Create a Stunning Pool Area with Pool Retaining Wall Ideas for 2023

Installing a pool retaining wall is one of the hottest pool trends for 2023. If you’re building a new inground swimming pool or want to upgrade your existing above-ground pool, a pool retaining wall adds beauty and function. Read on to explore pool retaining wall ideas and see stunning designs.

A pool retaining wall serves several purposes. First, it holds back sloped soil so you can create a pool area on a yard that isn’t perfectly flat. Retaining walls prevent soil erosion and allow you to build pools on sites with elevation changes. Second, pool retaining walls create a finished look around the pool. Segmental or masonry retaining walls made of concrete, natural stone, or pavers become a focal point and design feature. Finally, retaining walls around pools provide safety. The vertical wall creates a barrier around the pool for security and prevents anyone from accidentally falling in.

Why Might You Need a Retaining Wall Around Your Pool?

Not every pool needs a retaining wall, but there are several situations where a retaining wall becomes necessary or highly recommended:

  • You’re building a pool on a sloped yard. The retaining wall creates a flat surface for the pool and deck area.
  • Your yard slopes away from the house. A retaining wall holds back the soil and prevents runoff toward the house.
  • You want to create different elevations and tiers around your pool. Retaining walls make it possible to have varying heights.
  • The natural slope would result in an extremely deep end. A retaining wall lets you create a pool with more balanced depths.
  • You need extra seating or patio areas around the pool. Retaining walls can create flat spaces for poolside patios.
  • You want to incorporate water features like waterfalls or fountains. Retaining walls provide elevation for water features to cascade down.
  • Safety is a concern, especially for above-ground pools. A retaining wall creates a vertical barrier that prevents accidental falls.

Pool Retaining Wall Ideas and Design Inspiration

Pool retaining walls open up many exciting design possibilities. When planned well, the retaining wall becomes an integral part of the overall poolscape. Here are some pool retaining wall ideas to inspire your project:

Incorporate Seating

Use the flat surface of the retaining wall to incorporate built-in seating. Curved retaining wall benches wrapped around the pool create intimate conversation areas and bring people closer to the water. For larger seating areas, build patio spaces on top of sections of the retaining wall.

Make It Functional

In addition to seating, a retaining wall around a pool lends itself to other functional features. Add extra value by incorporating planters, water features, firepits, and other accent features. Try building shelving into the retaining wall for holding pool toys, towels and décor.

Get Creative with Materials

Concrete, natural stone, and pavers are standard retaining wall materials for their strength and durability. But don’t overlook more unique materials like mosaic tiles, glass blocks, or timber that can infuse personality. Mixing materials can achieve a custom look.

Incorporate Water Features

The vertical surface of a pool retaining wall is the perfect backdrop for water features. Incorporate fountains, sheer descent waterfalls, and bubbling waterfalls that spill gently over the retaining wall into the pool. This helps blend the wall and pool for a cohesive look.

Use the Retaining Wall as a Design Feature

Rather than just serving a functional purpose, an interesting retaining wall becomes a focal point and key design feature. Try curving sections in and out or incorporate recessed niches for interest. Contrasting colors and varied textures also help the retaining wall stand out.

Tier the Wall

A retaining wall doesn’t have to be one continuous surface. Creating two, three, or more tiered retaining walls adds dimension and allows you to achieve different heights across the pool area.

Go with Multiple Walls

Install retaining walls on two or more sides of the pool to create a cohesive finished look. This also maximizes patio space. For example, add walls along the deep end and on one side.

Paint or Stain Concrete

Plain concrete retaining walls look boring. For a pop of color, coat the concrete wall with an acrylic pool-safe paint or translucent pool stain. Blues, greens, and neutrals work well, but any color is possible.

Incorporate Low Voltage Lighting

For drama, install low voltage lighting to illuminate the retaining wall. Grazing lights accentuate the texture while recessed wall washers highlight the wall’s shape and color. Underwater LED lights at the base create a beautiful reflection.

Retaining Wall Options for Swimming Pools

Once you have design ideas, the next step is choosing retaining wall materials. Consider factors like cost, durability, and aesthetics. Here are top options for pool retaining walls:

Poured Concrete

Poured concrete is a popular choice for pool retaining walls. Concrete offers tremendous strength and durability along with a smooth, sleek look. Concrete walls can be formed in any shape and stamped or painted to mimic stone and other looks. The main downside is higher cost compared to other materials.

