Pool Code Safety and Compliance

A swimming pool fence is designed around swimming pools and creates a physical barrier that helps restrict unsafe swimming pool access to small children. To comply with BOCA/ICC building codes, swimming pool fences must include self-closing hinges and self-latching gates. Swimming pool fences are designed so that young children are unable to either climb over them or go through them by either slipping through the pickets or opening the gate. They are manufactured to strict standards to be sturdy, durable, and non-climbable.

swimming pool

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Both models, the MagnaLatch gate latch and TruClose gate hinge meet international pool safety codes. MagnaLatch features dual electronic warnings: bright, flashing LED lights with an audible alarm that will sound if the gate is left open or unlatched. This warning provides the ability to see and hear from a distance, adding that extra layer of safety and security for the pool gate. MagnaLatch is rated the #1 in child safety gate latch globally. TruClose hinges are ideal for pool gates with adjustable self-closing speed and strong polymer and stainless steel construction.

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Pool Fence:

A successful pool fence prevents a child from getting OVER, UNDER, or THROUGH and keeps the child from gaining access to the pool except when supervising adults are present. If the pool fence barrier is too low or has handholds/footholds for climbing, the fence will not meet BOCA compliance. The top of the pool fence needs to be at least 48 inches above the ground, measured from the side of the fence that faces away from the swimming pool.

Preventing a child from getting through a pool barrier can be done by restricting the sizes of openings in a pool fence and using self-closing and self-latching gates. The most commonly used method for measuring openings in fences and other barriers surrounding pools is the 4-inch sphere rule, designed to check spaces within the pool fence that would be big enough for a small child's head and chest to fit through.

Gates and Entryways:

There are two kinds of gates that might be found on residential property: Pedestrian Gates and Vehicle Gates. Both can play a part in the design of a swimming pool barrier. All gates should have a BOCA-compliant locking device installed.

Pedestrian gates are the gates people enter through, and fences with these entryways should be equipped with a gate that restricts physical access to the pool. These gates should open outwards from the pool and use self-closing hinges and self-locking latches. If a self-closing, self-locking gate is accidentally left unlatched, a properly designed gate will close and latch if a child attempts to open the gate. The weakest link in the strongest and highest fence is a gate that fails to close and latch completely. For a gate to close completely every time, it needs to remain in proper working order.

When the release mechanism of the self-latching device on the gate is less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate, the release mechanism for the gate should be at least 3 inches below the top of the gate on the side facing the pool. Placing the release mechanism at this height prevents a young child from reaching over the top of a gate and releasing the gate latch. Additionally, the gate and barrier should not have an opening greater than 1/2 inch within 18 inches of the latch release mechanism. This prevents a young child from reaching through the gate and releasing the latch.

Using The Home As Part of The Pool Fence Barrier:

In many homes, doors open directly from the house onto the pool area or a patio leading to the pool. In these cases, the side of the house leading to the pool plays an important role as the pool barrier. Passage through any door from the house to the pool should be controlled by security measures such as door locks and alarms.

A fence surrounding the pool is better than one with the house serving as the fourth side. Pool fences need to be a minimum of 4 feet high. If the home serves as one side of the barrier, install door alarms on all doors leading to the pool area. Ensure the doors have self-closing and self-latching devices that are out of the reach of children to prevent them from opening the door and gaining access to the pool.

Common Requirements

Different Pool Codes and requirements must meet based on your city and state, but some basic needs are true across the board. There is a maximum height clearance at the bottom of the fence and gate, no more than 4". The fence must have restricted openings, indentations, and protrusions and be a safe distance from climbable structures. Gates must be self-closing and self-latching, swing outward and have a locking mechanism. The latch release must be at least 54" high from the bottom of the gate. To maintain the hinges and latches integrity, never alter or modify the hardware and perform regular checks to see if it has remained in proper alignment. Always make sure the toddlers aren't able to gain access to the pool through "doggy doors" and that the gate is never left propped open. But always check with local and state building codes and ordinances to keep your pool gate and fence up to code.

Safety Checklist For Pool Gates:

  • Gate Should Swing Open Outward Away From Pool
  • Release Knob Should Be Out of Reach From Children Under 5 Years Old
  • Fence Should Be At Minimum Height To Meet Requirements For Your Area
  • Fence and Gate Must Be Safe Distance From Climbable Objects
  • Gate Hinges Should Be Reliable, Self-Closing, Ruse Free, And Have Adjustable Tension
  • Latch Can't Be Key-Locked in the "Open" Position
  • Latch Can't Be Opened By Using Force
  • Maximum Clearance From Finished Ground Surface
  • Gate Must Latch From Any Angle or Position

View Safety Checklist

BOCA Pool Codes:

