How to Keep Your Pool Safe This Summer
With everyone doing their best to stay at home and stay cool this summer, backyard pool season is in full swing. While we fully support having a great time in your pool with your kids, it's important to know how to keep your pool safe this summer. We found this great article by Katie Kuehner-Hebert in Fencepost Magazine (click here for original article) and thought the information was so great that we wanted to share it on our blog. If you're looking for a safe, functional, and beautiful pool fence, give us a call at 720.458.4127 or visit www.FirstRateFence.com today.
Backyard Beauty Aluminum for Safety and Style
By Katie Kuehner-Hebert
Aluminum fences around swimming pools not only can add aesthetic beauty, but can also help prevent drownings — particularly for small children.
Drowning is the number one cause of accidental death for children ages one to four, and 3,500 children in the United States will likely die as a result of drowning this year, according to the National Drowning Prevention Alliance. Since 88% of child drownings occur with at least one adult present, having the right protection — including the fence, gate and self-closing latches — is critical.
The NDPA Education Committee stresses that no single device or solution can prevent child drownings.
"Parents, caregivers, aquatic facility owners, managers and operators should use ‘layers of protection’ to provide a system of increased security to prevent unauthorized access to bodies of water, especially important for children," the Education Committee writes. "This means that multiple strategies or devices are used constantly and simultaneously.”
Fences and gates are integral to these layers of protection, says Dan Hickey, CFP at Fence Consultants of West Michigan Inc. in Grand Rapids.
"The backyard swimming pool is a great gathering place for adults in the summer months and a magnet for children, and the fence and gates are the first layer of safety," Hickey says.
"As such, quality materials and construction are of the utmost importance. The fence must be non climbable for small children and the gates need to be self-closing and latch securely."
Aluminum fencing comes in a variety of styles and heights, and the sizes of posts, rails, and pickets can vary, giving homeowners many options, Hickey says. The picket style can be spear top or flat top, and there is also a wide selection of finial and post cap options.
"Aluminum fence is more expensive than chain link, but many homeowners feel that the aesthetic value is well worth the investment when installing a swimming pool," he says.
Moreover, the aluminum fence lends itself well to landscaping, he adds. Aluminum arbors can also be used to accent entry into the pools areas.
"The openness of the aluminum fence allows for more visibility to monitor activities at poolside," he says. "It is a personal preference as to whether the homeowner wants to fence just the pool, or the entire backyard. However, building codes should be checked to make sure that the fence is compliant."
Most homeowners opt for the 54-inch-high three-rail ornamental aluminum fence, with a flat top rail rather than protruding pickets, Hickey says. Circles, butterflies, scrolls, ballcaps and solar lights can be added to customize the fence. Black and bronze are the most popular colors, with either a semi-gloss or matte finish. White, green, beige and custom colors are also options.
When discussing aluminum fence options, Hickey recommends that contractors should first listen to the customer.
"Make suggestions regarding the color and style of fence which may fit into the customer’s budget," he says. "Don’t be timid to offer options such as additional gates, solar lighting or finials. Townships or developments may have restrictions on the type of fence that can be installed, so be aware of those restrictions before you arrive for the estimate and pass them on to the customer."
Fence contractors should also let customers know that closer picket spacing can better contain small dogs or "keep pesky varmints out," while taller fences and larger pickets are available for larger animals or additional security, he says.
Ryan Boyett, president of B&T Fencing in Tallahassee, FL, says the construction and quality of a fence makes all the difference in making a backyard pool safer.
Aluminum is an excellent choice for this situation because of its durability: it’s strong and built to last, Boyett says. Notably, aluminum does not rust, warp, rot, crack or peel. Aluminum fences often carry a lifetime warranty.
"Aluminum is a very popular choice for homeowners," he says. "People like that it’s an environmentally friendly material that’s going to last for years. The low maintenance and simplicity allow homeowners to sit back and relax."
Aluminum has the ability to blend into the environment, so people can enjoy the view without obstruction, Boyett says. Its versatility allows it to complement other fencing materials, as well as all types of landscaping. B&T Fencing typically installs full aluminum fences, but some homeowners have chosen to mix materials.
