When you’re enjoying yourself in the pool, having to haul yourself in and out of the water gets very old, very fast, especially with a tribe of kids in tow.
But there’s a better solution to throwing them (and yourself) over the edge, or relying on the rickety cheap ladder which came with your pool. You need to invest in a proper set of pool ladders or steps.
Read on to discover what you need to consider when buying a pool ladder, to ensure you’re making the right (and safe) decision for you and your family.
We chose the following above ground pool ladders based on their popularity, price-points and differentiating features.
A more complete review of each can be found later in this article.
Once you’ve installed and filled your above ground pool, you’re going to be staring straight at a giant wall that’s around 50 inches high, separating you from the water.
You need a way to safely scale the wall and get in your pool, and to help you get out again once you’ve had enough swimming for the day.
A pool ladder is often a key piece of equipment for young families or those with elderly parents, who will need additional help getting into and out of the water. You want to make sure they’ve got options so they can always get out, no matter what.
Of course, not everyone needs a pool ladder to get in and out of the pool, especially those who prefer the jump-and-dive approach. If you do, however, keep reading.
You have a variety of options when it comes to choosing a pool ladder, but perhaps the most important variable is the materials they’re constructed from.
Each type has their pros and cons, so let’s cover them one-by-one.
Fabricated from a highly durable plastic resin, this type of pool ladder is relatively low maintenance, but they can be bulkier than their aluminum or steel counterparts.
Often made from just plastic alone, you may need a rubber mallet to help you “click” the different pieces together as these connections can be very tight.
It’s also worth noting the trapped air inside the steps along with the buoyancy of the plastic means you will need to add pea gravel, sand, or find an effective counterweight to keep your ladder on the bottom of your pool, where they need to sit for the steps to work.
Aluminum pool ladders are more stable than their plastic and resin counterparts, and you’ll often find the railings or the frame of a particular pool ladder made from aluminum.
It’s a delicate balance of strength while remaining a light-weight solution, especially if you’re looking for a ladder that’s easy to maneuver into your pool.
I should also mention that while aluminum is much more rust-resistant than steel, it can oxidize and get pitted, especially if you’re using alkaline cleaning products.
Steel pool ladders provide a strong and sturdy frame, but this durability comes with a cost, these pool ladders are typically your most expensive option.
They’re also far heavier, which helps create a stable base that won’t wobble as you use it, but it is a substantial piece of equipment you will need to be pulling into and out of your pool.
Oh, and rust is a significant concern. Most pool products use galvanized steel, which means there’s a zinc coating on the metal, but this can also be damaged and wear through quickly in the right conditions if you’re not careful, leading to an unsafe pool ladder.
The most significant difference when comparing pool ladders to pool steps is how substantial the different products are.
With a set of pool steps you’re usually getting wider and deeper treads, a more stable base, and they’re much more comfortable to use, especially for the elderly or young kids.
Pool ladders are more akin to a temporary solution, and unlike a set of steps, they’re not designed to remain in the water for months on end. They’re easy to take out when not needed in the water.
Pool ladders are also much better at dealing with uneven or unlevel ground, while you typically need this to be rather flat if you’re wanting to use a set of pool steps.
Before deciding on the right set of pool steps or ladder for your above ground pool, it’s important to think about how you’ll be using them.
If you’re just after a quick, temporary fix to get in and out of the water, a ladder may be a smart choice. But for something more permanent you may instead want a set of steps.
Plastic resin is a cost-effective solution, but these products are notoriously difficult to keep from floating away. You need to ensure you’ve weighted these properly before dropping them into your pool, and if you’re not careful, they can become a breeding ground for algae.
Aluminum pool ladders are a more stable solution, heavier while still comfortable enough to maneuver in and out of the water when you want to use your swimming pool.
Steep pool ladders are the heaviest of the three types, but it’s important to remember just how much damage rust can do, especially if you’ve only bought a galvanized steel ladder.
