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Barry Stone, Fencing requirement for swimming pools

DEAR BARRY: I'm preparing to build a fence around my swimming pool for child-safety reasons. Most likely, there are legal standards for pool fencing, and I want to be sure my new fence complies with these rules. What are the code requirements in this regard?

— Darren

DEAR DARREN: Kudos to you for taking pool fencing seriously. According to recent studies, more than half of all pool drownings that occur in the U.S. involve children under the age of 5. Therefore, attention to pool fence safety is a vital imperative for everyone who owns or lives near a pool or backyard spa.

Pool fencing requirements can vary according to the municipality where you live. Some building departments follow the standards set forth by the International Code Council (ICC), while other municipalities set their own higher or lower requirements. According to ICC Standards, there are 10 basic rules to keep in mind when fencing an area around a pool or spa:

• Fencing should totally surround the pool or spa area.

• Fencing should be at least 4 feet in height. (Frankly, I find this to be a minimal standard. Many kids can easily climb a 4-foot fence. Five feet would be much safer.)

• Bottom edges of pool fencing should be within 4 inches of pavement or within 2 inches of unpaved ground.

• To prevent children from squeezing between vertical components of the fencing, spacing should not exceed 4 inches.

• Fencing should provide no footholds or handholds that could facilitate climbing.

• Diamond-shaped chain-link fence openings should be no larger than 1.25 inches, and lattice openings no larger than 1.75 inches.

• Fencing should be positioned far enough away from permanent structures so that these structures do not provide a means of climbing.

• Pedestrian gates should be self-closing and self-latching, and latch mechanisms should be out of the reach of small children.

• Pedestrian gates should swing in a direction away from the pool or spa.

• Gates for nonpedestrian use should remain locked when not in use.

Some municipalities also require that building doorways entering into a pool area be self-closing, self-latching, and equipped with an alarm.

By following basic pool-fencing standards and by consulting your local building department for additional requirements, your pool area should be reasonably protected from unsupervised child access.

DEAR BARRY: The wood siding on my home touches the soil in several places. My neighbor says this enables termites to enter the building. Can you tell me if I have a serious problem?

— Wilma

DEAR WILMA: Your neighbor's advice is correct, but that does not mean you have a serious or costly problem. All that is needed is to lower the grade level wherever soil is in contact with the wood siding.

When wooden components, such as siding or trim, are in direct contact with the soil, subterranean termites can invade. Earth-to-wood contact is also a common cause of fungus damage, commonly known as dryrot.

To ensure that no wood-destroying organisms, such as termites or fungus, have thus far invaded the building, have your home inspected by a licensed pest control operator. (That's the official euphemistic title for a termite inspector.)

To write to Barry Stone, go to www.housedetective.com.

ACTION COAST PUBLISHING

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