Find Pool Builders & Pool Service Companies
Schedule a FREE Pool Estimate
Give Us A Call Today!(844) 981-0019
Give Us A Call Today!(916) 306-8654

Pool Ladders, Rails, and Steps Resource Guide

Ladders and handrails for entering and exiting the pool are often overlooked. You don’t give it much thought. However, ladders and stairs are a necessary addition to any pool for reasons of safety. In this helpful resource, we’ll cover the various inground pool rails, steps, and ladders that can be purchased, as well as how to install a ladder and perform routine repairs and maintenance on a rail or ladder.

Steps Vs Ladders Which is Better?

Safe and convenient entry and exit from your above-ground or inground pool is ensured with a quality pool ladder. With so many choices, it’s up to you to decide whether to start with the basics, progress to more advanced models, or focus on aesthetics in your search for the ideal ladder to complement your existing furnishings.

There is a wide range of customization available, including material, size, and the option between a step stool and a ladder. Make sure the ladder you choose will fit your pool before making any further considerations. This goes well beyond below- or aboveground installations.

Unlike with a ladder, which necessitates a climbing action as you ascend and descend its rungs, entering and exiting your pool is as simple as taking a few steps. Despite the extra volume, it could be simpler for individuals to move about in. In terms of both popularity and cost, stairs tend to be somewhat more desirable than other options.

Conversely, some ladders include the more conventional rung design typical of terrestrial ladders. They won’t protrude as much as steps, so they’ll cost less and take up less room in your pool. Even if your inground pool already has stairs, you may find that you still need a ladder to access the water in the deep end.

It’s possible that you’ll want to acquire a combo step/ladder when outfitting an above-ground pool with an entry and exit system. A set of stairs outside the pool can be used to access the ladder inside.

Ladders for Inground Swimming Pools - Learn about pool ladders, steps, and handrails.
Ladders for Inground Swimming Pools – Pool ladders, steps, and handrails are all essential for getting in and out of the pool.

Ladders for Inground Pools

Most inground pool ladders have three rungs, but two, three, and four-rung options are available; depending on the pool’s depth.

About Pool Ladders

They have a diameter of 1.9 inches and are made out of stainless steel tubing. The tubes are formed, then drilled and polished to a mirror sheen. Ladder treads, ladder bumpers, hardware (bolts and nuts), and escutcheon plates are all part of what is shipped in most pool ladder kits.

In order to prevent the ladder from swaying, there is no deck anchor socket built into the design. These require their own set of anchor sockets (1.9′′ OD) and installation procedure, similar to those used for inground pool ladders.

Three-step ladders come with plastic treads ideal for use around the average residential swimming pool. Most support up to 250 lb and plug right into standard deck studs of 1.9′′ diameter.

Commercial Pool Ladders

Commercial pool ladders on the other hand are constructed with 33% thicker steel tubing, extra wide 22″ treads, and stainless steel treads. A traditional three-bend style of the pool’s railing satisfies all National Swimming Pool Foundation regulations.

In-Wall Pool Ladders

The in-wall variety of pool ladder features two to four plastic recessed treads that are installed into the pool wall (for either concrete or vinyl pools) and four grab rails that slide into anchor sockets attached to an 8-inch channel.

Although in-wall pool ladders aren’t commonly added to already built swimming pools, they are a viable option for those looking to update the look of their pool or replace traditional ladders that are incompatible with safety or automatic pool covers.

Pool handrails for stairs featuring Kool Grips.
Pool handrails for stairs featuring Kool Grips.

Rails for Inground Swimming Pools

Inground pool handrails serve two purposes: they make it easier for weary swimmers to get in and out of the water, and they prevent accidents from happening when people enter and exit the swimming pool.

About Hand Rails

Both of the most common rail varieties are of the Figure 4-elongated variety. Pool rails are commonly constructed using industry-standard 304 stainless steel with a.049″ wall thickness and a tube diameter of 1.9″. Another common system is a 3-bend stair and step rail that is suitable for residential usage and can be installed in the pool deck or on the apex of the stair leading to the pool or spa. The tubes of a hand rail can be inserted into 8-inch-apart brass or aluminum sockets.