  • 1. The top of the barrier shall be at least 48 inches above finished ground level measured on the side of the barrier which faces away from the swimming pool. The maximum vertical clearance between the finished ground level and the barrier shall be 2 inches measured on the side of the barrier which faces away from the swimming pool. Where the top of the pool structure is above finished ground level, such as an above-ground pool, the barrier shall be at finished ground level, such as the pool structure, or shall be mounted on top of the pool structure. Where the barrier is mounted on the pool structure, the opening between the top surface of the pool frame and the bottom of the barrier shall not allow passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere.
  • 2. Openings in the barrier shall not allow passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere.
  • 3. Solid barriers shall not contain indentations or protrusions except normal construction tolerances and tooled masonry joints.
  • 4. Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members. The distance between the tops of the horizontal members is less than 45 inches. The horizontal members shall be located on the swimming pool side of the fence. Spacing between vertical members shall not exceed 1-3/4 inches in width. Decorative cutouts shall not exceed 1-3/4 inches in width.
  • 5. Where the barrier is composed of horizontal and vertical members and the distance between the tops of the horizontal members is 45 inches or more, spacing between the vertical members shall not exceed 4 inches. Decorative cutouts shall not exceed 1-3/4 inches in width.
  • 6. Maximum mesh size for chain link fences shall be a 1-1/4 inch square unless the fence is provided with slats fastened at the top or bottom which reduce the openings to not more than 1-3/4 inches.
  • 7. Where the barrier is composed of diagonal members, such as a lattice fence, the maximum opening formed by diagonal members shall not be more than 1-3/4 inches.
  • 8. Access gates shall comply with the requirements of items 1 through 7 of section 421.10.1 and shall be equipped to accommodate a locking device. Pedestrian access gates shall open outwards away from the pool and shall be self-closing and have a self-latching device. Gates other than pedestrian access gates shall have a self-latching device. Where the release mechanism of the self-latching device is less than 54 inches from the bottom of the gate: (a) the release mechanism shall be located on the poolside of the gate at least 3 inches below the top of the gate; and (b) the gate and barrier shall not have an opening greater than 1/2 inch within 18 inches of the release mechanism.
  • 9. Where a wall of a dwelling unit serves as part of the barrier and contains a door that provides direct access to the pool, one of the following shall apply:
  • 9.1. All doors with direct access to the pool through that wall shall be equipped with an alarm that produces an audible warning when the door and its screen, if present, are opened. The audible warning shall commence not more than 7 seconds after the door and door screen, if present, are opened and shall sound continuously for a minimum of 30 seconds. The alarm shall have a minimum sound pressure rating of 85 Dba at 10 feet and the sound of the alarm shall be distinctive from other household sounds such as smoke alarms, telephones, and doorbells. The alarm shall automatically reset under all conditions. The alarm shall be equipped with manual means, such as touchpads or switches, to deactivate temporarily the alarm for a single opening from either direction. Such deactivation shall last for not more than 15 seconds. The deactivation touchpads or switches shall be located at least 54 inches above the door's threshold.
  • 9.2. All doors with direct access to the pool through that wall shall be equipped with a self-closing and self-latching device with a release mechanism located a minimum of 54 inches above the floor. Swinging doors shall open away from the pool area.
  • 9.3. The pool shall be equipped with a power safety cover. Where in a closed position, the cover shall be capable of holding a weight of 485 pounds, shall not have any openings that allow passage of a 4-1/2 inch sphere, and shall incorporate a system to drain standing water that collects on the cover. The cover control switch shall be permanently installed by NFPA 70 listed in chapter 35 and be key operated and of a spring-loaded or momentary contact type. Where the switch is released, the operation of the cover shall stop instantly and be capable of reversing direction immediately. The switch shall be in the line of sight of the complete pool cover.
  • 10. Where an above-ground pool structure is used as a barrier or where the barrier is mounted on top of the pool structure, and the means of access is a fixed or removable ladder or steps, the ladder or steps shall be surrounded by a barrier that meets the requirements of items 1 through 9 of section.
  • 10.1. A removable ladder shall not constitute an acceptable alternative to enclosure requirements.
  • 10.2. Indoor private swimming pool: All walls surrounding an indoor private swimming pool shall comply with section 10.1, item 9.
  • 10.3. Prohibited locations: Barriers shall be located so as to prohibit permanent structures, equipment, or similar objects from being used to climb the barriers.

Standards & Recommendations

  • VGBA: Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act https://www.poolsafely.gov/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/pssa.pdf
  • ICC: International Code Council https://www.iccsafe.org/
  • CPSC: U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission https://www.cpsc.gov/
  • ASTM International – F1908 https://www.astm.org/Standards/F1908.htm
  • APSP: Association of Pool & Spa Professionals http://www.apsp.org/splash
  • NDPA National Drowning Prevention Alliance https://ndpa.org/
  • Pool Safely Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) https://www.cpsc.gov/safety-education/safety-guides/pools-and-spas

National Barrier Codes:

  • VGBA – Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act
  • CPSC Pool Barrier Recommendations Are Used For The Development of Most Codes.
  • ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) Sometimes ADA Compliance Will Result In Conflict With Pool Safety Codes Which Take Precedence.
  • NFPA (National Fire Protection Association)

Local & State Barrier Codes:

ICC - International Building Code and International Residential Code have been adopted by all 50 states.

**Codes will vary from place to place, and we strongly recommend checking with local ordinances before building any type or pool or pool fence.**

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