docks, seawalls, and even roads, vulnerable to damage from waves and flooding during high water events.

As protective beaches and vegetation washes away, there's less buffer against wave impacts. Buildings and infrastructure become exposed to direct waves and are likely to sustain major damage. Roads can become dangerously undermined and impassable.

Clearly, protecting your shoreline should be a top priority for any waterfront property owner in Central New York.

Allowing erosion to continue unchecked presents safety risks, can lower property values, and makes water damage to structures a virtual guarantee. Taking proactive steps to halt shoreline erosion will preserve land, protect your real estate investment, and prevent damage.

Dangers of Soil Erosion

Soil erosion poses significant threats to the stability of your property, safety of structures, and the natural environment. Beyond the obvious effects it leaves on your landscape, soil erosion can set off a cascade of problems that severely undermine the health of your property.


In Central New York, where the landscape ranges from gentle slopes to towering hills, the risks associated with soil erosion are all too real.

Heavy rainfall, high ground moisture, freeze-thaw cycles, uneven terrain, all these factors contribute to the severity of soil erosion. Over time this erosion can lead to the loss of your yard space, damaged aesthetics, and even structural problems for your buildings. Plus, extensive soil run-off can even impact neighboring properties or bodies of water.

Combating soil erosion demands a careful and calculated approach, potentially blending several solutions together to achieve the desired result. However, the effort is well-worth it as ignoring erosion on your property will not make it go away.

Thankfully, there are several technologies and solutions you can implement to deliver a lasting defense against the relentless and eternal forces of erosion.

Types of Erosion Protection

Several different types of products and structures can be built to protect your precious land from erosion. Which solution best meets your needs depends on a variety of factors we'll take a look at a little later. For now, let's consider the primary types of erosion protection structures used in Central New York.



Seawalls protect your shoreline from the erosive forces of wave action, wakes, and storm surges. Providing a solid barrier between the land and water, they're placed parallel to your coastline.
These durable structures are engineered to absorb and deflect the energy of water while also stabilizing the the land behind them. This prevents the loss of soil and protects built environments close to the water's edge.

Materials Used in Seawall Construction

The materials chosen for seawall construction are pivotal in determining the longevity and effectiveness of the barrier. Commonly used materials for seawalls in Central New York include:
Concrete: Often favored for its durability and strength, concrete can be poured and molded into various shapes, making it a versatile solution. Reinforced concrete, in particular, is used for its resistance to harsh marine conditions.
Steel: While steel offers strength and can be driven deep for solid anchoring, it's not the most attractive solution and can be prone to corrosion without protective coatings. Sheet piles are an example of a steel seawall solution, which can be effective in certain environments.
Wood: A traditional material used in seawalls, wood products such as treated timber can provide a more natural aesthetic. It’s also easier to install and less costly but will typically have a shorter lifespan due to susceptibility to rot and marine insects.
Stone: Stone is another popular material for seawall construction. Referred to as “rip-rap”, it’s a natural material that blends well with the environment while delivering enduring protection from wave and wake action. Also good for stabilizing slopes and preventing soil erosion!

Process for Installing a Seawall

The installation of a seawall for your waterfront property can be a large and complex project. While each situation is unique, most seawall installations follow a similar series of stages:
1: Site Assessment To understand your specific needs a thorough examination of your properties' geography, tidal patterns, wave energy, and environmental considerations must be conducted.
2: Design Engineers design seawall specifications such as height, width, and profile based on the site assessment. A properly-designed seawall must ensure the structure withstands forces it will be subjected to.
3: Permits It is a requirement to acquire permits for seawall construction in New York State, typically from the Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Beginning seawall construction without a permit can result in significant penalties and refusal of permission.
4: Foundation PreparationA stable foundation is crucial for long-term performance of your seawall. This process can involve excavation, leveling, and sometimes the placement of protections to prevent undermining of the seawall.


5: Material SourcingDepending on the type of seawall being installed, the appropriate materials are sourced and delivered to your property.
6: ConstructionThis phase may include the placement of interlocking steel sheet piles, pouring of concrete, installation of stone rip-rap or wooden sections, and anchoring the structure to the bedrock or substrate.
7: BackfillingThe land side of the seawall is often backfilled with soil, concrete, or other materials to enhance stability and ensure efficient drainage.
8: FinishingFinal touches may include surface coatings for steel to prevent corrosion, concrete treatments to mitigate seawater damage, and landscaping to integrate the seawall into the surrounding environment.

