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What could be better than spending hot, lazy afternoons by the pool sipping a cold drink and watching the kids play with friends from the comfort of your own backyard? If you are thinking about adding a pool to your backyard, you should also be considering what type of fence you want as well. In addition to the fact that pool fencing is required by law, it helps keep unattended children from sneaking in and accidentally drowning.

What makes a great pool fence?

Because pool fencing is a vital safety feature of any pool, the laws governing what makes an effective and acceptable fence dictate many of the features. Before you plan out your fence, you should research the laws for pool fences in your area, as they are different in different regions of the country. However, the International Residential Code (IRC) provides some minimum guidelines that you can use to start planning. They include the following:

  • Any body of water greater than or equal to 24 inches deep is considered a pool and must be enclosed by fencing.
  • Fencing around a pool must be at least 48 inches tall and must enclose the entire pool.
  • If the pool is above ground and the sides are at least 48 inches tall, the IRC does not require additional fencing around the perimeter. They consider the sides of the pool as if they were “fencing.”
  • Gates in the pool’s fence should open outward and away from the pool. The gate should be self-closing and self-latching to prevent it from being accidentally left open
  • If the pool is close to the house, the house can act as one side of the fence. In this case, the door leading to the pool from the house must have an audible device enabled to alert you when the door opens.

Also, keep in mind that the role of a pool fence is to keep people out of the pool. Fencing should feature vertical pickets, as horizontal rails can be easy to climb. Likewise, if your fence has horizontal rails to support the pickets, position them on the inside of the fence. Limiting the space between fence pickets to four inches or less prevents little children from squeezing in through the fence.

Should I install the fence before the pool?

The best time to install your fence can be a matter of preference. However, it is important to consider the implications of installing the fence before and after the pool.

Fence First

Some homeowners choose to begin installing their fence before pool construction begins. If you are installing a pool at the beginning of the summer, your contractor may have several projects on the schedule ahead of yours. While you wait, you can get started on the fence. You will need a proper fence by the time the pool is done. It could be a good use of your time.

If you choose to go down this path, remember that your contractor will probably want to use heavy equipment to excavate for the pool. Leave an opening in the fence so that it is easy to get the necessary equipment and supplies in and out. If you enclose the yard first, you may need to remove fence panels and possibly posts to build the pool.

Pool First

Starting with the pool allows the installer full access to the building site. Getting equipment and supplies in the proper position is easier if you don’t have a full or partial fence to contend with. You also benefit from building the fence after you have the exact dimensions and placement of the pool determined.

You can also take time to plan out what type of fence you want while the contractor works on the pool. However, your time is limited. Once the pool is complete, you need to have a fence in place before you can get the inspector’s stamp of approval to use it. It would be a mistake to wait until the pool is finished to figure out how to get the fence installed.


Instead, we recommend that you make plans for both the pool and the fence simultaneously. With the help of your contractor, decide when the best time to start installing the fence would be. If you are building it yourself, plan extra time for the project. If you are hiring a professional, keep them updated on the pool progress. If there are delays, let them know so that they can plan accordingly and adjust their schedule.

By working and planning together, you can get the fencing around your pool completed when the pool is ready to use.