Reinforcement and protection of watercourse embankments - vinyl sheet piles vs other available technologies

Sheet piling

Vinyl sheet piles have been used in the broadly understood infrastructure construction, covering many industries, both on land and in water. Owing to their low weight, ease and speed of installation and exceptional durability, structures made of PVC profiles are becoming more and more popular also in projects previously dominated by traditional technologies. In the case of investments aimed at securing and reinforcement of embankments of watercourses and reservoirs, vinyl sheet piles are an alternative worth considering in comparison with technologies such as willow hurdles, stone riprap or concrete slabs.

Vinyl sheet piles, although they have been on the building materials market for over 30 years, have only recently begun to gain more and more interest from customers. The advantages of the technology appreciated by engineers are the versatility of vinyl sheet piles, low implementation costs, easy transport and low environmental impact. Vinyl sheet piles are used in broadly understood infrastructure construction, from hydrotechnical projects, in particular flood protection facilities, through environmental protection to mining facilities, such as tailings reservoirs. The possible applications of vinyl sheet piles do not end there. Structures made of PVC profiles may also be used as an attractive alternative to technologies such as willow hurdles, stone riprap or concrete slabs, i.e. technologies used to protect and enclose the embankments of various watercourses and water reservoirs.

Willow hurdles - can vinyl sheet piles replace the centuries old embankment reinforcement technique?

When thinking about methods of protecting the existing banks of ponds and watercourses such as drainage ditches, the most important aspect to pay attention to is the durability of the structure and its reliability.

In this matter, vinyl sheet piles made of PVC material have an undoubted advantage. The warranty for PVC profiles is 50 years because of the extreme resistance of the material to biological, chemical and environmental factors. Moreover, polyvinyl chloride does not corrode in any way. Properly designed and constructed shore protection using vinyl sheet pile technology will certainly stand the test of time in changing water conditions.


On the other hand, in the case of willow hurdles reinforcement, one may talk about a maximum of several years durability, since changing water level significantly will considerably accelerate the decay processes of the wood. For this reason, the willow hurdles reinforcement must be replaced on a cyclical basis.

Using vinyl sheet piles, despite the initially higher cost, helps ensure that the structure protecting the bank against erosion will last much longer without the necessity to carry out costly maintenance and repair work. Additionally, the low weight of the profiles and their modular structure allow for flexibility in design and ease of transport to the construction site.

Vinyl sheet piles vs stone riprap and concrete slabs

During their entire use, watercourses must ensure adequate capacity to be able to effectively transport the water towards its intended location. In this case also, the advantages of vinyl sheet piles, while being not so obvious, are quite significant.

The first advantage of vinyl technologies as embankment reinforcement becomes clear when we think about the maximum capacity of a given watercourse. Using vinyl sheet piles makes it is possible to construct even vertical embankments of a stream, drainage weir or canal. The cross-section of thus reinforced watercourse would have the shape of a rectangle.

In the case of stone riprap or concrete slabs, these materials may be used to form embankments  which would be gently sloping towards the water. Assuming that the space for reinforcement of the banks of such a watercourse is limited, the methods using stone or concrete will result in reducing the maximum capacity of such watercourse, since its cross-section will resemble a trapezoid.

What also needs to be considered, both stones and concrete slabs are materials that become easily covered with algae, moss or other vegetation. Such overgrown embankments  require regular cleaning of the surfaces of the riprap or concrete in order to maintain the necessary flow capacity. In this respect, the advantage of vinyl sheet piles comes to the fact that the profiles would never become overgrown with vegetation and will not require regular cleaning.

It is worth adding here that Pietrucha vinyl sheet piles have been certified by the National Institute of Public Health as technology that can safely be used to form tanks with drinking water and that they do react with the water in any way.


Vinyl sheet piles are an attractive and versatile alternative to traditional methods of embankment protection, such as willow hurdles, stone riprap or concrete slabs.

Their numerous advantages, such as low costs, ease of installation, durability and environmental benefits, make them a choice worth considering by engineers and decision-makers in the construction and agricultural industries.

The ability to recycle vinyl sheet piles at the end of their useful life is another advantage that makes them an ecological choice.

Following the above short review of the available reinforcement methods, it becomes clear that PVC sheet pile technology is a worthwhile alternative to the traditional willow hurdles reinforcement which would require frequent replacement, one that would bring financial benefits over the years.

#embankmentreinforcement #bankprotection #weir #vinylsheetpiles

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