Owning a swimming pool is a great way to beat the heat each summer. But a lot of responsibility is also associated with having a pool home. Depending on where you live, there may be codes and regulations about what kinds of barriers you need around the pool, pool covers, alarms, and other safety equipment.
So whether you’re buying a pool home, building one in your backyard, installing a ground buffer, or just want to make sure you’re up to code, knowing what’s required will help keep your pool safe and fun for your family.
Pools are universally required to have safety barriers like a fence and locking gate or pool covers that lock to prevent children from falling in and drowning. If you have ladders or a slide, those have regulations too. Local codes will determine size and depth requirements, and rules vary depending on whether the pool is for private or public use.
What Are Some Universal Regulations for Swimming Pools?
There are some rules and regulations that are universally required for a swimming pool, no matter where you live. Of course, the exact specifications may vary slightly, but these are some safety features that you’ll need to have, no matter what.
Fencing and gates that lock are required
According to the International Code Council, swimming pools are required to be surrounded by a barrier to prevent accidental entry and drowning. The barrier must be at least 48 inches tall and go around the entire perimeter.
The barrier must also have a locking gate that opens outward. Gates must be self-closing and self-latching. This is to prevent the gate from being left open accidentally, creating a dangerous situation where a child or pet could wander in and fall into the water. The latching device also must be no less than 3 inches below the top of the gate so it’s out of reach for children’s hands.
Ladders must be sturdy and meet specific standards
If the pool has ladders, they must follow safety standards regarding their placement and design. For example, treads must have slip-resistant surfaces, and the ladder must have two handrails. Ladders also must be placed so that they’re outside of the “diving envelope,” so a swimmer won’t hit the ladder when diving or jumping into the pool.
Pool alarms are crucial to prevent drowning
A pool alarm is a device that recognizes when someone or something enters the water. The water disruption sounds a warning to let the owner know that someone has fallen into the pool. When every second counts, a pool alarm can be the difference between life and death if someone falls into the pool. Depending on where you live, a pool alarm may be required.
Water entrapment systems
Entrapment happens when a swimmer becomes stuck in or against a pool drain due to the strong suction. Children are especially susceptible to these dangers since they may not be strong enough to swim away from the suction.
Hair, bathing suits, and body parts can get stuck in a pool drain, which is why it’s so important to keep drain covers in good repair and use only compliant covers.
Other solutions include adding a second outlet, installing a safety vacuum release system (SVRS), or installing an automatic pump shut-off system.
Slides have standards for safety
If the pool has a slide, it shouldn’t be installed over water that’s less than three feet deep. The slide should be firmly installed so it won’t tip over and should be constructed using materials that won’t cut, scrape, or burn swimmers. Fiberglass gelcoat or polyethylene are typically safe materials for slide construction.
Locking pool covers can prevent drowning
When your pool is out of commission for the winter, a locking cover can help protect neighborhood children and pets. Anytime the pool isn’t in use, a cover can keep the water secured and prevent accidental drownings.
What Are the Basic Standards for Pool Design?
Builders should know and help with the local and state codes
If you’re building a pool, choosing a knowledgeable and experienced contractor is critical. The builder should be well informed and up to date on the state and local codes where you live. Before you begin the project, find out if your builder uses subcontractors or if they are personally involved in the work.
Check whether the builder is certified by the National Spa and Pool Institute (NSPI) and verify that they’re licensed to do the work. Also, verify that they’re fully insured before agreeing to the work.
Do you need an inspection?
Some areas require an inspection before you construct a pool, or you may need to have a survey done of the property first. Many areas require an inspection once the work is complete in order to close the building permit. An experienced builder will know all the rules and comply with them fully.
If you do need an inspection, you should expect it to cost between $125 and $260.
What are the standards for pool depth for swimming and diving?
You’ll want to build your pool according to how you plan to use it. For example, if you’re only going to swim laps for exercise, you may not need a large deep end. Still, there are some standard depth requirements for pools.
If you have a diving board, you’ll need to build a pool that’s at least 16 feet wide, and 32 feet long, and the deepest point (called the hopper) must be at least eight feet deep.
For general swimming, the pool should be at least four feet deep. This is the ideal depth to prevent injuries and still be shallow enough to stand in.
What are the standards for wall structure?