Knowing which type to look for will narrow down your options, but it doesn’t help you measure the nuances that make or break a product.
Now let’s go over some of the main criteria you should apply to your decision making process when looking for the best above ground pool ladder.
Before buying a pool ladder, it’s important to check the height. Because if it’s not tall enough to properly scale the walls of your pool, it just won’t work. Most ladders do feature the ability to adjust their height so you can keep it flush with your pool walls.
The width of a pool ladder also makes a difference. Wider ladders are more stable because their anchor points are further apart, and of course, it’s much easier to use and climb over a wider set of stairs than a narrow one.
If you’re putting something in your pool that you want to sink, it’s vital there is some weight to it. Otherwise, your pool ladder will merely float in the water.
Many sets of pool steps have the option to add pea gravel or sand to counterbalance the buoyancy of the product, whereas pool ladders are heavy enough on their own.
I’d also recommend thinking about removing your steps one day. Pulling a 60-pound set of plastic steps from your pool that’s filled with 100 pounds of wet sand will definitely be a challenge.
Safety is a key concern when you’re buying pool equipment, and for the steps which help you get in and out of the water, stability is paramount. You don’t want wobbly steps.
Now, this is slightly mitigated by how heavy the steps are, but you should also consider the design. Are there handrails for additional support? Are there weights or counterbalances present to help stabilize you as you’re getting into the water?
The last thing you want is to take a tumble because of an unstable pool ladder.
Putting too much weight on a pool ladder is a recipe for broken steps, so it’s important to understand just how much weight a particular model can take.
Most brands will tell you how much weight their products are rated for, so do your due diligence and make sure it’s more than enough for your needs. Some particular products are rated up to 400 pounds, while others are significantly lower.
Before buying any piece of pool equipment, it’s important to know how long it will last.
For cheaper pool ladders, with the right care, you can expect these to last a few seasons, especially if you’re taking care to remove your metal products from the pool, cleaning them off and adequately drying them before storage.
More expensive pool steps will last longer, often as much as 4 to 5 seasons, though this may be less if you’re particularly rough with the products.
Buying a quality pool ladder is an investment in the safety of your pool, and will set you back anywhere from under a hundred dollars to a few hundred.
The key is to look for quality and purchase a pool ladder with a demonstrated success in lasting season, after season, after season.
So far we’ve covered why you need a pool ladder (or steps), the different types available, and what features to look out for.
In this section, we’ll be looking at specific above ground pool ladders, each of which were hand-picked for review based on the same criteria I’ve outlined in this guide.
Without further ado…
Designed by Splash Pools this is a galvanized steel pool ladder, available in both 36-inch and 42-inch options, depending on the height you need for your pool.
Featuring a robust lock-seam tubing system for added support and strength, the step-by-step instructions make this an easy product to assemble out of the box.
What I like best is how light it is, at just 10.15 pounds it’s easy to out in and out of the pool as you need it, but it can rust rather fast if you leave it for long periods in your pool.
- A lightweight ladder that’s easy to put in and out of your pool
- Durable resin steps are comfortable on your feet
- Legs can grind up the bottom of your pool and cause leaks
- A small ladder that’s not very stable for adults
- Will rust very quickly if left in your pool
Designed by Confer, the curve base pool steps have been molded from a super-strong chemical resin, capable of supporting up to 400 pounds in weight.
Featuring adjustable base pads to help level these steps on uneven ground, the sides have an opening to fill with sand or pea gravel for the weight you need to stop the steps floating.
What I like best is the 5-year warranty Confer offer, but the biggest downside is the sand you need to use. If you’re not careful this can become a breeding ground for algae and other bacteria in your pool, so be diligent.
- Extremely sturdy steps will not “give” when you walk on them
- Funnel hole for adding the sand or gravel a little too small
- Sand inside the steps can be breeding ground for bacteria
Designed by Vinyl Works, this is a plastic resin A-Frame ladder you can use effectively on pools with a wall between 48 to 56 inches, capable of supporting up to 300 pounds in weight.
