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What Do I Need to Know About Fencing If I Have a Pool?

Most people know that if there is a pool in your yard a fence is also required. But there are special requirements for those fences beyond what is required when there is no pool. Here we will discuss the basic rules and some details most people would not have thought about.

What fence materials can I use if I have a pool?

Wood, PVC, aluminum, and even chain link can be used as a pool barrier fence. If some of those seem odd at first glance, please note that a pool barrier fence is not necessarily one that surrounds a pool but is a fence anywhere on the property where a person can gain access to the pool. That can be a fence all around the farthest points of the property.

Wherever on the property the fence will be, it must meet the requirements designed to prevent young children from drowning by ensuring they can’t open gates or climb the fence to gain access to the pool.

What are the basics of the Florida pool code regarding fences?

  • The minimum height of a pool barrier fence is 4 feet.
  • Gates must swing out and be self-closing and self-latching with the latch being a minimum of 54” above the bottom rail.
  • The fence must be continuous with no gaps through which a 4” sphere could fit.
  • There may not be more than 2” between the bottom of the fence and the ground.
  • The fence can’t be climbable.

Some problems caused by having to comply with the pool code and their solutions.

The self-closing gate requirement is easily met, as self-closing hinges are available for all fence types. For aluminum and PVC-vinyl, there are spring-loaded (and adjustable for tension) hinges. Chain link uses a self-closing gravity hinge and wood gates get a gate spring to make them self-close.

The self-latching requirement has the added twist of the latch having to be mounted at least 54” from the bottom of the fence. Because 4’ high fences are 6 inches shorter than that, latches have been developed that stick up above the height of the fence. For chain link, there is an auto-latch. For aluminum and PVC fences, some of the popular latches are called Aqua and Magna which are also lockable with a key.

All manufacturers of aluminum and PVC fences build their products with less than 4” space between the pickets. When using wood or chain link, it is up to the fence contractor to make sure this requirement is not violated.

There are also certain challenges because of the requirement that pool fences be not climbable. There must be a minimum of 45” between the bottom rail of the fence and the next highest rail. This means that 4’ high aluminum and PVC fences can only be used as a pool barrier if they have only top and bottom rails. Most aluminum and some PVC fences have a third rail about 6” down from the top one – those can only be used with fences 54” high or higher. That limits the 4’ high fence to only one style choice because the other styles all require the third rail. If you seek a fence style that is more elegant, chose one at 54” or higher for your pool barrier.

Another common problem occurs with the popular wood Vertical Shadow Box fence. Most are 6’ high and have a top, bottom, and middle horizontal stringers. The wood pickets are typically 3.5” apart. That means that someone could place a foot on the middle stringer and climb the fence. The most popular way to solve this issue is to turn it into an Executive Vertical Shadow Box fence by adding smaller strips of wood between each picket on the outside of the fence. The gap between each picket and stringer is thus reduced to about 1” and too small to put a foot through. The other choice is to reduce the space between pickets from 3.5” to 2.25”. This adds more cost and fewer aesthetics than the executive choice, however.

Some 6’ high PVC fences have middle rails too but can simply be ordered with the middle rail raised to 54” to prevent the fence from being climbable.

The standard economy galvanized chain link fence also violates the pool code at any height by being climbable because the size of the diamonds is 2.375”. The largest the diamond may be is 2.25”. There is galvanized chain link available with 2.25” diamonds and vinyl coated chain link (typically black or green) comes with 2” diamonds standard.

Conclusion

Florida is among the nation’s leaders in the number of swimming pools and, unfortunately, leads the nation in swimming pool deaths. The pool code is designed to protect primarily young children from gaining access to pools when unsupervised. The issues created for complying with fencing requirements for pools are minor when considering the stakes.