Key Considerations for Seawalls in Central New York

For Central New York, with our significant bodies of water like Lake Ontario and the Finger Lakes, durable erosion protection is critical. A seawall suited to your specific conditions are a key investment in ensuring the protection of your waterfront property while maintaining natural beauty and ecological balance.
One consideration for seawall construction are the potential environmental impacts. Seawalls can lead to increased erosion on nearby properties or down the shoreline as wave energy is deflected. Additionally, they could disrupt local ecosystems and natural coastal processes.
These impacts should be closely evaluated and addressed in the design and construction of the seawall. The ultimate goal of any seawall should always be to deliver long-term protection while minimizing environmental impact.


Benefits to Seawalls

    Effective at preventing erosion from waves and surges
    Long lifespan if properly maintained
    Variety of materials and designs available
    Strong and durable erosion protection

Downsides to Seawalls

    Can be expensive to construct
    May need maintenance and repairs over time
    Environmental impact needs to be considered

Retaining Walls


Retaining walls are formidable barriers designed to hold back earth or rock and counteract the forces of soil erosion. They can be angled, curved, or even arranged in more complex configurations to provide long-lasting support and resistance to soil movement or erosion.
Many retaining walls are designed to complement the existing landscape, increasing property protection and beautification.

Materials Used in Retaining Wall Construction

Much like seawalls, the material used for your retaining wall plays an important role in determining its ultimate effectiveness and durability. Common materials for retaining walls in Central New York include:
Concrete: Reinforced concrete retaining walls are commonly used because of their durability, strength, flexibility in design, and ability to hold significant loads. The exact design will vary depending on factors such as location, soil type, size, and proximity to water.
Masonry: Brick or stone masonry retaining walls are prized for their attractive aesthetics and are known for strength and robustness. However, they require skilled construction and may need regular maintenance to prolong their lifespan.
Timber: Timber walls offer a more natural look compared to their counterparts. While they are easier to install and less costly, their lifespan tends to be shorter due to susceptibility to rot and termites.
Manufactured Blocks: Quicker to install and providing an attractive appearance, manufactured blocks are stacked on-top of each other and lock into place. This allows retaining walls to be constructed more quickly while providing a range of styles and finishes to suit the property.

Process for Installing a Retaining Wall

The precise process used to install your retaining wall will look different depending on the chosen product and material. However, most retaining wall installations in Central New York follow a similar path:
1: Site Assessment The first step is to have a comprehensive site survey conducted to evaluate your soil type, slope, drainage, and structural loads that will be exerted on the retaining wall.
2: Design Your retaining wall needs to be designed in a way that properly resists the soil and structural loads. A designer will take into account factors like wall height, soil characteristics, and loading conditions to create an optimized solution.
3: Permits It is a requirement to acquire permits for retaining wall construction in New York State, typically from the Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Beginning retaining wall construction without a permit can result in significant penalties and refusal of permission.
4: ExcavationCareful excavation prepares the site for your retaining wall, and is a critical step to ensure long-term performance, stability, and safety. Particular attention should be given to the foundation, which is responsible for delivering stable support.


5: Foundation PreparationA well-constructed foundation is essential for the reliability of a retaining wall. Foundation requirements will vary depending on the type of wall and ground conditions, technologies like helical pile foundations can allow for faster retaining wall construction.
6: Material SourcingDepending on the type of retaining wall you're having installed, the correct materials should be delivered to your site before work begins to ensure there are no delays.
7: ConstructionThe retaining wall is constructed according to the design, which might include laying masonry, placing and curing concrete, driving sheet piling, or setting and fastening timber.
8: Backfilling and CompactionAppropriate backfill material should be used in the area behind the wall, with proper compaction performed to increase stability.
9: Drainage InstallationTo prevent water build-up behind the wall, which can increase pressure and potentially compromise its structural integrity, a proper system may be installed to safely divert moisture.
10: FinishingSurface treatments are applied as needed and landscaping is used to integrate your retaining wall into the property.