The most common choice for a pool fence among B&T Fencing customers is 48-inch-tall, two-rail aluminum.
"This is a simple style, yet it seems to be the most popular," he says. "We do have some homeowners that choose to customize the design to fit their taste and style of home."
Boyett recommends that fence contractors upgrade the post on all gates to give them rigidity, and use high-quality self-closing hinges and latches to help reduce warranty issues.
"Always have samples available for the homeowner to look at, including ball caps, rings and finials," he says. "This will help them visualize the fence and give them the option to make it more decorative."
Contractors should also discuss with homeowners whether the backyard fence will serve multiple purposes, Boyett says. Are homeowners solely looking for safety? Looking to add more appeal to their space? Looking for longevity?
"Homeowners should also consider how much time they want to spend maintaining their fence," he says. "Aluminum is low to no maintenance and allows you enjoy your space instead of always working in it."
Up-to-date latches are critical to the safety of children around swimming pools, says Jeff Horton, marketing manager, North America of D&D Technologies in Huntington Beach, CA.
"A gate that doesn’t close or latch properly because it has moved out of alignment, sags or drags along the ground is not only frustrating, but unsafe," Horton cautions. "A fence is only effective if the gate and gate hardware are functioning properly. When a gate does sag, it’s important to have hinges and latches that can be adjusted to accommodate this movement, allowing for proper alignment of the latch."
The International Building Code and the International Residential Code have basic safety requirements defining fence and gate characteristics. Many states have enacted pool fence laws that are adopted from the IBC or IRC but with significant modifications, and laws vary from state to state.
"Local jurisdictions, both counties and municipalities, have added their own modifications to the codes, and in some places, residential and commercial codes vary considerably," Horton says.
Important features of a pool safety gate latch include a latch release mechanism that is toddler-resistant; ensuring that the height of the latch release mechanism is 54 inches from the bottom of the gate (depending on local codes) or 60 inches above ground level; and ensuring the gate latch remains in proper alignment in order for it to latch securely when the gate closes.
"Fence contractors should remind homeowners to always keep the gate closed and latched every time to help prevent drownings, especially of children," Horton says.
D&D Technologies invented magnetic self-latching safety gate latches in the early 1990s, he says. Their award-winning child safety latches are designed specifically for toddler-resistant gates around swimming pools, childcare centers, schools and homes and are made of ‘metal replacement’ polymer and marine-grade stainless steel, to ensure security in all environments.
It’s critical that a pool safety gate latch is made to be self-latching, and it has to work reliably every time, he says. The most effective pool gate latch is one that uses magnetic technology for reliable self- latching.
"The main goal is to keep the gate consistently closed and securely latched whenever it’s not in use," Horton says. "When the gate closes the latch automatically engages and the gate cannot be pulled open, the latch release mechanism must be lifted every time to open the gate — as opposed to a self-locking mechanism, which would require a key or a number combination or some other unlocking method to be used."
Moreover, the latch has to be mounted so that toddlers and small children cannot reach it, and the latch release mechanism — the knob — should be shaped so that a child cannot obtain a secure grip to pull the latch open.
Other key requirements include latches that cannot be key locked in the "open" position; cannot be opened using implements; cannot be shaken or jolted open; and gates that will latch from any position, including from resting on the latching mechanism. Fence contractors should remind homeowners to never prop open a pool gate.
"The newest innovations in latch technology to help parents keep kids safe include visible and audible alarms," Horton says. "Another innovation is an audible indicator each time a gate is entered or exited."
Fence contractors should also install hinges that are self-closing, reliable and tension-adjustable, he says. Hinges should be rust-free and bind-free, and allow for gates to be self-closing and self-latching. In addition, gates should open outwards, away from the pool.
Innovative safety gates and latches are creating a safer future for children in all types of pool safety scenarios. With the wealth of safe, stylish fence and gate options now available, the possibilities are nearly endless for your next client’s backyard project.
If you're looking for a safe, functional, and beautiful pool fence, give us a call at 720.458.4127 or visit www.FirstRateFence.com today.