Pool Safety Covers vs. Fence

If you have a backyard pool and small children, having your pool open can be dangerous. Pool safety is a top priority for backyard pool owners next to maintenance. However, your pool doesn’t have to be a safety hazard. There are multiple ways to add protection to a swimming pool. These protection mechanisms include gate alarms, pool alarms, supervision, barriers, swimming lessons, and non-negotiable pool safety rules. This article will focus on physical barriers as a way to improve the safety of your backyard swimming pool. Specifically, we will discuss the most cost-effective and easy-to-install pool barriers, pool safety covers, pool fencing, and safety nets.

Pool Safety Covers vs. Fence

Pool Fencing

Pool fencing is required in most jurisdictions as a minimum safety barrier. Not all pool fences are created equal, however. Often, three-sided fences are installed that join onto one side of the house, or fences are taken down after all their permit inspections have been completed.

The safest type of fence is a four-sided aluminum or mesh fence. The majority of building codes require that pool fencing is four to five feet tall and is non-climbable – meaning that there can’t be any gaps greater than four inches in the fence or below the fence.

Mesh pool fencing is aesthetically pleasing, transparent, and meets most safety code requirements for pool fencing.

At an average cost of $10 per linear foot, it is also budget-friendly. Mesh fencing is sometimes referred to as removable fencing because it’s easy to remove panels and open up your pool space. This is ideal if you have occasional gatherings without children where you want easier pool access.

Installation of mesh fencing is relatively simple. However, if you have a concrete pool deck, you will require a core drill designed for drilling into concrete to install the posts.

Pool Safety Covers

Pool safety covers provide an extra layer of safety beyond pool fencing. They stretch tight across the surface of your pool and are securely anchored into the pool deck.

Pool safety covers are designed to withstand about 4,000 pounds so that they won’t be easily removed by children. Pool covers can be a great way to keep your pool clean and avoid heat loss and evaporation.

The downside of pool covers is the time required to open and close the cover, which is about 10-15 minutes. This is the biggest reason why pool covers are most often used as winter covers and left off during the summer.

A pool safety cover cost is about $1.25 per square foot for rectangular covers or $3.00 per square foot for custom-shaped pools. The deck anchors will require drilling into your concrete pool deck.

Automatic Pool Covers

If you like the idea of a pool cover but don’t want the annoyance of opening and closing it, automatic pool covers are an option. Automatic covers float on top of your water surface and are the most convenient type of pool cover. But, unfortunately, the convenience comes at a cost, as these covers can cost between $8,000 and $12,000.

Pros

  • They help you maintain heat inside your pool by absorbing solar energy, thus saving your energy costs.
  • They are strong enough to walk across safely, so they keep children and pets out of the pool.
  • They keep dirt, leaves, and grass out of your pool, which in turn saves you time on pool maintenance.
  • Some jurisdictions allow you to have a pool cover instead of pool fencing, which can be more aesthetically pleasing.

Cons

  • They’re the most expensive option.
  • Some people complain that they overheat your pool due to how well they absorb solar energy.
  • If the automatic cover has a mechanical failure, you can’t access your pool.
  • They keep your pool chemicals from evaporating. This can inhibit your chlorine from properly distributing throughout the water.
  • They don’t substitute for a winter cover if you live in an area that sees a lot of snow. While they will hold the weight of several people, automatic pool covers don’t tolerate snow loads.

Pool Safety Nets

Safety nets are lightweight covers that can be removed and replaced on your pool in under five minutes. A tension device installed allows you to pull the net tight, and anchors are recessed into your deck. The average cost of pool safety nets is $1,500 to $2,500, making them significantly lower than pool covers.

Pool Safety Covers vs. Fence vs. Net

Now that we’ve looked at what pool safety covers, fencing, and nets are, which one is the best physical safety barrier? Each option has advantages and disadvantages, so let’s compare the options.

Safety covers and nets are very safe when they are covering the pool. The biggest problem with covers and nets is that you must completely replace them each time you finish using the pool. If they are not on, they aren’t helpful. This can make them frustrating and inconvenient for some owners.

Safety fencing is naturally safer because it remains in place all the time, whether the pool is in use or not. There’s no time involved in removing it to use your pool, and there’s no responsibility to replace it when you’re done. The gate is the one weak spot in fencing safety. If the gate is left open or improperly latched, your children can still access the pool.

Although pool fences are supposed to be ‘non-climbable,’ there is still the possibility of jumping the fence with a chair or ladder for assistance. You can mitigate some of these dangers by ensuring that you have an automatic closing and latching gate.

Cost

While price shouldn’t be your primary motivation in choosing safety measures for your swimming pool, it is a factor that needs to be considered. For example, fencing costs vary on how much of your pool space and deck you choose to enclose. Fencing is roughly the same cost as a pool net that is custom-fitted. On the other hand, pool safety covers are significantly more expensive, especially automatic designs.

Convenience

The most inconvenient option is removing a safety cover and regularly replacing it. Safety nets can be taken off or put on in about five minutes. Fencing is somewhat permanent. Even though you can install removable mesh fencing, the posts drilled into the pool deck aren’t removable.

Compliance

There are different regulations for pool fencing, depending on where you live, but most places require at least four-foot-high fencing. Some jurisdictions will allow you to use a pool cover instead of fencing. A pool safety net still requires fencing of the perimeter.

Effectiveness

What is the most effective method of preventing your children from being able to access your pool? If a pool net is properly installed tightly across the pool, it is nearly impossible to remove without releasing tension.

Most pool nets have large enough holes to fit a hand through them to test the water, but they are otherwise impenetrable. In addition, since pool safety covers are custom-made to seal off the pool surface, they cannot be removed easily.

Mesh pool fencing is made of non-climbable panels with unbending poles. Usually, you will place gate latches and fence panel latches higher than small children can reach. If they can reach it, they don’t usually have the hand strength required to undo the latches.

As a result, pool fences aren’t quite as impenetrable as nets or covers. However, if you have a particularly creative child who manages to climb over the fence using a chair or ladder, they can access the pool once inside the fence.

Human error or negligence is the most common factor that causes safety barriers to fail. For example, if the gate isn’t latched to your fence, or your pool cover or net isn’t replaced over the pool, none of these safety measures will be effective.

Installation

For pool safety covers and safety nets, there is no DIY option for installation. They must be custom-fitted to your pool and installed by a professional to make sure they are correctly fitted. Both require drilling holes in a concrete pool deck and anchor installation.

It is relatively simple for DIY enthusiasts or handymen to install a pool fence. Core drills will be required to drill posts into concrete, but these can be rented at most tool rental facilities. The process for installing mesh pool fencing is relatively easy once the posts are installed.

Conclusion

Pool fencing and pool safety covers are both effective measures of keeping your backyard pool inaccessible. They both work well and have advantages and disadvantages.

Which option you feel is best will depend on how easily you want to access your pool, how diligent you will be about maintaining safety, and how inconvenienced you are willing to be. There isn’t a perfect solution for preventing children from accessing a swimming pool. Supervision and vigilance are always the most crucial component of safety.

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