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Today’s post focuses on inground pool barriers to access – a follow-up to Rob’s most recent post on above ground pool safety barriers. Let’s see who gets more page views!* 🙂
When you talk about barriers to access for a pool, experts suggest that you think in terms of Layers of Protection; concentric rings of barriers or electronic protection – something that makes it harder to reach the pool, or alerts others if the pool area is accessed.
To beef up your Layers of Protection, let’s talk about two specific types of effective barriers for inground pools ~physical barriers and electronic barriers.
Fencing, Covers, Walls, Hedges and Structures all can be used to restrict pool access. You could just put a nice 4-sided aluminum fence around the pool and call it done, but the most interesting (and attractive) pools tend to use a blend of barriers that secure the pool while preserving visibility from the house.
Traditional Pools have a 3-sided fence, with the back of the house being the 4th side. That was my pool – before I installed a secondary fence and landscaping “effects” around my pool. A secondary fence, connected to the primary fence on two sides, is the best way to improve backyard pool safety, short of keeping it covered year ’round.
Glass fencing panels are a popular option in Australia for a secondary fence, and many US pool owners are now installing a glass pool safety fence. Thick beveled glass panels mounted on stainless steel deck stands are safe and durable, and not as hard to keep clean as you might think.
Another option is a removable fence, otherwise known as mesh pool fencing. Sold in 10 ft sections, mesh pool fence poles insert into deck sleeves that are installed into concrete or wood decks. They are quickly removable by an adult, but completely impenetrable by a young child or pet.
Nothing is as safe as a pool safety cover or automatic cover. Other covers that float on the pool surface, like solar blankets and winter covers are not safe, and will not support the weight of even a small person.
Automatic pool covers are expensive in the $10K range, but can be the safest thing going. With new innovations in track design, retrofits onto existing pools is more sophisticated than ever. Rectangles and modified rectangles can install an automatic cover more easily, and should be considered if safety is of upmost concern.
Safety covers are used during the winter months, and are completely impervious to kids and (small) animals. Safety covers can also be used during the pool season, but are too cumbersome to remove often. Install by drilling brass anchors into the pool deck every 3-4 feet, and connecting cover straps to the anchors. Rectangular safety covers start at $700, with custom covers averaging around $2000.
A wall is really just a solid fence, used when you want to block prevailing winds, or the innocent eyes of nearby neighbors. But it can also be used to improve the view – if one or more sides of your pool faces a less than postcard perfect vista. And, nothing encloses a space quite like a wall – when you want a pool to feel more intimate, or shaded.
Walls can be short; they can be tall, skinny or fat, and made from a huge variety of materials like block, stone, wood, steel or aluminum. They can be finished with stucco, wood or decorative vinyl. Building a low retaining wall of stone and capping it with a planter bed and 4 ft fence behind is a common way to combine a wall and fence. Walls are often used with water features; water walls, cascades or spouts.
Walls around a pool are a great barrier to entry, but are often used as a way to create a focal point, a gathering space, or to add texture and color around the pool.
Not the safest barrier perhaps, and they need to be maintained so as not to obstruct the pool view, but hedges can definitely restrict access for most humans I know. Very large planters can also be used to block the route on one side of the pool, or to keep people on a singular path to the pool.
Hedges around inground pools are often used atop of small retaining walls or placed in terraced planters on the ends or one long side of the pool.
Large planters or hedgerows can also often used to hide or obscure a traditional fence, when planted strategically on one or two sides, so as to not block the view of the pool.
Pool House, Bath House, Gazebo, Pergola, Outdoor Fireplace, Tiki Bar – these are a few of the many ways that a structure can be integrated into the fence line, or at one end of the pool, in place of a fence.
If your pool has a “theme”, a small structure or even just a building facade built onto a wall is an easy way to reinforce the theme very directly.
As a barrier, a structure that only faces the pool and is integrated into the fence line would be a fine way to add a barrier and restrict access.
A door alarm for pools is a device that operates with magnetic sensors. If the door is opened without the pass-through button being pushed, it sounds an 85 decibel alarm with automatic reset. They are battery operated however, and it will beep at you when it’s time to change the battery. Pool Windows can also be armed with a door alarm if desired. For exterior fence gates, use a Gate Alarm.
With a wireless remote motion sensor, you can monitor the entrance to the pool, made easier if you have reduced the entrance points to the pool. You can also monitor the entire pool area Motion sensors can be adjusted to avoid false alarms. Some models of passive infrared motion detectors allow you to adjust the beam to a fine point, and reduce detection distance down to monitor an entrance point, or adjust to a wide beam to capture most of the pool area.
When I say Pool Alarms, I’m talking about In-Pool alarms, the kind that sits on the edge of the pool. These detect sub-surface pressure differences when an object of 15 lbs or more falls into the pool. They are battery operated, and can be subject to false alarms from high winds or water fowl, but are another valuable form of electronic barrier, and the last Layer of Protection, at the pool. Another type of pool alarm that deserves mention are wearable alarms, i.e. Safety Turtle and Seal.
I like the idea of combining both physical and electronic barriers – into an electric fence! That will keep them out!