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Is Your Swimming Pool a Death Trap?

Critical Advice for Keeping Kids Safe at the Pool

swimming pool cleaning careSquaio | MorgueFile

Nothing beats a splash in a swimming pool on a hot summer day. This kind of cool, wet fun, along with the joy of entertaining family and friends and getting a healthy workout, has skyrocketed the popularity of pools. According to the Association of Pool & Spa Professionals, 18 million American homes now enjoy the luxury of a swimming pool.

But swimming pools can also be hazardous, especially for children. Drowning is responsible for more deaths among children aged one to four in the U.S. than any other cause except birth defects—and most drowning accidents happen in home swimming pools, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Kids aged one to three are at greatest risk, but older kids are in danger, too. Drowning is the second leading cause of unintentional injury-related death for kids younger than 15. And for every child who dies, ten end up in the ER for nonfatal submersion injuries such as brain damage.

If you own a pool, it is very important to proactively ensure the safety of kids.

Swimming Safety

The most important measure is to supervise with vigilance. Be sure a responsible adult closely watches any kids playing in or around the pool. This adult should never be talking on the phone, texting, playing video games, reading or doing anything that distracts or diverts his or her attention. When watching a pre-school or younger child, this supervising adult should be close enough to reach the child within a second or two.

In addition, it pays to give your children formal swimming lessons, though the ability to swim should never take the place of supervision. And, as a parent, it never hurts for you to learn CPR. You can contact your local fire department or hospital for information about classes.

Making the Pool Area Safe

Keeping kids away from the pool when a supervisor isn’t present is critically important. Here are seven measures that can help prevent most home swimming pool accidents.

childproofing swimming pool©HomeTips

Where toddlers are near, a swimming pool must block access. Here, a child safety fence surrounds the pool area.

Be sure the pool and spa area is completely fenced. Before building a pool fence, check local building codes for requirements. In most cases, the fence must be at least 4 feet high (5 or 6 feet is better and may be required), and it should be located at least 3 feet away from the pool to allow for safe passage inside the fence. It should not have horizontal footholds or grips that allow kids to climb it. Vertical slats should be separated by spaces no greater than 4 inches. Please note: Standard chain-link fences are not secure because they are too easy to climb. If you opt for removable mesh pool fencing, check that it meets ASTM standards for safety.

 

gate latches for fencing©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

For safety, gate latches should automatically latch when the gate closes.

Make sure the gate can’t be opened by a child. Any gate to the pool area should have self-closing spring hinges and a self-locking latch that is well out of reach—ideally, 60 inches from the ground. The latch should be designed specifically for pool security.

 

Be sure kids can’t scale the fence. Remove ladders, chairs, tables or anything else that kids can climb to get over the fence. Trim tree limbs if necessary.

 

Protect all access to the pool. Look for ways kids might get from the house to the pool—doors, windows, doggy-doors and the like. A door that leads to the pool area should be equipped with a childproof lock and an automatic door closer that has a release mechanism located at least 60 inches above the floor. Remove or lock an aboveground pool’s ladder or steps when it’s not in use.

 

swimming pool coverCover-Pools, Inc.

Retractable swimming pool cover can support an adult when closed.

Consider a child-safe pool cover or pool alarm. The pool cover must cover the pool entirely and be fastened to the pool deck so that a child can’t get under it—it should never be left partially covering the pool. Always pump standing water off of the cover’s surface. Protect a hot tub or spa with a locking safety cover. If you buy a pool alarm, be sure it meets ASTM pool alarm standards.

 

Keep the pool deck safe. Keep wheeled toys and electrical appliances away from the pool and avoid leaving pool toys in or around the pool. Be sure swimmers are very careful on or near diving boards and pool slides, and never allow diving in the shallow end or through inner tubes or pool toys.

