Pool Retaining Wall: How To Build, Ideas, How Much It Costs

pool retaining wall in sloped backyard with luxury landscape

There are times when it makes sense to build your pool into a slope.  Yes, there are the situations where you’re building a fancy infinity edge or a zero edge masterpiece.  Then there are the times when you just need to build the pool into a slope because there’s nowhere else to build the pool. At these moments you need to design a pool retaining wall into your landscape.  How do you figure out where the wall goes and how do you build it?

Pool Retaining Wall Ideas Yard Sloping Up And Away

First let’s assume the yard is sloping up and away from your house.  There are three options for building the pool retaining wall in this circumstance. 

Idea #1: Use The Pool As The Retaining Wall

Pool retaining wall in backyard with steps leading up to deep end of pool

First you can raise the pool up out of the ground on the house side, and have steps up to the pool area.  This would be using the pool as a retaining wall. The exterior wall of the pool itself is raised up out of the ground.  This would be a good opportunity to build an infinity edge flowing toward the house if your budget allows.  

Idea #2: Back Wall Pool Design

Pool retaining wall with waterfall and bushes above pool level

Next there’s the method of raising the back wall of the pool to create a pool retaining wall.  This often is referred to as ‘raised bond beam’ in pool jargon.  When the structure of the pool is built, the back wall of the pool is constructed higher than the rest of the pool to create the pool retaining wall.  This wall can be tiled, covered in veneer stone, have water features spilling out, etc.  It’s both a beautiful and functional way to deal with the grade change.

Idea #3: Multi-Layer Retaining Walls

Multi-level pool retaining wall in sloping backyard with large patio

If you have a larger grade change, you can do both of the above options.  Raise your pool up out of the ground, and build a raised wall on the back of the pool to create your pool retaining wall.  To finalize your project you may need to account for additional retaining walls to hold back your patio and/or to either side of the raised wall on the back of your pool to prevent earth from collapsing into your pool patio area.  

Why Choose A Pool Retaining Wall?

Whatever style you choose, a pool retaining wall is a great way to solve your grade change and get that pool you need to integrate into your backyard.  The hardest part of building a retaining wall of any kind is often figuring out the best method of construction. This is a project-specific question.  Although, a pool retaining wall is often the easiest choice to make. Since you’re already going to be building with concrete (gunite), you may as well create a wall while you’re at it.

Alternative Pool Retaining Wall Ideas

There are other ways of building a pool retaining wall, and these are the traditional wall types.  You can build boulder retaining walls, poured concrete retaining walls, and precast concrete block retaining walls.  But using your pool as a part of the retaining system is an innovative and designer friendly approach. It also often reduces the overall budget by avoiding the use of outside contractors.  

How Much Does A Pool Retaining Wall Cost?

As you’ve seen, there are many methods and material options for building your pool retaining wall. If you choose a traditional way, you can expect that a pool retaining wall will add at least $5,000 to the total cost of your pool project. Depending on size and style, pool retaining walls can get very expensive. We have designed projects that included a $75,000 pool retaining wall. While this is extreme, it’s not unheard of to have a pool retaining wall of this caliber on a luxury property.

If this price range sounds too expensive, there is a less expensive option. You can build up the back wall of the pool using a ‘raised bond beam’.  This will cost somewhere in the neighborhood of a few hundred dollars per foot of raised beam. It will cost far less than building the pool up out of the ground.  

Raised pool retaining wall with raised bond beam in backyard with plants and small patio

Pro Tip: Consider Frost Protection

If you live in a frost zone, you’ll need to consider frost protection whenever you raise the pool up out of the ground. This can mean additional structural requirements underneath the pool.  Building the pool up out of the ground usually can be done inexpensively. However, you must keep the height below a specific threshold. 

Be sure to speak with your pool designer and pool salesperson about this topic. They probably have a cutoff of somewhere between 18” and 30” before the structural engineer has massively expensive additional requirements on the structure.