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Big Blocks for a Natural Poolscape

Retaining Wall Built for a Lakeside, Cliffside Pool

By Alli Rael, LC/DBM



The owners of this lakeside residence in Kelowna, British Columbia, located at the top of the cliff, hired Tim Valerioti of Hampton Pools to install a pool adjacent to the cliff. The project involved a retaining wall and steps leading up to the pool. About 30 people worked on the installation, which took about 6 months to complete.


The steps leading up to the pool are Rosetta "irregular" steps, supplied by Barkman Concrete. Valerioti designed them to have a floating appearance. He suspended a cast concrete beam up the middle of the stairs and placed slabs on each level. LED lighting installed under each step enhances the effect during the evening hours.

Installing a lakeside pool for this cliff top residence in Kelowna, British Columbia, was a daunting task due to the size of the available space. The homeowners hired Hampton Pools, led by Tim Valerioti, who completed the project, which included a retaining wall, steps up to the pool, and a deck, in about six months.

Before the Hampton team could begin to build, they had to first excavate the space. The site is at the bottom of a granite cliff face on one side, and faces a lake on the other, making access tricky. All of the debris that was created through the excavation had to be packaged in construction bags and removed via a barge on the lake for recycling or demolition. Excavating the site took a month in itself. "We had to crane and barge everything to the site," Valerioti said. That includes all equipment and materials: 4,000 pound pallets of retaining wall block, a mini excavator, a compactor and more. Once the materials and equipment arrived via barge, they were craned into the small construction staging area. "It was a huge endeavor," he continued. All of the hardscape products - Rosetta retaining wall blocks and steps - were supplied by Barkman Concrete.


Outcropping blocks from the same manufacturer, each between 400 and 2,000 pounds, 2' to 6' long, and 6" to 24" tall, were stacked to build the retaining wall around the pool. The blocks come in 12 different shapes, and were selected because their natural look complements the granite cliff face. The wall was built on a crushed stone base, with each block craned into place.


The courtyard area below the pool is a preexisting concrete deck. Native plants were chosen for the landscape, and a smaller wall was built using 'Belvedere' stones. The artificial palm tree on the cliff was left in place. The homeowners access the pool area via a tram on the slope to the right, but the equipment and materials for the project, including a mini excavator and a compacter, were brought in via a barge on the lake (inset).

'Outcropping' blocks were chosen to build the retaining wall, as their natural look blends well with the 80-foot natural granite cliff that the pool backs up to. The blocks range from 2'-6' in length and 6"-24" in height, and weigh between 400 and 2,000 pounds. Complementary 'irregular' steps that have a natural, stone-like look and texture were chosen to create the path from patio to pool. Additionally, a small planter wall was constructed with 'Belvedere' stones, another natural looking product.

The staircase and deck were designed to look as if they float, with lights positioned under each step so they glow in the evening. The open tread step installation proved to be yet another challenge in this project, as it had to be done before the upper deck was built. Valerioti explained that to achieve the floating look, a suspended cast concrete beam was installed up the middle of the stairway.

Native plants were chosen for the landscape, including barberry, blue fescue, hydrangea, Oregon grape and lavender. The palm tree is artificial, and was an existing feature of the landscape. The homeowners elected to keep it there because it would have been a huge undertaking to remove it. In total, about 30 people worked on the project, from design to excavation to installation and completion. The homeowners, who live on the cliff above the pool, enjoy their space and access it via a lift built into the cliff side.

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December 11, 2018, 2:07 am PST

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