Drop-in Pool Stair Systems are popular in vinyl inground swimming pools.
Drop-in Pool Stair Systems are popular in vinyl inground swimming pools.

Inground Pool Stairs

Many individuals have trouble using pool ladders, which is why in-pool steps have become so common. Installation of steps into a pool that was not originally designed with them is a substantial renovation project. Pool steps that can be dropped into the ground are an easy and inexpensive solution for inground pools.

About Pool Stairs

There are numerous types of inground pool stairs from thermoplastic to acrylic fiberglass, to concrete. Hence the price point for these various types of stair systems can vary accordingly. Pool stairs can be adjusted to fit the slant of the floor, and they fit snuggly into rounded floor-to-wall transitions. For use in shallower environments of 36′′–42′′. To keep the steps in place, most people will fill the ballasts with sand or pebbles.

Drop-In Steps

Drop-in steps are a common addition to a pool that originally lacked a stairway. These are a quick and convenient alternative to installing a traditional ladder. The range of designs and hues is extensive. A molded plastic step that can be simply dropped into the pool is the least expensive option. Vinyl over drop-in steps, also provide a seamless appearance and are a smart aesthetic choice. They are a terrific option for vinyl liner inground pools.

The traditional pool stair design for vinyl liners is a white plastic or fiberglass step. These steps are extremely sturdy and are designed to bolt directly into the walls of your pool. They are versatile and can go practically anywhere in the shallow end of your pool, including the corner. They can now project outward from the edge of your pool or be concealed within the main walls if you go with a corner step design. Depending on the design, you can choose seats with or without massage jets.

Bolt-On Stairs

Bolt-on stairs have improved dramatically. These are great if you want the look of pricey concrete or gunite pool. The shape and location of your pool’s stairs are up to you. They might be set into a corner, rounded, or have a straight edge.

Tanning ledges and swim-outs are other popular stair systems for inground pools.
Tanning ledges and swim-outs are other popular stair systems for inground pools.

Tanning Ledges & Sun Ledges

Add a Tanning or Sun Ledge is one of the most common step modifications to your pool to improve its visual appeal. Extended shallow areas are perfect for sitting, but they’re also great for playing in, especially for younger children. With this layout, you can take two steps into the pool (one regular step and one onto the ledge) with ease. The result is beautiful to the eye and you can find a wide range of ledge loungers to suit any orientation.


Swim-outs are deep-end entries that typically have a bench or some other type of seating. There are many different styles and hues to choose from, some even featuring planes! Those who are enjoying the pool from within the building often congregate here to sit on the edge, dangle their feet in the water, and chat. In addition to providing a convenient means of entry and exit for swimmers, swim outs spare them the need to use the pool’s shallow-end steps. Don’t get us wrong — when it’s time to leave the pool, the swimmers who want to stay in the water the longest will still take the scenic route. You may get them in a variety of colors and styles, with or without jets. However, like ordinary stairs, jets may help keep this area tidy, so installing them is a good idea.

A Step-by-Step Guide to Installing an Inground Pool Ladder

When installing a ladder for an inground pool it’s important to note they are often embedded into the deck using steel 20′′ channels with brass or aluminum anchor sockets to ensure that they are spaced properly and are all at the same depth.

  • For exact dimensions, consult the ladder’s technical sheet.
  • Put a cutting mark on the deck, and then double-check your measurements.
  • Cut the deck with a concrete saw, break up rubble
  • Set up the anchors by driving them into the deck and joining the bonding wire to the lug.
  • Wrap the plugs in tape, then fill the sockets with concrete.

Watch This Helpful Video For More Instruction

Repairing and Maintaining Pool Ladders

In general, pool ladders are trouble-free. All but the rails on a pool ladder can be easily replaced. With frequent usage comes the inevitable need to repair or replace worn-out parts, such as a broken ladder tread or a missing stainless steel bolt. It’s possible that you’ll need to replace the bumpers and escutcheon plates (trim rings) on your ladder, as well as the wedges in your anchor sockets.

Pool ladder repairs are all DIY friendly, and the only major upkeep is to replace old treads or bumpers and tighten the bolts if a tread seems loose or shaky. Keep your anchor sockets clean by flushing them out with a hose.