Featuring four steps and a top platform to help you scale the pool walls, it’s a sturdy ladder with strong handrails to lend support when getting into your pool.
What I like best is the safety feature of the exterior ladder, it slides up to prevent your kids or your pets gaining unauthorized access to your swimming pool. The most significant downsides are the stability, it’s a tad wobbly, and the top step has far too much give.
- Safety feature allows the ladder to slide out of children’s reach when not in use
- Somewhat complicated to assemble out of the box
- At 58 pounds it’s a rather heavy ladder
Designed by Confer, this set of easy-access pool steps are constructed from heavy-duty plastic resin and capable of supporting up to 400 pounds.
Featuring an easy to complete, “snap-together” assembly, you’re also given mouthing brackets if you would like to secure and fasten these steps to your deck.
What I like best is the extra wide steps and the large, non-slip skids on the surfaces of every step. The biggest downside is these are another set of pool steps that require the addition of sand to weigh them down, and even once it’s set up, it still feels a little wobbly.
- Easy to assemble with clear and simple instructions
- Need to purchase 40 pounds of sand for installation
- Sand inside the steps can be breeding ground for bacteria
Designed by Champlain Plastics, the plastic drop-in steps are one of the easiest sets of steps you can use in your pool.
Featuring a one-piece assembly, all you need to do is connect the handles and fill the weight containers with pea gravel, before dropping these steps into your pool. You’ve also got the option to buy the outside option and turn this product into a full A-frame.
What I like best is the steps leave the back open so your vacuum can get behind in there to clean the floor and the walls. The only downside is the quality, many users have had problems with cracked plastic and split steps.
- Very easy to assemble and start using in your pool
- Need to use pea gravel to weigh it down properly
- Quality of the plastic means steps can break easily
Designed by Main Access, this above ground step ladder effectively creates a no-swim zone to prevent kids and animals getting stuck underneath, without stopping the water flow.
Able to effectively support up to 300 pounds in weight, this is an adjustable pool ladder that will fit pools from 48 to 54 inches.
What I like best about this step ladder are the 24-inch wide steps, and the lift and lock safety feature you can use to secure your pool when you’re not around. Though a handful of buyers have commented on the quality of this product, it feels flimsy and cheaply made.
- Lock the steps as a safety measure to prevent unauthorized access
- No swim zone to stop kids swimming under the steps
- Hasn’t been constructed from the highest quality materials
Designed by Ocean Blue, the mighty step is a plastic resin option capable of handling up to 400 pounds in weight on the steps.
Featuring a textured surface for added grip, the 30-inch wide steps are comfortable to use, with easy-to-grab handrails for extra support.
What I like best is the option to purchase an extra wide set of 38-inch steps if you’re wanting a wider choice, though the most significant downside would be the sturdiness of the handrails, and that despite weighing down the sidewalls, the steps sometimes continue to float.
- Option to purchase even extra wide steps for added comfort
- Doesn’t snap together easily (like similar sets of steps)
- Lack of screws to hold it together results in it coming apart very easily
If you’re going to buy a set of pool steps to make it easy to get in and out of your pool, the Curve Base Steps from Confer are a smart choice. Able to support up to 400 pounds in weight, the adjustable base pads mean your steps are always stable. But where Confer really wins out is the five-year warranty, they’re leagues ahead of other brands.
In second place we have the A-Frame pool ladder from Vinyl Works. Capable of scaling the walls of every standard above-ground pool, the sturdy construction means you’ll have no problems getting all of your family in and out of the water. Or keeping your kids out when you’re not around to watch, with the safety lock on the exterior ladder.
Ensuring you’ve got an easy and effective way to get in and out of your pool is critical, so invest in a good set of steps today. You’ll be glad you did.