Key Considerations for Retaining Walls in Central New York

In the Central New York region, with our varied conditions and susceptibility to erosion, retaining walls can be a beautiful and effective way to protect your property, manage water, and enhance the appeal of your landscape.
However, like any work on the land, potential environmental impacts are an important consideration. For instance, modifying natural slopes can alter drainage patterns or disrupt local ecosystems. It's essential that your retaining wall is appropriately designed and installed to manage these effects while ensuring years of reliable protection.
A well-designed installed retaining wall is invaluable in managing soil erosion and maintaining the integrity your structures and landscape.


Benefits to Retaining Walls

    Help stabilize eroding banks and bluffs
    Protects from soil erosion due to run-off
    Aesthetically pleasing materials and designs
    Solutions like Manufactured Blocks can expedite installation

Downsides to Retaining Walls

    Not as practical for wave protection as seawalls
    Can be undermined by erosion if not properly engineered
    Some maintenance is required for long-term performance



Rip-rap, a term which actually comes from the rippling sound of water over rocks, is a shoreline stabilization technique used to protect soil from erosion due to wave action and flowing water. It consists of large, loose stones like granite, limestone, or recycled chunks of concrete.
This material is strategically piled along shorelines, riverbanks, or slopes. The roughness of the rip-rap helps dissipate waves and currents, safeguarding your property against erosion.

Materials Used in Rip-Rap Construction

The choice of material for a rip-rap installation plays a vital role in determining the overall effectiveness and longevity of your protection from erosion. Common choices for rip-rap construction in Central New York are:
Natural Stone: Granite, limestone, and fieldstone are preferred for their great durability and natural appearance. The varied sizes and shapes of these stones allow them to lock-together in a natural way, using the power of gravity to form a stable barrier against erosion.
Recycled Concrete: Although not as attractive as natural stone, recycled concrete chunks are an environmentally friendly and cost-effective alternative for rip-rap. Their irregular shapes also help in absorbing wave and current energy efficiently.

Process for Installing Rip-Rap

While not as involved as other types of erosion protection, the accurate and careful installation of rip-rap is still the most important factor in helping (or hurting) performance and lifespan. As with other solutions, the exact installation steps will depend on your specific situation. But, the usual process follows these stages:
1: Site Assessment  The first step involves assessing your site to understand the extent of erosion, slope of the bank, and the levels of wave energy or flow rates your shoreline experiences.
2: Design Based on the site assessment, a design is devised which specifies the grade, size, and layering of stones or concrete needed to effectively protect your shoreline.
3: Permits It is a requirement to acquire permits for rip-rap installation in New York State, typically from the Department of Environmental Conservation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Beginning your rip-rap protection project without a permit can result in significant penalties and refusal of permission.
4: Material SelectionThe size and type of your rip-rap material is chosen based on the design specifications. Typically, a range of sizes will be used to ensure a stable structure that securely locks-together.
5: Site PreparationYour location for the rip-rap is prepared for installation by removing unstable soil, vegetation, and accurately shaping the slope to match the design requirements.


6: Underlayment Installation
A layer of geotextile fabric is often placed beneath the rip-rap. This underlayment helps to prevent soil erosion beneath the rocks while allowing water to flow through, reducing pressure.

7: Rip-Rap Placement
The rip-rap is carefully placed on the prepared site with machinery for safety and efficiency. It's vital to have an experienced contractor perform this work to minimize disruption and ensure quality results. Your rocks or concrete pieces are layered from the largest at the base to smallest on top.

8: Finishing Touches
Installation is finalized by ensuring the rip-rap is evenly spread and stabilized. Additional landscaping may be incorporated around the area to further prevent erosion and enhance aesthetic appeal.

Key Considerations for Rip-Rap in Central New York

Here in Central New York, where our water bodies have varying degrees of erosion potential, rip-rap is a customizable, durable, and attractive solution for shoreline protection. It's particularly effective in protecting against erosion in areas subject to freeze-thaw cycles, given its ability to resist movement from shifting and settling of soils.
That said, the placement of rip-rap can alter the natural environment and animal habitats. Careful planning and design will minimize these impacts while still delivering excellent protection from erosion.

