In the wonderful world of pool and spa design, safety comes first. Before diving straight into your new pool or spa project, it’s important to spend some time familiarising yourself with all the rules and regulations involved. With the help of Robert Walker, the owner of Pool Fencing Professionals Victoria, Georgia Jordan investigates the legal safety requirements for pool and spa fencing in Victoria, and explores ways to ensure your new aquatic paradise is as secure as it is beautiful.
Owning a backyard pool brings with it endless benefits for your home and lifestyle, from providing an amazing visual feature, to enhancing your social activities in the great outdoors. By ensuring its design is every bit as safe as it is stunning, you can be sure your pool ownership experience will be nothing but bliss from the get go.
As long as you’re working with a reputable builder, you’ll have the support you need to ensure that every aspect of your pool area meets Victorian safety standards, from the pool’s orientation, right down to the gate’s locking latch. Read on as Melbourne Pool + Outdoor Design breaks down the key safety criteria your design will need to satisfy, so you’ll feel confident you’re making the right decisions when bringing your new pool or spa to life.
SETTING THE BOUNDARIES
The pool ownership experience can only be fully enjoyed when you know your pool area is as safe as it can be. Providing peace of mind that your loved ones will never suffer an accident around the pool or spa, a secure border fence is a necessity.
With a range of styles on offer, your pool or spa’s fencing can simultaneously enhance the safety and visual appeal of your entire outdoor space. When choosing its design, consider the aesthetic and practical influence it will have on its surrounds, and whether it will be suitable for your backyard.
To make the decision a little easier, your chosen style of fence needs to be compatible with the ground material you’re working with. This means your fence’s design should be considered as early in the design process as possible to ensure it will suit the space in which you’re building.
“The most popular pool fence [material] today is 12mm frameless glass… which requires a slab that’s reinforced with solid concrete to accommodate the spigots,” says Robert Walker. (Think of spigots as the fence’s ‘feet’ – they secure the glass panels into the ground.)
If a concrete slab is not viable for your space and you’re working with lawn instead, semi-frameless glass fencing will provide the same sleek and subtle look. Alternatively, aluminium fencing is a highly durable option that comes in a wide range of styles and finishes.
“Horizontal aluminium-slat screens can [also] be used in pool fencing, provided the gaps are no more than 10mm [in height],” Walker says.
If you want your pool or spa to sit beside an alfresco dining area, you may be able to mount the fence onto your deck with base plates. “Consult with your building practitioner first to find out whether the required framing is in place,” Walker advises.
Pool fences that run along an easement will often have special requirements, which you can check by asking your local water authority.
If you have a sloping site, the cost of your fence will likely be triple the standard amount, as it will need to be custom-made.
Only The Best
A pool or spa fence is only as good as the parts that hold it together, so it’s imperative that you invest in products of the highest quality.
“There are some great suppliers of pool-fencing materials in Australia – my top two are Glass Outlet and Oxworks,” Walker says. “I highly recommend MagnaLatch latches by D&D Technologies, which are lockable by key, and shopping around for spigots that are made from 2205-grade stainless steel.
“For 12mm glass gates,” he continues, “I recommend using Glass Hardware Australia’s Polaris Soft-Close Hinges, as they will protect young fingers from being jammed. For aluminium gates, I recommend using D&D Technologies’ adjustable TruClose hinges.”
THE STRAIGHT AND NARROW
To ensure every aspect of your finished project cuts the mustard in terms of safety, you’ll need to make responsible decisions from the very beginning of the design process. As long as you hire a registered builder and work closely with them, you can be sure the construction process will run smoothly and the end result will satisfy all safety requirements.
“A registered builder must be engaged under a written domestic building contract to carry out construction work in excess of $10,000, including labour and materials,” Walker says. “A pool or spa building permit must include details of the safety barrier, even if the builder who is
constructing the pool or spa is not going to install the barrier.”
If you’re undertaking the project as an owner-builder and its costs will exceed $16,000, you’ll need to obtain a certificate of consent from the Victorian Building Authority (VBA).
“Check with your local council for information on insurance for crossovers, and the protection of footpaths and nature strips,” Walker says. “Projects that cost $20,000 or more require insurance and fees paid to the local council.”
Whether you’re hiring a builder or acting as the owner-builder, you’ll need to contact the Victorian Building Authority about your project and brush up on the current building regulations on the website (www.vba.vic.gov.au/consumers/swimming-pools). Even after your project is completed, you’ll need to regularly check the website for changes in the regulations that may affect your pool or spa fence.
Offering some final advice, Walker recommends seeking an experienced pool- and spa-fence installer who knows the industry inside and out. “Use a building practitioner that [specialises] in fencing and gates, and for that extra level of security and peace of mind, use one who is a member of the Swimming Pool and Spa Association [SPASA],” he says. “Take your time, do your research, choose a skilled building practitioner, and you will achieve a pool or spa fence of the highest quality.”
Images courtesy of Pool Fencing Professionals Victoria