 

Be sure the drains are safe. When the pump is running, a pool or spa can have very strong suction that may pull kids down to the drain and trap them. Check the drain of a spa, hot tub or swimming pool for possible suction entrapment hazard. Every pool or spa should have at least two drains separated by a minimum of 3 feet, and each drain cover should have an anti-entrapment grate. Check for an expiration date on the cover—if it’s time to replace it, do so. Never allow people to use a pool that has a missing, broken or improperly installed drain cover.

 

This article, written by Don Vandervort, first appeared at USNews.com.

 

How to Plan the Perfect Fence

Expert advice and ideas for planning a fence that looks great and does exactly what you want it to do.

Though you may want a fence just to define your yard’s boundaries and keep your dog from digging up the neighbor’s garden, building a fence is a significant project that deserves serious attention. It’s important to think about:

elegant crosshatch wood fencing©Romakoma / Shutterstock.com

Heavy rails and crisscross slats form a striking two-sided fence along this property line.

1) The fence’s design style and purpose

2) It’s impact on the neighbors

3) The best materials for building it

4) Local zoning and building codes that may affect the design

Fence Style & Purpose

Fences can take many forms, from solid to open and everything in between. They may be built of wood, vinyl, metal, and/or other outdoor building materials. And their design may run from rough-hewn rails to formal pickets.[GARD align=”left”]

The best style of design to choose for your fence will hinge on what you want the fence to do. The form of the fence should depend on its function. In most cases, you’ll want it to add beauty to your yard, compliment your home’s style, and provide the right measure of security and privacy—but are there some other purposes you should be considering? Consider the most common ones:

board on board fencing©Romakoma / Shutterstock.com

Vertical board-on-board solid fencing is tall and difficult to climb, but its surface pattern gives it visual interest and makes it less imposing.

Security & Safety

Depending upon its construction, a fence may keep people in or out of a designated area. In other words, you may want a fence to keep the neighbor kids from chasing baseballs through your backyard. Or, maybe you want a higher degree of security to keep burglars or troublemakers away from your home. Obviously, such a fence should be hard to climb or penetrate. Tall, vertical-board fences and heavy-gauge chain link fences are examples.[GARD align=”left”]

To prevent children from accessing a swimming pool without supervision, you need a 5 to 6-foot fence with slats or uprights that are spaced no wider than 4 inches so kids can’t squeeze through it. The design must not be such that kids can climb it, and you’ll want to be sure to keep furniture and similar objects away from it.

For a pool area, a self-closing, self-latching gate is a must. The latch must be well out of a child’s reach. A lockable gate provides extra security. Fencing must also stand at least 3 feet from the pool’s edge to allow safe passage. Check with your local building department for other requirements. For more information, see Child-Safe Fences & Gates.

childproofing swimming pool©HomeTips

Where toddlers are near, a swimming pool must block access. Here, a child safety fence surrounds the pool area.

If you want a fence that will keep your dog in the yard, remember that dogs like to chew, jump, and dig. Plan a height that your dog can’t jump over. Build it from a material that can’t chewed or ripped apart. And consider setting the panels in a ribbon of concrete so your dog can’t burrow under it.

Privacy

The ultimate privacy fence is one that people can’t see over or through, but a tall solid fence often falls short for other reasons. Such a fence can be quite imposing, and can eliminate the views you want as well as the ones you don’t.

The key to fencing for privacy is mapping exactly where you want privacy so that you can plan sections or portions that provide visual relief and allow desirable views—for example, louvered or see-through fencing. You can also  make a tall, solid fence less imposing by staggering panels back and forth or planting vines along it.

board and lattice fencing©Romakama / Shutterstock.com

Combination of board and lattice provide privacy without seeming unfriendly.

Defining Space & Concealing

Fences can delineate areas of a yard, and divide work areas from entertaining or recreational spaces. Tall screens and fences can hide garden work centers, pool equipment, and trashcans. Low or open fences can direct foot traffic through the yard without creating visual barriers.

round picket fence with flowers©Jorge Salcedo / Shutterstock.com

Short picket fence offers stunning curb appeal with a display of colorful roses, flowers, and vines.

