There are different types of steps and pool seats that are available with our DIY pool kits. They come in a variety of shapes and styles, sizes and colors. Steps can be Acrylic / Fiberglass, Thermoplastic, or Vinyl over Steel steps and seats.
The most common step that we use is the 8 ft Sit-N-Step that has a seating area on each side on the bottom step that you can install jets with an aerator valve to make it like a jetted tub.
Liner over steel or concrete steps is not as common as Acrylic or Thermoplastic steps, due to the wear factor. With the top step only covered by a few inches of water and with a lot of traffic and heavy UV rays, it tends to be the first area that wear or fading of the vinyl will occur.
There is no limit of how many step sections or pool seats you can have in a pool. When building a paneled wall pool the steps and seat go in at the same time the walls go up. The step section is just taking the place of a wall panel and that’s why they go in at the same time.
BULLNOSE OR CANTILEVER
Pre-fab vinyl pool steps also come in 2 types, Cantilever for use with pavers or stone coping, or a cantilevered pool deck. The other type of step is the Bullnose, which is its own finished edge and is usually used with concrete decking.
Depending on your pool deck choice, you have ordered either the Bullnose and Cantilever style pool step. There is a critical difference in how these are installed and this is in their finished height.
SETTING THE HEIGHT
I can't stress enough how important it is to be sure the height is correct for the type of step you are using. This is one of the most common mistakes that homeowners make and is easily avoidable if you just take a moment to check the type step you have and the decking you will be using, you will be all set.
To Install a Bullnose step you first mount a small piece of your pool coping on the wall panel adjacent to the step and bring the top of the step up to the top of the pool coping. That is, the height at the front of the step should match the height of the bullnose coping.
On the Cantilever style pool deck, or one where stones or pavers will come up right over the edge of the pool, you want to make the top of the step the same height as the adjacent panels on either side. This is done so that your coping material will pass right over the pool walls as well as cover the lip of the pool step or pool seat.
SETTING THE LEVEL
When you are to the point that you are leveling the step you do not want it level from front to back. Why that is, is because your deck has to have a pitch, away from the pool for water run off. The normal pitch would be ¼” per foot. The step is usually 4 ft from front to back so you want to pitch the step back 1 inch. This means that the rear of the step will be 1 inch lower than the furthest point in the front.
If you use a 3 ft carpenters level, you want to pitch it back ½ bubble. This means ½ the bubble inside the lines and ½ the bubble outside the lines. This will give you a perfect pitch away from the pool, setting the pool step even with the slope of the pool deck, and at a consistent height above the deck. Next, check for level going side to side, or across the step. Adjustments are made to the feet of the rods, or poles. For extra stability and strength, the poles should be mounted on level pavers or blocks, and then adjusted up or down as needed.
DRILLING THE STEP
To do this process a second person comes in very handy. Tools you would need would be a drill, a marker, a few vice clamps, or C-clamps, and the nuts and bolts.
The steps are not pre-drilled like the pool walls are so they have to be marked and drilled, so they can be bolted to the adjacent wall panels. Before drilling, make sure that the step is level.
Start by setting the step at the correct height and using some vice clamps to hold it in place, mark the holes on the step through the existing holes on the panels on both sides of the step. Drill through the wall panel holes into the side lip of the steps. After the holes are drilled you can bolt the step and panels together.
BACKFILLING THE STEP
Thermoplastic steps have a larger, rigid frame that supports the step across more of the step's surface area. Acrylic steps use a series of rigid poles with large bases, to support each step. In both cases, packing in your backfill carefully will help avoid hollow spots under the step surface.
Your concrete collar will cover up the base of the step section, and the poles or structure, to a depth of up to 12". Before pouring the collar, give a final check to the level of your walls and steps, and hammer in several 18" pieces of rebar on the front of the steps (inside the pool), to secure a 2x4 piece of lumber at the base of the step. This is to keep the heavy concrete from pushing the step forward as you pour the concrete collar.
If possible, use gravel under and around the back of steps and benches. If using soil, make sure to tamp it very well under the step, and use water between layers to help compact the soil.
WRAPPING IT ALL UP
Give time to setting, leveling and backfilling your pool steps, benches and seats and you'll have a solid surface underfoot, and one that can withstand time and traffic.
If you have any questions about how to build your own inground pool, or installing steps and benches, give one of the SPP Pool Experts a call. We're here 6 days a week, at 800-983-7665.
SPP Pool Expert