Chicago: Don't Dive into an Above-Ground Pool Installation Before you Do This

Steven Jack
Written by Steven Jack
Updated June 15, 2021
Temporary backyard pools with a depth of more than 24 inches and electric pumps require permits, fencing, and proper electrical setups in many Chicago suburban communities.
Steven Jack

Did you know that many cities, including Chicago suburbs, require a permit to put up any swimming pool? Fencing, electrical rules affect temporary pools too.

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So those childhood dreams of an in-ground swimming pool never materialized, and now your own children are begging to splash around in something a little deeper than the kiddie pool?

Before you hit up the nearest department store to buy a temporary, above-ground pool, be aware that your local government needs a heads up before pool installation — yeah, even for that blow-up pool.

Check your city requirements

A survey of several Chicago-area suburbs reveals nearly all require a permit for any pool containing water deeper than 24 inches, regardless of whether it's in or above the ground. Fees vary by town, but they can be a small price to pay compared to possible ordinance violation fines. 

Costs for a little backyard fun in an above-ground pool can add up even more if you do not already have a fenced-in yard.

“Anyone with any kind of pool with two feet of water in it is also required to have a fence with a locking gate,” said Mike McIntyre, building and property inspector for the village of Arlington Heights, Illinois.

Childproofing portable pools

Sounds like a bit much for a $300 inflatable pool with 4 feet of water, right? Not according to a 2011 study from the American Academy of Pediatrics, which found that more than 200 children under the age of 12 drowned in portable pools in the U.S. between 2001 and 2009.

“The use of portable pools in residential settings poses a significant risk of submersion-related morbidity and mortality to children, especially in the less than 5-year-old age group,” the reports says.

In addition to proper fencing, they also recommend you child-proof your pool by adding pool alarms and safety covers to stop little ones from jumping in without adult supervision.

Is your electrical in order?

Drowning isn’t the only risk to a DIY pool setup. Most cities in the Chicago region that we surveyed also impose strict electrical requirements for temporary pools with pumps or filtration systems. So, calling in an electrician may be necessary, even if it's another added pool installation expense.

The city of McHenry requires portable pools to be located 5 feet from any electrical underground conductors, 22.5 feet from overhead conductors, and outlets and cords to be GFCI protected. And don’t even think about using an extension cord for power!

Enforcing the law

Yes, that seems like a lot of steps to take before safely setting up a temporary pool for the summer. And McIntyre acknowledges that many homeowners flout local ordinances, and they may never be caught.

“This is a town of 80,000 people, and it’s hard to see what everyone has going on in their backyard,” he says. “A lot of times we rely on neighbors who will call in to report other neighbors without a permit or fencing.”

If you're feeling like it's a lot of work for a temporary install, here's what you need to know to dive deeper into an in-ground pool installation that could be ready for next summer.

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