Controlling Sun, Wind & Noise

Solid fencing will cast a solid shadow, while latticework or open designs will provide filtered or partial shade. But be aware that the sun’s position in the middle of summer is much higher than in winter—understand the sun’s arc year-around before building a fence to deal with it.

fence to block wind©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

A solid fence with a baffle angled into the wind (lower right) offers the best overall wind protection.

For wind control, studies show that solid fencing doesn’t do a very good job of protecting the area within 12 feet of the fence. Wind tends to tumble over the top of the fence, like a wave washing over a boulder. Spaced slats or louvers do a better job of breaking up wind into a series of softer breezes and eddies. The best wind-control designs have a 45-degree baffle at the top of the fence, angled into the wind.

For noise, the thicker and higher the barrier, the better. The best noise-blocking fences don’t have spaces between boards—they are solid board-on-board or board-and-batten styles. A solid masonry wall does a better job.

Good Neighbor Fences

Because a fence often runs along the property line or in front of your home, it can affect your neighbors as much as it does you. It sets a tone for both your property and your neighbors’, can impact your view and theirs, and can influence sunlight and breezes. With this in mind, being a good neighbor means designing and building a fence that meets your needs while also honoring the needs of the neighborhood.

Fence Materials

Weather, insects, and soil will decay most types of wood over the years. The most durable fences have concrete footings, metal posts, and metal rails. Pressure-treated posts and rails are also a lasting choice. The fencing panels may be metal, vinyl, or rot-resistant wood such as cedar or redwood heartwood. Or, the fencing panels may be made of less expensive wood if they are painted or treated with a hearty stain—but the finish must be maintained.

vinyl fencing©Shnycel / Shutterstock.com

Vinyl fencing has interesting detailing and is very low maintenance.

Codes & Restrictions

Before you actually build your fence, make a trip (or a phone call) to City Hall. You’ll want to be sure that there are no zoning restrictions or setback rules that would prevent you from building the fence you want. Most communities have strict height limitations and, depending upon where you live, you may also discover design limitations.

Save Water & Energy with a Solar Pool Cover

Reduce water evaporation and save energy by installing a bubble-wrap style solar pool blanket. This type of cover costs less than $125 and can be installed in an hour.

solar swimming pool blanketAmazon

Solar blanket as tiny bubbles that provide insulation for retaining heat.

If you have a swimming pool, you may be painfully aware of how much water it can lose through evaporation, particularly in summer months. Over the period of a year, thousands of gallons of water can evaporate from a swimming pool. Considering the scarcity and expense of clean water, this is a terrible and unnecessary waste.

To curb this water waste, you can install a pool cover. Not only will a pool cover dramatically reduce evaporation, but it will also minimize loss of pool chemicals and cut down on energy bills by helping to warm and retain heat in the pool water.[GARD align=”left”]

On the downside, oxygen is a necessary part of maintaining the chemical balance of water, so your battle against algae may increase. And pool chemicals can be hard on the cover. It’s often recommended that you remove the cover for a couple of days following water treatment to allow the pool to “breathe,” and to minimize the corrosive action of chemicals. If algae tends to run rampant, you can try peeling back the cover so that it only covers half of the pool, alternating to the other end of the pool.

As discussed in the article, Swimming Pool Covers & Cleaners, several types are available. Here we look at a bubble-wrap-style solar pool blanket, the least expensive type. This cover is intended to keep the water and heat in the pool. Please note that this type of cover does NOT make the pool safer for children or pets, and always should be entirely removed before using the pool.

unroll pool cover on swimming pool©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

The first step is to unroll the cover across the pool’s surface, bubble side down.

