Pool Coping: A Complete Guide

pool coping

With all the decisions you have to make concerning your pool design, you probably don’t want to hear that there’s one more you might not have considered. That’s right…

It’s pool coping.

The pool coping you choose will set the mood for your design and keep water from slipping behind the wall and causing damage. As long as it’s installed properly, of course.

But if you’re sitting there scratching your head wondering what in the world we’re talking about, you’re probably not alone. 

Coping is not a term you hear very often. In fact, you might not have ever heard it at all. But it’s actually one of the most important elements in the design of your pool.

What is Pool Coping?

Pool coping is an architectural element that caps off the edges of a pool. Specifically, it’s the protective crown or lip around the top of your pool wall. 

What you see in the pic below is a fairly common type of pool coping. 

(image credit: https://www.poolrenovation.com/products-services/new-coping/)

Without coping, your inground pool will have an exposed edge that looks unfinished. 

But coping for pools isn’t just about looks. It also adds an element of safety and functionality. Depending on the type of material your pool is made out of, the top edge can be pretty dangerous if it’s not covered

The most important function of coping, however, is to keep the splashout from getting behind the pool shell (more on this later).

Do Pools Need Coping?

Not all pools need coping, but if you have an inground pool of any kind, chances are you do. This is especially true with concrete pools because coping serves as the edge around it. Otherwise, you’re left with an exposed bond beam.

Like we said earlier, though, coping’s purpose isn’t purely aesthetic. The main purpose is to seal off the edge of the pool where water could get behind the shell and damage it from underneath. 

With coping in place, water splashed out of the pool will flow away from the pool and through the deck drainage. This is assuming that it’s installed properly, tilted slightly away from the water. 

Look closely at the picture below and you’ll see what we mean. 

(image credit: http://www.goldenpoolservices.com/pool-repair/coping-repair/

Additionally, coping can give you a non-skid surface to walk on around the pool. This can help prevent injury and accidental falls into the water.

Pool Coping Types

Coping types vary depending on the type of swimming pool you have. Coping for concrete pools is usually made out of natural stone, tile, or molded concrete. 

It also comes in a lot of different styles. One of the most popular is precast coping with bullnose edges. This gives your pool and deck a seamless look and provides a blunt edge for swimmer safety.

Vinyl pool coping is usually included in the manufacturer’s kit and can be top-mounted, cantilever edge, bullnose, rough-cut, or flat-mount.

Top-mount coping is probably the most popular type of coping offered with vinyl pool kits. It’s made of heavy powder-coated aluminum that attaches to the pool wall. It then serves as a form that the concrete is poured up against for the deck.

Cantilever edge coping does basically the same thing but it’s made out of foam. This form allows the concrete to be poured right up to and over the edge of the pool for a uniform surrounding.

Bullnose coping is coping with a rounded lip on the edge. Sometimes you’ll see full bullnose coping where it has a full 180° curve all the way to the water edge. But half bullnose just rounds at the top edge and is usually flat on the bottom.

Rough-cut coping is just rough cut organic stones left rough to look more natural. 

Flat-mount coping is actually not coping in and of itself. It is the track that holds the pool liner securely so that traditional coping can be placed on top.

3 Considerations for Choosing Pool Coping

Finding the right coping for isn’t a difficult decision since you’re pretty limited on the types for your type of pool. But there are a few considerations you’ll want to keep in mind.

  1. Appearance

Of course, appearance is at the top of the list for most pool owners. Coping is what gives your pool that seamless look and provides it with a decorative edge.

The poured concrete coping with a bullnose edge is probably the most popular. And it does create an appealing and smooth look.

But other options include natural stones, such as limestone, that can give your pool a more sophisticated and unique look. 

These come in a lot of different colors and finishes so the choices are practically endless. A lot of pool owners coordinate these colors and stones with other patio surroundings, like fireplaces and planters.

  1. Safety

Safety is obviously the first priority most of us have when it comes to any element of our pool design. So take this into consideration when choosing your pool coping.

Avoid highly-polished elements that will give you a slippery surface. Instead, go with matte or rough finishes that provide some traction and stability. 

Also, avoid coping materials that will easily crack or chip or have naturally rough edges.

  1. Maintenance 

Choosing the most durable materials for your coping will go a long way toward keeping you from doing extra work. And each one has its own pros and cons.

Concrete and limestone, for example, are prone to cracking. You’ll be doing some patchwork with either of these eventually.

However, don’t let that necessarily deter you from using them. Concrete, in particular, can be molded to look exactly how you want it. And both of these options are fairly inexpensive to install.

Pool Coping FAQs

What does pool coping look like?

As you can see from this article, there are so many different types of pool coping, it’s difficult to describe exactly what it looks like. 

But basically, it’s the finished edge on your swimming pool. So, no matter what the style or material, it’s just the lip or surrounding you see right before you see the water.

What is the best material for pool coping?

This will depend on a lot of different factors. Concrete is the most common material used. It’s durable, easy to construct, and usually cheaper than others.

However, the problem with concrete is that it cracks and might have to be repaired often. For this reason, some pool owners opt for pavers. These are less likely to crack but can be replaced individually if they do.

How much does pool coping cost?

The price for pool coping varies quite a bit depending on the material used but according to Home Advisor, you can probably expect to pay anywhere between $30 and $50 per linear foot, installed.

How long should pool coping last?

Like the rest of your pool surface, coping should last anywhere from 10-30 years. But this varies by material and climate.

Conclusion

Pool coping is one of the elements you can get creative with to change the way your pool looks. It also plays a huge part in pool safety and the wear and tear on your pool surfaces.

When you’re choosing the right coping for your pool, consider your landscaping, type of pool, architecture, and how you want the edges to look.

This is something you’ll probably be stuck with for the life of your pool, so take your time and enlist the help of your pool professionals if you’re having trouble deciding.

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