Pool walls typically need to be between three and four inches thick. The wall must have a smooth and reasonably impervious finish, and the material must be cleanable.
The walls are typically made of either polymer or steel, or they may be constructed using concrete with plaster, aggregate, tile, or stone finishes. Fiberglass or vinyl is also used for some installations, but these are not as durable over time.
Hygiene For Clean Pools
What are the CDC guidelines for pool cleanliness?
The CDC provides guidance to ensure that pools are clean and safe for use and that they don’t result in recreational water illnesses (RWIs). Swallowing contaminated pool water can lead to illnesses such as:
- E. coli
These germs can even survive in chlorinated pool water, so it’s important to use the right mix of chemicals and filtration to keep the water safe.
Use pool water test kits or testing strips to find out the chemical balance in your pool. You’ll want to make sure the water has enough free chlorine to kill germs, as well as enough bromine and the right pH level.
Pool Water Chemistry for Safety
|Free Chlorine Level||At least 1 ppm|
|Bromine level||At least 3 ppm|
|pH||7.2 – 7.8|
Where can you find your local and state water quality requirements?
To find out exactly what you need to do to keep your swimming pool up to code, check with your state’s department of health, county office, or the CDC’s Model Aquatic Health Code.
You can also get information from the Association of Pool and Spa Professionals (APSP) or the National Swimming Pool Foundation (NSPF).
Keep in mind that the requirements may vary depending on whether it’s a private (residential) pool, a semi-public, or a public pool.
Other Important Safety Features
In addition to the various building requirements surrounding pool construction, there are some other safety features that you can add to help improve your pool’s safety and security year-round. Some are as simple as hanging a sign, while others involve using only licensed and experienced service technicians to install pool equipment.
No diving signs
These signs are universally recognized to let swimmers know that it may not be safe to dive. If someone isn’t sure of the pool’s depth, they could make a deadly mistake by diving into the water. In some areas, these signs may be required. At the very least, a sign can help reduce your liability in the event of an accident or injury.
Having adequate lighting in and around your pool can help keep people safe. Pool decks can become slippery and may have trip hazards. Or, someone may not see the pool if it’s dark, and they could fall in. Having lighting around the pool area can help prevent falls and injuries.
Plus, lighting can illuminate steps and ladders and ensures that swimmers can find their way out of the water safely at night. In addition, pool lighting looks great and is an easy way to enhance the appearance of your pool area and landscape.
Depending on where you live, you may have a heating device installed in your swimming pool. There are codes and regulations surrounding how these devices may be installed and controlled to prevent injuries or accidents. They may be required to have a fixed thermometer or emergency shutoff controls, or there could be regulations about energy conservation standards.
Pool heaters have various safety features to ensure they work properly and don’t pose a hazard to your home. For example, heaters require proper venting and must be installed in an appropriate location. Installing a gas heater next to your bedroom window could pose a danger due to carbon monoxide, or placing it in an enclosed space (like a shed or garage) without proper ventilation could result in a fire.
A pool heater must be installed by a professional who knows what they’re doing. That way, the unit will be grounded properly, less likely to cause a fire hazard, and less susceptible to blockages and other potentially dangerous problems.
Fines Can Be Costly
Keeping your swimming pool up to code is critical for health and safety, but it can also save you from being fined for non-compliance. Depending on where you live, there could be regulations that are enforceable even for your private pool.
For example, you could be fined over $5,000 in some areas for having a pool that’s non-compliant with safety requirements. Or you could be held personally liable for an accidental drowning or injury if your pool isn’t up to code.
Pools can be considered hazardous environments on their own because of the high potential for injuries. It’s easy to slip and fall, people can drown, and all kinds of accidents can happen. But if you don’t take steps to install the minimally-required safety measures, you can find yourself in a world of trouble if tragedy strikes on your property.
Not only could you be fined by your state or local agencies, but you could also be held criminally or civilly liable if someone gets hurt in or around your pool. You can eliminate (or greatly reduce) this risk by familiarizing yourself with the various codes and regulations where you live and ensuring your pool is compliant.
Ruben has a diverse background in the home services industry, with experience running a construction company, a kitchen and bath showroom, and a moving and relocation company. This breadth of experience has provided him with a wealth of knowledge and expertise in various areas of home improvement in general and specifically in the heating and plumbing niche.