Where to Buy the Cover

You can buy a swimming pool solar blanket online from vendors such as Amazon, and have it delivered within a few days. Expect to pay about $115 for an 18-by-36-foot rectangle of 12-mil thick pool cover. A thicker 16-mil cover will cost about $150. The cover may carry a 7-year warranty, but don’t expect it to last that long. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation, pool chemicals, and basic wear-and-tear are likely to shorten its life to 3 or 4 years.

cut pool cover to fit pool©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

Slice through the cover along the tile at the waterline, using a sharp utility knife.

 

How to Install the Cover

To install this type of cover:
1Unfold the cover bubble-side down next to the pool. With a helper, drag it across the surface of the pool so that it completely covers the pool. If you have a rectangular pool, position the cover from one corner, aligning it with one long wall and an end wall so that you only have to cut the two opposite sides.

For an irregularly shaped pool, just be sure the cover reaches all the edges when it is pressed down tightly where the water meets the perimeter liner tile.

fitting a swimming pool cover©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

As you cut the cover, continually check the perimeter for a tight fit.

2Use a long-handled pool brush to flatten the cover against the water, pressing out any large folds or air bubbles. When fully installed, the blanket should float flat on the water, barely touching the tile around the perimeter. Following is how to cut it so that it does that.

3Kneeling on the coping, use a very sharp utility knife—and scissors if necessary—to cut the blanket where the water meets the tile. To ensure accuracy, press the cover flat against the tile until you can see the waterline along the tile beneath it. (This is a bit easier to do with thin-mil covers.) If it’s hard to see the waterline through the cover, you can try turning on the pool light and working late in the day. With the utility knife, cut the cover exactly along the water line.

4Occasionally check the opposite side of the pool to make sure the cover isn’t shifting position while you work. Remove the excess scraps.

5When the pool cover is not in use and during the off-season, it is recommended that you fold it up and store it in a protected place to minimize damage and UV degradation.

 

3 Ways to Create Waterproof Dry Space Under a Deck

The spaces between decking boards on outdoor decks are meant to serve an important function—namely, drainage. They help to prevent puddles from forming and enable the surface to dry more quickly after rain and snowstorms.

deck waterproofing systemBest Deck Storage Idea | SpreadRadio.com

Recover useful storage or utility space beneath a deck by utilizing a deck waterproofing system. Photo: SpreadRadio

Along with routine waterproofing application, spacing between boards helps to prolong the useful life of the decking material. But if you want to use the space beneath a deck for additional outdoor living or storage space, it’s better to install a barrier that prevents water from draining to the surface directly below.[GARD align=”left”]

 

 

Deck Membranes and Downspouts

The dominant solution for waterproofing areas below decks is to drape plastic membranes within joist spaces below decking to form troughs. The Trex RainEscape deck waterproofing system, shown below, is an example of a membrane-and-downspout system.

deck waterproofing systemHome Depot

The Trex RainEscape membrane, which comes in rolls, is fastened loosely to the top edge of deck joists. The downspouts can be oriented to fit between joists spaced 12 or 16 inches on center. Decking boards are then installed over the top. Butyl tape is applied to seal all seams. The only tools needed for installation are a utility knife and a stapler or hammer tacker.

Trex RainEscape deck waterproofingHome Depot

Wood or synthetic decking is fastened to the deck frame over the drainage assembly, and soffit or ceiling systems can be fastened to the bottom of deck joists for a finished appearance from below.

The Trex RainEscape troughs divert runoff to downspouts positioned near the joist header. A length of gutter is attached to the structure just below the downspouts to collect water and lead it away from the protected area.

Under-Deck Ceilings

A number of recently introduced under-deck ceiling systems use corrugated aluminum or plastic panels designed to catch water that drains through decking and channel it away from the area below. Among the newest is the RainTight system, introduced at Deck Expo 2014.

RainTight panels are made of heavy-gauge aluminum. The seamless panels are custom-fabricated, based on the size of the deck. They lock together along their long edges to form leak-proof joints.

raintight deck waterproofingRainTight

RainTight panels, made of aluminum, lock together to create waterproof joints.