The combination of versatility, natural materials, and attractiveness, makes rip-rap ideal for shoreline protection in Central New York.


Benefits to Rip-Rap

    Natural appearance that preserves beach access
    Allows for aquatic life to retain their habitat
    Less expensive than seawalls or retaining walls
    Attractive end result with less land disruption

Downsides to Rip-Rap

    Can be displaced by strong wave action
    Ongoing maintenance required to replace displaced rocks
    Not as "neat" looking as seawalls or retaining walls

How to Choose the Right Erosion Protection in Central New York


Selecting the most effective erosion protection solution requires an understanding of the unique challenges posed by the conditions here in Central New York. Our waterways and landscapes vary significantly, from serene lakes surrounded to swiftly flowing rivers and creeks prone to flooding.
Selecting the right erosion protection for your property requires an evaluation of these key factors.

Key Factors to Selecting the Right Erosion Protection

Erosion Type and SeverityYour first step in choosing the right erosion protection is to assess the type (e.g., shoreline, riverbank, slope) and severity of erosion. Is the erosion caused primarily by water flow? Wave action? Wind? Or, a combination of these factors?
Local EnvironmentThe local flora and fauna, water levels, and seasonal changes in Central New York will have an impact on your choice of erosion control. Environmentally sensitive areas may have limitations on construction activities to avoid harm to ecosystems.
Regulatory Compliance
In New York there are local, state, and federal regulations that govern the installation of shoreline and erosion control projects. Obtaining the necessary permits ensures your chosen solution is compliant with environmental protection standards and land use policies.
Sustainability and Maintenance
What will the requirements be for long-term maintenance? While all forms of erosion protection require some maintenance, certain solutions like rip-rap can demand more effort. Your ideal solution should protect against Central New York’s weather, including freezing winters and heavy rainfall, while being practical to care for in the long run.
Budget Constraints
While cost should not be your sole deciding factor in erosion or shoreline protection, the budget does play an important role. Don't forget to consider both the initial installation cost and on-going maintenance. Some solutions may cost less to install initially, but have heftier costs over time to manage.
Aesthetic Appeal
Another important consideration to make is what your requirements are for the attractiveness of your erosion protection. Solutions like steel sheet piles are incredibly strong and low-maintenance, but aren't an attractive addition to your land. More appealing technologies could cost more, but can deliver the aesthetics you desire.

Things to Watch Out for When Considering Shoreline & Erosion Protection


Overlooking the Impact of Vegetation! Quality erosion protection is more than a seawall, retaining wall, or rip-rap. Incorporating natural vegetation is an effective way to increase the performance and protection of your installation. Neglecting the potential for incorporating native plants could undermine your other erosion protection measures.
Underestimating the Power of Water! Water flow and wave action in Central New York can be dramatic and forceful, especially during storm events. Underestimating the immense power of these forces can lead to selecting a protection method that's insufficient for your properties' demands.
Relying Solely on "Hard" Solutions! While structures like sea walls, rip-rap, and retaining walls provide immediate and visible protection, they can be even more effective when combined with "softer" natural solutions (such as vegetative cover). Combining "hard" and "soft" solutions enhances durability and environmental sustainability.
Failure to Plan for the Future! Climate change and ongoing development is impacting our water levels and erosion patterns in a dramatic fashion. Planning for increased severity of weather events, changes in the landscape, and rising water levels, is key to securing years of erosion protection and performance.

4 Simple Tips to Find The Right Shoreline & Erosion Protection Solution

  • 1

    Consult with Experts

    Engaging with environmental engineers, landscape architects, or erosion control specialists who have experience in Central New York can provide valuable insights into the most appropriate solutions for specific sites.

  • 2

    Look For Site-Specific Solutions

    Avoid "one-size-fits-all" approaches. Your erosion protection should align to the needs of your site, taking into account its physical characteristics, usage, and preserving natural beauty.

  • 3

    Combine Solutions For Better Results

    Often, combining hard and soft engineering solutions (e.g. blending rip-rap with vegetative planting) can provide a more effective and sustainable means of controlling erosion.

