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The Extra Knot: Time & Tides
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Time and tides wear down even the most well-constructed bulkheads and docks. Fortunately, advances in marine construction products are giving new life to old structures, and helping protect against future storm damage. For Steve Mathews, owner of Pensacola-based marine construction company, Extra Knot Construction, LLC, vinyl bulkheads, vinyl-wrapped pilings, and through-flow decking are three top products he uses to ensure the longevity of structures he builds or repairs for his coastal clientele.

“Bulkheads, both residential and commercial, are commonly made out of wood. Incorrect construction or storm damage can undermine a bulkhead, creating a dangerous situation,” Mathews said. “Bulkheads fail if the tie-backs are not deep enough, or they break,” he continued. “On the majority of failing bulkheads, we go in and replace it with vinyl.”

The vinyl sheets are jetted or hammered into the soil, then tie-backs are used to attach it to an anchor. Care must be taken to ensure that the vinyl sits at an adequate depth. The Extra Knot uses a vibratory hammer and steel barge to make for faster, cleaner installations. “The hammer is great because it doesn’t blow mud everywhere. There is also no settling time when we use it to drive in pilings or vinyl sheets. You can put a boat immediately on a lift when we use it,” Mathews said. “The barge allows us to land on a beach and unload materials and equipment, so we don’t have to drive a tractor through the client’s backyard.”

Vinyl wraps for dock pilings and flow-through decking for docks are two additional products that help homeowners fight against marine borers – tiny creatures that feast on wood and can weaken or destroy pilings. The team from The Extra Knot includes experienced divers who inspect marinas, residential docks, and bulkheads to map the pilings and document any damage they encounter. “Our focus is safety,” said Mathews. “A lot of people don’t realize how much damage is present until their dock falls in. We recommend that owners inspect their bulkheads, piers, and docks every one to two years.”

Pilings that are halfway or more damaged by borers need replacing; however, Mathews and his team can preserve pilings with less than 50 percent damage. To do this, they wrap the piling in shrink wrap to suffocate the existing worm infestation and then wrap it with 40-millimeter vinyl sheeting.

For larger projects such as boathouses or lifts, a second option is to wrap the piling in concrete snap jackets. For this, the team installs a jacket around the piling, drains the water, then backfills the jacket with concrete. “A lot of people don’t like the expense of wraps,” said Mathews. “But you have to compare the cost of wrapping it now versus replacing the entire dock later. It’s an investment.”

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Another newer option for docks and piers is through-flow plastic grading. It comes in small sections and provides a solid surface to walk on while allowing storm surge rise and fall. “If you’re in a flood-prone area, waves and storm surge will remove deck boards,” said Mathews. “Through-flow allows the water to pass right through. You don’t have to remove any boards, so that’s one less concern.”

Extra Knot Construction, LLC provides services to residential and commercial areas along the Emerald Coast, from Navarre to Perdido Key. Services include dredging, installation of vinyl bulkheads, dock replacement, boat lift installation, wrapping of pilings, and electrical installations. For additional information, please visit

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