There’s nothing like dipping into a refreshing pool on a hot summer day. But sometimes it can be challenging to actually climb into the pool if the pool steps are floating around rambunctiously!
While in-ground pools often have ladders and stairs that are fixed in place, many above-ground pools use a combination of steps or ladders that are designed to be a bit more portable. This portability can sometimes cause them to be loosey-goosey in the water rather than nice and sturdy.
When the steps are floating it can be difficult to enter or exit the water, and could pose a significant safety hazard.
In this post we’ll show you how to keep pool steps from floating using several different methods. Some of these are simple DIY solutions with everyday household items, otherwise, there are products designed for this very purpose!
Let’s hop in!
Why Do Pool Steps Float?
Many pool owners may not think twice about issues that can occur when placing steps into the water. Afterall, the steps were purchased for the simple purpose of providing an entry and exit point for the pool –so, what could go wrong?
Since the ladder/steps are designed to be removed from the pool to allow for winterization, maintenance, and other activities, they are often constructed of lightweight plastic. When set into the water, they will naturally float due to their relative buoyancy.
Manufacturers of these lightweight steps typically provide instructions on how to keep them in place. However, sometimes even following the instructions may not fully keep them down.
Some steps may also have a fill hole that can be used to add water or sand as weighted material. If there’s damage that has caused a leak in the structure of the steps, then it could be causing a loss of the weight which results in them floating.
There is sometimes the ability to secure the steps to the top of the pool’s rim, which can help prevent the steps from floating. However, this is not always possible due to the design of the steps or the pool itself.
Ultimately, the reason why pool steps float is because they are less dense than the water. This means the best way to keep them from floating is to weigh them down more than they already are.
How to Keep Pool Steps from Floating
While weighing the steps down to keep them from floating seems like it should be an easy task, there’s often not a one-size-fits-all solution. Steps may have different shapes and may sit along the pool edge in different orientations.
Here’s a variety of methods that can help you keep your pool steps from floating. With any of these methods, you may need to experiment how much weight is actually needed to keep the ladder secure.
1 – Pack the Fill Hole with Sand
If your steps have a fill hole, this often is the first solution that should be considered to weigh the steps down. While water can be used, sand is even more dense and will provide additional weight.
Depending on the size of your steps, they could be designed to hold 50 or more pounds of sand. Once you have the sand, you can use a funnel to gradually add sand into the fill hole. Tip: Dry sand will flow easier than damp sand.
As you’re adding the sand, periodically tamp it down further into the steps. If the diameter of the fill hole is small, you may need to use a dowel rod to pack it down. Tamping it down will help remove air and allow you to squeeze in more sand.
The largest downfall of filling the steps with sand is when you actually need to remove them from the pool. You’ll likely need to remove the sand from the steps, which is why many people prefer external weights rather than filling the inside of the steps. A shop vac may be handy in extracting the sand if you use this method.
2 – Sand Bag Weights
Sand bag weights are one of the more common products available to help weigh down your pool steps. They can be secured underwater to the bottom of the steps, and can be easily removed when it’s time to take the steps out of the pool.
Depending on the size of the bags, they may be able to hold 25 pounds or more. Often attaching two or more bags is enough to keep the steps from floating.
While the sandbags often work without a hitch, there are some precautions needed. For instance, the sandbags may rupture from prolonged exposure in chlorinated water or accidental contact, resulting in a mess at the bottom of the pool.
Sandbags could also shift around in the water causing the steps to become unstable.
3 – Attach the Steps to the Pool Railing
If your above-ground pool has railing around it, there’s a good chance that you can attach your pool steps to it. Railings often come with holes pre-drilled for this purpose, otherwise you can drill them yourself.
Using stainless steel hardware, you can attach your pool steps to the rails. It’s likely that you may still need to add weight to the bottom of the steps for further stability.
4 – Exercise Weights
If you have some spare neoprene or vinyl-coated exercise weights, these may be a quick and easy way to keep your steps from floating.
A couple of 25 pound coated dumbbells may be enough to keep most ladders steady. Use a nylon rope to attach the weights to the bottom of the steps.
5 – DIY PVC Weights
Making your own pool step weights from PVC pipes is a relatively common DIY method. It is cheap and the weights are durable enough to last for years.
First, you’ll need to measure the width of your pool steps. You can then cut 3” diameter PVC pipes slightly shorter than the width of the steps.
Use PVC primer and cement to affix a cap to one end of each pipe. Next, add some hefty material –such as concrete, sand, or gravel– through the open end of the pipe.
Once the pipes are filled, you can attach the cap to the open end of the pipe to keep the filler material fully sealed. The pipes can then be attached to the underside of the step using zipties or bungee cords.
You can use this method to make as many weights as needed, and can attach them to each step in the pool.
6 – DIY Plastic Jug Weights
Using old plastic jugs is probably the cheapest way to keep your pool steps from floating. Empty 1-gallon milk jugs or bleach jugs work great.
As you might expect, this method simply just needs you to fill the jugs with material that will add weight. Once the jugs are filled, you can glue or tape the cap on so that it doesn’t accidentally get knocked loose in the pool.
Bungee cords or zip ties can be used to attach the jugs to the pool steps. Alternatively, rope can be used to tie the jug handles to the steps as well.
If you’re aiming to get the most weight crammed into each jug, here are some general reference points of how much different filler materials weigh:
- 1 gallon of water is 8.3 pounds
- 1 gallon of sand is 12.5 pounds
- 1 gallon of gravel is 14 pounds
- 1 gallon of mixed cement is 20 pounds
You can fill as many jugs as needed in order to get rid of the wobbly pool ladder.
Precautions for Pool Step Weights
When using weights, it’s important to keep them securely tied to the pool steps. If you leave too much slack in ropes or bungee cords, this could potentially cause entanglement with swimmers that are using the steps.
Additionally, keeping the weights out of the way from normal swimming activity is important to avoid accidental damage or injury. Try to keep the weights tucked underneath the pool steps, or off to the side up against the wall.
Since many of the DIY pool step weights use sand or gravel, you’ll want to take special care to ensure the caps are fully secured or else you could end up with a mess at the bottom of the pool. Using underwater glue or tape around the cap can help prevent it from falling off.
Keeping pool steps from floating is a challenge that many pool owners face. However, it’s important to eliminate that wobbly pool ladder in order to keep swimmers safe and to protect your liner.
While most ladders and steps have their own fill hole to add sand into, oftentimes it’s a cumbersome process to remove the material when the time comes to remove the steps from the pool.
Fortunately, there are other ways to weigh down the pool steps, including basic sand bag weights. Or, if you have some spare gallon jugs laying around the house, you can make your own pool step weights in a matter of minutes.
Happy (Safe) Swimming!
Husband and father of three (actually, four if you include the pool). I’m an avid DIY-er and weekend warrior that enjoys taking up new projects around the house to help us maximize leisure right at home. I enjoy researching and sharing various tips, tricks and knowledge to help others make their home an oasis.