A perimeter frame and graduated spacer-nailers are fastened beneath the deck joists so that the plane of the ceiling slopes slightly (at least 1/4 inch per foot) away from the house toward the joist header. A system-compatible aluminum trough is fastened below the joist header to carry runoff to one or more downspouts that drain to the ground outside the protected area.

Under-deck ceiling systems provide an all-in-one drainage and ceiling finish that is particularly suitable for areas beneath a deck that are high enough off the ground to provide a sheltered outdoor living space below. Special framing and moisture-protection measures can provide mounting points for overhead light fixtures and ceiling fans.

Waterproofing Decking Flanges

Simpler than membrane and ceiling systems, waterproof decking flanges offer an effective means of diverting water that would otherwise drain through conventionally spaced deck boards. Dexedry flanges are designed to act as spacers between boards and also as mini-gutters to channel water toward deck edges. The rubber flanges are pounded into decking edges with a rubber mallet.

dexedry deck waterproofingMichael Chotiner | HomeTips

Dexedry rubber flanges fit into flanges grooved into the edges of decking boards.

Dexedry flanges are available in a number of sizes that match the edge grooves found on major synthetic decking brands. The edges of wood decking boards can be milled with a dado blade, shaper or router to accommodate the flanges.

Whether you use gutters, flanges or an under-deck ceiling, creating additional patio or storage space under your deck can add to your enjoyment and to the functionality of your home.[GARD align=”right”]

 

Michael Chotiner is a home-improvement expert who has owned his own construction business and who is also a master carpenter. Michael writes on homeowner DIY projects and how-tos for Home Depot. For a selection of tools you might use if you are planning to install waterproofing on an outdoor structure, you can visit the Home Depot website.

 


Patio Roof Maximum Beam & Rafter Spans

An essential part of planning a patio roof or gazebo project is determining the number, size, and spacing of rafters, beams, and posts, according to the loads they will carry.

maximum rafter spans

Maximum Rafter Spans for a Patio Roof

In areas with mild climates, patio roofs are generally designed for loads of 30 psf (pounds per square foot). For heavy roofs or in areas with substantial snowfall or winds, call your local building department for code requirements.

The tables below give maximum spans for rafters and beams. The figures are based on quality materials. For lesser grades, spans should be shorter. Keep in mind that these are maximums—in other words, shortening spans slightly will result in a more solid structure.

Find out the loads your overhead must bear, and then determine the rafter sizes. Next, calculate beam placements and how best to coordinate them with the rafters.

maximum beam spans

Maximum Beam Spans for Patio Roofs

Keep in mind that these are minimums for the spacing indicated—you can select larger sizes to handle excessive loads or for appearance. Of course, beefier sizes also increase your lumber bill.copyright-sun

Patio Roof Maximum Beam & Rafter Spans

An essential part of planning a patio roof or gazebo project is determining the number, size, and spacing of rafters, beams, and posts, according to the loads they will carry.

maximum rafter spans

Maximum Rafter Spans for a Patio Roof

In areas with mild climates, patio roofs are generally designed for loads of 30 psf (pounds per square foot). For heavy roofs or in areas with substantial snowfall or winds, call your local building department for code requirements.

The tables below give maximum spans for rafters and beams. The figures are based on quality materials. For lesser grades, spans should be shorter. Keep in mind that these are maximums—in other words, shortening spans slightly will result in a more solid structure.

Find out the loads your overhead must bear, and then determine the rafter sizes. Next, calculate beam placements and how best to coordinate them with the rafters.

maximum beam spans

Maximum Beam Spans for Patio Roofs

Keep in mind that these are minimums for the spacing indicated—you can select larger sizes to handle excessive loads or for appearance. Of course, beefier sizes also increase your lumber bill.copyright-sun