As warm weather begins to grace our homes, it’s time to talk about a very important topic – pool safety. Whether or not you have young children or a pool, this topic is critical and often a matter of life and death. Following car accidents, drowning is the leading cause of death for children under the age of 5, and according to the U.S. Federal Government, roughly 350 children under 5 drown each year in pools with another 2,600 hospitalized for near-drowning incidents. While many assume that these incidents happen while the family is outside enjoying the pool, it is more common that a child is wandering near the pool unsupervised and falls in without a parent knowing. Pools are a huge responsibility, and it’s important for homeowners to practice pool safety and have their pool regularly inspected to enhance safety measures and protect their loved ones.

Pool and Spa Inspections are not within the scope of a standard Full Home Inspection, but they are an essential inspection to be had when purchasing or living in a home with a pool. Some inspectors may do a very basic assessment of the pool area to ensure that a fence or other safety barrier is present; however, homeowners should not rely on this visual inspection as their only precaution. It is highly recommended that pool owners confirm they have the proper permits and are abiding by any requirements set forth by their local ordinance. In our experience, most pool installations require permits, even small wading pools. If you are looking to buy a home with a pool, ask the seller if they have the proper permits and if there is any inspection or maintenance history with the pool. These simple questions will help you safeguard your family for years to come.

Pool Safety Features

While the International Residential Code (IRC) does not have specific code requirements for pools, and we as home inspectors are not code enforcers, many authorities having jurisdiction (AHJ) do have specific requirements. The AHJ is likely your local city, township or village. To learn about specific pool and spa standards in your area, you can contact your local code enforcement official. The Consumer Product Safety Commission also has useful resources available for homeowners including a booklet called, “Safety Barrier Guidelines for Home Pools.”

Now, let’s dive into some of these distinct safety guidelines that are put in place to protect you and your loved ones. A fence or wall should surround every pool, be a minimum of four feet tall and prevent a child from getting under, over or through it. If the fence is not vertically flat, meaning it is not a smooth surface that prohibits climbing, ensure that no ridges are on the outside of the pool area and any fence spindles are less than four inches apart. Finally, the fence needs to have a gate into the pool area that is self-closing and self-latching with a lock that is out of reach of children. These measures prevent children from climbing up and over the fence or getting through the fence. If you have an above ground pool taller than four feet, the access ladder or staircase should be removed except for when the pool is in use.

If your house serves as part of the pool barrier, then ensure that all exterior doors leading to the pool area have a working alarm installed to alert you when the door has been opened. This alarm should last at least 30 seconds and be easily heard from all areas of the home. This alarm can be lifesaving for a toddler or child who has wandered into the pool area without supervision.

Finally, when the pool is not in use for the season, keep the pool covered. This not only helps keep your pool clean and maintained, but also can save the life of a child. Keep emergency and rescue equipment accessible from the pool area and make sure at least one adult knows CPR. If you can't find a child, always check the pool first. These few seconds could be the difference in saving a child's life.

Pool Inspection Checklist

Water Quality

1. Check the pool and surrounding area’s physical condition

Be sure to check the pool’s structure, surface, and deck for any damage, such as cracks or chips. The deck around the pool should be also checked for any uneven surfaces, slippery areas, or protruding objects that could cause tripping or slipping hazards. The pool's equipment must also be carefully inspected to make sure it is operating properly. Inspectors will typically check for any leaks, damage, or signs of wear and tear that could compromise the pool's performance or safety. Failure to address these issues promptly can result in poor water quality, potential safety hazards, and increased energy costs. Finally, check the gates and fence around the pool area. The fence's main function is to keep people from entering the pool unattended and thereby lowering the chances of accidental drowning. A secure fence should not have any holes or other damage that could allow unauthorized entry. For added safety, make sure the gate is always closed and ensure there is a working auto-latching mechanism.

2. Check the pool’s water quality

It’s important to check the pH balance, chlorine levels, and total alkalinity of the pool water. High chlorine levels can create an unsafe swimming environment or cause skin reactions. It’s also important to check for algae. Algae can cause a green or slimy appearance on pool surfaces, and the continued growth of the bacteria may result in cloudy or discolored water and can pose health risks to swimmers. The most common reason behind algae growth is an issue with the pool’s filtration system. Address any algae or bacteria growth promptly to maintain a safe and clean swimming environment.

3. Check the pool’s safety features

You should thoroughly test the functionality of pool safety equipment, such as pool covers, alarms, and fencing, and examine the pool area for any potential hazards, such as sharp edges or slippery surfaces that could cause injury. It’s important to address or repair any safety hazards found to prevent future accidents or drowning.

Before opening your pool this summer, it’s crucial to conduct regular maintenance and safety inspections to ensure you can enjoy your summer worry-free. Accidents can occur in and around pools, which can lead to serious injury or even death. Thus, it's crucial to put safety precautions in place like fencing, locked gates, and keeping the pool area free of dangers. Regular inspections of the pool and its accessories, such as the electrical system, pool cover, and pool toys, can assist in identifying any potential safety risks and provide a roadmap to quickly fix them.

We hope you found this checklist to be useful and encourage you to take all of these items into consideration prior to opening your pool this summer. Additionally, scheduling a regular Pool and Spa Inspection can help you in keeping your pool safe and preserving its condition for years to come. Reach out to your local WIN home inspector and schedule yours, today!

Child Swimming in the Pool


Q: How much does a pool inspection cost?

A: On average, a pool inspection can cost anywhere between $100 to $500; however, the cost can vary depending on factors such as the location, size of the pool, and the level of inspection required.

Q: How long does a pool inspection take?

A: A pool inspection takes one to two hours on average but can vary depending on several factors.

Q: How to inspect a pool when buying a house?

A: We would recommend hiring a professional WIN home inspector to examine the pool and surrounding areas for any visible signs of wear or damage. The inspector will also check for compliance with local and state regulations and provide a detailed report of any issues found during the inspection.

Q: What does a pool inspection consist of?

A. The inspector will provide a detailed report of any issues found during the inspection, which may include recommendations for necessary repairs or upgrades.