Pool coping is crucial to any swimming pool, providing a finished edge and a barrier between the pool structure and the surrounding decking. However, over time, pool coping can become cracked or shifted, leading to a range of potential problems, such as water leaks, safety hazards, and aesthetic concerns.
In this article, I’ll go over the various causes of cracked or shifted pool coping and how to address these issues, including repair options and preventative measures to help ensure your pool coping stays in tip-top condition.
- Cracks in coping can be caused due to several reasons, such as poor initial installation, frequent free-thaw cycles, poor quality materials, or natural wear and tear.
- Cracked pool coping can lead to swimming pool safety hazards, damage to pool equipment, or water leakage problems.
- Unless the issue is fairly minor, it is recommended to call a professional to fix the cracked or shifted pool coping.
Causes of Cracked or Shifted Pool Coping
Coping is both aesthetically pleasing and functionally practical. It provides a finished look to your pool and acts as a non-slip barrier to the pool, keeping the area around it from eroding and protecting the water from additional dirt and debris.
So, if your coping seems cracked or pulling away from the concrete, it is a definite cause for concern. Here are a few reasons why this could happen.
If you live in a region with a severe freeze-thaw climate, it can hurt your pool coping. Most of the material used for pool coping is prone to expansion and contraction. Changing temperatures can especially cause it to expand or contract in place, causing unwanted cracks or shifts – especially if there is not enough space between each stone for the material to expand and contract.
It shouldn’t be surprising that improper installation of pool coping can lead to serious problems down the road. Incorrectly-taken measurements, poorly installed expansion joints, unevenly cut or laid stones, crumbling mortar joints between the stones, a difference between the height of the deck and the coping, etc., can all easily lead to cracks and fracture lines down the road.
Coping has to be laid out on a clean, smooth concrete base over compacted soil. If the soil has not been pressed correctly, or the concrete poured wasn’t properly smoothed, cracks (or even entire displacement of the material) in the coping can occur. The base below the coping must be sanded down so that the coping material properly stays put across the surface with minimal disruption.
You must be careful when selecting suitable materials for your pool and consult an expert before proceeding. Unfortunately, some materials, even if approved for coping usage, might not be suitable for pool use because of underlying soil conditions or your local climate. The material could also be subpar in quality, leading to damage over time due to exposure to water, weather, and harsh pool chemicals.
As with most things pool-related, it is important to properly maintain the pool coping to extend its lifespan and enjoy its aesthetic and safety appeal for longer. You should clean the coping regularly, seal it, and monitor it for any damage. Furthermore, ensure your pool water is properly balanced so that the harsh chemicals do not contribute to the deterioration of your pool coping.
Wear and Tear
Sometimes, cracks and shifts occur simply because of daily wear and tear. This is normal. Even the most well-taken care of pool coping can experience damage caused by frequent usage and age. Over time, the material can become brittle, making it more susceptible to cracking and shifting.
Signs of Cracked or Shifted Pool Coping
If you’re not entirely sure what you’re looking at, here are some signs that your pool coping may be cracked or shifted:
Of course, if you see cracks on the surface of the pool coping, this is a clear sign of damage. The cracks, small or large, should be easily visible on the top or sides of the coping. But be careful; some coping might have the appearance of cracks as a design choice, so if you’re doubtful, consult an expert.
If the pool coping appears visibly uneven or shifted, this may indicate a structural problem. The coping should be level and flush with the edge of the pool. So, if this isn’t the case, the coping has most certainly shifted.
If you notice water leaking from the edge of the pool, this may be a sign that the coping is damaged. Water can seep through crevices in the coping. This is especially worrying as the weather turns cold since residual water in such cracks can freeze and expand, exerting stress on the coping and causing fractures and fissures.
Kneel down, press your palm against the coping, and push. If the pool coping feels extremely loose or wobbly, it may indicate it has shifted or detached from the pool structure. The adhesive applied could have been too weak, or the surface might not have been smooth enough.
Another way of telling that pool coping is damaged is by examining it closely for signs of discoloration or staining. Unfortunately, this can be a giveaway sign of water damage, indicating that water has crept in through exposed cracks that shouldn’t be there and needs urgent fixing. However, keep in mind that discoloration can also be caused by exposure to sunlight or chemicals. So, be sure to consult an expert to determine the exact cause.
Problems Caused By Cracked or Shifted Pool Coping
When pool coping starts pulling away from your decking, it can cause several problems. Here are the most common problems.
Cracks and shifts can make the pool coping uneven, leading to a higher risk of tripping or falling for swimmers. This can be especially dangerous for young children or elderly individuals.
Cracks or shifts in the pool coping can allow water to leak out of the pool. This can be costly in terms of water bills and can also lead to damage to the surrounding area.
It Looks Bad
Cracked or shifted pool coping can detract from the pool’s appearance, making it look worn or unkempt. Unsightly coping can become a significant eyesore if left unaddressed.
Damage to Pool Equipment
When pool coping shifts and settles, this can damage pool equipment, such as pumps and filters, caused due to the extra pressure exerted on them.
What To Do If Your Pool Coping is Cracked or Shifted
Now that you have determined that your pool coping is indeed cracked or shifted, addressing the issue as soon as possible is essential to prevent further damage. Depending on the extent of the damage, you may need to fill in cracks, replace broken tiles, or install new coping altogether in severe cases.
Step One: Assess the Damage
Before taking any action, you’ll need to assess the extent of the damage to help you determine whether you can fix the issue on your own or need to call a professional. If the damage is minor, such as a small crack, you may be able to DIY it. However, if the damage is extensive or the coping has shifted significantly, it’s best to seek professional help.
Step Two: Fix Minor Damage
For small cracks, use a pool-grade epoxy or sealant to fill in the gap. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully to ensure the best results. If you notice that a few stones have shifted, you can carefully remove them using a chisel and hammer to pull up the stone. Then clean them well and reset them in place using your chosen adhesive or mortar, using a rubber mallet to set them in place.
Step Three: Call a Professional
If the damage is extensive, it’s best to call in a professional. A pool contractor can assess the damage and recommend the best course of action. Depending on the severity of the damage, they may recommend replacing the entire coping or only repairing the affected area. If they need to replace it, check out my pool coping cost analysis to know what to expect.
Step Four: Address Underlying Issues
If your coping has cracked or shifted due to underlying issues, such as poor installation or soil movement, it’s important to address these issues to prevent future damage. Make sure to consult with a professional to ensure that the underlying issue is addressed correctly.
Step Five: Maintain the Coping
Regular maintenance and inspections can help prevent future problems with your pool coping. This includes keeping the water and the surrounding deck and area clean, checking for cracks or gaps now, repairing what you can, and addressing any issues promptly by calling someone if needed.
You should also seal the coping to prevent future damage. A solid, good-quality sealant can help protect the coping in many ways. You should ensure to seal the coping every 2-3 years.
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