When inspecting a pool for renovation, the pool’s safety is the most important thing to check.
You may even want to check safety first. If you find that the pool doesn’t meet current safety standards and customers won’t pay to properly update the pool, the job may not be worth the risk.
“We bring up those things and tell people, ‘We don’t do this unless you comply,’” says Ron Robertson, president of Robertson Pools & Spas in Coppell, Texas. “We’re afraid we can become liable if something happened to their child.”
If the customer wants to add or replace a diving board, measure the pool to make sure the depth and area are suitable. Consult manufacturer recommendations to find out what is needed for that model. Measure the pool’s length, width and depth, and make sure that the break is far enough away from the diving board. If everything doesn’t add up, you may need a different diving board, to alter the pool or remove the board it altogether.
For slides, make sure there’s enough depth and unobstructed space around the termination point. Experts recommend a minimum depth of 5 feet for traditional slides — those that terminate a foot or two above the water. If the slide ends right at or just below water level — the method preferred by aquatics experts — the water should be at least 42 inches deep. The landing well should reach out at least 25 feet from the slide’s termination point. That means no obstructions such as steps or benches, no overlap with an adjacent diving envelope or slide, and the depth must be maintained in that space.
If you’re doing work on the diving board or slide, it’s more clear-cut: If customers won’t consult to needed changes, walk away.
The decision becomes trickier if your scope of work didn’t originally include the diving board or slide, but you’ve determined it’s not safe. If an accident happens, the clients may try to hold you responsible as the last expert on the site.
Under these conditions, some contractors will decline the work, while others have the homeowners sign a waiver stating that they’ve been warned and won’t hold the renovating company liable. Consult an attorney or your insurance carrier to find out whether you could be held responsible.
Check to make sure the pool meets current anti-drowning and anti-entrapment codes. Ask customers to show you any required alarms, fencing or safety latches. Check for dual drains or an equivalent. (For additional information, read “Check drains” above). If the pool falls under the jurisdiction of the 2003 or 2006 International Residential Code Appendix G, check for safety vacuum release systems.
While the Virginia Graeme Baker Pool and Spa Safety Act currently does not cover residential pools, it may in your area in the future. If that’s the case, the pool must be updated before the house is sold. Ask customers if they want to make any pre-emptive changes.
Here again, if the customer won’t pay to bring the pool up to current code, walk away.