The Best Above Ground Pool Steps Make Entering and Exiting the Water a Cinch
And they’re a great lounge spot when you only want to dip your toes.
Published May 30, 2022 1:10 AM
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As temperatures continue to climb, those lucky enough to find solace from the sun in their pools only need to worry about how to get in and out of the water. And if your cooling retreat rests on top of your backyard (rather than in the ground), you’ll need one of the best above ground pool steps to prevent your midday dip from feeling like a visit to the jungle gym. Surprisingly, the options are plentiful (whether you have an existing deck setup or not), from material to size. So how do you figure out which is best for you? Not to worry: We found a shared set of similarities in our search that will quell these concerns and more, thanks to the help of Leslie’s pool expert, Lisa Cheatham—who walked us through tips on design, safety, versatility, ease of installation, and more—so all you have to worry about is inflating your favorite pool floatie to maximize the hours spent blissfully drifting in peace.
- Best overall: Confer Above Ground Pool Double Entry System
- Best versatility: Confer Above Ground Swimming InPool Step & Ladder
- Best style: Blue Wave Wedding Cake Step With Liner Step Pad
- Best for decks: Blue Wave Above Ground Swimming Pool Step to Deck
- Best ladder: Lumi-o Above Ground Pool Step Royale II
Best Overall: Confer Above Ground Pool Double Entry System
Material: Plastic | Design: A-frame | Load capacity: 400 pounds | Recommended pool depth: 48–54 inches | Anti-slip: Yes | Removable: Yes
What we like:
- Adjustable height
- Steps come in various colors
- Self-locking safety gate
- Relatively expensive
Why we chose it: An all-in-one double-step design that won us over for being extra-safe (hello, self-latching gate!) and easily accessible.
Who doesn’t love a good one-stop-shop deal? This aboveground pool entry system is just that: It comes in two sections that are connected by an accompanying step enclosure kit. One set of stairs goes inside the pool, while the other sits outside it, plus the safety handrails make it a cinch for children or anyone with mobility issues to easily and safely enter and exit the water. Another bonus: The steps come with a built-in, self-latching gate in case you forget to lock it. To top it off, they’re nonslip and wide enough to comfortably sit or stand on.
While the system is a bit hefty (you’ll need an extra pair of hands to put it together), most of the pieces snap in place, simplifying the assembly process. And unlike other models, you don’t have to worry about tacking on a bag of sand for stability; simply fill the side railing with water and you’re good to go. The only caveat? You’ll want to remove the steps to an enclosed, dry space during the winter months to enjoy them for many summers to come, though the material is rust-proof so they’ll still maintain a fresh look even when exposed to the elements.
Best Versatility: Confer Above Ground Swimming InPool Step and Ladder
Material: Plastic | Design: A-frame | Load capacity: 300 pounds | Recommended pool depth: 48–54 inches | Anti-slip: Yes | Removable: Yes
What we like:
- Simple installation
- Can be used with or without a deck
- Only available in 1 color
Why we chose it: A convertible A-frame accessory that fits pools with or without decks.
As Cheatham explains, A-frame steps generally make a great pair for aboveground pools without a deck, as they allow swimmers to ascend the pool side and then step down into the pool. But this pick from Confer made the cut because it can work either way: The step-and-ladder combo comes with mounting brackets that allow it to be converted into a deck-friendly setup, so you can simply add a platform at a later date without having to buy a new set of steps. (Versatility and convenience? We’ll take both.) Then there’s the safety features: a mounting ladder with tread to prevent slippage and a folding mechanism with padlock to keep the little ones from entering without supervision, plus a set of wide blue steps for increased underwater visibility. One note, though: While the steps are relatively lightweight at 10 pounds, they’ll be considerably heftier once you’ve filled the ladder openings with sand (40 pounds total, per the manufacturer’s recommendations) that help them remain stable in the water. Just be sure to have someone on standby to help you remove them in preparation for the cooler months.
Best Style: Blue Wave Wedding Cake Step With Liner Step Pad
Material: Plastic | Design: Freestanding | Load capacity: 500 pounds | Recommended pool depth: Up to 54 inches | Anti-clip: Yes | Removable: Yes
What we like:
- Wedding cake–tier design
- Easy to clean and assemble
- Steps molded to resist buckling or flexing
- Relatively heavy
- Single handrail
- No need for ballast
Why we chose it: A four-step option that suits all deck types and has a natural hue that blends with most pools.
Of all the choices out there, we’d argue these are easily the best-looking. We can’t imagine any pool that these cool blue accessories wouldn’t complement. And since there’s no ballast needed for balancing, not only is installation and removal easy and quick, its silhouette is sleek and simple. Despite its glossy surface, the nonskid steps are perforated to increase chemical circulation and reduce algae buildup. They also come with a free 4-by-4-foot deluxe step pad to protect your pool liner (ladder bases are often the culprit behind tears). A quick safety tip, though: There’s only one handrail, so keep this in mind if you happen to be hosting a kid-friendly party, so those who require a little extra help stay balanced.
Best for Compact Pools: Blue Wave Above Ground Swimming Pool Step to Deck
Material: Resin | Design: Freestanding | Load capacity: 350 pounds | Recommended pool depth: Up to 54 inches | Anti-slip: Yes | Removable: Yes
What we like:
- Space saving
- Easy to assemble and install
- 3-year warranty
- No color options
Why we chose it: A straightforward alternative that’s perfect for the space-conscious shopper.
