Swimming pools are popular in Texas, especially in the summer of 2020 and 2021! With lockdowns during the COVID-19 pandemic translating to less travel and vacation time, homeowners in Texas opted for the ‘staycation’. Along with trampolines, backyard sand volleyball and gardens, in-ground swimming pools became a must have for the backyard.
In fact, pool contractors are having a hard time keeping up with demand. Overall, pool construction in major Texas cities jumped from 540 in April of 2020 to 1,000 in 2021.
Building a New Pool is Popular in Texas
In April of 2021, a record number of pools were under construction in major cities of Texas.
While the data below reflects a sharp increase, permit data is only available for in-ground swimming pools. The actual number of homes with an above ground pool is likely even higher.
- 477 new permits for pools in DFW (76% increase from 2020)
- 165 new permits for pool construction in Houston (150% increase)
- 62 new permits for in-ground pools in Austin (29% growth)
- 40 new permits for backyard pools in San Antonio (35% decrease)
Swimming pools are even becoming a hot commodity in the booming Texas real estate market. In Dallas Fort-Worth, an in ground pool added $22,258 to a home’s value before COVID-19. In 2021, swimming pools are now worth $30,829, a 39% increase a year later! As the permits show for 2021, the trends that happened as a result of the pandemic are continuing and accelerating.
Whether you recently purchased a home with a swimming pool or recently constructed a pool, understand that a fence and gate are necessary to protecting your investment and family.
Accidental Drowning Deaths Are Rising
As fun and necessary, as a pool can be in the dog days of summer, taking care to protect against preventable drowning deaths and injuries is extremely important. Though the legality and liability does tend to vary in Texas by city, the onus is ultimately on the pool owner to do his or her part in protecting both strangers and loved ones from drowning.
A recent report released in 2020 by the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission found some troubling trends in accidental drowning deaths.
- Average death of 379 children under age 15 from drowning in a pool or spa.
- Accidental drowning deaths have increased each year
- 71% of all drowning deaths are at a residential location such as a home, friend or family member
- A majority of deaths in children are due to a lack of adult supervision
- On average, 18 kids every day experience non-fatal drowning injuries in the U.S.
Protecting Children with a Pool Safety Fence & Gate
The easiest action for pool owners to decrease risk of an accidental drowning death or injury is to install a backyard fence around the perimeter of the pool. While it won’t keep out teenagers, pool fencing prevents young children from accessing your pool unattended. Many pool fence designs also provide privacy and lower liability and homeowners insurance premiums.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, “A four-sided isolation fence (separating the pool area from the house and yard) reduces a child’s risk of drowning 83% compared to three-sided property-line fencing.”
Tips to Improve the Safety of a Pool Fence
- Your fence should completely separate the pool area from direct access to a home or any play areas in the yard.
- Pool fencing should be at least 48 inches (or 4 feet) tall, with fence slats no more than 4 inches (or 10 centimeters) apart. This helps prevent children from easily climbing over or squeezing through the fence.
- In general, we suggest you stay away from chain-link fences which can be easier to climb. However, if you do go with a chain-link option, ensure the diamond shapes are 1-3/4 inches or smaller.
- Your fence needs to have a self-closing and self-latching gate which locks high above a child’s reach.
- Gates should also open away from the pool. If accidentally left open, children can lean into the gate closing off the pool area.
- Install a pool alarm or Ring surveillance camera facing your backyard pool. If a gate is left open or motion is detected in the pool, a text message alert and video will notify you immediately.
- When constructing a new pool, make sure specs show that any poolside equipment is positioned within the gate’s perimeter so it can’t be used to climb the fence and access your pool.
- Maintain or repair a pool fence periodically, especially if sections are missing, insecure, leaning or have holes and other ways of entry.
Note that these tips also apply to inflatable or above-ground pools. Because they are often considered “portable,” they may be technically exempt from local building codes which are necessary for in-ground swimming pools. However due to their soft edges, it isn’t uncommon for children to fall headfirst into inflatable pools.
Some additional safety measures you can use to see that your pool remains accident-free include:
- Using hard pool covers when the pool is not in use.
- Keeping a landline telephone near the pool so that 911 can quickly and easily be alerted in an emergency.
- Teaching children to swim by enrolling them in swimming lessons prior to getting a pool.
- Putting up pool signs (ie: warning signs) like no trespassing, no diving, etc.
- Learning CPR from an in-person or online accredited program such as CPR Care. In a drowning emergency, seconds count!
For more information on the pool fences requirements in the Dallas Ft. Worth area, see this summary from State of Texas.