liner over step

More and more people are having in ground vinyl liner pools built these days.

In addition to that one of the aspects of a vinyl liner pool that is also growing in popularity is the liner over step.  In a recent post I went into some detail about the different styles of vinyl liner steps.  Without repeating myself too much I want to reiterate the fact that there is one style that I consider superior to the other.  Only Alpha’s Permanent Form design of liner over step is in my opinion the better way to go as far a liner over steps go.  The other option is to go with the Straight Tread Design.  These are both very nice steps to have in you vinyl liner pool.  They will both give you that sleek look that everyone is wanting for their pools.  However the Permanent Form Design is in my opinion the superior step.  It will offer a more stable tread and as far as installation goes I find it to be a bit easier to install.  The main reason is that this type of step requires a concrete tread be poured.  These steps come from the manufacturer as just the risers.  Basically they will have to be backfilled with stone and the capped off with a couple inches of concrete.  This means that initially there is more room to work and they are far easier to backfill.

Here you can see how the support legs are attached to the bottom of the treads
The Straight Tread Design is a little more tricky to install.  With this design the manufacturer will send it out with both the risers and treads of the step intact.  This system relies on two main things for support.  One is the legs that it comes with.  These legs will be installed under the steps and give it something to rest on.  Although these legs offer some support for the step, the primary source of support comes from the backfill.  I would venture to say that the 10% of the support comes from the legs and the remaining 90% comes from the backfill.  Issues can arise if the installer doesn’t sufficiently backfill the step.  From my experience this style of step often gets poorly backfilled.  I think that this problem is primarily a result of the installer finding that the steps are somewhat difficult to backfill and they call it good before it is actually good enough.  In reality the Permanent Form Design was made to combat this issue.  If the Straight Tread Design step is not backfilled adequately they may need to be repaired at some point.  That point may come too soon, or in some cases it could take years before you notice that something is not right.  What happens is that although they have the support legs under them, the steps will become for lack of a better term “squishy” under foot, between where the support legs are located.  This means that as you walk down them you may notice the tread flexing under your weight in some areas.  This is usually because there is no backfill to very little backfill under them in that area between the legs of the step.  When it comes to composite Straight Tread Design.
The main concern is at the joints of the step.  The joint is where two parts of the step are bolted together.  For instance if the steps are 16′ wide across the entire shallow end then they will likely come in 8′ sections that will need to be bolted together to make the 16′.  The joint at which they bolt together is susceptible to giving way under foot if there is not enough backfill under them to support the weight of swimmers entering and exiting the pool.  If this happens you will notice a difference in the height of the tread at the joint.  One side will typically be a touch higher than the other and that difference will be greater when weight is applied.
How to avoid this issue.
First of all the best way to avoid this type of situation is to avoid it all together.  Insist that your builder use the Permanent Form Design step.  With the Permanent Form this is a non-issue.  However the permanent form design is a touch more expensive than the Straight Tread design.  If you are having a pool installed with the straight tread design be aware of how the installer is backfilling them.  They should literally be stuffing the underside of the step with stone.  They should also be checking the tread surface periodically by walking the length of the treads to ensure they are properly supported.  If they find an area that is “squishy” they will need to address it by stuffing even more stone under them in that area.  As the owner of the pool you should absolutely feel free to assess the steps yourself prior to the pouring of your deck around the pool.  If you feel that there is an area that is suspect of inadequate backfilling, feel free to mention it to your builder.  Being that you are the owner and it is your money going into the building of the pool, you should be comfortable with the way the steps feel as you walk down them.
How a builder can fix a composite Straight Tread Design step if the joint gives way.
This repair is not all that difficult to do and really doesn’t take too long.  First the pool will need to be drained down to a point at which the problem area is exposed with enough room to work provided that the liner itself is salvageable.  Next a hole will have to be cut in the tread of the step next to the joint that has the issue.  For this I will typically use a 4″ hole saw (do not lose the piece that is cut out).  Next use the hole in the tread to add backfill material.  Depending on how big the void under the steps is they may need to first add stone to bring the backfill to the appropriate height.  Once that is complete I always finish filling the hole with concrete (quick-crete works well for this).  Make sure that the material going into the hole is pushed down as much as possible.  The goal is to pack that hole with as much material as possible.  Once the hold is completely full, the piece that was cut out can be inserted back into the hole.  For this next step the builder will need to contact the manufacturer ahead of time to procure an industrial strength two-part epoxy.  They will need to use that epoxy to secure the piece back in place.  After the epoxy hardens they should sand down the area until they again get a smooth, seamless surface.  At this point the they can either add some step foam, or just put the liner back in place depending on their preferences.
The Straight Tread Design step can be a wonderful addition to any pool.  However the quality of the step is ultimately dependent on the quality of the installation.  Obviously, in any situation that you are not quite sure of it is important to ask questions.  If your builder comes to you proposing the installation of a Straight Tread Design step over a Permanent Form Design step take the time to ask them about it.  Have they installed this type of step before?  Have they had any problems with this type of step in the past?  If you are still unsure, you can always insist that they install a Permanent Form Design instead.
Builders will typically have a harder time backfilling a full width step as opposed to a corner step or bench.  Keep in mind that it is your pool, your property, and your money.  Be aware of what is going on, ask questions, and demand the very best from your builder.
For more information on the different types of liner over steps check out my other blog posts related to this topic.  You can also check out Only Alpha’s website at http://www.onlyalpha.com/  From there you can navigate through the different parts of the website and see the different styles of steps available as well as the differences between a steel wall pool and a composite pool system.

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