Yes, you will need a pool permit before you can begin construction on an in-ground pool or an above-ground pool. In fact, you will likely need a number of permits. Pools require plumbing and electrical work, and each of those requires separate permits.
The exact permits and regulations will be subject to layers of ordinances dictated by the city, county, and state within which the pool will reside. For this reason, we can’t give you exact details for your district. However, we can give you a generalized list of requirements and give you regional links to find the permits and requirements applicable to you and your pool.
You should start your pool-building adventure with a visit to your local municipality zoning office. It’s where you apply for any permits that you need, so they are usually the most reliable source of information.
Most of the time, these zoning offices are located at the regional town hall or government center. However, that isn't always the case, so call ahead or check their website if the visit will be out of your way.
You should head to the local zoning office because they often have pool packets for homeowners. These packets list pertinent information related to the construction of a swimming pool. They are a great way to immediately get access to accurate and up-to-date information that will inform you of the fees, requirements, and potential zoning issues for your area. These pool packets provide better information than you will find here.
Even if they don’t offer pool packets, the zoning office will be very familiar with the local restrictions. They might have invaluable advice for navigating any government hurdles that could give you trouble.
Local ordinances and building codes do not mean anything if there isn’t a way to regulate and control them. This control starts with the permitting process and ends with inspections.
The ordinances and codes, as well as the permits that enforce them, differ from one location to the next. These differences are due to the five layers of hierarchical administrative cake that make up the regulations within which you must abide. Those layers are:
Shelby County Huntsville
State Guidelines Anchorage
More State Guidelines
State Guidelines Los Angeles Orange
State Guidelines on Spas
State Guidelines on Public Pools
More State Guidelines
State Guidelines Forms
Permits and Compliance
|District of Columbia|
State Guidelines Other Related Resources
State Guidelines Resources for Public Pool
The CDC created the Model Aquatic Health Code (MAHC). While the MAHC might not be law, many states are adopting it into their local laws. Here’s the link
The following companies are also responsible for much of the standardization of pool building codes.
Many of the nationally applied documents have been the result of two or more of these organizations working together. These are the most comprehensive documents that we have identified. Keep in mind that these are residential pool standards. While some of the information is applicable, commercial pools have a different set of documents.
Within the United States, major structural changes require a building permit. Depending upon what work a homeowner wants to complete, multiple permits might be necessary. General changes to the structure of a home require a residential building permit. If they include modifications or additions to the plumbing or to electrical systems, more specific permits will be required for those changes as well. Pools fall under all three of these types of changes.
You will need permits since there will be major structural changes to the home, electrical additions for the pool lights, pump, heater, etc., and plumbing work to heat, filter, and drain the pool.
Be aware that this list is universal but not comprehensive. You will probably need more permits.
While we can't give you any specifics, we can talk about averages. For most locations, you'll need to pay an upfront permit fee of $100 to $300 before you can get approval to start your project.
Even though you legally need the permit before the work starts, there are several reports of homeowners making major structural changes to their homes without getting these permits. Some might get away with it, but there are some harsh potential consequences.
Skipping the permit can lead to failed home loans, fines, tax penalties, and even tearing down whatever unsanctioned work was performed.
Before work can begin, you’ll need to prove that your home renovation will work. Several documents must be submitted before approval can be obtained. Generally speaking, those documents will be the following:
The site plan, sometimes called the plot plan, is the architectural outline of the property lines and the pool schematics. Architects and engineers use the document to iron out and solidify the details of home renovations. When adding a pool, those plans will need to include:
Since you will likely need a plot plan, you will likely also need to hire a pool builder to draw up the plans before you can get a permit to construct the pool.
Electric and Gas companies have weaved cables and pipework throughout the United States. Obviously, you need to avoid tapping into those lines. We can avoid that by drawing up plans that detail the size and location of the future excavation.
You will get the panel layout from the pool builder since that is part of the pool design process.
You probably won’t need this. Generally speaking, grading plans don’t usually need to be submitted unless the pool’s dimensions are over 5,000 square feet.
7.48 gallons fit into one square foot. If a pool has over 5,000 square feet, that pool’s gallon capacity will be at least 37,400 gallons.
Most family pools will not have a volume even close to that.
The person completing the electrical or plumbing work will need to be the one to apply for the permit. If you are hiring an electrical or plumbing contractor to perform the electrical work, it will be them. If you are performing the work, it is your responsibility to apply for the permit. Whoever is applying will need to bring the following information regardless of which state you call home.
Standardization via the permitting process protects contractors and homeowners alike by ensuring that the construction plans are up to code. The applicable codes will change from state to state. However, those codes have a notable thread of consistency.
State and county regulations are superseded by federal, so you should check both. Additionally, there are a handful of organizations that have created standardization documents that have been adopted into the codes of many states. We have listed many of the relevant links near the top of this page.
This is an approximate list of steps you’ll need to take. You’ll need to research your state, city, and county to know the specifics.
If you are performing the work and you aren’t a registered electrician, you’ll need to prove that you can complete the job to a chief electrical code administrator. The “chief electrical code administrator” is the title for any of the municipal or country employees responsible for reviewing construction plans for code compliance. Part of proving your capabilities might include a written or oral test, so you might need to do some research to prepare for this visit.
While the government is partially motivated by profit, it is also concerned with protecting its citizens, ecosystems, the infrastructure of underground and aboveground utilities, and property values.
With these motivations in mind, you can start to form a picture of why your permit might be denied. These motivations are also why you will need to hire your pool architect to draw up the pool’s plans before applying for the permit. So what plans will you need?