Concrete Block

Concrete masonry units (CMUs) provide an affordable option. Stacked concrete blocks let you achieve heights up to 3 feet tall without reinforced steel. Concrete block walls can remain unfinished, or you can add stucco or paint. For added interest, alternate block courses with built-in capstones.

Natural Stone

For a luxury high-end look, use natural stone like granite boulders or limestone blocks. Irregular stone shapes and multi-colored hues provide tons of character. Dry stack stone walls without mortar are one option, or use a mortared stone wall for added stability. Stone retaining walls do come at a premium price.

Segmental Retaining Walls

A budget-friendly option, segmental retaining walls use interlocking blocks made from concrete, stone veneer, or clay. The small blocks make it easy to achieve smooth curves and customize the shape. Segmental walls up to 30 feet tall are possible. Many homeowners DIY this option to save costs.


For a relaxed rustic look, use heavy timber beams or railroad ties to create a retaining wall. While budget-friendly, the ongoing maintenance of sealing and potential for rotting are downsides to wood walls. Use naturally rot-resistant cedar, redwood, or cypress for best results.

How Much Does a Pool Retaining Wall Cost?

The cost of a pool retaining wall depends on several factors:

  • Wall height – Taller walls that require structural reinforcement cost more.
  • Wall length – More linear feet adds expense.
  • Materials like stone, concrete, wood, etc.
  • Whether you do it yourself or hire a contractor
  • Whether the job includes excavation and fill dirt work

In general, expect to pay $25 – $125 per square foot for a professionally installed pool retaining wall. Get quotes from several pool builders to compare costs for your specific project. Then weigh the expense against the dramatic impact a well-designed retaining wall will have on your pool area’s functionality and aesthetics.


Q: How can I create a stunning pool area with pool retaining wall ideas?

A: Creating a stunning pool area can be achieved by incorporating pool retaining wall ideas. Retaining walls can add visual interest, provide seating options, and improve the overall aesthetics of your backyard pool.

Q: What is a retaining wall?

A: A retaining wall is a structure designed to hold back soil or water and prevent erosion. In the context of a pool, a retaining wall is often used to create a level area for the pool, especially if the land has a slope.

Q: Why should I consider building a retaining wall for my pool?

A: Building a retaining wall for your pool serves multiple purposes. It helps to level the ground, create a visually appealing backdrop, and provide additional space for seating or landscaping.

Q: Can I build a retaining wall for an above-ground pool?

A: Yes, you can build a retaining wall for an above-ground pool. Retaining walls can be designed to complement the pool structure and enhance its overall appearance.

Q: How do retaining walls help in creating a stunning pool area?

A: Retaining walls help in creating a stunning pool area by adding dimension, defining spaces, and providing a backdrop for other pool features such as waterfalls or fire pits.

Q: What are some pool retaining wall ideas for a sloped backyard?

A: If you have a sloped backyard, you can consider building terraced retaining walls to create multiple levels for your pool area. This can add visual interest and make the most of the available space.

Q: Can I incorporate a water feature into my pool retaining wall?

A: Yes, you can incorporate a water feature into your pool retaining wall. This can include cascading waterfalls, spillover spas, or even a sheer descent waterfall.

Q: What are some pool trends related to retaining walls?

A: Some current pool trends related to retaining walls include the use of natural materials such as stone or wood, the integration of lighting for a dramatic effect, and the incorporation of greenery or planters on the retaining wall surface.

Q: How much does it cost to build a retaining wall for a pool?

A: The cost of building a retaining wall for a pool depends on various factors such as the size of the wall, the materials used, and the complexity of the design. It is best to consult with a professional pool contractor or landscaper for an accurate cost estimate.

Q: What are the benefits of having a retaining wall for a pool?

A: Having a retaining wall for a pool offers several benefits. It helps to prevent soil erosion, provides a level area for the pool, adds visual appeal, and can serve as a seating or lounging area for pool owners and guests.

The Bottom Line

A retaining wall opens up exciting possibilities for your swimming pool landscape, especially if you’re working with a challenging yard. With a well-planned design that makes the most of the vertical space, the retaining wall becomes a central design feature rather than an afterthought. Use the wall to create comfortable seating areas, incorporate water features, and define multifunctional zones for the ultimate backyard oasis.

The key is working with an experienced pool designer or contractor from the start. They can assess your yard’s parameters, recommend the ideal retaining wall location and height, and help select materials. With professional installation, a pool retaining wall not only retains soil but also enhances enjoyment of your swimming pool for years to come.

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