Do You Have To Have A Fence Around A Pool?

    Aurapoolcleaning/Wikimedia Commons

    Of course you want to keep your swimming pool safe. But how exactly? For instance, do you have to have a fence around a pool -- and if so, what are the specifications? Before you reach out to a nearby fence repair company, learn the legal requirements for fences around pools.

    Let’s shed some light on a complex issue.

    Why do you have to have a fence around a pool?

    A backyard swimming pool is a fun spot for friends and family to gather. But unfortunately, without adequate safety precautions, it could become the site of a tragedy.

    The Consumer Products Safety Commission reports approximately 400 residential pool drownings annually of children under 15. Sixty-seven percent of those involve toddlers 1-3 years old. Thousands more youngsters suffer moderate to severe injuries as the result of submersion.

    Even the best swimming pool fence is never a substitute for attentive adult supervision (which means eyes on the kids at all times, not on your phone), but it does help reduce these sad statistics.

    Pool fence regulations per the IBC

    Though exact pool fence regulations tend to vary, in general they follow the specifications of the International Building Code section 305, regarding “pool barriers.” The IBC was designed as a base code by the International Code Committee and has been adopted by most local building authorities throughout the US. It’s updated every 3 years, so be sure you follow the most current version.

    Types of residential pools that need fences

    • Swimming pools that are in ground, completely or partially, must be enclosed by a fence.

    • Above ground pool installations may need fencing, depending on water depth. (Check exact depth per your local code. It's usually a minimum of 18-24 inches.)

    • Outdoor spas and hot tubs have to be equipped with either a fence or a cover in most jurisdictions, again according to how deep the water is.

    • Portable pools are usually not legally required to have a fence. However, if unfenced, between uses they should be either covered or emptied and stored.

    House as 4th fence wall by Geoffrey Rhodes/flickr

    Basic pool fence requirements

    1. Height. A minimum of 4 feet high (measured on the outer side) is the norm, although a 5-foot fence offers more secure protection.

    2. When your house serves as the fence’s 4th wall. Equip any door and window leading directly from the house to the pool with an alarm and/or install a pool cover.

    3. Clearance. Under fence clearance should be 4 inches max (2 inches on a non-solid surface such as gravel) to prevent a small child climbing underneath.

    4. Climbing prevention. Pool pumps, planters, and other large fixed objects that a child could climb on must be kept away from the fence’s exterior. The outer side of the fence should not offer any handholds or footholds. Follow current recommendations regarding allowable measurements for openings and spacing of fencing components.

    5. Gate. Ensure that all pool gates are self-closing and self-latching.

    6. Materials. Pool fence materials are not specified by code. Popular types are aluminum, glass, PVC, wood, and steel. Movable mesh pool fencing is convenient, but be aware that specs for clearance, etc. may differ.
      PRO TIP 1: Decide whether you’d like your barrier to double as a privacy fence (if so, you’ll want solid, non-transparent material) or to show off a spectacular view (here, glass is ideal).
      PRO TIP 2: Choose corrosion-resistant material to fence a saltwater pool.

    Movable mesh pool fence by Meb55/Wikimedia Commons

    Will you need a permit for your swimming pool safety fence?

    Yes, if your fence will exceed 4 feet in height -- according to most jurisdictions. You will also have to ensure that the pool fence installation complies with your HOA regulations.

    Play it safe

    Consult your local building authority for precise details of requirements applicable to your property and be sure you hire a reliable contractor with experience in swimming pool fence installation.

    DISCLAIMER: This article is a general overview only and not to be construed as legal advice.

    Portable pool by slgckgc/flickr

    Laura Firszt writes for

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