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By Paul Roth

RISMEDIA, June 13, 2008-(MCT)-Q: I need help repairing or replacing the pool-wall steps in the deep end of my in-ground pool. The pool is older but in excellent condition, having been resurfaced about five years ago.

The original wall-mounted steps are made of plastic. Over the years they have deteriorated. Recently two of the three steps had pieces break off, leaving dangerous jagged edges.

My patching attempts have not worked. I have checked two local pool companies, and they are reluctant to take on the job. I need a competent pool contractor to review my situation and make suggestions. I don’t know if there are plastic replacement steps that can be cemented over the existing ones, or if pool cement can rebuild the steps.

To replace the steps with new ones would make it difficult to match the existing blue diamond surface. I even thought of removing the steps, patching the area and then replacing them with chrome deck-mounted steps.

What should I do?

Answer: It sounds as if you are considering the right options, but before making a decision we suggest a few steps (no pun intended).

As you have discovered, this is not a job for the do-it-yourself weekend handyman. When you hire a licensed and insured swimming-pool contractor, make sure the contractor has a separate insurance policy for pool popping, because a repair of this nature will involve draining the pool. Unfamiliarity with hydrostatic pressure can cause the pool shell, even partially filled with water, to lift out of the ground.

A retrofit step kit is not available, so rule out that choice.

The contractor most likely will use a masonry cutting tool or cut saw to separate the area around the deteriorated steps, then use a hammer drill to slowly chip away at the affected area.

The most important thing to remember is that these steps were shallowly placed “inside” the shell wall and then covered. The foot rests or steps are cut into the shell, so at those particular locations, the shell wall could be thinner than the rest of the pool. The contractor should drill (with a masonry bit) through this area to determine the shell thickness behind the steps.

If you decide to replace the steps, you can build up the shell behind the new steps (before insertion) with hydraulic cement to bring the shell to a more uniform thickness. Yes, the pool will be a little smaller in the inner measurements than before, but by having a thicker surface and using hydraulic cement, you will run less of a risk of water leaks in this area.

“Another choice is to cut out the steps, repair the area as best as possible (ideally using the same interior finish material as was applied five years ago) and replace with an over-the-side ladder, says Cal Eden, owner of CF Pools, Spas and Water Features in Holly Hill, Fla.

Many new choices in materials, shapes and colors are available, and by placing the ladder over the patched area, the repair might not be as noticeable, Eden says. Remember, an over-the-side pool ladder might create problems for in-pool automatic cleaners.

© 2007, The Orlando Sentinel (Fla.).
Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.