Best Aboveground Pool Ladders

Updated December 2019
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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
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Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.Read more 
How we decided

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

24 Models Considered
6 Hours Researched
1 Experts Interviewed
132 Consumers Consulted
Zero products received from manufacturers.

We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Buying guide for best aboveground pool ladders

Last Updated December 2019

Comfortably getting in and out of your aboveground pool is all about the ladder or stairs. It doesn’t matter if you have to climb an A-frame ladder or stairs that bolt to a deck to use the pool, what counts is that the steps are safe, stable, easy to use, and strong enough to hold the weight of the people using them.

To make life by the pool more fun and relaxed, take a few minutes to think about what type of ladder would suit your needs. You need to know your pool’s height. For example, an A-frame ladder that’s too tall can be scary to use for some people. Think about what type of steps can make getting in and out of the pool easier for anyone with mobility issues, too.

Aboveground pool ladders are somewhat unique products in that there are more questions than features to think about before making a purchase. Our shopping guide dives into how ladders differ and why one type might be better for your needs than another. We’ve included some of our favorites to start you on your search, too.

Though some drop-in steps for both in-ground and aboveground pools look alike, models may differ. You need steps designed only for flat-bottom pools without any slope or transitions.

Key questions

The answers to the following questions will help you find the right above-ground pool ladder for your needs.

Is your aboveground pool surrounded by grass or decking?

The type of ladder you need depends on what is around your pool. It comes down to whether you access your pool from the ground or a deck. There are two basic types of aboveground pool ladders: A-frame and drop-in. Each type comes in various styles.

  • A-frame: If your pool is surrounded by grass, you need an A-frame ladder, which has stairs on both sides of the pool wall. Most pool packages include a basic starter A-frame ladder. These styles come as a full-stair entry system with steps rather than rungs. An A-frame can also be purchased as a combination unit with one side steps and the other side rungs.

  • Drop-in: If your pool is surrounded by a deck, you need a drop-in ladder or stair, also called walk-in steps, for the inside of the pool wall. Drop-in/walk-in steps come in various styles for aboveground pools, but the drop-in style always has arms that attach to the decking, and sometimes the pool’s rim, too, to keep it stable.

Does your pool need to be childproof?

If you have an in-ground pool, local regulations likely mandate that you have a locked fence around the structure for child safety. If you have an aboveground pool, you still need barriers for child safety. If your pool is surrounded by grass and you opt for an A-frame ladder, you’ll need to be able to remove or lock up the ladder when the pool is unsupervised. Some models have locks that are high enough on the ladder to be difficult for little kids to reach. If your pool is surrounded by decking, you’ll need to have some type of locked fence. Stairs for decked aboveground pools aren’t designed with locks.

DID YOU KNOW?

Salt water can corrode the shiny surfaces on pool ladders. Look for zinc sacrificial anodes to attach to the rails to protect the metal parts.

Key considerations

Style

Both A-frame and drop-in ladders come in numerous styles.

  • A-frame: Childproof A-frame ladders have different systems, including a lockable barrier that rolls over the outer steps so young kids can’t climb on it. Some A-frame styles have a ladder for the outer wall and a drop-in style stair on the inner wall, joined by a platform for easy maneuvering in and out of the pool.

  • Drop-in: Drop-in ladders are often called stepladders, in-pool deck ladders, wedding cake steps (half- or quarter-round shape with layered steps with handrail), and curved in-pool steps. Choosing a style depends on your preferred look and the desired comfort level when getting in and out of the pool.

Weight capacity

On average, aboveground pool ladders can support between 300 and 400 pounds, with rare wedding cake styles that can hold up to 500 pounds for sitting. That’s more than adequate if young kids frequently use the pool, even if two or more of them are on the stairs at the same time.

Materials

Above-ground pool ladders are constructed of various materials, depending on the design, including plastic resin or vinyl with rustproof galvanized steel or less-expensive aluminum handrails. Numerous resin models have molded handrails of the same material.

Dimensions

  • Width: Ladders and steps typically measure 24 to 31 inches wide. Wedding cake steps can be wider.

  • Tread depth:  Treads are typically between 5 and 10 inches deep. Choose a tread size that feels comfortable for you and your family. Deeper treads, especially if they’re nonskid, help pool users of all ages feel more secure when entering and exiting the pool. Ladders with shallow treads may feel uncomfortable on your feet.

Stability

Look for A-frame or drop-in ladders/steps with two handrails for extra stability when entering and exiting the pool. Steps held together with more than one screw on each side tend to offer more stability, too.

  • Sand or water: Many plastic and vinyl aboveground pool steps need to be filled with sand to weigh down the structure so it stays submerged. Other models rely on the weight of water to provide ballast and weigh down the steps.

Angle

Some pool ladders have an extremely steep angle, making entering and exiting difficult for some people. Wedding cake steps are the least steep. A more naturally angled step results in a more comfortable climb in and out of the pool, but also note that the gentler angle juts farther into the pool space.

