by Rob Cox, December 18, 2010
Pool Fence & Gate Maintenance
Every state in the union requires a pool fence to be in place before a pool is filled. Some states are now requiring even fish ponds and inflatable pools to be properly fenced. All agree, a pool fence is one of the best layers of protection a pool can have. Nearly all laws specify that a pool fence must be:
"At least 4 foot high, non-climbable, with self-closing, self-latching gates"
A steel or aluminum pool fence is best, according to Jim Long of Long Fence.
"They stick around a long time, look attractive, and don't block the view of the pool." he said. For the gate, Jim recommends the use of a Magna-Latch type latch, "..to keep small children from gaining access."
For most of us, the selection and installation of a pool fence was done long ago, and we normally don't give the fence a second thought. Let's take a moment to give our pool fences and gates an inspection. Here's a list of things to look for and repair for your most important Layer of Protection.
1. Make sure your pool gate Self-Latches: Adjust the Gate Latch: Wood fences especially tend to settle and warp over time. They also have more expansion and contraction with seasonal temperatures. For these reasons, it is common that the Latch no longer aligns as the gate closes. To repair this, you'll usually need only a screwdriver. Slight adjustments usually suffice, but you may need to disconnect one side of the latch and reposition it either higher or lower. If they still align well, give the screws a good tightening and spray with lubricant once per year.
2. Make sure your pool gate Self-Closes: This is accomplished usually with the aid of a spring. Higher end gates have an internal spring that draws the gate closed. Many gates I see have never had a closing mechanism, or were faulty or removed at some point. For these, I like to pick up an 8-12" spring at a home store. Screw one end to the post, and the other end to the gate. Use secure screws and add a block of wood to the gate if needed, to screw into something substantial. Another option I like is the old "ball and chain". Popular in Virginia, an iron ball of about 6" diameter is connected by a short chain to both post and gate. The weight of the ball itself pulls the gate closed.
3. Keep all items away from the pool fence: Parking a boat, or leaning your ladder up against the fence kind of defeats the purpose. Sure, a toddler probably won't figure it out, but for true pool security, keep anything that would help someone get over the fence - away from the fence. Toddlers have figured out how to climb onto a chair and then up to the edge of an above ground pool, so this rule is especially important for above ground pool owners.
4. Inspect your pool fence for needed repairs: Loose boards, sometimes knocked loose by animals, can create a doorway for a small child (or animal). Especially if you have a large, fenced in backyard, walk the perimeter once per year to inspect for any loose or missing fence boards.
5. If your pool fence attaches to the House: a 3-sided fence these are called, the fourth side of the "fence" is considered to be the house. For the greatest level of pool safety, install pool door alarms on the doors that lead from the house to the pool. Make sure that these are kept active, year after year. A 3-sided pool fence may seem safe - until friends or relatives arrive with small children. In these cases, be sure to also lock the doors leading to the pool, or install a secondary layer of protection in a pool alarm.