Vinyl Liner Inground Pools – Step Options

bullnose, pool steps

Today I am going to discuss the different types of steps that you can get in your vinyl liner inground swimming pool.  If my memory serves me correctly I may have discussed this a bit in a previous post.  Today I will go into more detail about each particular type of step.  There are four main types of steps that are available to you.  They are thermoplastic, acrylic fiberglass, and two types of liner over steps, the permanent form design and the straight tread design.

To begin I want to start with the thermoplastic step.  This type of step is made by heating a sheet of thermoplastic material making it malleable and easily manipulated and forming it to a step mold.  Once the material cools, it again becomes rigid making the solid step for the pool.  This type of step is in my opinion the least desirable for your pool.  You must understand that this type of material is susceptible to heat.  It can be recycled over and over again due to the fact that when heated it can again be formed into any shape.  This means that it can potentially become warped or mis-shaped after it has been installed in your pool.  I would be a little bit irritated if I spent all that money on a pool to have my step eventually warp.  I am not saying that it would definitely happen or that it happens often, but what I am saying is that there is the potential for it to occur.  This type of step uses a gasket, and strap system to keep the liner in place and ensure that there are no leaks.

Another type of step is the Acrylic Fiberglass step.  This type of step is a bit more structurally sound than the thermoplastic step.  It is not as susceptible to heat like the thermoplastic step.  However depending on the manufacturer the quality of the step may be sub par.  I know that some manufacturers use talc as a filler product to save money on the cost of making the step.  The problem with this is that it weakens the steps.  Other manufacturers like Only Alpha Pool Products use absolutely no filler material in the composition of the step.  In fact they use eight layers of material in the manufacturing process to ensure that the step is of the highest quality possible.  Both the thermoplastic step and the acrylic fiberglass step use standard PVC support legs to aid in the support of the step.  Like the thermoplastic step, the acrylic fiberglass step uses the gasket and strap system to keep the liner in place and ensure it doesn’t leak.

Both of these types of steps have been used for years in vinyl liner inground swimming pools, however there are some drawbacks to this type of step.  One is that these type of steps are limited in the color they are available.  Also there is a limitation to the style of the step and placement in the pool.

Another potential problem comes with the gasket and strap system.  You have to understand that for these steps a section of the liner has to be cut out and screwed to the step.  By simply cutting and putting holes in the liner you have the potential for leaks.  However most pool builders take the upmost care in cutting in the steps of the pool to make sure that they do not leak, and even if there is a leak the builder should make the necessary repair to correct it.  These are things that you have to think about when deciding what kind of steps you want in your pool.

The next two types of steps are the liner over style.  Which is just the way it sounds, the liner gets installed over the step.  I think that these are my favorite type of steps that are available.  There are two types to choose from as well.

Straight Tread Design

First is the straight tread design.  This type of step is made entirely out of steel or non-corrosive material, depending on the pool.  If you have read my other blog posts you know that vinyl liner inground pool walls can be made out of steel or a non-corrosive material and that there are differences in these materials depending on the manufacturer of them.  I am not going to get into that today, but if you are curious as to what the differences are please just check out my other blog posts about the types of vinyl liner inground swimming pools.  The point is that depending on what your pool is made of, the straight form design steps will likewise be made of the same material.  This design will include the riser and the tread of the step made out of either steel or the non-corrosive material.  The liner will be held in place at the point where the tread meets the riser by either a bead track or rods and clips.  The bead track is basically an opening in the corner where the bead of the steps can be tucked into to secure the liner.

The Liner will be made with a “bead” in the corners of the steps in order to secure the liner to the steps.  The rod and clip design uses fiberglass rods that get slipped into a pocket on the underside of the liner where the treads meet the risers of the steps.  This type of design will allow you to have as many color options as there are liner designs available.  There are a couple drawbacks to the straight tread design as well that should be addressed.  One is that they are somewhat limited to their shape.  The other is that depending on the builder there may be voids underneath the step resulting in areas that may flex or feel “spongy”.  This is because this type of step relies heavily on the backfill underneath to aid in their support.  Usually these steps come with support legs that get installed underneath them for support, but the spaces between the support legs rely on the backfill for support.  If the builder doesn’t properly backfill the step then you will likely be able to feel where the spaces between the support legs are.

Permanent Form Design

The other type of liner over step is what is commonly referred to as the permanent form design.  This is absolutely my favorite type of step due to the fact that it is the most customizable and can be made to any shape you want.  The difference is that the riser portions of the step are the only things made from steel or non-corrosive material.  All of the treads will be concrete or pool bottom mix depending on the builder (I prefer concrete).  Being that there are no treads initially, the builder has the opportunity to backfill them completely and ensure that they are structurally stable.  What the builder will do is fill the steps up with a non-compacting material like stone chips, or pea gravel leaving the top few inches open to fill with concrete.  This will give you the most stable type of step available for your in ground vinyl liner pool.  This type of step also uses the bead track or the rods and clips to secure the liner to the corners where the risers meet the treads.  If I you are thinking about having a vinyl liner inground pool built I would recommend getting the permanent form design liner over steps with the bead track option.

Rod and Clip
Bead Track

I personally think that the bead track option is better than the rod and clip due to the fact that you will never be able to feel where the bead is whereas with the rod and clip it will be obvious where the rods are in the steps.  It may seem kind of trivial but in my experience it is these types of things that you will be concerned with after the fact.

Thermo Plastic

Take a look at these next few photos to give you an idea of what the finished products will look like.

Acrylic Fiberglass
Straight Tread (Liner Over)
Permanent Form (Liner Over)