You might need a rubber mallet to assemble an aboveground pool ladder. Otherwise, it’s essentially a tool-free process, with the exception of screws for any deck flanges.

Staff
BestReviews

Aboveground pool ladder features

Nonslip treads: Today’s pool ladders and stairs are designed with nonslip surfaces, including deep notches. Plastic and vinyl treads have a rough surface coating over some of all of each step, which help keep wet feet from slipping.

Barrier: For A-frame ladders, the outside steps slide up, which is an important feature to keep kids from becoming stuck between rungs and rails when there’s no supervision. On other A-frame systems, there’s a lockable gate that covers the outside steps, making it nearly impossible for young kids to climb up into the pool.

Lights: Some manufacturers include an attachable LED light to place in a predrilled cutout on the step, which is convenient for nighttime swimming.

Ventilation: Algae can grow in the ladder nooks and crannies where water doesn’t circulate well enough. Look for adequate perforations and vents to help prevent the growth of algae on the ladder.

Step pad: Some aboveground pool ladders come with a vinyl pad that goes beneath the steps to protect the pool’s liner.

UV protection: Some high-quality resin steps are made to resist fading and other damage from UV light or weather.

Warranty: You’ll find ladders and steps that come with a one- to five-year limited warranty.

Aboveground pool ladder prices

Inexpensive: Between $65 and $150, you’ll find a wide selection of basic and entry-level A-frame ladders with galvanized metal frames and plastic steps. These starter ladders are ideal for inflatable aboveground pools as short as 36 inches. In this price range, you’ll also find simple plastic in-pool ladders to fit pools of all heights that mount to the deck or the pool’s rim.

Mid-range: From $150 to $250, you’ll find the bulk of both types of ladders/steps in all styles. These have deeper rungs or steps. You’ll see some A-frame systems with lockable roll guards and safety barriers and higher-quality, wider drop-in ladders and steps made of thicker plastic.

Expensive: From $250 to about $350, you’ll find heavy-duty A-frame ladders and systems, along with drop-in steps with accessories such as mats, LED lights, or sand weights.

Premium: In the $400 to $500 range, you’ll see wedding cake steps with a handrail and three or four steps. In the $500 to $750 range, you’ll find A-frame full-stair entry systems (stairs on both sides of the pool wall) with gated and lockable enclosures.

EXPERT TIP

Always put a pad under your steps inside the pool to protect the liner from abrasion. If you don’t have a pad, you can use a vinyl bathtub or shower liner.


Staff  | BestReviews

Tips

  • Make your own stair weights. You’ll likely need weights to hold down buoyant pool steps. If you worry about using dirty rocks or sand bags that may deteriorate, break open, and create a mess in the water, there’s an elegant option. Fill PVC tubes with sand and close them with end caps cemented on with PVC glue. Place the weights on the back and bottom of the steps.

  • Remove the steps for the winter. When winterizing your pool, remove the steps even if they’re bolted to the deck. The steps could be damaged if left in place. If you have steps with metal rails that are impossible to remove, they’ll likely weather. Try polishing and waxing them to bring back the shine when you uncover the pool again.

  • Look for an adjustable ladder. Some drop-in ladders and stairs for above-ground pools have adjustable arms that raise or lower to fit pools that are 48 to 60 inches tall. If your deck is higher than and not flush with your pool, look for a ladder with adjustable arms that can reach and attach to the top of the decking.

Other products we considered

There are a couple more ladders that caught our eye that we’d like to mention. We love the BiltMore above-ground Step and Ladder System because you can buy it separately or as an A-frame system combining both step and ladder. The step is a spacious 25 inches wide, and loads of vents keep water circulating and algae at bay. For a basic, simple, but well-received drop-in ladder, we like the Confer Economy above-ground In-Pool Ladder. Pool owners like that it feels solid, it has a top safety platform, and it takes up minimal space, which is ideal for an 18-foot round pool.

Not every A-frame ladder is suitable for use in an inflatable aboveground pool. Check the manufacturer’s specifications.

FAQ

Q. Do I add the sand before or after I put drop-in steps in the water?

A. Either way, it’s a workout, but it’s your choice. If you put sand in before you install the steps, you’ll need a small crew to lift the heavy structure into the water. If you add sand into the ballasts after the ladder is in the water, it’s still a messy job and your water may be cloudy until wayward sand or sand dander is filtered out of the water. This is why many pool owners devise alternate ways to weigh down their pool steps.

Q. Besides making PVC tubes, what’s another method for weighing down drop-in steps?

A. This is one of the most challenging issues for aboveground drop-in ladders and steps. Some people fill milk containers with gravel, but you’ll find plenty of other suggestions online.

Q. What ladder or stair can I use if I have a saltwater aboveground pool?

A. Pools with saltwater systems create their own higher-quality chlorine that’s healthier for the body. For saltwater pools, plastic or stainless steel ladders/steps should be fine. Just avoid using aluminum because it will corrode and pit.

The team that worked on this review
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Marilyn
    Marilyn
    Writer
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer

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