3 Types of Steps for an Inground Vinyl Liner Pool
As tempting as it may be sometimes, you’re not allowed to leave people stranded in your pool. There are laws against that. Swimmers need a way to get out of the water, so you need a ladder at least, if not actual steps, and you have to include them in your design from the beginning.
Although River Pools specializes in manufacturing and installing fiberglass pools, we worked exclusively with vinyl liner pools for years. We're here to share our knowledge with you so you can make the best decision for your backyard—including details like steps and ladders. For an inground vinyl liner pool, you have these 3 options:
- White plastic steps (the standard)
- Vinyl over steps
White plastic steps
White plastic steps are the standard for vinyl liner pools. For me, and probably for most people, they’re the type of steps you expect to see in these pools.
They’re made of polymer and are attached to the pool walls.
These steps are affordable. They’re the option that comes with most vinyl liner pools, after all.
They’re pretty durable too. It’s solid plastic/polymer, with no liner over it, so you don’t have to worry about tears or punctures.
They aren’t the prettiest thing in the pool scene—plain at best, ugly at worst. Even aside from the mediocre appearance, the white shows dirt quickly.
Because these steps jut out from the pool, you have to customize the pool cover to fit over them.
Algae can grow in the edges where the liner meets the steps because water doesn’t circulate well there.
Some people like to design vinyl liner pools so they look like they’re made of concrete or fiberglass, but these white steps make it super obvious that it’s a vinyl liner pool—as in, visible from a plane obvious. Yikes. (I speak from experience. “Spot the vinyl liner pool while flying” is a fun game, by the way.)
Vinyl over steps
Vinyl over steps are a set of prefabricated steps that you install when you’re assembling the wall panels. They come in multiple shapes and materials. You order the liner to fit over the steps.
Vinyl over steps are more attractive than white plastic.
You also have more options—you can choose where you want them (along a wall, in a corner, etc.), how they look (linear or rounded), and what material they’re made of (metal or polymer).
As you might expect, vinyl over steps are more expensive than plain plastic steps. This includes both the initial cost and the lifetime cost of liner repairs and replacements.
You’ll have to keep a close eye out for punctures and tears on the steps. This can happen simply from the extra wear and tear, but there’s extra concern about dog claws if your pet plays there.
If you’re a DIY-er, vinyl over steps may not be a good choice. You have to be incredibly precise to install the liner to fit exactly right over the steps, and you’ll have maintenance problems later on if you do it wrong. (Plus, if it doesn’t fit right, it’ll look bad. No one wants that.)
A pool ladder is just stainless-steel rails with rungs that come down over the side of the pool. It’s installed into the patio, not the pool, and can be removed.
A basic pool ladder is less expensive.
You can remove the ladder if you want to. For instance, in the off season, you can remove it and then pull out the cover pool. That way the pool cover doesn’t have to be customized to go around it, which you have to do with white plastic pool steps.
Because a ladder is removable and simple, you can easily replace it when it wears out.
A ladder is harder to use getting in and out of the pool. It can be especially difficult for people who aren’t as strong, mobile, or agile. If older people will be using the pool, normal steps may be a better option.
A ladder is also not aesthetically pleasing. I’ve never met anyone planning their dream pool who said, “You know what I want? Let’s put a metal pool ladder right there. It’ll fit my nature theme perfectly.”
What other options do I have?
If none of these three options appeal to you, then you should consider a fiberglass pool. As you can see in our designs, each one comes with steps and bench seats integrated into the pool shell. They’re beautiful and extremely durable. The steps never need to be replaced, and neither does the pool’s interior finish if done correctly (unlike a vinyl liner, which only lasts 5-9 years).
River Pools is located in Virginia and manufactures fiberglass pools that are distributed throughout North America. If you would like to find a dealer, or if you live in Virginia or Maryland and would like to talk to us about fiberglass pools, we’d love to hear from you.
Editor's note: This blog article was updated on October 17, 2018.