Ohio Laws for Backyard Swimming Pools

A swimming pool in the backyard at home
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High angle view of a swimming pool

In the state of Ohio, a private pool is defined as a constructed pool 24 inches or more in depth that is used or intended to be used as a swimming pool in connection with a one-, two- or three-family dwelling. A private pool can be an above-ground, in-ground or on-ground swimming pool, hot tub or spa.

Use of a private swimming pool is available only to the family of the homeowners and their private or nonpaying guests. Usually, a private swimming pool must be at least 10 feet from the property’s edge or from an easement, a right to enter the land to access a feature on the property.

Cities typically require a property owner to build a fence around the pool and site the pool in their backyard.

City Rules for Private Residential Swimming Pools

A property owner should read their city’s ordinances to determine the local rules for private swimming pools. For example, the City of Euclid requires:

  • Swimming pool must be built more than 10 feet from a property line or in front of a building line.
  • Swimming pool must be built more than 30 feet from the adjacent property owner’s dwelling if located in a side yard area.
  • Only family or private swimming pools may be built in a single-family or two-family use district. The water area of such a pool may not occupy more than 25 percent of the rear lot area remaining after the garage area has been subtracted. The rear lot is the area between the back building line of the main house and the rear lot line.
  • Swimming pool may not have a height above grade greater than 4 feet unless a handrail no higher than 7 feet above grade is permitted.
  • Steps or a ladder must allow ingress and egress for every 40 feet of perimeter of the pool. One ladder or set of steps shall be provided for all pools.

Euclid includes portable pools of rubber or plastic with a water depth greater than 18 inches in the definition of a private swimming pool. This city does not require an owner or occupant of a property with a private swimming pool to have a lifeguard present at all times the pool is in use.

Specific Rules for Pool Fences

A city may impose specific rules for pool fences, also known as barriers or enclosures. A city typically defines a barrier as a fence, building wall or combination of these which completely surrounds the swimming pool and obstructs access to it.

Municipal Government Ordinances for Pool Barriers

The City of Cincinnati, for example, provides that a pool must have a barrier surrounding the pool area to extend not less than 4 feet above the ground. All gates must be self-closing and self-latching, with the latches placed at least 4 feet above the ground.

The City of Dayton provides that outdoor residential swimming pools must have a barrier that is at least 4 feet above grade measured on the side of the barrier that faces away from the swimming pool. An opening in the barrier may not allow passage of a 4-inch diameter sphere.

The maximum mesh size for a chain link fence shall be 1.25 inches square unless the fence is provided with slats fastened at the top or the bottom which reduce the openings to not more than 1.75 inches.

Other Rules for Pool Ladders and Barriers

Dayton requires that pedestrian access gates for outdoor residential swimming pools open outward away from the pool. In some cases, an above-ground pool structure is used as a barrier or the barrier is mounted on top of the pool structure and the means of access is a ladder or steps. Then the ladder or steps must be capable of being secured, locked or removed to prevent access.

Alternatively, the ladder or steps must be surrounded by a barrier that meets the general requirements for pool fences. Barriers must be located to prohibit permanent structures like a shed, equipment like ladders or similar objects from being used to climb the barriers.

A swimming pool with a power safety cover or a spa or hot tub with a safety cover that complies with industry standard ASTM F1346-91 is exempt from the requirements of the city's regulations. The American Society for Testing and Materials standard, ASTM F1346-91, is a global industry standard that sets a performance specification for swimming pool, hot tub and spa covers.

Rules for Public Swimming Pools

A swimming pool other than a private pool is to be classified as a public swimming pool. According to Chapter 3749 of the Ohio Revised Code, a public swimming pool means any indoor or outdoor structure, chamber or tank containing water for swimming, diving or bathing that is intended to be used collectively for those purposes.

The operator or owner of a public swimming pool may choose whether to charge a fee for use. A business such as a spa may or may not contain a public swimming pool or special use pool, such as a pool designed specifically for recreational or therapeutic activities.

A city may prohibit use of a public swimming pool unless one lifeguard skilled in swimming, diving and administration of first-aid to persons overcome in water is present at all times that the pool is open for use.

Building Permits for Swimming Pools

A city typically requires a building permit for all private and public swimming pools and swimming pool fences. All work performed on a pool or pool fence must be in accordance with the city’s zoning code, the city’s building code, the Ohio Building Code (OBC) and all other applicable laws and ordinances.

A property owner or occupant obtains a permit for a pool by completing a building permit application and submitting the required number of copies of plans, typically three, to the city’s permit center.

Filing Fees and Permits

The applicant must pay a plan review fee, which varies by city. A public swimming pool must also be approved by the Ohio Department of Health. Further, electrical permits are required for all swimming pools.

Penalties for Rule Violation

A property owner or occupant who violates rules regarding the construction and siting of public or private swimming pools may be charged with a fourth-degree misdemeanor. The penalty for this offense is up to 30 days in jail and a fine up to $250.