An above ground pool is installed standing above the grade of the ground around the pool. Pool owners have the option to build a deck around the area around the pool at the same height as the pool top rail. While above ground pools have many advantages over inground pools, access in and out of the pool isn’t one of them. Above ground pool users face a much more vertical challenge compared to steps that you simply walk down like a set of stairs to get into an inground pool. Ladder-like steps instead of stairs are still much better in an inground pool for the reasons stated below.
When planning an inground pool, the sky is pretty well the limit for variations of the technology to provide access into and out of the pool. There are sloping entries, small steps, and sweeping grand steps of every size and shape. The steps shown at the side are quite elaborate and ornate. The larger the pool footprint, the more options there are for the grand step entrance into the water. I always think ‘movie stars’ when I see photos of such fancy steps designs.
Of course, not all inground pools have such impressive, sweepings steps such as those pictured above. Many have a basic ladder attached to the side of the pool wall. Above ground pool steps will seem similar, but they are not attached to the wall. Too much stress in one point of the pool wall would cause failure in the structure.
On Shaky Ground
The ladder to the right is solidly affixed to the side of an inground pool. If you have used one to exit a pool, you will know that they are built rock solid and allow for a relatively easy exit from the swimming pool. These steps are bolted into thickened, support concrete designed to bear significant weight and stress.
As mentioned previously, above ground above ground pool steps are engineered to have steps that are sitting on top of the pool floor. They aren’t totally steady as they rest on the floor. Despite best efforts to anchor them down with weights such as bags of sand, they wiggle a bit when used. Anyone who has to work at entering or exiting the pool may find the shakiness too much of a challenge. There is no doubt that above ground pool steps are shaky when compared to in-wall steps that are bolted and cemented into place. However, you have to remember that inground pool steps alone cost more than many entire above ground pool packages!
There are many styles of pools steps to choose from, but from all reviews that you may read you will discover that all are on a sliding scale of solid.
This model of above ground pool steps is very popular amongst it’s purchasers. It earned 4.5 stars out of 5 after 474 customer reviews so it doesn’t get much better than that! Again, if you follow the link by clicking on the picture, you will be taken to Amazon and can read the reviews for yourself. This style of pool steps are meant to attached to a deck. An item of note is that some reviewers comment upon the ‘floatability’ of the steps, and that they need to be weighted down.
The stairs to the right are also available from Confer, and are similarly rated at 4 of 5 stars, but this time by only 13 reviews. Note the comments about sturdiness and safety when using the steps, and references to weighting the floating structure down with sand. There are also references to the ‘cheapo’ steps that came with the pool that were just to shaky to use. This style of pool ladder has the outside ladder attached to it for access without a deck. Note it is referred to as the ‘complete set’ as it is the outside of the pool steps that match up with the inside set opposite, and made for use in pools without a deck.
You want to keep access to your pool as restricted as possible when you are not present. Most municipalities have bylaws stating that all pool access must be limited by a 6 foot high enclosed fence. There is also an opportunity for the pool owner to restrict access to the steps leading up to the pool. In the section on Above Ground Pool Advantages over inground pools, I mentioned that without decking a child cannot fall into an above ground pool. However, that advantage is negated if you don’t close off the pool steps leading into the pool. Please view the following video about pool access safety considerations. It is very powerful, and shows the methods of restriction that are available to the above ground pool owner.
In the product example above and to the left, you will note that the Confer ladder that is attached to a deck would require restricted access to the deck, most likely by a gate with a locking mechanism. However, once you put the outside steps on the system, as in the complete system to the above right, there is a problem because you have just given small children access to the pool. Do not purchase any complete pool steps system that doesn’t have the safeguards below!
Here is an example of safety components on pool steps / ladder system for above ground swimming pool applications.
Note that the sides of the in-pool steps have restricted access panels built on their sides. This is to restrict child access behind the steps, where they could possibly be trapped. Similar safety considerations are given to the access to pool steps. There is a roll bar that restrict access to those steps for unattended children who may climb them and get into the pool. A picture of this ladder closed with the roll bar is included to show you how safety can and should be addressed with the above ground pool steps into and out of your pool.