stone block above ground pool retaining wall in backyard with walkway nearby

4 Steps To Build Above Ground Pool Retaining Wall

The best way to get a pool if you don’t want to spend the earth is to go with an above ground pool.  But what if your yard is on a slope? How do you fit the pool in and make it work?  There are some yards where some simple grading will do the trick, if you only have a few inches of slope from one side of the pool installation location to the other for example. However, what if you have a few feet of grade change, what do you do then?  Sometimes it’s best to consider an above ground pool retaining wall as a part of your project.

What Is An Above Ground Pool Retaining Wall?

So what is an above ground pool retaining wall?  This is a retaining wall installed around your above ground pool to create the flat spot for installing your pool.  The retaining wall can be under the deck area of the pool on the high side (most common), or it could be below the pool itself on the low side, and the pool would be sitting on fill material to create the flat spot.  

These are two examples of an above ground pool retaining wall under the pool on the low side. As you can see, on the high side you have the option of using wood material or traditional stone.

wood above ground pool retaining wall under the pool on the low side
concrete block above ground pool retaining wall under the pool on the low side

Here is an example of a pool Retaining wall on the high side. To hold back the earth on the high side, we recommend stone over wood.

Above ground pool retaining wall on the high side of the pool:

How To Build An Above Ground Pool Retaining Wall

If you don’t want to spend the money hiring a full service retaining wall contractor, you may elect to plan the building of an above ground pool retaining wall yourself. Building an above ground pool retaining wall is not easy. However, if you remember a few basic principles, it’ll make the project a little less overwhelming.

Calculate Grade Change

First you need to know what the grade change is you need to overcome.  You can measure the change in grade a few different ways.  You can rent a laser level from Home Depot and go about it that way. Alternatively, you can also hire a surveyor to do a topographical map of the area. Most affordably, you can also use an inexpensive line level. Using a line level will be the least expensive option, but keep in mind this will only be accurate within a few inches over a short distance.

Don’t ever rely on a line level to give you accurate leveling information. You should consider a middle ground option, such as this low cost laser level.  This is only accurate within 30 feet or so. Although, it should give you enough information to know the grade change in your pool area with accuracy.

Choose A Wall Material

Next, consider your wall types and what your budget allows.  If you are considering an above ground pool there is a good chance you are trying to keep the budget reasonable.  This would eliminate natural stone retaining walls and poured concrete walls. For low budget projects, walls constructed of pressure treated lumber, railroad ties, or precast concrete block walls probably make the most sense.  These three are the most cost effective and depending on the height of your wall, may be the right answer for your project.

It may seem like overkill, but once you have the wall type selected, it’s a good idea to hire a consulting engineer to design your wall system.  Some precast concrete block companies will provide engineering for you as a part of their service.  They want you to buy the blocks after all.  Take advantage of this, and make sure your wall system is designed to last.  You don’t want your wall collapsing and causing damage to the pool. This could also create a dangerous situation for swimmers and those lounging on the deck.

Permit And Barrier Code Research

The next step is to think through the construction process and plan out how you’re going to accomplish this.  In many municipalities, you will need a permit for the retaining wall, the pool installation, and the electrical work required for the pool wiring.  Keep in mind you will also need to comply with the barrier code.  If you are building a retaining wall on the high side of the pool, the pool walls will no longer provide the fencing required.  In many places you will need to construct a fence of some kind to come into compliance.

Find A Retaining Wall Contractor

Then you’ll need to start considering contractors.  Asking to see previous pool projects in person is a good idea.  Being able to candidly talk to someone who has been using a pool installed by the company for a few years can be an invaluable source for what to expect. You’ll understand what might go wrong and how the company handled it during and after the sale.

Above Ground Pool Retaining Wall Summary

As we always say at Backyard Assist, water is better than no water.  Although we also cover a lot of expensive gunite pool questions, above ground pools are just as important.  An above ground pool is the most accessible pool you can build.  Now you hopefully are a little more confident that you can pursue an above ground pool retaining wall project in your backyard.