When you live on a barrier island, just keeping your little piece of real estate from washing away is a constant struggle. Fred Sprinkle, a foundation and excavation contractor on Dauphin Island, Ala., frequently uses vinyl sheet pilings to keep the ground beneath his clients' homes from ending up in the Gulf of Mexico.

His employees — who spend as much time in the water as they do on land, and dress accordingly — start one of their vinyl seawalls by building a frame of pressure-treated wood pilings and dimensional lumber (1). The lumber and pilings are CCA-treated; newer pressure-treating formulas don't hold up as well in saltwater and aren't as resistant to...

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