If you have small children in the house, or soon will - having an open pit of water in the backyard can be downright scary. Pool safety is listed among the top concerns about pool ownership, along with maintenance.
An inground pool need not be hazardous however. There are multiple ways to add Layers of Protection around a swimming pool, and a multi-faceted approach makes sense.
Door alarms, barriers, pool alarms, and supervision, swim lessons, strong pool rules - all make safer kids. Today, we focus on pool barriers - one of the best ways to improve pool safety, with solid barriers to entry.
There are many types of pool barriers, including outdoor fireplaces and kitchens, decorative walls or cabanas, neat hedges or thorny bushes, fences, pool covers, and safety nets. The easiest and most economical to install are usually pool fencing, pool covers and safety nets.
POOL SAFETY FENCING
A pool fence is required just about everywhere, but on some pools it may be just a 3-sided fence that adjoins the house, or the fence may have been taken down, after the pre-opening inspections were approved. :-(
A 4-sided fence, of aluminum or mesh panels, is the safest type of pool fence. Most codes specify that a pool fence must be 4 or 5 feet tall, be non-climbable (without cross rails that give a toe-hold), and have no gaps over 4 inches, between or below the slats.
Mesh pool fencing is an attractive, see-thru pool fencing that meets all safety codes, and can be installed for under $10 per linear foot, by the homeowner, or your local handyman. It's often called removable pool fencing, because an adult can remove the fence sections, to open up the pool for a party, or when kids are older and out of harm's way.
Mesh Pool Fencing sections start at $90 for a 10 ft section. Installation requires a core drill or hammer drill with drill guide rental, for concrete pool decks. A complete surround may not be needed, if other physical barriers or landscaping features are available.
POOL SAFETY COVERS
Even safer than a safety pool fence is a safety pool cover. These stretch drum tight across the pool, and are anchored into the pool deck. Completely non-removable by children, it can support the weight of a 4000 lb car, so it will support any small child (and large dogs, too).
Traditionally, safety covers are used as winter covers, although they can also be used during the summer, if you are patient and diligent enough to remove and replace the cover, which can take 5-15 minutes, depending on the size and shape of the cover.
Pool safety covers cost about $1.25 per square foot for rectangle stock covers, or about $3.50 per square foot for custom shaped pools. Installation requires a hammer drill to install the pool deck anchors.
Automatic pool covers are also a super safe pool barrier because they cover the pool itself, not just the area around the pool. They also save heat loss and prevent evaporation, while keeping the pool clean!Auto covers (as I call them) float on the water surface and can hold the weight of your entire family, although they must have rained water pumped off to be completely safe. Automatic covers are the most convenient cover option, but also the most expensive. Installation is not DIY friendly, and can run $8-12K for complete systems, or $4-7K for manually operated "auto" covers.
POOL SAFETY NETS
Another viable safety barrier is a relative newcomer to the pool safety scene. Pool safety nets are stretched tight across the pool to form a tight web over the pool, with openings of 3-4 inches. It lets the beauty of your pool shine through, and is much easier to put on and take off, as compared to a safety pool cover.
There are several firms that manufacture pool safety nets, each with a national network of installers, usually pool service companies. Safety nets are lightweight and can be removed in under 5 minutes, and put back on the pool in under ten.
A central tension device allows the pool owner to pull the safety net taut, making it trampoline tight. Discreet anchors are recessed into the deck and do not require movement or action from you. Pool Safety Nets average $1500-$2500, depending on the pool shape and size, including installation.
Pool Safety Covers Vs. Pool Safety Fence Vs. Pool Safety Nets
So... which is better, a Pool Cover, Fence or Net? They all have advantages and also have limitations or disadvantages. Safety covers and Auto covers and Net covers are all very safe - when they are on the pool. Problem is - you have to diligently remember to replace the cover (completely) after using the pool. Even in the dark, or the rain, or when the kids are already in bed and you have other things to do. If it's not on the pool, it's not protecting the children.
Safety fences are inherently more safe, because you do not have to remove it to use the pool, just go through the gate. The gate however, is the weak link in the chain, and more than one drowning has occurred from a gate left open, or latched improperly. And, 4' fences, or even 5' fences can be climbed over by an (overly) active child who moves a chair or ladder up against the fence.
As they say - there is no substitute for proper adult supervision around a swimming pool - and there is no perfect safety solution for swimming pools, they all require a certain level of vigilance and come with their share of responsibility.
SPP Pool Expert