Summers can be hot in Indiana, and a swimming pool is just the thing to cool things down. Although Indiana cannot boast the same number of pools as California or Florida, there are certainly more than a few. Swimming pools, though offering good exercise and play opportunities, can be dangerous. People who don't know how to swim, including children, can drown if they fall in or enter the pool when they shouldn't.
Improper pool construction can also cause serious issues. The federal, state, and local governments regulate swimming pool construction and use to keep the residents safe. Anyone with a pool or considering putting in a pool in Indiana would do well to learn the laws.
Indiana State Laws for Pools
Indiana doesn't regulate every aspect of swimming pool construction and use in the state. Some laws are federal and apply to every state, including the Americans with Disabilities Act and the Virginia Graeme Baker Federal Pool and Spa Safety Act. Indiana enacts laws to implement these federal laws.
Other matters are left to counties and local governments. However, the state has enacted some laws regarding swimming pools, including permitting requirements.
Any homeowner who wants to build their own pool must have a permit from the state. Indiana imposes certain conditions for permits. The new pool must be built at least 10 feet away from any building on the property, and in the back or side yard. Even pools that are inflatable or self-installed pools are subject to permitting requirements. Violations carry penalties including heavy fines.
Indiana Fencing Requirements for Pools
Indiana state law also mandates fencing on pools and allows local governments to make and enforce stricter rules for pool safety. These include both above-ground and in-ground pools.
Swimming pools that are constructed both above ground or in the ground must be enclosed by a fence at least 5 feet high or have an automatic pool cover. This can be modified by counties, and some counties in Indiana have local laws that require the enclosure to be 6 feet high.
Covers for Partially In-ground Pools
Mandatory fencing is also the case for pools that are constructed partially in the ground if the pool is designed to hold at least 2 feet of water. Portable or blow-up pools don't have to be fenced, however. What about outdoor hot tubs? These are regulated by the counties, and most require them to have either a fence or a cover, depending on the depth of the water.
Obviously, the reason for fencing and cover requirements is to prevent people, especially young children who don't know how to swim, from getting too close to the pool. Kids can fall into pools and drown and many do every year.
County Pool Fencing Laws
Indiana allows counties to impose their own, stricter laws on pool fencing, and they do. Laws pertaining to the fencing of a pool area differ depending upon the type of pool and the county. Some communities have additional requirements for their pools, as well. However all Indiana pools whether above- or below -ground need to be fenced in with a proper self- latching system.
The laws enacted in different counties may be different depending on the type of pool being installed. For example, laws about fencing requirements of a pool area can vary for above-ground pools and in-ground pools. Generally in-ground pools are required to have a fence around every side at least 6 feet high.
Some counties give pool owners options if it is above ground. That is, they can choose to have a detachable ladder that can be removed when the pool is not in use as an alternative to fencing. If a pool is above ground, there are two options. One is to have a ladder that detaches from the pool platform when not in use. The other option is to have a fence at least 6 feet high around the ladder leading to the platform
Pool Installation Ordinances
The state of Indiana defers to local governments rather than to impose state requirements about swimming pools in a number of areas, including swimming pool installation. The state does not enact or enforce these local laws. Laws about swimming pool installation are enacted and enforced by the counties in Indiana and they are far from uniform.
Anyone thinking of installing a residential pool should get a knowledgeable builder who knows local laws and pool regulations. They should also talk to county regulators to be sure that their mandates are followed. Each county's laws will be different.
For example, most counties have laws that set out specified building setbacks, including setbacks:
- From property lines.
- Due to easements.
- From gas and electric meters.
- From sewers.
Sometimes special buffer rules dictate setbacks, and setbacks can look different from one county another.
Swimming Pool Codes in Indiana
Residential swimming pools are another area not regulated by the Indiana State Department of Health. Rather, they are set out in Chapter 42, Swimming Pools, of the Indiana Residential Code. Swimming pools are Class 2 structures. Enforcement of the rules is the responsibility of local units of government.
ADA Rules for Public Swimming Pools
The federal Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is one of the country's most comprehensive pieces of civil rights legislation. It prohibits discrimination against people with disabilities and guarantees that they have the same opportunities as everyone else to participate in American life. This includes offering "equal opportunities" to people with disabilities to enjoy swimming facilities.
The ADA applies in every state. Each state has the right to enact greater protections for disabled persons, but it cannot undercut the protections in the ADA. Protections apply to both public and some private facilities in all states, including Indiana.
Public facilities in existence at the time the law was enacted were required to be brought into compliance by March 15, 2012. These include swimming pools in public parks, schools and universities. Pool operators must remove all barriers that existed to prevent people with disabilities from using the pool facilities.
ADA Swimming Pool Rules for Private Facilities
Existing private facilities must make changes when they can be made without much expense or difficulty, like sloped entries to pools and pool lifts, considered an inexpensive and easy solution to removal of barriers. They must be located where the water level is not deeper than 48 inches.
- 14 News: No Safety Code
- IN.gov: Public Swimming Pool and Spa Program
- IN.gov: Frequently Asked Questions - Swimming Pools
- Pool Master: Indiana Private Swimming Pool Laws
- Enjuris: Indiana Swimming Pool Accidents and Injuries
- IN.gov: New Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) Regulations for Swimming Pools
- Babyguard Fence: Indiana Pool Fence Laws
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.