Dear Angie: We're buying a home that has a backyard koi pond. Is it possible to make it safe for our 4-year-old, or would we be better off filling it in?
— Ramanpreet J., Portland, Oregon
Dear Ramanpreet: As a parent and homeowner, I empathize as you make this difficult decision. I can offer some guidelines and ideas for you to consider, but I can't say what is the right choice for your family.
A child can drown in just a few inches of water. It's imperative to teach our kids about the dangers of pools, ponds, bathtubs and other water bodies, and to keep a close eye on them whenever they are in or near water. However, even the best intentions can fail to prevent an accident.
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Some experts suggest that the safest route would be to turn your pond into a sandbox for your little one. Others suggest ways to reduce the risk. If you're leaning toward maintaining the pond, I urge you to check with your local government to see if a fence or other barrier is required for residential ponds.
But even if you face no safety mandates, keep in mind that a pond is similar to a swimming pool in regard to the danger and allure it poses for children. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recommends that pools be enclosed with a fence at least 4 feet tall.
Be aware that decorative, low-profile fencing may not be tall or sturdy enough to keep a child out of a pond. One top-rated pond pro told us he witnessed his 3-year-old grandson push a patio chair next to a low fence with the plan of climbing over.
Also, if your backyard is already fenced, but the pond itself remains accessible within the enclosed area, you can fence the pond separately. Another option is to use netting or a sturdy cover to ward off kids, pets and fish-seeking predators.
Many pond nets are made of nylon rope with openings that are often 3 square inches wide. Netting can cost $1,000 to $5,000, depending on size and installation difficulty, according to top-rated pond service providers. They warn that cheaper nets may not prevent a child from sinking into the water. For added protection, consider a motion sensor that's meant to sound an alarm when something falls on the net.
Other rigid covers or grills, whether store-bought or custom-made, may also reduce the chances of a child or pet falling into a pond.
Only you can decide if these options are enough to make you comfortable with keeping the pond.
I wish you and your family the best as you make your decision. Enjoy your new home!
Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angieslist.com to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at email@example.com.
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