Can You Leave Pool Steps in For the Winter? Inground and Above Ground Pools

  • By: John Parker
  • Last Updated: November 16, 2022

Closing a pool for the winter is a sad time for pool owners but it is important to do what you can to ensure that the pool equipment survives the winter weather in as good condition as possible.

Pool steps and ladders are quite expensive to replace if they get damaged so should you remove your pool steps for the winter to prevent damage from occurring?

The Quick Answer: There are no good reasons for leaving your pool steps or ladder in a pool during the winter, even if you don’t live in a very harsh climate. Taking them out and storing them away will extend their life considerably. It will also make covering the pool for the winter easier.

Can You Leave Pool Steps in For the Winter? Inground and Above Ground Pools 1

Above ground pool steps

Most inground pool steps are made of plastic although some are at least metal in part. Many of the plastic pool steps are hollow and this can lead to problems.

If you leave the steps in the pool and you live in an area with harsh winters, inevitably the pool water will freeze. In some cases, ice will form many inches below the surface.

This is where problems can occur.

When water freezes around the pool steps it expands (yes I know, basic physics). If the pool steps are hollow plastic then the pressure will build up where the ice forms and this can damage the plastic and even crush it.

If the water freezes and then melts again, followed by more freezing and more melting then this crush force will continue to act on the material steps.

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How to get steps out of above ground pool

If your pool steps are solid plastic then taking them out will just be a matter of lifting them, after undoing any securing pins or bolts you may have that attach them to a deck etc.

However, if they are the larger hollow plastic-type, often you will have needed to weigh them down with something to stop them from floating, which will make them very heavy. If you have the hollow parts of the steps with sand or gravel you will probably need someone to help – with one of you being brave and going into the water to lift.

Even if you have not needed to weigh them down they will probably be full of water which will make them difficult to lift. If it is too cold to go in the pool to do this then lifting them from above slowly, allowing the water to drain out as you go, will make it easier.

TIP: If you have to remove any plugs in the steps to allow water to drain out then make sure you put these straight back after wards to prevent loss.

Inground Pool Steps

Although I live in a warm climate, so I do not actually need to winterize my pool, it is still not warm enough for swimming. But I do remove my stainless steel ladder, clean it and then store it away until the spring.

I could probably leave it in the pool without any issues but it is so easy to remove and store that I feel I may as well remove it anyway. At least my Dolphin robotic pool cleaner has an easier time when I drop it in occasionally during the winter as it no longer has to negotiate the ladder.

If you live in a cold climate then I would certainly advise removing a ladder. If you will be covering the pool for the winter then removing the steps would be a necessity in order to be able to cover the pool completely.

How to get a ladder out of an inground pool

To remove a ladder you will often need to remove the small wedges holding it in place in the holes in the pool’s side before lifting it out.

My ladder does not have these so I just pull them up until the ends come fully out.

If it is stuck then this video may help:

Where to store pool steps for the winter

Obviously, this is going to depend on two things:

  1. What type and size pool steps do you have
  2. What sort of storage options do you have

I have an inground pool, so I have a stainless steel ladder. I normally hang this flat against the inside wall of my garage on two large nails so they are out of the way.

A set of plastic steps, particularly those that allow you to climb up and then into an inground pool, can be rather awkward unless they are easy to at least dismantle part-way.

Blue Wave NE1222 A-Frame Flip Up Ladder for Above Ground Pools, White

If you have the storage available to keep them inside in a garage or basement then great. If not then stacking them in a corner with a tarp over them will protect them.

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Can You Leave Pool Steps in For the Winter? Inground and Above Ground Pools 3

Winter swimming and steps

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If you are one of those hardy types (or perhaps that should read a little mad) that swim in your pool in most weathers then you will need to leave them in over winter of course.

Personally, even in the summer, if the water temperature is any less than 80ºF I am not going in. But I have a friend in the UK that has been known to break the ice to go for a swim in winter.