When it comes to homeownership and home improvements, permitting is always a consideration. Important changes and improvements to a household like new roofs, room additions, and electrical service changes do and should need permits. But what about above ground swimming pools?
Most municipalities in the US require a permit for an above ground swimming pool. Most people don’t get one though.
In many areas of the United States, a permit is required for almost anything. Here in Orange County, Florida, permits are required for things like replacing a water heater and replacing a fence. Oh and yeah, you need one for an above ground pool too.
DO YOU NEED A PERMIT FOR AN ABOVE GROUND SWIMMING POOL WHERE YOU LIVE? ASK YOU LOCAL BUILDING DEPARTMENT.
Here in the US, there are almost twenty thousand local governments. Wow! This includes over 3000 counties, just under 20,000 municipalities, 16,000+ townships, and over 37,000 special districts. Many of these local governments will have their own building department. And each one will have its own rules and restrictions.
A fairly common question to me from people getting an above ground pool is, “Do I need a permit?” The answer is most likely yes, but the only way to make sure is to call or go down to your local building department.
Some building departments for cities, townships, and special districts will just default their permitting rules to the county that they are geographically in. But some will have their own ideas, so it’s best to find out if your local government has a building department and find out from them instead of your county.
PERMIT RESTRICTIONS CAN CHANGE. DON’T JUST GO BY WHAT YOU WERE TOLD A COUPLE YEARS AGO
When it comes to permits, you are dealing with the government. And if you’ve ever dealt with the government in any capacity, then you know that most are grossly inefficient and the procedures are fickle.
As an example, the city of Kissimmee here by Orlando required a permit for an above ground swimming pool for many years. Then, one day I found out that they no longer require a permit. That lasted a couple of years and then they were back to requiring one.
THE HOMEOWNER USUALLY GETS THE PERMIT
If you are getting a company to install your above ground pool, don’t expect them to get the permit for it. They may or may not provide this service.
Keep in mind that this is not an in-ground swimming pool. In-grounds can take weeks to build and must have building permits for at least both the pool construction and the electrical.
An above-ground pool is usually a one day install job that requires mostly just assembly and not much construction. A contractor getting a permit for this can be quite time-consuming. It may take them half a day to get one depending on the municipality. This is not worth it for the contractor.
As a homeowner, it can be much easier to get the permit yourself, although it can still be a major pain.
TYPICAL PLACEMENT REQUIREMENTS FOR AN ABOVE GROUND POOL
Overhead power lines
The most common requirement for placing an above ground pool is to be at least ten feet away from any overhead power line. This includes all lines. Even cable lines cannot be close to the pool.
This isn’t always the case, but most municipalities will want your pool to be a certain distance away from your property lines. A typical example of this is to be five feet away from the sides of the property line and ten feet away from the backline.
Keep in mind that this can be any distance and that it can change depending on the year.
Distance away from the house
I have seen this be anything from 0ft to fifteen feet away. Typically it’s about five feet away. Personally, I think it’s a good idea to keep the pool away from the house some anyway. This is mainly because you don’t want any rainwater running off your roof and into the pool.
Septic drain field or water retention areas
Most permits will restrict you from placing the pool next to a drain field. Some will require a distance of five or ten feet away from the edge of any part of the drain field or the septic tank.
If you are backed up to or have a water retention area in your yard, you’ll need to place the pool away from that. The distance will depend on the situation.
COST OF GETTING A PERMIT
Typically, the cost of a permit runs in the range of $40 -$75. It can be more than this though. A lot more in some places. Earlier this year, I installed a pool for a guy here in Florida that paid $400 for his permit. Crazy.
SOME THINGS THAT MAY BE REQUIRED WHEN GETTING A PERMIT FOR AN ABOVE GROUND POOL
Some local governments can make some expensive and potentially unrealistic guidelines for their building codes. Here are a few examples for above ground pools.
This isn’t to say that fencing is a bad idea. Personally, I’m a fan of pools being in fenced-in yards. Even if they are completely above the ground and have a safety ladder.
What I mean here is some building departments will require a pool fence around the pool even though the yard is already fenced in.
A separate electrical permit
I think we can all agree that electricity and water don’t mix well. And with in-ground pools, I can agree that there probably should be an electrical inspection of the work done by the electrician.
Above ground pools only need electricity for the pool’s pump, and it just has a cord with a regular plug. This probably doesn’t warrant the big cost of having an electrician pull a permit and do the work of bringing electricity to the pump’s cord. This cost could be more than the cost of the entire pool if it’s one of those Intex/Coleman type.
Disallow sinking an above ground pool in the ground at all
Some local governments won’t allow a pool to go in the ground even a foot. This is mainly because of safety but can be because the pool is not made to go in the ground.
The reason for safety is a noble one, but a fence should be all the safety a pool needs. And in-ground pools are in the ground, so what’s the safety difference?
The other reason is someone deciding that an above ground pool shouldn’t go in the ground at all because it wasn’t designed to do so. Again, this makes sense if this is all you know about the situation. But it makes no sense at all when you know that these pools can go in the ground well and have to go partially in the ground often when the yard is extremely off level.
Have a pool alarm
This is an electronic device that sounds off if something goes in the pool. It’s designed to let you know if a kid falls in, which is nice.
Some will require an alarm for any exterior door the home has in the back yard. This is an annoying safety solution that most will install just long enough to pass inspection. Then they will disable it.
Have engineering done
This is a very unnecessary and expensive hoop to have to jump through just to get an above-ground swimming pool. I have heard some having to pay two thousand dollars to have an engineer go over the pool design and the yard it’s going in. This is craziness.
GETTING A PERMIT CAN TAKE A WHILE
Most people can get a permit for an above ground pool in one trip and just a couple of hours. Others can take a long while.
How long it takes to get a permit depends mainly on the level of self-importance your local government’s building department has. It’s not uncommon for some municipalities to take several months to approve the commercial build-out of an existing building. And although that situation in itself is a grossly inefficient timeframe, it may be justifiable.
To take a few months to approve the permit for an above ground pool installation is just an embarrassment and an extreme example of a way too self-important government.
MOST ELECT NOT TO GET A PERMIT
The vast majority of people choose to not get a permit for their above ground pool. If you have read this article, you can imagine some of the reasons why.
There are several reasons why people don’t get a permit. The biggest is they don’t agree with it. Many don’t because they don’t have the money, are putting it up in an illegal spot, have already had an above ground in the same spot, or just don’t get permits for anything in their yard.
As a professional pool installer, I would never advise you to not get a permit. This has to be a personal decision. The only opinion I have on this is, if you can, put the pool in a legal spot. What I mean is to put it at least ten feet away from any overhead power lines and away from the property lines and the house some. This way, if for some reason you need to get a permit for it later, you’ll be able to and not have to take the pool down.