As sticky as the hot summer days can be in New York City, the zoning and construction requirements for our backyard oasis can be even more so.

There are two types of pools that are accessory to one- or two-family homes that DO NOT require a permit from the Department of Buildings. These are: 1) outdoor in-ground pools less than 400 square feet in area, which have an existing slop sink connected to a sanitary sewer for drainage, and 2) above-ground pools that are less than 48 inches deep and do not exceed 500 square feet in area.

Though a permit is not necessary for these pools they must still comply with NYC Building Code standards. Homeowners can access the NYC Building Code online at, and see Rule 44 and sections 27-488 through 27-493 for specific requirements.

All other types of pools require plans to be filed by a licensed architect or engineer, and the issuance of a permit prior to construction. Whether requiring approval or not, the following general rules apply to all pool installations:

– Permanent markings showing the depth of the shallow end, break points, diving depth, and deep end must be visible from both inside and outside the pool.

– The pool must be located at least five feet from any lot line, unless the lot itself is less than 25 feet wide. In that case, the pool may be located at least three feet from the side yard lot line and must be screened from the adjoining lots by a six-foot-high fence that is continuous, solid and opaque.

– There must be a continuous fence surrounding the pool, at least four feet high above the ground with a closed, childproof, self-closing gate.

– If a fence is metal, it must be grounded to prevent it from becoming electrically charged.

– No overhead electrical conductors should be installed within 15 feet of the pool.

– Should you install a gas-fired pool heater, an architect or plumber must file for Building Department approval and an electrician must file for approval of an electrical pool heater.

– Drainage lines must either connect to a slop sink that is connected to a sanitary sewer or approval must be secured for alternative drainage methods

It is important to note however, that regulations from other agencies may apply to your property if your property is landmarked or is situated in a special natural area, historic, or other designated district. These regulations may concern front, rear, or side yard requirements, tree maintenance, and/or grading requirements that would affect your pool, porch, or deck location choice. You can secure landmarks information from the Landmarks Preservation Commission at, and zoning information from the Department of City Planning at

Upon completion of construction, sign-off inspections may be required, an updated survey may be needed indicating the conditions as completed, and either a Letter of Completion or amended Certificate of Occupancy may be required depending upon the type of approval that was required.

Summer is fast approaching us but there is still time for you to create your backyard bliss. Be sure to check with a licensed architect regarding the regulations specific to your property.

Use reputable pool installers and licensed home improvement contractors for installation and construction of any accessory structures. Most of all, remember that although these rules and regulations can put a damper on the installation process, they exist for your safety and for the safety of you friends and family. Make a splash and enjoy the summer!

Ronald D. Victorio, R.A. – Ronald Victorio Architects

(718) 720-3478   e-mail:  [email protected]

All our experts are licensed, bonded and insured members of the Staten Island Chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (The Home Improvement Contractors of Staten Island).  Homeowners should always consult with licensed professionals, check a contractor’s license through the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs (call 311 for information) and ensure that their project complies with NYC DOB regulations before embarking on any home improvement project.

To ask your home improvement questions contact: [email protected].