No matter where you go within the United States, countless codes will still dictate what you can and cannot legally do with your property.
Some of them make sense, while others might leave you scratching your head. Let's go over some of the common ordinances that you should keep in mind.
Building codes are filled with regulations on sizes and distances between houses, pools, fences, pool pumps, lot dimensions, etc. Pay special attention to setbacks. Whenever a structure is constructed, that structure must be built no less than a regionally-specified minimum distance away from its surroundings.
The common issues that pop up tend to be setbacks that require minimum distances from streets, nature preserves, septic tanks, gas lines, power lines, and access points for utility workers.
Your land might be classified into a number of categories. Each of these categories will come with its own restrictions regarding where and what you can build within your land. Some of the common zoning categories include:
Dangers present themselves in many forms. When building a pool, sometimes danger shows up in one of the following forms.
Before a pool can be built, you need to determine the qualities of the soil that support that pool. Don’t try to do this by yourself. Instead, you should hire a geotechnical engineer to perform the test.
Soil is a mixture of minerals and biological matter, and that mixture changes from place to place. These contrasting soil mixtures are graded differently based on bearing capacity, density, groundwater conditions, lateral pressure, soil gradation, and swell potential. As you might be able to guess, some of those mixtures are sturdy and others can cause significant issues for pools.
If the geotechnical engineer finds issues with the soil, your pool’s blueprints need to show that you have taken this into account.
More children die by drowning than any other medical or accidental cause. Something had to be done to curb this obvious danger. In response to this threat, every state now requires a fence, but the requirements change slightly from state to state.
Some pool pumps can be very noisy. Neighbors don’t like music played over loudspeakers, dogs howling through the night, and pool pumps making obnoxious noises for 6 to 10 hours per day. From a legal perspective, there is a maximum decibel level. It varies from location to location, but some pool pumps can exceed that volume. Make sure yours won’t.
Is your house situated near swamplands or some other protected ecosystem? Has an endangered species made your house a home? While protecting natural resources and endangered species is a good thing, it means that the government sometimes restricts landowners to the point of making their land almost useless.
Pay close attention to applicable regulations if you happen to be near one of these ecosystems. It can completely derail a pool project. Even if it doesn’t, there will likely be substantial setback requirements.
Even if it appears that a pool is off the table, check for possible exemptions. If you can’t find any, check around the area for new homes under the same restrictions that have pools. Maybe they found a loophole that you missed.
If you can’t find any homes, check Google Maps or some alternative mapping system with aerial views of your area. Find homes under the same zoning restrictions and find out how they got legal permission (If they did).
Most of the time, you can file out an online application to secure the necessary permits to begin building your pool. You’ll need to take pictures and measurements, but it eliminates the need to have an inspector drive out to your home. It's a big timesaver over the pen and paper in-person inspections that used to be the norm.
With all of that said, there are still many locations that require an in-person inspector. Additionally, most locations that offer the online submission service also offer a live on-site inspection alternative.
If you choose to fill out the online form, double-check your work and call the office with any questions. Online forms will often submit despite errors within the form which can lead to long delays (up to 60 days). In-person forms can be corrected immediately.
If your neighborhood belongs to an HOA, you’ll need to get their approval before beginning the permit process. While an HOA is not part of the United States government, HOAs are backed by it. If you bought a home within the boundaries of an HOA, you likely also signed a contract that gave legal authority to that HOA.
If that HOA says that you can’t build a pool, you will likely be subject to their decision. For any readers belonging to an HOA, contact your HOA, and clear the pool with them before you pay any permit fees. It’s a bit of a headache, but it might save you from a bigger headache down the road.
If you have a permit for it, there will be a mandatory inspection to make sure the work was completed correctly. That means you’ll need separate inspections for the electrical, the plumbing, and the pool. If you need any additional permits, you will need inspections for those as well.
Since building projects are constantly taking place, the zoning office’s inspectors can be booked for long periods of time. If you don’t want to wait a long time for an opening, it might be a good idea to start scheduling these inspections when the work is close to completion.
Some states require a permit, and some states do not. Some of the states will only require permits if the pool is over some specified minimum height.
From a legal perspective, some states require a fence around the pool, and some do not. Many states require permits if the above-ground pool meets certain requirements. Pool fences protect owners from lawsuits and drownings.
Yes, building a pool deck is classified as a major structural change. Blueprints for major structural changes require permits in order to protect people and property from bad designs. All states require these permits.
Like most building code questions, the state needs to be specified to be accurate. For the most part, the setback distances will resemble the following specifications. Generally speaking, front yard setbacks are 20 feet, street-side setbacks are 10 feet, interior-side setbacks are 5 feet, backyard setbacks are 5 feet, building setbacks are 5 feet, and fence setbacks are 3 feet.
Pool inspections scrutinize pools for improper installations, disrepair, and safety hazards. Some of the items check include damage to the pool deck, coping, and liner, making sure the fencing and latch meet regulations and are functional, and inspecting drains, filters, handrails, ladders, lights, plumbing, pumps, and timers. Finally, inspectors will look for hazards that could cause people to slip or trip.
The responsibility lies with the owner, so it is likely that you will need to fix the issue without the original contractor. In most circumstances, the owner will need to hire a contractor to file for a permit, perform the necessary inspections, and work with the local government to find and fix any issues that are discovered. When everything is up to code, the permit will be filed and squared away.
Most states and local county ordinances require you to obtain a demolition permit before you can begin filling in your pool.