A pool in your backyard is an awesome addition to your house. Whether it’s in-ground or above-ground, a pool offers plenty of fun and recreation for you and the kids. It’s also a terrific social gathering point, ideal for inviting friends, family, and neighbours over for cookouts and relief from the summer heat. But pools can be dangerous — especially to young children as most drownings occur in a home swimming pool. Of course, what makes this even more unimaginably sad than they already are is their preventable nature.
This is why everyone with the volatile combination of young kids and a home pool should install a barrier of some sort — typically a fence. A pool fence will definitely help keep your kids safe and greatly reduce the drowning risks — but only if you do it right.
First and foremost, a pool fence isn’t a magical guardian. You have to properly install and calibrate it:
- A pool fence should be at least 1.2 to 1.5 metres tall in order to dissuade your tiny monkey-like humans from climbing over it.
- The fence should enclose the pool entirely.
- The fence should be located away from any objects or furniture that a child could climb on to gain altitude and yeet themselves over the top.
- For a fence with vertical slats, make sure any horizontal support pieces are on the inside so they can’t become ersatz ladder steps. The spacing of the slats shouldn’t be more than one and three-fourths inches, which should ensure children can’t get a foot in there so they can climb the fence.
- There shouldn’t be more than four inches of clearance between the bottom of the fence and the ground. Small children are essentially made of clay and can squeeze themselves through some seriously narrow spaces.
- The pool should be covered securely whenever you enter a prolonged period of disuse.
Installing the fence properly is key — but there’s another factor that’s just as important.
The gate is key
If you intend to actually use your pool after installing a fence (instead of regarding it as a pretty art installation), you need to include a gate. But the thing about gates is that they have to be latched securely in order to be effective — a gate that is left open during a hectic day instantly renders your pool fencing useless.
Here’s what to consider when installing a gate for your pool fence:
- It should be self-closing. Your gate’s hinges should be self-closing so that the gate shuts behind you whether you remember to close it or not. It’s simply too easy to rush through a pool gate and forget to pull it shut behind you. The tension of the hinges needs to be adjusted to not only handle the weight of the gate, but also wind resistance. Do some tests on the hinges every time you open up the pool.
- It should be self-latching. A self-closing gate isn’t very helpful if the latch doesn’t engage. Magnetic latches are best when used in combination with self-closing hinges. They ensure that as long as the hinges pull the gate shut the latch will engage and your young adventurers won’t be able to get through.
- It should have alarms. Look for a pool gate latch that comes with an alarm. The alarm sounds if the latch is disengaged for a short period of time — typically 15 seconds or so — alerting you to the fact that the gate is open.
If you want to be even more secure, you could install a monitoring and alarm system in the pool itself. These systems alert you whenever there’s activity in the pool, and typically come Bluetooth-enabled with a paired app you can install on your phone so you get alerts even when you’re not home. But you don’t need a pool monitor as much if you’ve secured the pool with a quality fence and installed a self-closing, self-latching gate.
Eventually, your kids will grow up and the fence won’t pose much of a problem for them when they sneak out of the house to do cannonballs in the middle of the night — but until then, the right gate configuration is vital.