  • 4

    Engage With Your Community

    In residential areas, engaging with your neighbors can ensure your chosen erosion control measures blend with the local landscape and do not face opposition from adjacent properties.

Permits For Shoreline & Erosion Protection Projects in Central New York

Shoreline construction projects such as seawalls, retaining walls, and rip-rap require proper permitting and adherence to local, state, and federal regulations.
If you fail to secure the proper permits and permission for your project, you may be subject to fines and refusal for future construction. Here's what you need to know for Central New York:


Overview of Regulations

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) oversees permitting for shoreline construction through their 'Protection of Waters' regulatory program. However, you may also require a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers if navigable waters are impacted.

Beyond that, you may find that local municipal regulations, zoning laws, and building codes apply as well. It's critically important to work closely with your local permitting office to identify all relevant regulations for your specific project and location.

Permits You May Require for Erosion Protection Installation

● A Protection of Waters and/or Freshwater Wetlands permit from the DEC is required for any disturbance of the bed or banks of a protected stream, which includes coastal shorelines. ● A Joint Application for Permit can be submitted to both the DEC and Army Corps to streamline the process.● Local permits such as a building permit, floodplain development permit, or municipal wetlands permit may also be required. ● Permit requirements will vary based on the scope and specifics of your project. Providing detailed plans and information can help expedite the approval process.● There can be a significant amount of documentation and effort required to secure a permit. Working with a professional and experienced contractor can make securing permits an easier and less stressful endeavor.

How to Find a Great Contractor for Your Erosion Control Project

Hiring an experienced contractor is the best way to achieve quality, long-lasting, and high-performing results for your erosion control project in Central New York.
Here are the top things to look for when assessing a contractor to help you install an excellent seawall, retaining wall, or rip-rap.

  • Expertise

    Contractors with experience in shoreline and erosion control construction have the skills and knowledge to properly engineer, design, permit, and construct your project. They understand how different materials and techniques perform in your local conditions.

  • Quality Focused

    Professional contractors have access to the right equipment and techniques to build erosion protection that meets code and will last. A quality seawall or retaining wall demands proper installation, compacted backfill, reinforced footings, and more.

  • Permitting Knowledge

    A great contractors is familiar with the permitting process and requirements in your area. They can ensure your project meets all regulations, which is key for approval.

  • Problem Solvers

    Experienced contractors have seen many unique situations and overcome the challenges that Central New York can bring. If an issue comes up, they will be able to troubleshoot and handle it efficiently.

  • Proper Licensing

    They should have an up-to-date contractor's license and be approved to work in your area. Be wary of "fly by night" operators who lack the proper credentials.

  • Insurance

    Any good contractor will carry general liability insurance that provides protection and reassurance to both you and them. Don't be afraid to ask them for proof.

  • References

    Ask for, and check, references from their recent clients. Contacting 2-3 past customers and asking if they were satisfied can give you a good idea of the quality and service you can expect.

  • Detailed Quotes

    Low-quality contractors can use clever quotes to hide the true cost of the project, waiting until you've signed a contract to strike with change orders and added costs. Always obtain a written quote outlining the full project scope and specifications. Avoid vague verbal quotes.

By hiring the right local contractor, you can have lasting confidence your shoreline will be protected against erosion with a quality installation from a reliable company. Avoid the temptation to hire the cheapest contractor, this tactic often results in poor results and extra monetary costs later on.

