Codes, options and ideas for safety fences around swimming pools
A beautiful sparkling swimming pool is the crowning jewel of a well landscaped yard, but it can also be a dangerous amenity if not properly fenced. Designers struggle with this important safety element because no pool fence is ever attractive. This is a no-brainer in a home with children, but in an all adult community there can be great conflict over the necessity of a fence at all. Sure, there are ways to make them look better, to help them blend into the surroundings, but it's never a good idea to skirt these codes due to the potential for life or death consequences.
Pool Safety Codes
The Building Officials and Code Administrators (B.O.C.A.) outline contains safety measures for swimming pool fences. Many communities have adopted these national standards in an effort to minimize and, hopefully, eliminate accidental drowning of children. However, there may be additional local regulations as well.
A skilled designer will assess your site and your lifestyle to determine the best way to provide swimming pool safety fence. There are three basic strategies:
The perimeter fence around the yard itself can serve as a pool safety fence only if it conforms to the height and gate requirements set by the safety code.
This fence encloses the pool area leaving the rest of the yard open to general use.
This fence can be entirely removed or only partially removed for a short time allowing full access to the pool. This is a great solution for parties when the house and pool can become one larger space. It also provides pool security while the children are young. Once they are old enough, it is removed and the code requirement is then met by the perimeter fence. This fence can be designed to be reinstalled at any time in the future when there is concern for children or pets having full access to the pool.
Typical Pool Fence Regulations *Applies to swimming pools, hot tubs and non-portable spas. Regulations may vary by state and city. Verify with local building department before constructing a fence.
- Top of the fence must be at least 48 inches above grade. No more than 4 inches gap between the finish grade and the bottom of the fence.
- Openings in the fence should not allow passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere
- Solid fences should not have indentations or protrusions.
- Spacing between vertical members should not exceed 4"
- Maximum mesh size for chain link should not exceed 1-3/4"
- Gates must open outward away from the pool and should be self-closing and self latching.
- Fence must be clear of all other structures that could be used to climb over.
Should your local codes require a fence and you want a hedge, install an inexpensive chain-link fence, then plant an evergreen hedge right up against it so the foliage grows through and hides it on both sides.
- Catriona Tudor Erler, author of Poolscaping: Gardening and Landscaping Around Your Swimming Pool and Spa
State and local codes require a fence around pools for safety. It is a mistake to site it too close to the pool or try to camouflage the fence. When sited too close it appears that the pool is in a cage.
- Kerman Raines, Neave Group Outdoor Solutions in Wappingers Falls, NY
MaterialsThe majority of pool safety fences are made of tubular aluminum or powder coated steel.
"We make all of our fences to meet national BOCA pool code, which meets 95% of all codes used nationwide," says Josh Manly of The Iron Shop.
"Fencing constructed with aluminum is a perfect choice to surround your pool. The aluminum construction eliminates rust, while its finish withstands the moisture and chemicals found in the pool environment," explains Chad Hoover of Hoover Fence.
Patti Pelock of CertainTeed, a vinyl fencing leader in the upper Midwest and Northeast, says, "Our contemporary lines are proving very popular for pool fencing because they have the visual appeal of a picket fence while complying with the safety requirements. The contemporary fence uses vertical pickets that end in a strong top rail instead of the traditional pickets that extend beyond the rail. Customers will select a privacy fence from us and then choose a matching pool fence so the whole site is visually integrated rather than having to change materials to suit the pool enclosure."
Maureen Gilmer, contributing writer for Landscaping Network, author and syndicated columnist