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What types of pools require a permit?

A building permit is required to construct an in-ground or above-ground pool, fish pond, or any other structure located outdoors which is capable of containing a depth of 2 feet or more of water. Hot tubs, spas and whirlpools do not need a building permit: however, an electric permit must be on file from a licensed electrical contractor and location restrictions apply. Note: a pool located in a floodplain requires a floodplain permit even if a pool/building permit is not required.

What do I need to apply for a building permit?

In order to apply for a building permit, you will need to submit:

  • a completed building permit application form
  • two copies of the brochure or plans showing the type style, specifications, etc. of the proposed pool
  • three copies of the land survey with the pool and fencing (if required) drawn on each copy
  • a $50 permit fee (make checks payable to the City of Wauwatosa).

When your permit is issued, one copy of your plans and land survey will be returned to you.

Why do I need a survey and how can I obtain one?

Surveys are required to ensure that your project complies with today’s zoning codes and is the best way to avoid property boundary disputes with neighbors. The walls of any pool structure must be a minimum of 6 feet from the rear and side lot lines. For emergency access, all pools must have an unobstructed area of 4 feet around the perimeter. Oftentimes, the city may have a copy of your survey on file. If not, check your records. Some homeowners may have previously acquired this document in conjunction with the home purchase. Otherwise, the services of a qualified Land Surveyor should be obtained. A number of firms can be found online and in the Yellow Pages.

Are there any location restrictions?

Yes. Pools are allowed only in rear yards.

What about overhead yards?

Overhead power supply conductors crossing a pool must be a minimum of 22 feet above the swimming pool, diving structure, observation stand, tower or platform. This also applies to the area extending 10 feet horizontally from the pool edge (area above line 2 in below).

However, overhead communication and antenna distribution conductors and neutral supported cables not exceeding 750 volts have a lesser restriction of 15 feet above the swimming pool, diving structure, etc. (area above line 1 in diagram below). No conductors are permitted in the area under line 1 in the diagram below.

Are there any other requirements I should be aware of?

Yes. The maintenance of water in a pool should not remain stagnant so as to become an odor nuisance or a potential breeding place for mosquitoes. If the clarity of the pool water is such that a black disc, 6 inches in diameter, is not readily visible when placed on a white field at the deepest point of the pool, the pool water must be chemically treated and mechanically filtered until the condition is corrected or the pool must be drained..

Do I need a fence around the pool?

That depends. Fences are not required around an above ground pool where the pool wall is at least 3 1/2 feet above grade. For in-ground pools, a fence or other solid structure not less than 3 1/2 feet in height must completely enclose it. If a wood fence is used, the spacing between the planks must be less than 6 inches square.

Gates or door openings must be kept securely closed at all times when not in use and be equipped with a self-closing and self-latching device. Latches must be located at least 3 1/2 feet above the underlying ground. All ladders, steps or other means of access to an above-ground pool shall be removed or designed to prevent access when the pool is unattended by a person capable of swimming, or not in use. Keep in mind that these requirements are intended to prevent unauthorized entry of any person too young to understand the dangers of your pool. Any variance for a substituted enclosure, safety device, or perimeter limitation must be approved by the Board of Public Works.


For more information, please email the Building & Safety Division or call (414) 479-8907.

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