Everything You Need to Know About Pool Coping

Backyard swimming pool
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What exactly is pool coping? To put it quite simply, coping is an all-important piece of in-ground pools.

If an in-ground swimming pool is constructed of concrete, it will need coping, which is a cap for the edge of the pool. Coping surrounds the shell of the swimming pool and protects it. This piece keeps any water and debris from going in behind the shell, thus safeguarding it from damage or cracking. Besides simply being necessary, the coping provides an opportunity for a decorative accent, which can greatly enhance the appearance of the pool. When someone inside the pool hangs on to the top edge, they're grabbing on to the coping.

Practical Purposes

Coping is mounted on the bond beam, covering its concrete edges and concealing the steel projecting from the pool's walls. It also prevents water from getting behind the pool shell and integrates the finish and tile of the swimming pool. If coping is installed correctly, any water that is splashed out of the pool should flow away from the pool and down into deck drains. Coping should be tilted slightly away from the pool.

What Is a Bond Beam?

On a swimming pool, the bond beam is a horizontal structural element around the top perimeter of the pool. Typically made of concrete and steel, the bond beam adds strength and support to the pool wall.

In addition to serving as a protective and decorative edge that conceals the pool's concrete edge, coping provides a non-skid surface upon which swimmers can walk.

Coping can be precast in straight lengths, corners, or curved sections. Stones are traditionally made of grayish-white concrete with a porous finish. In lieu of coping stones, some pool designs feature concrete or wood decking that extends to or slightly over the edge of the pool. Materials include flagstone, brick, or synthetic decking.

Materials

Coping for a concrete swimming pool can be made of tile, natural stone, and precast concrete. Companies that make pavers and products for pool decks also have different types of pool edging materials and copings—like bullnose styles—to achieve a seamless look between the pool and deck. 

  • Concrete: Not only is concrete easy to work with, but it's also typically more affordable than other materials. Concrete is often used for pool coping.
  • Paver: Pavers come in many different colors, textures, and finishes and have become a popular choice for coping. A good advantage of pavers is if one cracks, it can be taken out and replaced, unlike concrete.
  • Travertine:  Travertine comes in a wide selection of colors, is slip-resistant, and stays cool to the touch, making it an outstanding choice to use for pool coping, especially in warm climates. It is also more affordable than marble or other natural stones.
  • Marble: This stone comes in assorted colors and can have beautiful grains running through it. Marble has a smooth feel and glossy look to it and is both long-lasting and attractive, which makes it a great option. While low in maintenance, this stone does tend to absorb heat. Keep in mind that marble tends to be on the higher end of cost.
  • Brick: Another option to consider is brick. Offering many different colors, it is also very durable and long-lasting. Brick does not require a lot of upkeep, but if it cracks, it is not that easy to replace that one piece, as can be done with pavers.
  • Sandstone: This type of coping material is unusual in its colorings, grains, and texture. Striking and durable, sandstone does need to have a sealant put on as is a porous material. It is not as popular of a choice to use as other materials. As part of the natural stone family, sandstone retains heat.
  • Flagstone: These stones provide a different type of look for the edge of the pool. Flagstone comes in different shapes and sizes, along with numerous choices of colors, even variegated. Like other natural stones, though, flagstone absorbs heat and can be hot to the touch, especially in the summer months.
  • Bluestone: While you might think these stones come in just the color blue, they also are available in tan, brown, and grey shades. Bluestone can be cut in whatever shape you desire from squares, rectangles to triangles which offers a chance for an extraordinary and one-of-a-kind look and feel. This material, like flagstone and similar natural stones, absorbs and holds heat.
Stone pool coping

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Inground Styles

In-ground pools are sometimes sold as packages or DIY kits by dealers or some builders. Pool coping for this type of pool, usually vinyl-lined, includes three main types:

  • Top mount: The most common type of coping for vinyl in-grounds, it is also known as C-channel or half-round coping. Made of heavy aluminum with a powder-coated all-weather finish, top-mount serves as the form to pour the pool deck up against. After it has been attached to the pool wall, it's ready.
  • Cantilever edge: Foam forms are secured on top of the wall, then a concrete deck is poured up to the form to create a deck that comes right up and over the pool's edge. The concrete can be decorated with stamping or staining.
  • Flat mount: Not actually coping, but a track to contain the pool liner, on top of which is mounted a more traditional coping stone. 
Closeup of concrete pool coping

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Pool Coping Costs

The average cost for pool coping will range from $30 to $60 per linear foot. Pavers and concrete are two of the most popular choices to use and also the most affordable. Natural stone, which includes marble, travertine, sandstone, and others, is the most expensive option.

Alternatives

If for whatever reason, you don't like the idea or look of coping, the pool's concrete or wood decking can be enlarged to extend slightly over the edge of the pool all the way around its perimeter. This creates a smooth, seamless look, which is seen in the yards of modern and custom homes.