The double detachable handrails and wide, descending steps mean this Blue Wave selection is a shoo-in. The top flanges make the mounting process painless and quick, plus the thoughtful design works well with a smaller deck. Store these steps inside to keep the resin from cracking in extreme winter weather conditions. They connect more easily to a flat surface, so you may want to skip this if your pool has sloped edges. Otherwise, it’s a sturdy, family-friendly solution for you and your deck.
Best Ladder Design: Lumi-o Above Ground Pool Step Royale II
Material: Resin | Design: Ladder | Load capacity: 350 pounds | Recommended pool depth: Up to 54 inches | Anti-slip: Yes | Removable: Yes
What we like:
- Comes in 3 colors
- Small-deck friendly
- Easy assembly
- Warranty only covered for a year
- Safety gate and fence sold separately
Why we chose it: An easily buildable offering with multiple color options.
According to Cheatham, pool ladders are a relatively inexpensive accessory that save on space, compared to A-frames and freestanding steps, and this selection from Lumi-o easily fits the bill. The steps slide inside the pool, leaving the deck clear of any equipment blocking your path to the water from the outside. Plus construction is quick and to the point: Insert the handrail posts into the ladder, fill the ballast with 15 pounds of sand, and you’re in business (the Lumi-o ladder ships in one piece). And, of course, we love the fittingly water-inspired color options of aqua blue, dark gray, and pearl gray.
One quick note: These steps are designed with a bit of spring, so expect some minor movement on contact.
How We Chose These Products
Not everyone in search of the best aboveground pool steps has a pool deck, so we focused our search on products compatible with various setups and sizes. Along with Cheatham’s suggestions and expertise, we sifted through the available options while taking note of the assembly process, load capacity, ease of installation and removal (because frozen pool steps are a no-go), and, most important, safety aspects (for instance, do they have double handrails and wide, slip-resistant stairs, and include lock features to control accessibility?). We also prioritized size in our search, because there’s definitely a way to safely pack a ton of fun into backyards and pool decks with modest square footage.
Our Shopping Checklist
Types of Pool Steps
“A-frame steps tend to be stronger and more affordable, but the material deteriorates over time,” says Cheatham. “Pool ladders offer a sleeker design but have smaller steps than a freestanding stair, which can lead to difficulty entering and exiting the pool, so you should consider functionality when deciding what sort of aboveground pool steps to purchase.” While we mostly included polymer options, pool steps can come in fiberglass and steel as well.
Size and Materials
The size of your steps or ladder will largely depend on the size of your pool, Cheatham notes. But make sure your steps are the correct height for your pool walls (careful not to choose too tall or too short). No need to second-guess any of your measurements, though: The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) sets forth a pretty straightforward code of requirements that offers guidelines for the types of steps one can and should have paired with their aboveground pool, including the designated length between the deck and the steps, the tread surface area, height specifications, and more, lists Cheatham. So before you head home with your new pool steps in hand, make sure your preferred design meets all safety standards.
Once you nail down the right dimensions, next is figuring out which material is best for you and your pool. This choice can affect the cost and quality of each style, explains Cheatham. They can be made from heavy-duty plastic (like most of our picks) and metal components, like those that assist with anchoring.
Additionally, Cheatham points to the durability of equipment needed, what seasons your pool will be in use, and the space you have available for your entrance and exit points as other factors to take stock of when selecting the right material.
Safety and Stability
If your stairs submerge into the pool, it’s essential to have some type of safety barrier that prevents swimmers—especially children—from getting stuck behind the stair or ladder, Cheatham says. (Freestanding stairs generally come with their own self-latching gates that comply with codes, she notes.) It’s also important to double-check the load capacity to ensure that everyone who wants to enter and exit the pool can do so easily, safely, and with ample support.
Installation and Setup
The difficulty of setting up your steps boils down to the type you buy. Some are anchored directly to the aboveground pool, while others can be anchored into the foundation, Cheatham explains. In the case of a ladder or A-frame style, you can use adhesives, locks, and screws to secure your pool steps.
If you’re a DIY, hands-on type, you can certainly do all of this solo. But if you get in over your head, Cheatham suggests reaching out to a certified pool pro for assistance.
Q: How wide are pool deck steps?
They come in a variety of sizes—most of our picks measure 27 inches wide—but because safety regulations tend to vary by state, you’ll need to check local codes to ensure your pool steps are up to compliance in your area.
Q: How do I know my pool steps are secured safely?
Some steps are equipped with a ballast to keep them from floating. After installation, you either fill them with water or sand (depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation). In some cases, you can substitute sand for gravel. If you’d rather take the DIY route, you can make your own weights by using plastic bottles filled with water or sand and tying them to the bottom of the steps to anchor them in place.
Q: Is it okay to leave my pool steps out all winter long?
“Anything in the water will need to be removed before closing the pool for the winter,” says Cheatham (whether you live in the Northeast or not). When winterizing your aboveground pool, store the steps someplace indoors and dry, away from the elements, so they can last and be ready to use again during the next pool season. A garage or basement are great hibernation destinations.
The Last Word
When choosing the best aboveground pool steps, be sure to take safety, durability, price, and aesthetics into account. Sure, you want your steps to enhance the look of your pool, but they also need to be equally supportive and secure for every swimmer. Apply sunscreen, go forth, and enjoy endless (safe!) dips in the pool.
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