By Matt Leacy
With more than 1.2 million Australians owning a pool and council laws across the nation requiring many property owners to have pool fences – even if retrospectively installed – the balance between legal compliance and great landscape design is becoming increasingly difficult to strike.
And it’s important to get it right. As well as the obvious safety concerns (highlighted by a spate of recent drownings in NSW), we can potentially lose thousands of dollars in property value if we install a pool fence that ruins our outdoor aesthetic. With this in mind, here are my top tips for installing a pool fence without ruining the look and feel of your outdoor space.
One of the key problems is that retroactive laws are requiring many Australians to install or change pool fences in backyard spaces that weren’t initially designed to accommodate a pool fence in that way– the layout, the gardens, the surrounds have all been designed without regard for the rules that exist today.
Because property owners are in a rush to comply and minimise installation costs, they bring a certifier in and get the job done quickly without properly considering how the fence is going to affect the look and landscape of their backyard – and the overall value of their property.
If you get it wrong and the fence looks terrible, you’ve potentially taken thousands of dollars off your sale or accumulative rental price – aside from the horror of looking at your backyard in a bad state. We all love our backyards and the wrong pool fence can look like an eyesore.
The key is in collaboration
One of the best ways to ensure you get the fence installation right is to get a landscape designer involved from the start of the process to ensure that proper design considerations are factored into the installation plan.
A landscape designer is going to look at things from a different angle and can help you explore avenues that may not seem open to you if you’re solely speaking to the council.
There’s more than one way to install a pool fence while still meeting legislative requirements, but if you don’t know what you’re options are and what to look for, you’re likely going to just do the basics, which can yield a result that may not look as easy on the eye as it could.
The optimal scenario is to have a meeting with your certifier and landscape designer at the same time. That way you can have an open conversation and throw around ideas to try to get to your preferred outcome – while also being sure that your pool fence will meet council laws.
What materials look the best?
In terms of what pool fence materials look the best, it always depends on the individual property, but glass is usually a pretty safe bet.
There’s plenty of different materials – glass-finish, powder-coated aluminium and timber. Glass is the most seamless and can disappear into a landscape more than other materials, but it will cost you more in relation to a standard aluminium fence.
If you’ve got a large area to do and don’t want to incur too much expense installing the whole area with glass, you might consider using glass for the main visual of the fence to keep them open and visible – and then turn to a black-top aluminium fence that can be hidden in the garden and disappear around plants and the like.
If you choose a powder-coated aluminium, go for a black colour as it disappears more than green if it’s up against plants. And whatever you do, steer clear of creams, reds and lighter colours because they stand out and often ruin the aesthetic of the backyard.
What materials last the longest?
Durability is also an important consideration, with glass also being a top contender when it comes to low-maintenance and repairs.
Most people automatically assume that aluminium fences will require the least maintenance, but when it comes down to it, glass is super strong and often held in place by really high quality stainless steel and reinforced concrete,
There’s rarely any issues with glass fences coming loose and when things go wrong with glass it is very obvious, whereas sometimes the screws and fittings on aluminium fences come loose and go unseen for some time. I rarely see a glass fence that’s moved or failing because they’ve usually got the right foundations.
Glass is also, in essence, more difficult to climb than other materials because it’s just a slippery front-faced surface.
Compliance and design can be friends
From a compliance perspective, it’s important to understand what the pool fence laws are in your state and to seek professional advice to ensure that you don’t install a fence which doesn’t meet the requirements.
Installing a pool fence isn’t cheap, so you want to make sure that you get it right the first time around. If your pool area backs up to one of the boundary fences, then you need to ensure the boundary fence is also compliant.
Regardless of what material you use, it’s most important to make sure that you have a certified product, whether you’re a homeowner residing in your own property or an investor leasing it out.
And while it might cost you a bit more up front to ensure that compliance and design both come out on top, the initial outlay is often worth it in the long term.
Safety is the number one priority as we don’t want any accidents. Second to that is aesthetics. If you install a fence that ruins the overall look and feel of your backyard, your property value is more than likely going to suffer. The potential loss you stand to incur in property value terms far likely outweighs what you’d pay a landscape designer to make sure the fence looks great.
–Co-founder of the award-winning Landart Landscapes, Matt Leacy, has 20 years’ experience in design, construction and maintenance services across landscaping and pool installation for both residential and commercial properties. Matt is a qualified horticulturalist and the current President of the LNA Master Landscapers Association.