How to Maintain Your Seawall, Retaining Wall, or Rip-Rap Installation


Installing shoreline erosion protection is a significant investment. Performing proper and regular maintenance is crucial for enjoying many years of reliable protection from erosion.
While each solution will differ in the exact maintenance demands, here are some general maintenance tips to keep in mind:
Conduct regular inspections: Look closely for signs of damage after major storms. Identify any cracks, deteriorating concrete, undermined footings, displaced stones, or other issues. Early detection gives you the chance to make smaller repairs before the problem gets worse.
Make timely repairs: Speaking of early detection, don't wait to make needed maintenance and repairs. When small issues are left unaddressed, the can quickly turn into large and extensive failures. Remember that water and erosion are constantly working against your protective installation.
Watch for undermining: Water is a relentless force that works to gradually wear-away at your erosion protection. Maintaining "toe protection" to prevent erosion around the structure is vital for longevity. Replace material when needed and watch for areas where material is being scoured away.
Maintain backfill: Retaining walls especially rely on backfill stability to defend from erosive forces. Check for washouts after storms, add drainage features if needed, and stabilize slopes to prevent excessive soil movement.
Clean debris buildup: Watch out for, and remove, any debris such as driftwood which can accumulate around your shoreline structure after storms or spring melt. Allowing debris to gather around your erosion protection can result in damage.
Seal cracks: For concrete walls, regularly inspect for cracks and seal them with an appropriate product to prevent water intrusion and rebar corrosion. Be sure to use products approved for marine environments.
Protect metal components: For steel sheet pile seawalls, it's important to maintain coatings to prevent corrosion. Repair or replace degraded or severely corroded sections.
Record all maintenance: Document the inspections and repairs you perform on your erosion protection. Having a clear and detailed maintenance history helps you assess the effectiveness and performance of your installation.
Like any structure, your erosion protection will need proper maintenance to ensure stability and reliability over the long-term. Plus, it maximizes your investment and guarantees your property is properly shielded from the inexorable effects of water, waves, wakes, and erosion.

Summary of Your Erosion Control Solutions

We have covered a huge amount of ground in this ultimate guide to erosion protection. It can be a lot of information to digest, so here's an overview summary of the common solutions to preventing shoreline and soil erosion:

Seawalls in Central New York


Seawalls are vertical structures built along the shoreline to protect the land from wave action and prevent erosion. Here are some key considerations if you're thinking about installing a seawall:

Ideal Conditions

Seawalls work best in areas with constant wave action from tides, boats, etc. They're not as effective for lakes or rivers. They also work best on gradually sloping shorelines and sandy or muddy bottoms - not so much on steep banks or hard bottoms.

Cost of a Seawall

Seawall costs can range from $100 - $500 per linear foot, but that will vary depending on factors like materials, location, and site conditions. Concrete is typically cheaper than stone, while steel could be costly but offers strong performance.


There are various federal, state, and local permits required for seawall construction. Do not neglect the permit process, failure to secure proper permission can result in hefty fines.

Seawall Materials

● Stone/rip-rap - durable, natural looking, allows water to filter through● Concrete - cheaper, easy to install, doesn't last as long ● Steel sheet pile - strong and durable, but poor aesthetic and ecologically damaging

Benefits of Seawalls

● Effective at absorbing wave energy and preventing erosion● Long lifespan if properly maintained ● Stops flooding and runoff

Downsides of Seawalls

● Can be expensive to build● Could increase erosion in front of or beside wall ● Alters natural shoreline

Retaining Walls in Central New York


Retaining walls are a popular choice for preventing erosion and stabilizing slopes in our challenging terrain. Here are some key things to consider if you're considering a retaining wall for your property:

Ideal Conditions

Retaining walls work best for relatively small areas of erosion under 20 feet high. A good choice when for holding back slopes or embankments. Retaining walls can be used in areas such as yards, gardens, driveways, and commercial developments.

Cost of a Retaining Wall

Retaining walls are usually more expensive than rip-rap, but less pricey than seawalls. Expect to pay around $25 - $60 per square foot installed. Your ultimate costs will depend on the size, location, materials, and contractor. Complex walls in difficult areas will, naturally, increase your costs.


Your retaining wall may be subject to permit requirements depending on the size and location. As each region can have differing rules and regulations, it's vital to contact your permit office early in the process. Never begin work before you have secured the proper permits, it will only lead to future problems.

Retaining Wall Materials

● Concrete - Long lasting and strong, but requires proper drainage● Stacked stone or blocks - Attractive, multiple designs, can mimic natural surroundings ● Wood - Affordable, easy to install, but comes with higher maintenance● Metal - Extremely durable option good for tight spaces, but can be pricey

Benefits of Retaining Walls

● Prevents slope failure and stabilizes banks● Safely redirects the flow of water ● Available in a variety of designs and sizes● Can incorporate stairs or terraces

Downsides of Retaining Walls

● Certain materials demand more maintenance ● Requires proper drainage and weeping holes● Could become unstable if not engineered correctly

Rip-Rap in Central New York


Rip-rap, also known as rubble, rock armor, or rock revetment, involves piling up loose stones along the shoreline to provide protection against waves, wakes, or currents. Rip-rap is an economical and effective solution for erosion protection.

Ideal Conditions

Rip-rap works best along shorelines with relatively steep slopes and moderate to high wave action. If your property has a more gentle shoreline, it may be more cost-effective to use other solutions like seawalls or revetments.

Cost of a Rip-Rap

Rip-rap is typically one of the most affordable erosion control options. Costs will of course vary based on the length of shoreline to cover, size of boulders required, plus local material and delivery fees. You may pay around $25 - $60 per-ton for smaller rip-rap stones, and up to over $120 per-ton for heavier boulders. Installation costs depend on site accessibility and the amount of preparation required.


Installing rip-rap typically requires the securing of a permit from local, state, or federal agencies. Different areas in Central new York can have varying rules and regulations, so it's extremely important to contact your permit office. Avoid the temptation to start work before you have proper permission, or you may face fines or refusal.

Common Rip-Rap Rock Sizes 

Choosing the appropriate rock size is crucial for an effective and long-lasting rip-rap installation. The exact materials used will be specific to your property, but as a general guideline:

● Low wave action: 50lbs - 200lbs● Moderate wave action: 200lbs - 500lbs ● High wave action: 500lbs - 2000lbs+

Make sure you connect with an experienced contractor that can help determine the right sizes for your conditions.

Benefits to Rip-Rap

● Cost effective compared to other armoring solutions ● Flexible and can be installed along shorelines with varying slopes● Permeable, allowing water to naturally filter through● Attractive and natural appearance that blends into surroundings

Downsides to Rip-Rap

● Can be displaced by severe storms if undersized● Ongoing maintenance required to replace displaced rocks● Could impact natural habitats and aquatic life


If you've made it to this point in the guide, congratulations! You are officially much better informed about your options for shoreline and land erosion protection.
The reality is that shoreline and land erosion in Central New York is a serious problem thousands are facing. It threatens buildings, landscapes, structures, and waterfront property, often in short-order.
So, protecting your property is a critical priority.


The good news is you have many solutions that can provide outstanding protection to your shoreline, property, and buildings. Seawalls that deflect waves, retaining walls that stabilize soil, or rip-rap that absorbs wave action. No matter your needs or aesthetic requirements, there's a product to suit.

Of course, each option has benefits and downsides. The ideal choice for your property will rely on factors such as site conditions, budget, regulations, location, and more. That's why it's absolutely vital to connect with an experienced contractor who is familiar with our unique conditions here in Central New York.

You've already taken an important step by reading this guide and educating yourself. But, it doesn't stop here!

It's time to take the next step and get in touch with a seasoned contractor who can give you honest advice and make your project easier. Our friendly team at CDP Excavating has provided site preparation, excavation, and installation services for erosion protection for more than 17 years.

Don't let your land slip away from under your feet. There's no better time to act than right now to preserve and protect your property for future generations.

Author Information

  • Illustration

    This post was written by the team at CDP Excavating, using our 17+ years of experience installing shoreline and erosion protection in beautiful Central New York. CDP Excavating is run by Jason Perry, whose passion for working with the earth goes back to his childhood. Independently-owned and family-run, we're humbled to be a leading choice of contractor for waterfront property owners.

*Images in this blog post have been generated using AI.

Questions About What You Just Read?

Have questions about having shoreline and soil erosion protection installed here in Central New York? Feel free to get in touch with our friendly team!

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Areas That CDP Excavating Serves in Central New York

Albion, Amboy, Baldwinsville, Boylston, Camillus, Central Square, Cicero, Clay, Cleveland, Constantia, DeWitt, Fabius, Fulton, Geddes, Granby, Hannibal, Hastings, Lacona, Lafayette, Lysander, Manlius, Marcellus, Mexico, Minetto, New Haven, Onondaga, Orwell, Oswego, Otisco, Palermo, Parish, Phoenix, Pompey, Pulaski, Redfield, Richland, Salina, Sandy Creek, Schroeppel, Scriba, Skaneateles, Stafford, Tully, Vanburen, Volney, West Monroe, Williamstown